Eddy Vertil was told he wasn’t PMP ready, but his work and life experiences proved otherwise. Now he’s a member of the PMI Leadership Institute Master Class, VP of Business Strategy for PMI New Jersey Chapter, and a thriving project management consultant leading teams to achieve strategic benefits.
Eddy, how did you get into project management? My introduction to project management was not traditional at all. I owned a graphic and web design business serving minority owned businesses in the Greater New York Area. I would literally walk up and down streets asking business owners how I could help them succeed. As business began to grow, I hired offshore developers to take over all web development efforts. I would procure new business during the day, and around 1 a.m. start working with my offshore team to fulfill client orders. Over time, I wanted to refine my knowledge of value delivery by experiencing what it was like to manage larger projects.
In 2012, I officially shut down my business to work under contract at Lockheed Martin. I was responsible for the requirements gathering and implementation efforts for several new internal websites. My biggest “ah ha” moment was when I started working on a multi-million-dollar program at Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield alongside a senior project manager and senior management consultant from Accenture. The diversity and complexity of day-to-day issues and the ability to contribute toward remediation efforts got me hooked. It prompted me to pursue formal training on project management. The more I studied and applied the knowledge, the more it shaped how I handle problems not only within a professional setting but within personal life.
What do you love most about the work? Whether it is work within a nonprofit or a Fortune 200 company, I am addicted to working within teams to remediate complex problems. I need to see numbers, success stories, an impact from the work being done to feel content. I love the diversity of problems that can arise at any given time. I love being able to see what works within one organization, what doesn’t work within another, and to identify the variance within processes. “Best Practice” can be subjective. Understanding why certain processes don’t work can generate a unique opportunity to “build a new engine” to deliver the desired business value.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? I would consider myself an introvert, meaning that extended conversations tend to feel physically and mentally draining. I find it difficult to translate this feeling to extroverts. I simply have to protect my peace sometimes. It can also be quite frustrating when someone prematurely attempts to sum you up within a category or persona that does not represent you at all. We are all uniquely different.
How has Covid-19 impacted your work? I was fortunate to be engaged within a contract in which working remotely was not an issue. However, my work-life balance took a significant hit. Between work, doctoral research, and volunteer efforts, I found myself sitting in one corner for 12-14 hours per day as often as 6-7 days a week. Everyone has their limits, and I really needed to find new ways to protect my personal time. When you’re working within your passion, none of it feels like “work.” It feels like an opportunity to grow and refine yourself craft. However, when passion becomes obsession, other aspects of your life begin to take a hit, and that is never a positive. It took time, but I have successfully achieved my version of work-life balance.
What's your proudest professional achievement? When I would share my desire to obtain the PMP certification it was frequently greeted with comments such as, “Well, the PMP requires experience” or “maybe in a few years.” I second-guessed myself for years until I finally decided to just sit for the exam. To my surprise, almost every single scenario-based question on the exam was something that I had encountered once or multiple times before. When I passed the exam, I posted on a social media platform that I had proudly achieved my goal and was now a certified PMP. Shortly after, one individual who had told me that I would never receive the PMP made a comment stating, “PMI must be making the PMP easier for the younger generation to obtain.” Achieving the PMP helped me recognize that I gave myself far too little credit for what I had already overcome, and that there will always be someone on the sidelines heckling your goals even after you have achieved them.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Stop focusing on why you should have, and focus more on why you should not have. This principle has helped me obtain true ownership of my goals and shortcomings. It’s quite easy to blame your failures on some external factor. A real leader will ask themselves what they could have done to make a success story. That is key to rapid growth. Even if I am successful, I still ask myself why I should not have succeeded. This is not hypercritical, but a method to find opportunities for internal growth and to recognize when to show gratitude.
How has PM.com helped you in your work? Over the years, I have frequently visited the site to obtain perspective on certain PM-related topics. That diverse perspective is invaluable. I have also found the templates can be used without reinventing the wheel.
What interests do you have outside work? I enjoy hiking, traveling and reading.
Favorite TV show, artist, movie? I don’t really watch TV often, but I did find myself hooked on Game of Thrones and House. I don’t have a favorite movie, but I love the thriller and suspense genres. It’s all about the unpredictable ending for me.
Thank you Eddy!
To connect with Eddy Vertil, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
Let’s Meet James Lovell…
Categories: career development
Leading a project and directing a play have many similarities, says James Lovell, a senior project manager for Mercy Technology Services, a provider of healthcare IT solutions. And like great art, the Theater major says the most rewarding projects are transformative.
