What’s it like to be a project manager at MOLA?

Katherine Newton

It’s a part of archaeology that doesn’t get that much attention, but without our dedicated Project Managers our digs just wouldn’t run as smoothly! So, we decided to catch up with a couple of them to find out how they found their way into this part of archaeology, and what it’s like.

What did you do before you became a Project Manager?


I joined Northamptonshire Archaeology in 2011 as an archaeologist, excavating and interpreting features on sites across the country, and I became a Supervisor in 2012. In January 2014 we merged with MOLA and since then I have worked as a Supervisor and Project Officer. Over the past 6 years I have fluctuated between being a Project Officer overseeing large-scale excavations (particularly around Overstone) and a Field Manager overseeing parts of large infrastructure projects. I became a full-time manager in February 2022.


In commercial archaeology, my previous roles have been Project Archaeologist, Supervisor, Project Officer and Assistant Project Manager. I also worked as a heritage consultant in conservation architecture.

What made you decide to become a Project Manager?


I have always enjoyed being an archaeologist and being at the front end of new discoveries (or I suppose old ones!). There’s something special about being the first person to see and handle an object for over 2000 years. I’m not able to spend as much time in the field as a manager. However, it does give me the opportunity to understand the sites being excavated on a larger scale and help others make exciting finds.


I missed working in archaeology and the faster pace of developer services after working on mostly public sector or community funded conservation architecture projects for a short time. At the same time, I didn’t feel fully equipped to enter project management.

The Assistant Project Manager role (equivalent to Project Officer level) at MOLA was an excellent stepping stone from the field into management. It’s great because it gives you a support system, mentoring and training. After this experience, there was a natural progression to becoming a Project Manager!

What’s a typical day in your life like?


It can vary quite a lot from day to day. There’s usually a lot of emails, phone calls and meetings about ongoing and upcoming projects. Putting quotes together for prospective clients is also a big part of the job in order to keep work coming through. Site visits to your ongoing sites allow you to see how sites are progressing. We also help the team leaders deliver monitoring visits with our clients, consultants and county curators.


Every day is different, working either from home, the office or on site. Normally, my day can involve anything from dealing with finances and putting together quotes to leading site visits and dealing with unexpected issues. And that’s without the obvious planning, organising and monitoring projects!

What do you enjoy most about being a Project Manager?


The best thing about being a manager is being able to help develop MOLA as a business and foster long term client relations. It’s a nice feeling to be requested onto projects based on previous experience.


It’s very fulfilling to organise and be part of a project from conception to completion and getting to see the full picture. As part of project management, there is also a good social aspect with the opportunity to work with lots of different people across MOLA and with a range of different clients, consultants and curators.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about becoming a Project Manager?


Make sure you’re committed to that decision. Being a manager is great for people who love to deal with people and you get to see more sites develop their stories and piece together wider landscapes. However, you do lose the opportunity to be at the front end of that sense of discovery.


Not everyone will enjoy working in project management, because it can be high-pressured at times and involves quite a bit of multitasking. However, if you like working in a dynamic environment with lots of different people, opportunities for problem solving and seeing a project through from conception to completion, then project management may be a good fit for you.

The Assistant Project Manager role was a brilliant step for me, bridging the gap between being on site as a Project Officer and being a Project Manager and I would highly recommend it!


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