As an associate professor at the University of North Georgia, Juanita Woods, is educating the next generation of project leaders. With a PMP, PgMP and 20-plus years of experience managing projects, she loves introducing students to a fulfilling, lucrative career choice.
Juanita, how did you get into project management? My undergraduate degree was in science education. I wanted to work in a planetarium or science museum after graduation since I didn't qualify as an astronaut. I started working as a high school science teacher but only made it one year. After that experience, I started doing data entry for a company converting from a mainframe to a server-based software system. I became friends with the project manager, and she mentored me through several years of quality assurance/software testing, project administration and project management.
I eventually earned my master's degree in IT, earned the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, and became a program manager and project management office (PMO) manager for a technology company. After teaching as an adjunct instructor at a local college, I decided to retire as a PMO manager and pursue my doctorate in business.
What do you love most about the work? What I loved most about being a project manager were the diverse activities and the opportunity to learn new things. I enjoyed the challenge of learning about new projects and finding ways to deliver value to our customers best.
What I love most about being a college professor is helping the next generation explore project management as an exciting and profitable profession. Most students do not realize that project management exists as a career, and often they will tell me how happy they were in learning about the career because of the variety of work it entails.
What do you find most challenging? In higher education, it is difficult to pivot and respond to market demands quickly. Public universities must follow rigid policies and procedures, and changes may take up to a year or more, depending on the effect it will have on programs, students and funding.
Does your approach change depending on the country or organization where you work? Absolutely, project management is situational, just like leadership is situational. You must consider the project's outcomes, the characteristics of your team, the strategic objectives and structure of the organization, and the local norms and culture as you plan and monitor project work. It's never a "one-size-fits-all" situation, as there are nuances to every project that makes them unique and challenging.
What's your proudest professional achievement? In 1993, I published a children's educational program for the Morehead Planetarium, Chapel Hill, NC, where I interviewed a retired astronaut and led a team to produce the program. This was the first time I managed a project, but I didn't realize it then.
I am also very proud of earning my doctorate in 2016. Completing a dissertation is a time-consuming project where you are the project manager and the only team member. Advisors are available to guide you, but you do the work yourself. Completing my doctorate while having a family was a challenge that I am happy to say I overcame. I love my current job and am glad I went through this process. And earning my PMP and PgMP credentials are special, too!
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Don't feel that every decision you make locks you into a career path. For example, I started on the path to being an astronaut and ended up as a college professor, with many twists and hops along the way. Hopefully, where you start is not where you end up, as you should spend your life growing, learning, and exploring life and work.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your career? I've been part of PM.com since its early days. I often refer to it for inspiration and templates and direct my students to the website for examples of best practices and webinars on different topics.
What interests do you have outside work? I love to quilt, a hobby I started during the pandemic. It is relaxing, and a good counterpoint to all the brain work and thinking I must do in my work.
To connect with Juanita, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile here.
Originally from Barcelona, now based in Amsterdam, Eduard Hernàndez, PMP, is a senior project manager who applies a servant leadership approach to strategic projects that are focused on life-saving medicines.
Eduard, how did you get into project management? Like many of my peers, it was by accident. In 2012, I started a job at a medical device company as a technical applications engineer. However, as soon as I started, they sent me off to project management training and assigned me my first project. I learned a lot and realized that I wanted to pursue a career in project management. Before this, I developed my career in research and development and have very fond memories of my stay in the United States between 2005 and 2008.
What do you love most about the work? The interaction with a wide array of stakeholders. Forming and managing teams that deliver value to the company is a very rewarding experience. I also like the variety that each new project brings along. There is never a dull moment in the life of a project manager!
What do you find most challenging? The constant shift of priorities. While it is understandable that priorities can change, especially in a rapidly changing environment, a continuous reshuffle of urgencies can lead to frustration and confusion.
Does your approach change depending on the country or organization you’re working in? I am an advocate of servant leadership. At the end of the day, a project is carried out by people. Adapting Richard Branson’s famous quote, “Take care of your team members and they will take care of your project.” Of course, there is always room for small adjustments. When I moved to The Netherlands, I noticed people were more direct, so I adapted my communication style to a “to-the-point” modus.
