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Interview with PMI volonteer Elham Nikookhesal



Elham Nikookhesal, has a strong passion for people and projects and is a very inspirational volunteer in PMI Chapter Sweden and now using all her leadership skills and energy to organize the Passion for Projects Congress 2022

Her professional career is something a lot of us can aspire to. After 18 years in pharmaceutics at AstraZeneca, going from being a Research Scientist to taking a role as a Senior Director Business Transformation, she took a new leap in her career at IKEA.

PMICS: Congratulations on your new position as Portfolio Management Office Manager, Range Innovation and Development at IKEA of Sweden! What is the one thing that surprised you at IKEA so far? 

EN: Thank you very much, it feels really good to be part of the large and fantastic IKEA family. Well, to be honest what has actually been most surprising is that even though I have a completely different background (molecular biologist by training), coming from pharmaceutical industry, there is much around my work, where I actually use my previous experience in. I am, of course, referring to my experience and knowledge about project and portfolio management. It means that the project management state of art can open totally unexpected doors for your career. 

PMICS: What are you taking with you from the over 18 years at various roles in AstraZeneca, most of it as Global Project Manager, with experience in drug development, digital transformation, and business transformation?

EN: I take everything I have learned in my 18-ish years at AstraZeneca with me. AstraZeneca is such a fantastic company with many smart people and great opportunities for development. It is with AstraZeneca I gained all my project and portfolio management skills. I have been exposed to various challenges by some of my managers, helping me get shaped to the leader I am today. Really grateful to my time at AstraZeneca and to the fantastic opportunity to work with talented people surrounding me over the course of time. Many of them have become my friends for life and some are great discussion partners for me when I need to bounce ideas.

PMICS: And what are you leaving behind?

EN: I am leaving my professional scientific interest behind. But at the same time, I really hope that I also left behind some nice impression, good memories and hopefully some leadership legacy for people to remember me by.

PMICS: You have been volunteering for Passion for Projects Congress organized by the Project Management Institute, Sweden Chapter for some years now. What motivated you to start?

EN: I started my volunteer work in the Global PMI prior to my involvement in the PMI Sweden Chapter. The reason for volunteering is that I really am passionate about project management and see this as an opportunity to give back to the profession. I love to meet new people and find the opportunity of networking with peers very fulfilling. It continuously brings you new insights and gives you the possibility to share your experience and thoughts with others. 

PMICS: Do you have any fun memories as a volunteer that you want to share with us?

EN: Well, one strong memory I have is from my first volunteer assignment is when I was alone on my way to Prague to attend a Global Analysis Workshop for the PMI certifications. I had no clue what my contribution would be and did not know any other attendees. I was really nervous about the meeting, looking out through the airplane window wondering what on earth I was exposing myself to. That assignment turned out to be one the best experiences of my life!!! 

PMICS: What sparks your passion for Passion for Projects Congress?

EN: Oh everything about it, the fact that all the people coming to the Congress, sharing the same passion, is magical. Everyone is there to learn, share, and talk about project management. I truly love every second of it.

PMICS: Is there one thing you are looking for most in the Passion for Projects Congress?

EN: Multiple things actually: meeting all our partners we’ve been having conversations with up to the congress, interacting with former colleagues and contacts, enjoying the fantastic program with great speakers, having all my IKEA PMO Team in Mässan with me, but most of all to be able to see the final outcome of almost 2 years of planning and work with my PMI Sweden Chapter colleages on 23-24tb of May 2022.

PMICS: Give us one inside tip for someone/something at the event?

EN: Listen to Anders Persson’ keynote speech and do not miss out visiting our partners at the venue, there are many learnings there as well.

PMICS: Do you have a message for someone still not deciding if they should attend? What will they miss?

EN: This is the most stimulating and energizing professional event of the year! Register and take part of huge amount of good knowledge sharing and networking opportunities! Come and join your peers!

PMICS: What advice would you give the young Elham, at the beginning of her professional career?

EN: Believe in your abilities, do not fear setbacks, be resilient, smile and enjoy the ride!

Thank you Elham! It has been fantastic working and talking to you!

See you all at Passion for Projects on the 23rd of May, at Svenka Mässan!