Debbie Dore is Chief Executive of the Association for Project Management (APM), having been previously Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operating Officer.
Prior to joining APM, Debbie served as a senior executive at Oxford University Press and on the board at Swets Information Services delivering global transformation projects across sales, IT and customer service.
Having had responsibility for teams in 25 countries, Debbie has extensive international experience and has a proven track record in delivering significant business change programmes, driving growth and increasing profitability. Debbie has also served as a non-executive director for UKSG, a membership organisation connecting the knowledge community, and as a volunteer for Inspiring Future Careers. Debbie’s interests are travelling and property renovation.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
Although I did well at school, I didn’t want to go into further education and left with ambitions of becoming a champion show jumper! But alas it wasn’t to be.
From a young age however, I had been involved in my parents’ own business so I was well accustomed to commercial life – from meeting customers to packing products and making the tea. With a little (or perhaps a lot of) encouragement from my parents, I headed off to college to undertake a basic business administration course so that I had a range of office skills.
After completing my studies, I went on to carry out a number of different roles and I always came away from a job having learnt something valuable for the next one. I’ve also had some truly inspirational bosses who I have learnt a lot from, even if I wasn’t always sure that was the case at the time.
A number of senior positions later, both nationally and internationally and always with a focus on change, people and results, I am now the chief executive of Association for Project Management (APM), the largest professional project management body in Europe – with 30,000 members.
My passion has always been about inspiring people to deliver change and I still learn from every meeting, event or conference that I attend. APM has many aspects to it – from member subscriptions, volunteering, qualifications, publishing, events to continuing professional development – all of which I am passionate about.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not really. I have always just known when it is time to move on. I’m a staunch advocate of taking every opportunity possible to learn and have been an early adopter of change wherever I have worked. I firmly believe that you have the chance to shape things if you are willing to step up – and for me it’s particularly important to put people and relationships first.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Absolutely – I have faced many challenges in different environments and sometimes struggled with a situation and how best to handle it. Having few academic qualifications has never stopped me progressing, but I have had to sometimes get into an organisation and then work my way up rather than apply for the role I really wanted.
Only once have I been bullied in the workplace and it was by a more senior colleague who, with hindsight, felt threatened. I was frustrated at the time with myself for allowing it to happen, but I learnt from it and never allowed myself to get into a similar situation again.
I feel strongly that everybody should be treated with respect whatever their role and circumstance and have tried to always apply that.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m most proud of the fact I have had to manage people through many difficult situations in different organisations and remain in contact with many of them.
Maintaining a happy family/work balance has also been an achievement – though it has, at times, been difficult with demanding roles. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and it became much easier when I finally learnt to say no occasionally at work and not feel bad about it for days.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
The ability to put myself in the other person’s shoes – be it a boss, shareholder, bank, client or colleague – and try to understand their resistance to enable us to move forward.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I have mentored lots of colleagues and even still hear from some now who I haven’t worked with for years. I try and adopt that role for everyone and see it as a manager’s responsibility to mentor people to be the best they can.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
That’s a really challenging question. For me, it would be to keep sharing stories of those who are challenging previous norms and I’m actually happy for that challenge to have been for both women or men. Many men are taking on different roles in the workplace and family too and that should also be celebrated. I also encourage my daughter and other young women to be clear on what it is they want and to be confident about seeking the right opportunities, regardless of what others think.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
To not take the knocks too personally and don’t always blame yourself when things go wrong. Some things are out of your control however hard you try.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
There are challenges in every job and currently mine is about raising the profile and understanding of what project management is and why successful project delivery is so vital to our economy and well being.
With project management employing 1 in 12 people in the UK and contributing £156bn to the UK economy we must help promote the power of the profession for good, and help the profession to improve its capacity to deliver. And that’s what I intend to do.