How to Move from a Projects Role to General Manger Position (from someone who has done it!)

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Recently Associate Director Miles Austin-Raffan sat down and spoke with Mukti Prabhu about her career journey. 

The discussion covered a lot of ground – because Mukti has covered so much ground herself! Starting her career in Analysis and Project Management roles, Mukti is now General Manager of Data Reporting and Analytics. 

Does failing to plan really mean planning to fail? Not for Mukti! 

We find out initially, Mukti’s journey from program-related work to BAU and continuous improvement did not start off with a well-thought-out or detailed plan. She is adamant that her progression was more an outcome of her natural curiosity. 

“I didn’t have a plan at all! No not at all! I would be lying if I said yes! It was more curiosity that led me from one role to another” she exclaims. 

She notes that her diverse thought process and experience knowing the business has helped her career path to become a GM. 

“A diverse background adds to your experience and critical decision-making skills. Not one person is going to be great at everything but if you’re even half as good – that helps. And being aware of what you’re not good at has helped me personally.”

The role of mentors in her journey

Having great mentors has also helped her along the way. Mukti speaks about the great leaders that she has worked with who have always put her needs above her own. 

There are 2 pieces of advice that have always stayed with her and put things into perspective. The first, from her Dad and she takes us back to her school days. 

She thought she had failed an exam. Her Dad asked her rhetorically - “So, what else will happen? You will fail and then what? Are Zombies going to take over the world? No, you’ll just try again.” 

Mukti goes on to speak about taking this into university and now her professional life and points out this was far prior to her understanding or unlocking the growth mindset.

The second piece of advice that has stayed with her comes from an interaction with one of her managers a few years ago. 

Her manager asked her to take up a new operational role. Despite her breadth of experience, she hadn’t held an operations role before. The now GM asked “I don’t know if I’ll be good at it?” Her manager replied with “You won’t know unless you try.”

She tried, wasn’t bad at it but didn’t enjoy it. She won’t be putting her hand up for a role like that again but notes that it has acted as a great stepping stone in her career.

Mukti is now a mentor herself, supporting people at Vic IT for women and a few other organisations. She has shared this learning with her mentees and explains it using 3 factors. 

There are 3 factors to any roles for a person:

  • the learning and what you get from it

  • what you give the job 

  • the fulfillment – do you feel like you’re kicking goals 

While she got factors 1 and 2, factor 3 was missing for her in the operational role. 

Challenges 

Every journey has it’s challenges and according to Mukti – hers isn’t any different.

“In hindsight (which always makes it sounds easier) the average tenure for a career is 30 years. The first ten should be spent on learning as much as possible.”

She has worked in various sectors, different technical and non-technical roles across her career and more often that not moved sideways rather than up. She found this challenging when comparing her career to others and keeping motivated. 

“It’s hard because you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel immediately. It’s not for the faint hearted.”

However hard it was, this has really paid off for her. 

This diversity, breath and depth of her experience has helped her step up into more senior positions, including her current role as General Manager Data Reporting and Analytics.

Apart from her own choices, she points out culture and society’s view on equality have also shaped her journey. 

“Being a woman in a man’s world isn’t easy.”

She has been fortunate that she hasn’t felt like she’s been discriminated against but does note that first impressions haven’t helped her get ahead. 

“That’s all in a days job, I suppose that happens everywhere. We unfortunately aren’t in a state where everyone is treated fairly but we can all make a difference.”

What has been most rewarding for Mukti? 

The now GM speaks to 2 programs, starting with the Telstra NBN rollout, highlighting it as one of the most complex projects she has ever completed. 

“It was rewarding but also interesting because no one else wanted to touch it! I was brave enough to give it a go.”

“To be able to put it on your profile to say “I did that” says something about you.”

Another project she mentioned was rewarding for different reasons. It was a much smaller project at a smaller company and had been backed out of production 7 times when she put her hand up to do it. She was able to hand pick her team which made a difference, and she personally learnt a lot. 

“We still meet fortnightly for dumplings with the team. Sometimes the team is a reward in itself.”

Mukti Prabhu leaves us with the parting advice - “Stay Hungry, Stay foolish.” Words to live by from this impressive woman. Connect with her on LinkedIn here