Project Management

Let’s Meet Hanh Vu…

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As IT project manager at Johns Hopkins University, Hanh Vu loves turning nebulous needs, wants and intentions into concrete deliverables. She succeeds by ensuring processes don’t stand in the way of the actual work, while tweaking her approach between each project.

Hanh, how did you get into project management? I got into project management around 2014. Our unit was in-between projects. There were a lot of frustration between the development team and other stakeholders in previous projects. Our contractor project manager/scrum master had left. The question arose of who would step into that role, which we all recognized was essential to our productivity and effectiveness. I put my name in the hat. I might have been the only one. I received two weeks of corporate training classes to start. It turns out much of what I do can be summoned intuitively.

What do you love most about the work? I love problem-solving, taking the nebulousness of needs/wants/intentions, and turning them into concrete deliverables, mapping out how to get from point A to point B in a project.

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Because project management is a new thing where I work, people often mistake all kinds of things as project management. Operational management, workflow management, business analytics all get lumped into this vague catch all of project management in some minds. It’s frustrating at times to correct these assumptions and set the expectation where it should be. The most challenging for me has been to train others in my organization to perform project management duties. But it is a challenge I want to overcome.

Does your approach change depending on the country or organization you’re working in? I have only been with my current organization since switching to a PM career path. I would imagine approaches are to be changed to adapt to the environment in which a project takes place. I tweak my approaches between projects. The key goal for me is to ensure processes do not stand in the way of the actual work. So, I cater to the needs of the projects and people involved. The downside of this is consistency is a bit harder to achieved, although the more projects we go through, the easier it is to find consistency in some way.

What's your proudest professional achievement? In 2018, I led a software development project from conception to production launch in about six months. The result was a not-too-robust web application, but it was enough to satisfy high-level management, and got us a lot of visibility within relevant communities. The work was at a breakneck pace, with cross-functional teams and an abundance of personalities conflict. Requirements or use cases were non-existent. Somehow, we pulled off a proof-of-concept, and a production of the site. I don’t want to do that again, but it proved to me what I could do.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Early on in my project management career, I was shy and nervous about making decisions with sweeping implications. My manager was encouraging me to bite the bullet and he said: You won’t always make the right decision. But you can always make thoughtful ones. That was good enough for my position. I am grateful to have a safe environment to learn and grow.

How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? Project Management Central has been very helpful. Being that I’m the only person of my kind in my organization and this is my first ever PM position, I don’t have a lot of reference points or institutional knowledge to lean on. Discussions and advice I get from the forum have been very enlightening, validating and informative when I need to make decisions that I was not so sure about. 

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I garden in spring and summer, sew year around, and do woodwork occasionally. I make most of my children’s clothing, and some of my husband’s and mine.

What's your favorite TV show, artist or movie? I don’t watch much TV or movies; I don’t own a TV or cable service. In the past, I had enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it has been a while. I can be convinced to sit down for fantasy-type movies like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.

Best vacation? We spent one week in the French Alps. It was the best. We caught 2 stages of Tour de France while there, went hiking and stayed in a tiny little cabin with doors too small to walk straight in. The view was breathtaking.

Thank you, Hanh, for sharing your perspective with the community.

To connect with Hanh Vu, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.

Posted by Aaron Smith on: November 04, 2021 12:49 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Nice to virtually meet you Hanh. The French Alps is on my list of places to visit.

Thank you Hanh for sharing your experiences.

Dear Aaron
Thanks for this conversation with Hanh.

Hanh, nice to meet you
I wish you every success in your career as a project manager

Hi Hanh:
I think that your profile is very interesting and see that your career in project management informs your life choices, as well.

Thank you Aaron and Cameron for introducing us to Hanh.

Hi folks. Thanks for stopping by.

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