Peers sharing perspectives — that's the purpose of this blog. Here, we get to know our community members — how they got started, what they’ve learned along the way, and why they love what they do. We all can benefit from learning about each other’s experiences, challenges, achievements and insights.

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Let's Meet Greg Githens...

Let's Meet Catherine Parks...

Let's Meet John Farlik...

Let's Meet Maggie Snow...

Let's Meet Eric Simms...

Let's Meet Greg Githens...

Categories: strategy

A popular speaker at PMI SeminarsWorld and chapter events, and author of How To Think Strategically, Greg Githens says project managers should pay more attention to developing their personal brand, which is not just a listing of responsibilities on a resume—it's a career narrative about benefitting teams and stakeholders. 

Greg, how did you get into project management? I was lucky in that my first professional job was with a project-oriented consulting and technology company. I was exposed to customer requirements, scope development, stakeholder engagement—and all the other elements of professional project management—from this early moment. I worked for some great project managers and eventually became the program manager for a very large contract. I got to work with the executive team and gained an understanding of what it takes to craft strategy that is good, powerful, effective and nuanced.

What do you love most about the work? I take great satisfaction in the success of others. I love it when I can help individuals make an impact on their organizations and develop their career narrative. I also take great satisfaction in that organizations are adopting and using my ideas to improve their strategic effectiveness.

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? High on my list is the mentality of scarcity held by many managers, including project managers. They are too absorbed with their perceived scarcity of time and resources. They often neglect opportunities and fail to show leadership.

What's your proudest professional achievement? I’m very proud of the impact that my book is making on the project management profession. I’m continually hearing from program and project managers that they are now better able to engage with the strategists in their organization, and that they feel more confident in their personal leadership. I’m really happy for a past seminar participant who just landed her dream job. Her success was due to her own talents and efforts, but I helped her in sharpening-up her strategic thinking abilities and career narrative.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Pay attention to your personal brand. It is not the same thing as your reputation. I frequently hear from attendees of my PMI seminars that my advocacy of developing a strong personal brand is a powerful tool for advancing one’s career. Take a look at your resume. Is it a boring litany of positions held and responsibilities? Or does it articulate a career narrative of accomplishments and benefits delivered to stakeholders? Do people seek you out for your thought leadership?

How has helped you in your work and career? I read the articles and the responses to the articles. Sometimes I learn a new leading-edge idea and sometimes I find that the points of view expressed help me remember that there are many different perspectives about the future of project management. I may not always agree with the opinions expressed, but it enriches my understanding of the performance challenges facing individuals and organizations.

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? Writing my book consumed lot of my creative energy and now I am directing it to some new hobbyist ideas: I’m at the early stages of outlining a movie screenplay about Christopher Columbus’s early life in Lisbon describing how he got his world-changing idea. I’ve also resumed creating music in my home recording studio. I also exercise every day, alternating sessions at the local Y with bicycle rides.

Favorite TV show, artist or movie? I go to a lot of blues festivals and enjoy hearing the journeyman performers bring their unique style to the music.

Best vacation? A Nairobi-headquartered company invited me to speak to the leadership team on strategy and projects. That was a great professional experience and the icing on the cake was a safari in the Masa Mara National Park. It was spectacular.

Thank you Greg!

To connect with Greg, visit his profile.

Posted on: September 16, 2019 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Let's Meet Catherine Parks...

Catherine Parks, PMP, has served as a senior IT project manager in the state-regulated cannabis industry, business manager for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and finance director for the Nashville Symphony. 

Cathy, how did you get into project management? I was working for a supply chain tracking company whose clients are government entities regulating the legal cannabis industry. I worked with several excellent project management professionals, deploying statewide software projects. The common thread among these professionals is that they were all PMI-certified PMPs. I also noticed that many of the RFP bids that we were competing for required the project manager to be a PMP. I soon found myself studying for the PMI-ACP and the PMP exams — thankfully passing both!

What do you love most about the work? I really enjoy the people. I am thankful for the PMI community support and especially the online continuing professional education that fits easily into my busy schedule. Disruptive technology projects can be extremely stressful for our partners, so whenever we can bring proven solutions then the whole project team can relax and actually enjoy the fast pace of deploying software. 

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Working in the software development lifecycle field, my main challenge is managing scope creep. It is critical to both protect our software development team working in sprints and to build trust and confidence in our relationship with our partners. I love balancing both the delivery of working software and managing expectations of all stakeholders.  