What's your proudest professional achievement? The projects I am managing contribute to providing life-saving medicines to patients, so I feel very proud every time we complete a project. In general, I am especially proud of undertaking stalled projects and pushing them to the finish line. It is a wonderful and rewarding feeling.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Communicate, communicate, communicate! I read somewhere that a project manager spends 80% of the time communicating. I couldn’t agree more. Communication is a key element in the increasingly important domain of stakeholder management.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? Tremendously. I used the forum very frequently, initially to pose questions and later to answer others. Big thanks to Kiron, Rami, Sergio and Peter, just to name a few of the PM.com community members who altruistically share their vast knowledge and passion for project management. They set an example for the rest of us.
What interests do you have outside work? I am an avid reader and an occasional writer. Whenever I have some spare time, I play the guitar or go out for a bike ride or a hike with my family.
What's your favorite TV show, artist or movie? Quentin Tarantino. Each one of his films takes the seventh art to the next level. I do not watch TV often, but I enjoy watching Air Crash Investigation (it provides an excellent example of root cause analysis) or How It’s Made.
Best vacation? Madagascar. An eye-opening trip to make one realize how fortunate we are to live in a modern and developed country. Nevertheless, Madagascar is the most stunning country I have ever visited. It was an explosion of life.
To connect with Eduard, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
This interview was conducted by Kelley Hunsberger
There are no mistakes in project management—just lessons learned, says Craig Brodbeck, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, a product manager and group leader for a global industrial electronics organization. He’s completed more than 300 projects and launched more than 850 products.
Craig, how did you get into project management? I’ve been involved in project management since 2005. Although my primary role is product development and product management, I spend a significant amount of time in a project management role. Early in my career, I was frustrated projects weren’t completed on time, budgets exceeded the plan and scope changes were not adequately captured. I joined PMI in 2007 and began to study the fundamentals outlined in the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and passed my PMI certification in 2011.
What do you love most about the work? I enjoy working with diverse team members to solve complex issues that delight customers. It’s especially gratifying to see individual team members evolve into a high-performing team. I also like that no two projects are the same. It’s rewarding to work as a team in taking a project from start to finish.
What do you find most challenging? Working through the “fuzzy front end” of projects when requirements are still evolving can sometimes be a challenge. I have worked hard to utilize ideation and elicitation tools and techniques to aid in getting through the “fog.”
Does your approach change depending on the country or organization you’re working in? PMI has done a fantastic job of creating global standards for project management. This allows for a common understanding of the structure for projects regardless of where the project work is performed. As I’ve learned over my career, communication is essential. As I work for a European-based company, I find it helpful to have a stakeholder plan to aid in communication. Although my approach to managing a project doesn’t change, my communication methods may vary depending on the location of key stakeholders.
What's your proudest professional achievement? I just launched a new product line at the end of March and had the honor of presenting the project to our steering committee for approval. Even though I have launched more than 850 products and completed more than 300 projects, it’s always exciting to get a big project to completion. I like to think one is only as good as one’s last project!
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? One of my mentors told me there are no mistakes in project management, rather there are lessons learned. Reflecting on lessons learned has been one of the most beneficial aspects of project management.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your career? I’m a frequent visitor to projectmanagment.com. With three PMI certifications, I’m always in need of professional development units (PDUs). With the webinar on-demand option, I’m able to review relevant topics that truly aid in my development. I also like to utilize the forms that are available. Why create a form when there is a library available! Finally, I like to connect with and network with other project managers from around the globe and am closing in on 100,000 connections. ProjectManagment.com is a fantastic resource and well worth the cost of a PMI membership.
What interests do you have outside work? Spending time with my family and working on projects around the house—but with no Gantt charts!
What's your favorite TV show, artist or movie? Lincoln by Steven Spielberg.
Best vacation? I backpacked Europe after college and visited five countries. It was fun learning about new cultures and having the freedom to explore without a fixed itinerary.
To connect with Craig, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
This interview was conducted by Kelley Hunsberger
As a project manager at the OCM Group in Dubai, Rasumon Manuel, PMP, loves working with people of different cultural backgrounds, sharing his knowledge and helping his team come up with new ideas to turn challenges into opportunities.
As a civil engineering student at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, Manuel got a job in a very small company, supervising a team of masons, carpenters and laborers working on home renovation projects. He came to realize that project management was something that he loved and wanted to continue doing. Today, Manuel serves as a construction project manager for the OCM Group in Dubai, where he is responsible for delivering and establishing strategic plans and objectives for complex capital projects.
Rasumon, why did you want to a career in construction project management? I saw construction project management as a career that would allow me to help build something that people could use and benefit from. Every day is different, and there is always something new to learn. I am thankful that I get to do what I love while still being able to make a living.
