Hailing from Salzburg, Austria, Stephan Weinhold is a project manager and agile coach in the cooperative banking sector. He takes a Buddhistic approach to the work, and believes constant challenge is what we signed up for and how we grow.
Stephan, how did you get into project management? In high school I started making websites; in 2000 I moved to Vienna and founded an agency there. After a couple of months—and a lot of “experimental learning”—I figured out that “Do what you love” won’t make sense for me. So, I followed the “Be so good they can’t ignore you” path and et voilà: I am in project management. And I haven’t regretted my decision once since. Ok, that was a lie.
What do you love most about the work? I love that I am working a lot with people from different cultures, backgrounds, motivations, work ethics, professions—different everything. On the other hand, I can spend some hours working on my own, if I feel the need to. And I love the challenge. I know that sounds like a motivational poster, but you cannot grow without constant challenge. Every good project manager is a tiny “eager beaver” deep inside, I think. Our profession gives us many possibilities to live that out.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Nothing, seriously. Of course, there are situations every day where I feel the urge to ride on a horse while screaming and wielding a giant battle axe above my head. But for me, solving these situations is a huge part of our job. So I just shrug my shoulders and start working. If you stop taking work-related things personal, you will have a better life. Trust me.
What's your proudest professional achievement? At some point I learned to stop taking myself and my role so important.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? View things Buddhistic. If it bothers you, change it. If you cannot change it, come to terms with it. If you cannot come to terms with it, pack your things and move on.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? There are so many great project managers writing so many great and inspiring articles … asking and answering questions in the forum, which constantly gives me new thoughts while writing … communicating with all that people that know so much about our profession … playing PMchallenge.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I love spending time with my family and friends. I love writing, fiction and nonfiction. I used to play basketball—I’m 5.77, but it turned out to be enough here in Austria. I am playing tennis every now and then. I have two energetic kids, so time is rare. I like playing guitar—I am a trained musician. I listen to music a lot—classical music, of course; Jazz, Progressive, Death Metal, Rap. I read a lot, always several books parallel—a bit of project management, James Lee Burke, a bit of management and agility, Thomas Bernhard.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? The Wire. More recently, I really liked Fleabag. Right now, I am spending a lot of time with Paw Patrol. [Music:] Deftones. Plini. Beethoven.
Best vacation? Always the upcoming one.
Thank you Stephan!
To connect with Stephan, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
Project management is not just about focusing on the tasks at hand, but also the adoption and impact, says Lorelie Kaid, VP of enterprise project management for Washington State Employees Credit Union. People will remember your integrity, she adds, so don’t lose it.
Lorelie, how did you get into project management? I have never had the official title "Project Manager" Yet, project management is something I have always done, just not formally. My love and passion around it came early in my career when I was implementing a mainframe-based application that would essentially eliminate an entire department. Users could enter their forms directly into the system and no longer send them to a department to enter. The planning was challenging because I needed help from the very people who would lose their jobs. This experience was the beginning of learning the people side of project management and the importance of not just focusing on the task at hand, but the adoption and impact.
What do you love most about the work? Making a difference. For my day job, I am leading people who are making a difference in my organization. We are transitioning our IT efforts to Agile and some of my project managers have migrated to incredible scrum masters. We are focused on implementing key organizational initiatives that are making a difference in our member’s lives. On the side, I have taught project management for over 20 years. Some of my students are new to project management, and others are pros, but together we all learn from each other based on experiences.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? There seems to be different perceptions about what project management is and isn’t. It is not an administrative role, but there are administrative requirements in the role—every role has these. It is not a role that “does everything.” When you say “accountant” in the business role, people generally know what you are referring to. When you say “project manager” there are many definitions on the spectrum, and it is important to help people get to the same [understanding] in your organization so that you can move forward.
What's your proudest professional achievement? Honestly, not to sound cheesy, but it is seeing the people I work with succeed. Twenty years ago, I had an intern who is now very successful. We are still connected and have lunch two to three times a year. I tell the people who work for me now that my role is to help them on their journeys, to help them move forward in their careers. The key is they have to do the work to make it happen. I am their biggest cheerleader.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Integrity matters. An early mentor told me this and he could not have been righter. Your integrity is something people will remember. Don’t lose it.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? It has given me exposure to thoughts, ideas and people that I may not have encountered. I love this tool and the platform it provides.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? One of my passions is producing the musical at the local Tahoma High School every year. I have been doing this for seven years and love it. It is three weeks of crazy chaos, but I enjoy managing the young adults backstage—the actors, orchestra and crew. I am lucky to work for a company that supports my volunteer efforts as well. And volunteering, my project management skills have come in handy. Managing the young adults requires a lot of patience, openness and creativity.
What about a favorite TV show, artist or movie? Big-time Law & Order fan as well as NCIS. Long-time fan of Queen—well before the movie. I have all of the albums. Favorite movies are the Star Wars and Bourne series
Best vacation? Visiting my son and his wife in Philadelphia.
Thank you Lorelie!
To connect with Lorelie, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.
Let's Meet Greg Githens...
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 ProjectManagement.com 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 ProjectManagement.com profile.
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!
To connect with Catherine, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.
Let's Meet John Farlik...
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 ProjectManagement.com 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).
To connect with John, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.