James, how did you get into project management? I worked on a project at a print-and-mail company, and my boss at the time was the project manager. Watching how he worked with the teams and planned and tracked the project intrigued me, so I looked into project management positions at the company. Within a year I had a project management job.
I have a degree in Theater, and I’ve found that project management is similar to directing in several ways—there is a “go live” date that can’t be missed, you work with multiple groups to realize the objectives of the play/project, you obtain and manage resources, and you manage communication
What do you love most about the work? Using project management processes to make an idea or goal on paper into reality. It’s always exciting to start a new project, especially one that is impactful to the organization. The most rewarding projects are those that help people and that transform an organization in meaningful ways.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? In the waterfall world, my biggest frustration is with estimating. In my experience—and I’ve worked at six companies in two cities over the last 20 years—there is little organizational appetite to improve the accuracy of estimates, probably because it’s so hard to do. In many cases, the process of providing estimates isn’t defined, and people don’t have training.
My biggest frustration with Scrum/Agile is again largely organizational. Most companies are unwilling to invest the time to provide the business resources necessary for a true agile environment, so IT groups build their own stories, prioritize the sprints, and can’t review the sprints with business owners prior to delivery. This leads to quasi-Agile/Scrum methodologies or hybrids of Waterfall and Scrum.
How has Covid-19 impacted your work? I’ve been working from home since mid-March, as have most of my colleagues. However, thanks to collaborative tools and conference call platforms, this has not heavily impacted my work. I did have some additional meetings and project work to help prepare Mercy hospitals to handle the influx of Covid cases.
Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? I have only worked in the United States, but managing projects with distributed teams that include international groups does require creativity with scheduling meetings to avoid meeting times that are in the middle of the overseas team’s nights. It’s also important to capture the holiday dates for all countries at the outset of the project to factor into the schedule. Doing research on the countries of the people I work with helps me provide a more inclusive environment too.
What's your proudest professional achievement? I recently completed a project that will reduce patients’ hospital stays after colorectal surgery, speed the healing process, and improve surgical outcomes. This was a two-year effort that included changes and additions to surgery protocols and nursing procedures; enhancements to the medical record system; and training for patients and nursing staff. [The project addressed] every stage of the surgical process, from the patient’s initial visit to discuss the surgery through the procedure itself and post-surgery care.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? The old saying, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, is a great piece of advice. Large or complicated projects can seem daunting and impossible at times, and challenges often appear that seem insurmountable. But following a process to work through each thing incrementally, step by step, always yields the necessary results. Build a process you trust, tweak it when needed to fit the situation, and trust that process.
How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? PM.com is a terrific resource for training to keep current on my PMP. Since it’s linked to PMI.org, I can monitor my PDU progress and it’s very handy to have PDUs automatically updated after I complete a video in PM.com. It’s also exciting to use the site to network with project managers around the globe, share information and keep in touch with the latest developments.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I like to exercise and travel. I’m on two committees at my church: the Sustainability Committee, and Peace and Justice. I’m a bit of an activist in my spare time. Since I’m a theater fan, I love to attend plays. My daughter is very into dance and theater, so supporting her shows and watching her recitals is a lot of fun too.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? It’s a Wonderful Life gets me every time I watch it. I have many favorite artists, some are Michelangelo, Monet and Gustav Klimt. St. Louis, where I’m based, has a very good art museum and I discover new artists every time I go.
Best vacation? My honeymoon cruise to Spain, Italy, France and Malta. It was a nice introduction to these beautiful and culturally rich countries.
Thank you James!
To connect with James, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
Grace Willis, PMP, says unconscious bias often “renders project leadership an endeavor in swimming upstream.” Such challenges represent symptoms of larger societal issues to be overcome, but underlying tenets hold true when it comes to good project outcomes—engage your teams, understand your stakeholders, and be authentic.
Grace, how did you get into project management? Since graduating college and entering the world of management consulting, elements of project management have been consistently integral to my job duties. However, if I had to select a turning point, it would be during an internship I held while pursuing my MBA. A mentor and supervisor suggested that I formally pursue PMI certification. He thought I'd make a great project manager based on my performance in the internship. I heeded his advice, pursued the official process, targeted my job search to roles with the official "Project Management" title, and took the exam. The rest is history; I've been a certified PMI-PMP since 2010.
What do you love most about the work? I was initially drawn to the ability to help achieve objectives whilst coordinating subject matter experts. The project management experience was akin to conducting an orchestra where each valuable specialist in unison with others created outcomes.