What do you love most about the work? I love that I can work and connect with so many people of different cultural backgrounds. It gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge and help the team come up with new ideas to solve challenges and turn them into opportunities. I love the freedom that comes with being able to manage my own schedule, finances and deadlines.
What do you find most challenging? There are many complexities that come with this job. The most challenging part is having to juggle multiple projects and clients at the same time. It can be stressful because you must make sure that deadlines are met while still making sure that you are taking care of yourself. It is important to make sure that you are not neglecting yourself and your family while working on these projects. I find that managing deadlines is a lot harder than managing people. When a deadline is set, it cannot be changed without a lot of effort.
Does your approach change depending on the country or organization you’re working in? Yes, it is important to learn the culture of the country or organization you are working for so that you can adapt your approach accordingly. It’s important that I have an open mind. In some cases, my approach is more about listening and understanding what people want and how they want it done. In other cases, my approach is more about making a decision and presenting it to the group.
What's your proudest professional achievement? From my first project to my most recent one, I am proud of every single project I have accomplished. Recently, I successfully completed a project with the help of highly skilled and professional people that had a lot of experience in construction. We faced many obstacles, and the most challenging part was when we had to complete the project within schedule and budget despite the effects of the COVID pandemic.
I am also proud that I’m now in a position where I can help others with their careers as well.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? “You will always have obstacles in your life, so take the time to enjoy the moments.” Some of the most memorable moments in my life have been when I was just taking it all in and being present. We should take time to appreciate the good things in our lives, whether it's a sunset, a simple dinner with the family, or a small win or accomplishment. Don't worry, don’t overthink it, and live in the moment.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? ProjectManagement.com has been a great resource for me in my career, and I can't imagine what I would do without it. The resources that I use regularly are the webinars and knowledge sections, which contain a variety of resources on project management topics. There are articles on the website that are broken down into different categories, including project management best practices, project management tools and project management software. The site also provides an online community where members can discuss project management topics and share their experiences.
What interests. do you have outside work? I enjoy traveling with my wife and kids, serving at our local church, and engaging in sports activities like basketball and cycling.
What's your favorite TV show, artist or movie? Big Bang Theory and science fiction movies such as Star Wars and the Marvel series
Best vacation? When I'm spending time with family and friends back in my hometown in the Philippines.
To connect with Rasumon, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.
This interview was conducted by Kelley Hunsberger.
Stéphane Parent is the CEO of Leader Maker in Prince Edward Island, Canada, where he coaches and mentors future project leaders. He’s also one of the most engaged members of the PM.com community with more than 8,000 contributions and almost 140,000 people in his network.
You began your project management career managing a team of information system specialists for a human resources unit. Given we were the most technological staff in the unit, we were called to lead and execute projects such as choosing software, install networks and develop technological solutions. As the team leader, I became the project manager.
What do you love most about the work? Project management allows you to blend management and technical. I’ve managed units of technical staff. It’s not the same as managing projects with technical staff.
What do you find most challenging? Projects can only be delivered by people, for people. It’s inevitable that the biggest challenge in project management is people. We talk about projects being unique. So are people. No two persons are the same. Don’t underestimate the amount of work to support and encourage your clients, your team members and other affected parties.
Does your approach change depending on the country or organization you’re working in? To a certain degree. You must deal with different cultures, idioms and approaches. No matter the project or the country, I concentrate on meeting the needs of the people.
What's your proudest professional achievement? Completing the Distinguished Toastmaster award. I joined Toastmasters in 2007. It took me 10 years to complete all the projects necessary.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? I have something to learn from every person I meet. This influences all my personal and professional decisions.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? It is my project management community. It allows me to reach out to fellow and future project management practitioners across the world. The webinars are a tremendous help in keeping my four PMI certifications up to date. I enjoy sharing experiences.
What interests do you have outside work? I enjoy singing, community theatre and reading. Oh … and, of course, Toastmasters!
What's your favorite TV show, artist or movie? My favorite TV show is Better Call Saul. My favorite artist is my actor/director daughter, Rebecca.
Best vacation? My best vacation was a two-month stay in Mexico after my high school graduation. We drove down from Gatineau, Quebec to Coxcatlán, San Luis Potosí. We stayed in a catholic mission as we were meant to experience the missionary life. As a teenager, I found it humbling to see the richness in the people and their community.
To connect with Stéphane Parent, visit his ProjectManagment.com profile.
This interview was conducted by Kelley Hunsberger.