An Inside Look at Project Management
by Cassandra McAllister
Airport baggage handling project management is an exciting and challenging career path, with ample opportunities to grow in a stable, financially rewarding market. To show you what it is like, we sit down and talk to some of our invaluable project managers.
Project managers at Daifuku Airport Technologies come from a myriad of personal and professional backgrounds. In fact, they possess a variety of interests and approaches to their work. However, they do share one necessary trait—a passion for innovative technology. This makes the fast-evolving material handling industry a perfect career choice for them all. To provide insight, we asked three Daifuku Airport Technologies PMs — Tim Hipp, Nevwant Thakur, and Jamie Chippendale — to sit down and discuss what it is like working in this exciting field.
Nearly three years ago, Navwant Thakur discovered Daifuku at a career fair during the final semester of his master’s degree in construction management. Nav then interned for us while he finished his studies, and applied for a permanent project management role upon graduating. That set him on the path to his current position, where he oversees the baggage handling system projects in Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. He also has a part in both Midway and O’Hare in Chicago, as well as Washington State’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Jamie Chippendale spent her first few years out of college mapping optical networks as a system build engineer before deciding to undertake a role with a more holistic view of projects. After returning to school and earning her MBA, Jamie pursued a career in a new field. She joined Daifuku in 2018, and now combines her leadership acumen with her engineering and mathematics experience to manage high-profile projects encompassing transportation technology, engineering, manufacturing, and construction. She is currently responsible for projects at LAX, and for the state-of-the-art Moynihan Train Hall in New York City.
Tim Hipp never expected to work for the same company for a quarter of a century. However, he got hooked on the exciting business and Daifuku’s industry-leading technology. Like Jamie, Tim had a desire to influence all phases of a project, leading him to switch disciplines from electrical engineering to project management. Tim— who works from a home office in North Carolina — oversaw Miami International Airport’s massive security room upgrade, one of Daifuku’s largest-ever installations.
Throughout the conversation, the three shared their favorite aspects of working for Daifuku, as well as some of the challenges to consider when pursuing a project management career.
“Our company is a pioneer in launching new products for airports,” stated Nav. “I enjoy learning about these new technologies, such as baggage tray systems and mobile inspection tables, which are replacing traditional conveyor systems. I also like seeing how the airport industry is transitioning to adopt these innovations.”
Managing the demand for multiple projects is challenging but highly rewarding. Travel is an interesting aspect of the job and one that future PMs should consider. It is common for PMs to visit project sites once or twice a month. This provides an opportunity to see different cities and gives PMs a chance to closely experience the systems they are responsible for managing the installation of. While she is working on LAX, Jamie gets to escape the impending winter cold of her Michigan home from time to time. However, the three-hour time difference and frequent overnight work for installation efforts does mean she sometimes must, at a minimum, take calls outside of regular business hours and sometimes react to what’s happening on-site. This can happen even if she’s back at Daifuku’s Novi, MI office. “My phone is ringing from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM. You have to find a balance, prioritize, decide what’s important, and recognize that some things can wait.”
Tim concurred. “Using my experience to solve problems is where I find the most enjoyment. but you have to realize there are things you can control as a project manager and things you can’t. Those are lessons you need to learn. A detailed, thorough plan that the team understands is essential.”
“A plan is only as good as its execution,” Jamie added. “Communication is so important. Time management, transparency, confidence, and a knack for coordinating efforts across multiple disciplines are integral skills you need for the job. Especially when you’re maintaining customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability on multi-million-dollar projects.”
Nav went on to mention the importance of familiarizing yourself with the products and project management processes. “As airport PMs, being cognizant and understanding the core attributes of project management is key to our success. However, it also helps develop our personalities for communication.”
Jamie capped the conversation with a note to future PMs. “Finding and working within an industry that you’re passionate about will drive you to learn and perform well. here is so much growth and technology within the airport industry, it’s exciting to be part of.”
At Daifuku Airport Technologies, we are searching for PMs and other talented individuals to join our team. If you are interested, please contact Andrew Grusnick.
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