Unlocking new skills has a way of taking someone’s career to the next level.
For Sibu Thomas, those leaps have come quickly since graduating from Red River College’s Project Management certificate program in 2019.
After getting his certificate, Thomas moved from a Project Coordinator role with Meridian Manufacturing Inc. into his current job as Industrial Regional Sales Manager, covering technical sales for clients in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
A Manitoba-based company, Meridian builds storage and handling products for agriculture and industry — and endorsed Thomas’s enrolment in the RRC program back in 2018.
Having travelled a career path that started in chemical engineering technology and oilseed processing, Thomas credits that endorsement and the program itself for helping him take this next step.
“I wanted to enhance my skills, (but) I had no official background in project management training,” says Thomas. “So I signed up at RRC and it led to me implementing new project management tactics for Meridian. That really led me to being promoted to the position I’m in currently.”
The promotion isn’t the only recognition Thomas has earned in the last two years. He was also the 2019 choice for RRC’s joint award with the Project Management Institute (PMI), recognizing outstanding student work. The award is handed out each spring to the top student in the Project Management program and comes with a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of PMI Manitoba and RRC. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 award was presented in 2021.
Steve Lawrence was witness to Thomas’ excellence in the program, and the Continuing Education Program Manager for Information Technology endorses him as a deserving winner.
“Sibu has a positive attitude, is a great communicator, and works hard,” says Lawrence. “Along with a high GPA, he’s the ideal candidate for the PMI award.”
“I was pleasantly surprised for sure,” says Thomas about getting the call. “I know I did well in the course but I was very honoured to be chosen. It was a great surprise and definitely alleviated my financial burden.”
The award was an added bonus for Thomas, who has already had plenty of recognition improving project coordination at Meridian.
Before getting into RRC, he saw the need for “a more structured approach” to the company’s projects, shifting from a reactive approach of dealing with problems as they arise to a proactive, well-prepared one. Since graduating, he’s implemented these ideals, which has led to better relations with new clients.
“In my new role, our company has definitely taken on more clients that have had project management as their base business model,” he says. “So the skills help me adapt that into our current structure. We’re a manufacturing facility, so we have LEAN principles going on, but we’re trying to get away from just building a product and into having better records retention, improving our communication methods and adapting to the ever-changing world.”
Thomas also used the knowledge he gained at RRC to train the company’s next Project Coordinator, who works with him now. Many of those skills come down to dotting I’s and crossing T’s.
“Listen and record, record, record,” Thomas says with a laugh. “Project management gives me a structured way of having information and I make sure to always focus on the details.”
Thomas gives credit to his RRC experience for building competency quickly, especially by allowing him to learn from those who were already well-versed in using project management principles in their respective careers.
“Engagement was great,” he says. “The instructors were very receptive. I love the fact that it’s not just teachers, that the CE program instructors all have active careers alongside their instructing. One of my instructors, Scott Hinkson, was with IGM Financial and he taught one of our courses where it was nice to relate to him in real-world examples rather than just theoretical stuff. Having the real applications was great.”
Now, Thomas is living that real-world example. Meridian continues to expand its business and he’s a knowledge source for new projects.
“Our company started off as a farmer supply company, so just the typical storage bins that you see out on the highways. We’ve grown, though, into taking on more commercial projects such as working with construction firms. That’s where we recognized the need for project management. This course has helped me relate and close the gap between our clients and taking on new clients in new industries as well.”
Some of these projects include providing storage solutions for the new Paterson GlobalFoods oat processing facility north of Winnipeg, as well as with Merit Functional Foods — one of the anchor tenants of a massive new $19-million inland port being finished this year at CentrePort Canada. When working in these new areas, Thomas goes back to the fundamentals he polished at RRC.
“My records retention and documentation skills have definitely improved. The program also helped me close the gap in between our new clients: handshake deals only go so far and now it’s document, document, document. As one of the technical sales guys in my company, it’s definitely helped me adapt to this new environment.”
Profile by John Gaudes (Creative Communications, 2012)