What's your proudest professional achievement? Passing the PMP and the PMI-ACP exams on my first attempt and being recognized as a key player in a successful emerging industry.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? When in doubt, just do your job. And: trust and respect your team, be a servant leader.

How has PMI helped you in your work and career? My professional certifications placed me as a top candidate for a dream job and the opportunity to join a successful, dynamic team in a world-class company, NIC Licensing [which provides digital solutions to government partners]. My PMP and PMI-Agile certifications have had a direct benefit for my employer when responding to competitive RFPs that require this level of expertise and personnel.

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? Spending time at home, traveling, reading fiction and staying physically active with my husband and our three young men. Being a creative visual artist and showing my artwork in galleries and exhibitions. Volunteering for nonprofits that promote and expand the arts and culture to underserved communities. 

Favorite TV show, artist or movie? Henri Matisse, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. I love to stream British crime series shows (Scott and Bailey, Shetland, Sherlock) and any artist or chef documentaries. This year we will be watching our son playing college football on ESPN 2.  

Best vacation? Birthday weekend trip to Hotel 21c, Louisville, when my husband proposed, and we saw great art!

Thanks Cathy!

To connect with Catherine, visit her profile.



Posted on: August 12, 2019 06:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Let's Meet John Farlik...

Categories: leadership

John Farlik, a senior IT project manager for AAA of the Carolinas, loves enabling teams to achieve new levels of success, which requires much more than just being a "task master" or "herding cats."


John, how did you get into project management? I served in the United States Air Force from 2001 to 2013, and was exposed to a project engineer position in 2007. There I learned about the systems engineering “V”, the five phases of a project, the cost-schedule-scope triangle, and much more. I soon got into managing software, and then was exposed to iterative methods such as spiral development, agile development, scrum, and I was hooked.

What do you love most about the work? Unequivocally, setting up a structure for execution within which teammates can achieve a level of success that they haven’t seen before.

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? When people think that I’m there to help “herd the cats” and be the “task master." That’s only the base layer of project management. The ability to organize a meeting and manage a schedule is basic. It is the configuration management, risk and issue tracking, and communications regarding how teams interact together that is the real skill of the profession.

What's your proudest professional achievement? Earning my Doctoral degree in 2016.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Project management success and project success are not the same thing. You can still be successful as a project manager even if the project fails. Sometimes things are beyond your control, and it’s how you handle yourself as a professional during those times that shows true grit.

How has helped you in your work and career? I’ve browsed content for a general knowledge of the profession, and have taken webinars for continuing education credits. Recently, I’ve started creating content [including a blog called The Pivot Theory to Practice], which is where I’ve really started to enjoy the interaction with people. I’ve been amazed at some of the discussions that we have. The community really is a group of great people who want to assist one another on a global scale.

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? Board and card games with family, exercising, and teaching — I teach HR, Operations and Project Management.

Favorite TV show, artist or movie? Anything with Denzel Washington or Mel Gibson

Best vacation? St. Lucia for two weeks with my wife (before kids).

Thanks John!

To connect with John, visit his profile.

Posted on: June 25, 2019 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Let's Meet Maggie Snow...

Maggie Snow, who leads technology transition projects for InfoSync Financial Services in Wichita, Kansas, was "doing" project management long before she realized there was a framework for it. She is currently pursuing her PMP.

Maggie, how did you get into project management? I first heard the term 'project manager' in 2012 when I started working at a financial services technology company. I began attending local PMI chapter meetings and realized that I had been doing project management my entire career, I just hadn’t known it. I thought I was simply getting things done! Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about project management and how to apply it.

I'm also actively involved in the PMI Wichita chapter and enjoy working with everyone to learn more about and promote the benefits of project management across the city and region.

What do you love most about the work? There is never a dull moment. Typically I will have 2-4 new client conversions running at the same time, and they will all be at different stages. Each client is coming from a different prior provider, using different systems we need to integrate to, and has different operational goals and processes that need to be accommodated. Because of all of the variables in play, if you are going to be successful you have to build strong relationships with all of your project team members, including the client.

Transitions are daunting for clients, and reassuring them that everything is going well is often 90 percent of my job. You can’t do that if the client doesn’t trust you, so these relationships are the most important ones to manage. But I love working with people, so that makes it easier.

