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
As a senior project manager for a global telecom giant, Paris-based Yasmina Khelifi has worked with international teams for 20 years, combining cultural awareness with communication agility. Parlez-vous francais? Sure. But also English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Arabic!
Yasmina, how did you get into project management? I always loved to organize things. I have a classic background for a project manager—I began as a telecom engineer. After a few years, thanks to the support of a manager, I applied to become a project manager. I wasn’t quite sure about it at the beginning because some technical colleagues told me it was boring and administrative. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to them, and I don’t regret it!
What do you love most about the work? I love the diversity of project teams and activities. I work with so many people around the globe—it is an invaluable source of growth and learning. I am also fortunate to be able to work virtually, which was a great advantage during the pandemic.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? What I find frustrating is that project management is sometimes seen as a “paperwork” role. Project management is a life skill and a mandatory skill. It’s everywhere. We work in teams, and every time we build a team there are project management skills involved at work or in private projects.
You’re based in Paris. Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? Yes, of course, and that's what I love most: cultural awareness and communication agility. I’ve been working in an international environment for 20 years; since 2014 in the Middle East and Africa. I adapt the tools used and the communication approach. My knowledge of languages, which is one of my passions, helps me to build bridges. I’m a French native, and I can speak German, English, Spanish, a bit of Italian, a bit of Japanese and I’m learning Arabic.
It’s sometimes challenging and makes me think on how I can improve my communication or way of being. And that helps me in my private life.
What's your proudest professional achievement? When I joined a technical project team a few years ago, I didn’t know the topic very well. I replaced a technical expert, so it was intimidating at the beginning. I noted there was no team cooperation, and the information didn’t circulate well, so I went back to basics: project management skills. I revamped all the project processes, communication flows, and set ground rules. By doing this, I infused a strong team collaboration spirit that benefited the project.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? When I became a project manager, my manager pushed me to get training. I was not so convinced; I didn’t think I had the time. But he told me it was very important, and it proved true. Since then, I was lucky to continue training through my firm and I also paid for some. I’ve encouraged many colleagues to do the same, even if they think they don’t have time. It’s crucial to take time for yourself and to pave the way for the future; you’re the pilot in this plane.
Continuous learning is so rewarding and it’s even easier now with courses delivered online. Taking part in training is also a way to network and meet new people. And recently, I’ve discovered volunteering at Project Management Institute, and I love it! I’ve met incredible role models to guide me in my learning journey.
You are a monthly contributor to the Voice on Project Management blog, sharing your experiences and insights. How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? PM.com has helped me to gain new perspectives. It’s an open and supportive community for advice—for instance, when I was preparing for PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I love learning languages, meeting international friends, and volunteering. I’ve just launched a podcast about global leadership. I didn’t know anything about podcasting, but I wanted to share my knowledge and the voices of leaders around the world. I love to try out new things, to learn and share.
Favorite TV show, artist, or movie? I love detective TV series.
Best vacation? It’s a question hard to answer—each place is rich in learning. Let’s mention my last travel before the pandemic: Dubai. I loved it.
Thank you Yasmina!
To connect with Yasmina Khelifi, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.
New Jersey-based program manager Dianna Belluscio—aka “Data Queen”—manages validations, documentation and changes to life insurance models at financial services giant USAA’s Center of Excellence. She says project management is a balancing act—a tightrope walk with a “net” that is only as good as an organization’s PM maturity.
Dianna, how did you get into project management? By accident, not intention. I started my professional career in Reinsurance Underwriting as an underwriting assistant; when the company implemented a new software transaction processing system I gained a nickname “The Data Queen.” I knew the company's business [very well] and that helped me become an expert in the software. It was a gateway to project management in software development. I have stayed in the Insurance and Reinsurance industry, managing various types of projects for my entire career. Even way back at the start of my project management career I knew “data” was king.
What do you love most about the work? The variety and the pace —I am never bored. I am a planner and love to think ahead. When you are a project manager you need to keep many balls in the air, while knowing what was completed, what is in danger of slipping, what can be cut or postponed, and what is coming due.
