Inspiring Women in PM: Christine Unterhitzenberger

Yey! It’s my favorite time of the month, when I get to interview amazing women in project management. Today it’s the turn of Christine Unterhitzenberger, a practitioner-turned-academic who is researching the social dynamics of project teams and how fairness affects project success.
Let’s get started…
Christine, how did your journey into project management begin?
I studied industrial engineering with a focus on construction management and worked as a construction manager in an architectural office in Switzerland for three years. I realized that I wanted to be a manager of the entire project, not just the construction site.
I decided to pursue a part-time master’s in international project management. During my studies, I was offered a job with EY’s (formerly Ernst & Young), real estate advisory services. I was with them for five more years and became Manager, responsible for a team project managers. This gave me the chance to work on some truly amazing projects.
Construction could be a unique career choice. What attracted to it?
My Dad, a civil engineer, was an influence on me. He took me to work with him during school holidays. I was fascinated at the skills required to build a building and the number of people involved.
It seemed like magic that everyone knew their roles and what they should do. Today, I realize that this was not magic. It was project management.
It is still very inspiring to work in a multi-disciplinary team to create buildings that have an impact on society. It is amazing when the building is finally completed and it is being used for its intended purpose. All the hard work, long hours, and intense discussions are suddenly merged into one moment.
Do you have a favorite project?
Although I was fortunate to have worked on some amazing projects, such as a high-rise office in Sydney, a five-star hotel in Zurich, or a listed collection of churchly buildings, including a museum near Munich and a museum near Munich, the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart is my favorite project.
What does this one really mean?
The Mercedes-Benz Arena is a Bundesliga football arena with a capacity for 60,400 spectators. The project involved the lowering of the field, demolition and rebuilding of two stands, and the extension and extension of the roof.
It was a remarkable project that I found to be based on several aspects. First, the construction of a football arena is very emotional. You don’t build a building anonymously. You build a home for ten thousand people. A second aspect was that there was a great team of highly-professional people involved. Despite some conflicts that arose during the project, there was one goal: to build this extraordinary stadium. Thirdly, there were many technical problems that had to be overcome and which provided me with insight into new areas.
This is an incredible project to be involved in. What do you enjoy most about managing projects?
It’s the interaction of many aspects that makes project managing really interesting to me. It’s the interaction with many people from different backgrounds.
There is also the possibility of integrating different disciplines. Although they may not create anything extraordinary, when combined, they can produce remarkable results.
Finally, structure can be added to seemingly unsolvable problems to make them manageable.
It’s a bit like being the conductor in an orchestra. As a project manager, you are dependent on the team, but the project tea.