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? One of the biggest challenges is keeping complexities from being added to the project as a way to fix a symptom, rather than addressing the root cause of the issue. Often, one part of the team will see an issue and attempt to fix it, even if the root cause of the issue lays with another part of the team. The complexity this adds to the project may affect other areas of the project and other teams later.

I do a lot of root cause analysis, and spend a lot of my time trying to convince project team members either that an issue is not theirs to fix, or that they need to change something to fix an issue that they cannot see. This is yet another reason why building relationships and knowing how to work with many different types of people is so vital.

What's your proudest professional achievement?  When I build a relationship with a client that is so strong that they request me to work with them on additional projects. It’s a great indicator not only of project success, but it’s also a sign that I’ve done my job well.  

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? One favorite is "under-promise and over-deliver." Not only does it help you build trust with the client if you can deliver in two days rather than a week, but it can be the thing that saves you and keeps your project on track if another project has a complication that demands your immediate attention and you can’t deliver on your two-day estimate for that deliverable.

How has helped you in your work and career? I love the webinars. I try to take some time every couple of weeks to watch a recorded webinar on a new topic and learn more about something that interests me or can help me manage my projects or my career. And the Knowledge Shelf is something I haunt frequently if I’ve got a challenge or question I need some additional perspective on.

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I hope to earn my PMP this year, so a lot of my free time is dedicated to studying for that, but when I have free time, I enjoy reading, going to coffee shops and local cultural events, and hanging out with my husband and our three dachshunds.

Favorite TV show, artist or movie? Too many to name! For TV I love anything that is British and has snarky characters (Blackadder or Fawlty Towers, for example) or anything with a sci-fi bent (The Orville or Star Trek or Stargate). I also have to confess that I love movie musicals, so anything from The King and I, to Mama Mia, to Chicago.

Best vacation? I’m still a Michigan girl, so any time I get to go back to The Mitten and see family and friends is the best vacation.

Thank you Maggie!

To connect with Maggie, visit her profile.

Posted on: May 20, 2019 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Let's Meet Eric Simms...

Eric Simms is a senior program manager for the U.S. Census Bureau. He regards projects like Sudoku puzzles and is proud of showing skeptical developers that project management, properly applied, could be a good friend.

Eric, how did you get into project management?  I unknowingly entered the project management field in 1996 during my first real job after graduating college. I was a Quality Control Director, and it was only years later that I discovered many of the actions I performed in that role were considered "project management."

What do you love most about the work? I most enjoy the complexity surrounding project management, particularly the delicate balance required to meet stakeholder expectations while successfully executing the project. I regard a project rather like a Sudoku puzzle, but one with a practical, beneficial outcome.

What do you find most challenging or frustrating? As a consultant I often lack the authority to make high-level executives do what they should. As a result, my team and I usually need to perform extra work to fix the problems caused by the executives’ actions or lack thereof. I resent wasting time and energy in this manner, and I resent organizations that allow their executives to act like entitled divas in the first place.

What's your proudest professional achievement? As a contractor without formal authority I was able to transform a group of unorganized developers who viewed project management as useless bureaucracy into an effective projectized business unit. I accomplished this by showing the developers how project management — properly applied — can greatly enhance their productivity.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Don’t let anyone make you believe a project must be managed in one particular way. All project management methodologies and documentation are merely tools to help you successfully execute a project — how you use them is up to you. No two projects are exactly the same, and just because a method worked well for one doesn’t mean it will work well for yours. Also, best practices are good guidelines to follow, but they’re only guidelines. Feel free to amend them to suit your particular situation.

How has helped you in your work and career? Every member sees project management from a different vantage, and I have learned much from their many different perspectives. Some of the questions asked and situations described are outside my experience, and I benefit greatly from considering how I would address them.

What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I enjoy weightlifting, gardening, travel and entertaining in my home.

Favorite TV show, artist or movie? Game of Thrones is currently my favorite TV show, and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is my favorite painting.

Best vacation? I visited Quebec’s old city with some friends. The snow fell gently that day, and it made for a quintessential Christmas village scene.

Thank you Eric!

To connect with Eric, visit his profile.

Posted on: April 02, 2019 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

"When I have a kid, I wanna put him in one of those strollers for twins, then run around the mall looking frantic."

- Steven Wright



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