I also love the diverse group of people that you can work with, from project sponsors to department representatives. You really learn the organization and what drives its success and—in some cases—it’s failures. I have truly learned how to become a team player. It’s all a learning experience that you can take with you to the next project. This all makes me a stronger project manager—the ability to take those experiences and use them as wisdom in the future.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? The greatest challenge is always adapting to the culture of the organization you are working within, and the level of project maturity. Project Sponsors who are not fully engaged are a great frustration. Forming new teams and getting into a rhythm is also a challenge. You need to learn everyone’s style and adjust accordingly to get the work done.
There is a great amount of nuanced perception needed to manage a project and teams successfully—when to compromise, when to push the envelope; it’s a balancing act. In some instances [you are a] tightrope walker with or without a net. The “net” depends on the organizational project maturity level and those project management processes and tenants that are used as a framework for success.
Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? Definitely. Cultural awareness is akin to emotional intelligence. You need to adapt your communication style based on the receiver, the cultural customs of the country, and the culture of the company. There could also be a language barrier that can cause miscommunication. You need to step lightly and be aware—not only to the country you are working in, but in everyday project management. I worked in Germany for some time, and you can pretty much be up front, but it’s all about the facts. The bottom line: It’s all about awareness.
What's your proudest professional achievement? There have been many. If I had to choose one, I have managed organizational transformation projects, working with very large teams and many stakeholders. It takes a certain amount of experience to feel comfortable in that role. I have managed projects with more than 100 team members. Those projects are some of my proudest, getting everyone to be in the right place at the right time is an achievement. Secondly, getting the work products delivered and signed-off on is the culmination of that achievement.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? Find something you are good at, that you enjoy, and stick with it. My advice: Learn to become a good team member. Learn the organizational quirks and culture. Establish relationships, get solid footing. In projects I have managed we had some mottos: “Just get it done”…“There is no I in team”…“Teamwork makes the dream work.” Some are not original, but all are worth living by when managing projects.
How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? The ability to get direct advice from your peers and experts is invaluable. If you have a specific issue you are dealing with you can post comments on the community and get responses. It gives you some thinking power around the issues—you may be able to see different sides of the issue that you haven’t been able to since you are in it. Also you are able to share your advice with peers to help them solve issues and that is a good feeling. The webinars are great for getting your needed PDUs and for learning new aspects of project management.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I paint abstracts with acrylics and collage.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? My favorite TV show is I Love Lucy. What an artistic marvel Lucille Ball was—her delivery was flawless; her facial expressions are priceless. No matter how many times I watch the shows, they always make me laugh.
Best vacation? Florence, Italy—to see Michelangelo’s David and tour the Uffizi Museum to see the Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. The room was closed, and I cried, but overall the art experience on that trip will always be a highlight. The food was memorable.
Thank you Dianna!
To connect with Dianna Belluscio, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.
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 ProjectManagement.com 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 ProjectManagement.com profile.
This interview with Lenka Pincot launched our Peerspective blog back in 2019, when she was a volunteer. Lenka is now PMI's Chief of Staff, supporting the CEO and Executive Leadership Team in enterprise planning and execution. What a journey!
Lenka, how did you get into project management? I was a junior business analyst on an organizational transformation initiative. In the middle of the project, our project manager suddenly left. This inspired me to invest myself in the project management discipline and explore its success factors. Project management became a crucial — and favorite — part of all my further job assignments.
What do you love most about the work? When things get done and people grow on their project journeys, including me.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? Every project is a challenge on its own, but I guess I chose my profession right because I really do love challenges!
What's your proudest professional achievement? I'm happy to list my biggest projects on my resume, but frankly speaking that is not what makes me proud. I see the biggest value in having opportunities to help teams to cooperate, to establish language between business and IT experts, and to connect people and find synergies. I’m the most proud when I create inspiring environments that lead to achievements.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? There can never be enough listening and communication.
How has ProjectManagement.com helped you in your work and career? I always enjoy being on the site because I truly appreciate the enormous accumulation of expertise, networking potential, and valuable interactions. I have applied the insights of others in my job numerous times.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? My hobbies were gradually pushed out of my life by my three kids, but I keep fighting and occasionally read books, go to movies, and do fitness.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? True Detective because I’m interested in mystery and I love problem-solving, and Hell's Kitchen because I’m interested in how the teamwork between strangers is born.
Best vacation? Any vacation!
Thank you, Lenka!
To connect with Lenka, here's her profile.