However, as my professional acumen deepened in this space and dysfunction emerged from the woodwork, I became intrigued in understanding organizational dysfunction and uncovering its impacts, which include misalignment between projects and organizational strategy, poor vetting of stakeholders and suppliers, unmitigated risk, and waste. The latter led me to broaden my skills and pursue Lean Six Sigma under the tutelage of Six Sigma Blackbelts. This journey into lean was essentially my formal exposure to process improvement—an asset I leverage even today as an Agilist.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? What was most frustrating is the misuse of the title “Project Manager.” It has been used by employers to mean everything from glorified Executive Assistant to Systems Engineer, with a touch of project management capability. This is a disservice to candidates and represents a sort of “bait-and-switch” recruiting tactic. The discrepancy between title and function is what inspired my first contribution to PMI in which I discussed the many shades of meaning tagged to the "Project Manager" role and title.
An extension to this phenomenon was the inattention given to selection of project team members and suppliers. Most disappointing was senior leaders with organizational power but a comfortable ignorance of the Project Manager role—a dangerous cocktail.
Does your approach change with the environment in which you’re working? I’ve worked internationally in countries with a national language other than English. I have found, when it comes to project management, people are people. This is not to ignore certain cultural nuances such as hierarchy, labor laws, indices of respect, and of course, language. However, some underlying tenets hold true:
Where there are implications is how I am received when I show up. Specifically, there will be persons who have intrinsic challenges such as unconscious bias, preconceived notions, discomfort with change and so on, with the collective result being their struggle to respond professionally to someone fitting my profile. Their struggle then renders project leadership an endeavor in swimming upstream because these persons are resisting the project manager—not necessarily the work to be done.
Some of the laundry list of challenges are at the forefront of conversations going on in our current environment and represent symptoms of larger societal issues that remain to be overcome. One can only come as far as the organization allows unproductive and disruptive organizational cultural behaviors to flourish or be minimally, if at all, addressed.
What's your proudest professional achievement? Contributing thought leadership to the community. I have had several articles published whose content touches on real-world experiences, which often diverge from theories laid out in bodies of knowledge. Being able to candidly share field experiences through various print and digital avenues—and having an excerpt of my articles be selected for publication in a compilation—makes me proud.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Remain authentic. Being your true self comes with risk, especially when you must deliver tough messages. In my career, I’ve had to deliver recommendations to end a project or rethink an initiative. In these instances, leadership was holding on for dear life to make things work despite clear indices that the endeavor was failing due to deep-seated and systemic impediments. Sponsors were simply victims of the sunk cost fallacy—in a nutshell, the misguided belief in the approach to continue going because we've come this far and already spent so much money/time/resources.
In my current career as an Agile leader, I’ve had to deliver messages that an engagement was not viable, or that business leaders and team members involved in a transformation were ill-suited.
Support your authenticity by having your facts ready. Data points, data points, data points are essential. Make the connection between the data and the impact. Finally, come to the table with recommendations and possible next steps. If your authenticity is met with negativity, then evaluate if you really want to stay in the environment you're in.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? It’s great to be able to get direct feedback via comments from community members—something that wouldn’t have been possible via the PM Network magazine alone. The community, reading what others are doing, and invitations to informative webinars, has been great.
Where are you from? Where are you based? I’m Jamaican, proud to be one, and very proud of our national motto "Out of Many, One People.” My second home is southeast Florida, which itself is home to a large contingent of the Jamaican diaspora.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside your day-to-day work? Decorating. I have a weakness for retailers that focus on home beautification and kitchen gadgets. Other than that, I like to discover new parks and trails, swim, go to the beach and travel.
What about a favorite TV show, artist, movie? Law and Order—all of them. Phil Collins, the Peters (Cetera and Gabriel), Bob Marley and Bon Jovi. For movie, it’s a three-way tie between Dancehall Queen, and the original releases of Back to the Future and The Terminator.
Best vacation? During the summer before my last year of college, backpacking across France and taking full advantage of my France Rail Pass encapsulated a blissful, adventurous, and precious era in my life that stays with me to this day.
Thank you Grace!
Based in Salt Lake City by way of Barcelona, Mayte Mata-Sivera, PMP, is truly a global project and program manager, speaking several languages and leading efforts in Europe, Asia, North America and South America. She believes in challenging, empowering and trusting her teams.
Mayte, how did you get into project management? After six hard years at Chemical Engineering School in Valencia, Spain, and a week before my graduation, one of the Big 5 technology firms offered me an internship plus free tuition for an SAP course. I struggled for days about accepting the offer. I was not very tech savvy, but thanks to my mentors and coach in the company I learned not only technical skills but also leadership skills that I continue to use and develop today.I realized that my passion is being a great project manager. After 13 years in tech, I have moved to the business side, and I’m leading strategic and operations projects now.
