Global PMO and Planning Director
Zoe Madams’ career in project controls and programme management has seen her spearhead the on-time and to-budget delivery of major infrastructure programmes in the UK and overseas. Whether it’s a new high-speed train station, sporting venues in Peru, or a nationally significant road scheme, Zoe’s ability to effectively interpret and communicate data keeps her clients ahead of the curve.
- How did you get into what you do?
I never had a clear vision of my career path. I started in stockbroking in the 1980s and developed my IT and data analysis skills. I really related to the logical aspects of what controls can bring to projects so I moved into a temporary role at GSK as an assistant planner which became permanent, and that was that – I was on the road to a career in project controls. I eventually moved into the major projects division of Railtrack and spent ten years in the transport sector before moving to Mace in 2009 to join the London 2012 team.
- How has your career progressed since joining Mace?
I worked as both a programme and planning manager for the London 2012 project. After initially being responsible for the landscaping and public realm, I moved to the venues team where I worked my way up to manage the team of planners and project managers developing the overall venues and infrastructure construction programme.
After the success of London 2012, I took the opportunity to set up Mace’s project controls division. It began in 2013 as a team of two, but I’ve built it up over time, and, in 2017, I became PMO (Programme Management Office) Services Director. Now, I lead a UK team of 200, while I also have responsibility for over 500 global practitioners working across the world on some of the most exciting projects and programmes.
- What skills do you need to be good at your job?
Good communication is vital to good PMO and projects controls. The ability to analyse and interpret the data is, of course, fundamental, but if you can’t clearly explain it, whether verbally or in a report, then it has limited value. By combining good analytical thinking with effective communications skills, PMO practitioners can help clients to ‘get it right the first time’, and subsequently provide a service that supports on-time and to-budget delivery.
To do this, it’s important to be confident in your ability to constructively challenge both colleagues and the client and implement change when needed. A good PMO practitioner will use data to identify future trends and risks, and then implement the right mitigations to help steer the ship and drive best performance.
- What has been your proudest achievement at Mace?
Delivering London 2012 will always be high on the list but, as time passes, I’m becoming increasingly proud of the longer-lasting legacy of that programme. For instance, by taking the passion and learning from London 2012 to the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, we brought a fresh approach to the Peruvian construction industry and have helped them consider new ways of working.
There’s also the positive impact closer to home. The continued evolution of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is something I’ve tracked closely, and I can’t help feeling proud every time my daughter plays hockey in the Copper Box Arena – a venue I helped to deliver.
- What do you hope you will be doing in the next 5-10 years?
My focus will be taking PMO and project controls on a digital journey. ‘Data’ and ‘digital’ are current buzzwords in the industry, but there’s no denying that construction has lagged behind in the past. There is more data and it’s more mobile than ever before, plus we have increasingly powerful tools and models to help us interpret and report more effectively.
With so much data at our fingertips, combined with an undeniable need to improve the way we deliver major infrastructure across the globe, I know PMO has a huge role to play and that Mace has the people to lead the charge.
- What do you enjoy about working for Mace?
Mace is different to other organisations and has given me opportunities that I don’t believe other companies would have. We don’t just talk about supporting our people, we actually do it, and I never feel like being a woman has held me back.
I love the variety of my role. One day I can be writing procedures for a project in the nuclear sector and the next day presenting the art of programme controls to a retail client.
The ability to take these different experiences and then feel empowered to share them with others, whether that’s my team or a client, is something I find really rewarding. One of the beauties of a good PMO is that it’s grounded in solid theory, so there’s a lot that’s repeatable if you can effectively explain it and have the confidence to embed it.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
I love London and everything about it. I’ve lived in the city for nearly 30 years, but continue to find myself amazed by its diversity, vibrancy and opportunity – there is always something new and interesting to do. Even a stint in sunny Sydney wasn’t enough to keep me away.
“With so much data at our fingertips, combined with an undeniable need to improve the way we deliver major infrastructure across the globe, I know PMO has a huge role to play and that Mace has the people to lead the charge.”