What do you love most about the work? There are some myths about project management. It’s not only spending the day in front of the computer sending mails with due dates. It is also engagement, communication and leadership! I try to be someone who inspires the team, someone who creates more leaders and more project managers.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Each project is a different challenge, and I need to feel challenged and empowered to be creative. If I don’t feel challenged in my work, I get bored. I need to be learning something new constantly, from the project and from the team.
Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? Cultural differences matter, communications needs and gestures are different. I always recommend learning something about the culture of the team and country that you are working in—even a few words such as “hi” or “thank you” in the native language. If you show interest in the culture and people, you will win over your team.
What's your proudest professional achievement? Any project that challenged me and my team, and anytime that we delivered value and benefits due to a project implementation.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Take care of your team. It doesn’t matter if you are their functional manager or not—challenge them, empower them and trust them.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? I joined before getting my PMP certification, and after a few months I realized that this is an amazing community where I found mentors and friends. People helped me and I was able to give back to the community, too.
Hometown? I was born and raised in Xàbia, a town in the East Coast of Spain.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside your day-to-day work? I’m a co-organizer of the TEDxSaltLakeCity event. I really enjoy learning from the speakers, building a diverse community, and sharing ideas worth spreading. I also love to spend time diving and snorkeling, though I can’t do that here. I really miss the ocean, so I try to travel to California when I can for a weekend break.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? I don’t really have a lot of time to see the TV; however, I’m a fan of the Star Warsmovies.
Best vacation? If you asked me four years ago, it would be any country where I’ve backpacked—India, China, Vietnam—or the European cities that I have discovered. I define myself as a traveler, not a tourist. Now that I’m living in the United States, the best vacations are those few weeks or days when I can travel back to Spain and share quality time with family and friends.
Thank you Mayte!
To connect with Mayte, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.
Our new Ambassadors Program is driven by a special group of community members—people like agile coach and management consultant Andrew Craig, PMP, who helps other members discover all that ProjectManagement.com offers, from discussions to downloads, and all the dynamic content in between.
Andrew, how did you get into project management? Long ago I managed coffee shops then retail electronic stores. I really became a people person—came out of my shell so to speak. But then 2008 happened. I completely reinvented myself and moved into the technical realm. I started out with help desk/tech analyst, moving to developer—all while recognizing that at some point, a career utilizing my management-leadership-people skills, along with my technical skills, could be very conducive as a business analyst or project manager. From developer I moved to product analyst with a large healthcare firm. From there, I moved on to a business analyst role, then transitioned to project management, both within financial services and consulting.
My journey to Agile actually started while I was a product analyst. I just had not realized at the time the impact it had on me. As a project manager, I began to question the ways in which we were doing work, asking if there were better ways, asking how we could be more inclusive and work in smaller batches for regular feedback. From there the rest is history!
What do you love most about the work? I love helping others to understand what it is that they want and helping them to get there. I love building relationships and trust. I love to see others get to that “Aha!” moment and flourish with a new sense of understanding and confidence.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Being constrained by bureaucracy or a luddite for working differently. Just because that is how it was done, does not equate to how it should be done. We should always challenge ourselves to think about things from different perspectives.
What's your proudest professional achievement? Anytime I see or hear that I have made a positive impact on someone else’s career, confidence, ability to perform—that is such an amazing and rewarding feeling. I so love what I do but recognize the impact I can have on others and the expectations of me and my role.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Always do the right thing, even if it’s hard to do, and understand that the right thing will not always make everyone happy—the right path is sometimes the rocky path.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you? I became active here at PM.com in 2016 after earning my PMP. I had been very active on Linux communities prior and felt like it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone and begin contributing professionally here. It has been a great five years.
And you’ve made more than 7,600 contributions! Wow! PM.com has helped me to recognize my strengths and new opportunities for growth, to become more confident in what I can contribute, and how those contributions can be recognized and impactful to others. Meeting people at the PMI Global Conference this past year that were influenced by my contributions was mind-blowing. Those times are priceless.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? For a long time I was a Linux geek. Heavily involved in communities. I’ve since moved on and have solely focused on my professional life and family. I was heavy into mountain bike racing but have transitioned to trail running. Less logistics and time consuming. Nothing beats running or riding through the woods.
What about a favorite TV show, artist or movie? A favorite movie is hard, but I have lots of shows: The Wire, Ozarks, Stranger Things, The Expanse, Money Heist, Hunters—you get the picture.
Best vacation? We stay local for vacations. Our favorite place is Maine. We drive up with the kids and dogs. That’s a whole other story! We also love the Poconos right here in Pennsylvania.
Thanks you Andrew!
To connect with Andrew, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.