WOMEN IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT

  In 2019, PMIMSL will highlight the achievements and experiences of notable local women in Project Management.



September


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Deana Pape

Title:  Director of Operations

Organization: Integrated Project Management

Sector: We work within several industries, including but not limited to Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, Consumer Products, Energy, and more.

 

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

The responsibilities of my role are three fold 1- Account Management – making sure our clients are getting high quality project management service; 2 – People Management – ensuring my team is supported, learning, growing, and getting the professional development challenges they desire and 3- New Business Development – looking for new clients who need to bring in strategic project management leadership for a new project they are undertaking.

What three words best describe you?

Strategic, Growing, Creative

 

How did you get into project management?

To be honest, I didn’t know that project management was a career when I graduated from college.  I worked in both healthcare and a genetic sequencing lab before getting my MBA, where I had a class that emphasized the importance of good leadership and project management.  I realized then that PM is what I am good at and also enjoy.  So, I started looking for opportunities to continue growing my PM skills.  I have been working at IPM for the last 14 years.

 

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

Working in a project management consulting firm has provided several opportunities to work on everything from M&A integrations and PMO establishment to product development and business process optimization.  It is difficult to pick just one, but probably the medical device projects have been the most exciting.  I enjoy the fast pace and intensity of hitting a launch deadline with the complexity of the plethora of functions that need to align on intent, timing, and resolution of issues.  It’s similar when blending organizations after a merger as well.

 

How has project management been important to your organization?

It is what we do all day, every day.  Being at a firm that provides PM to other businesses has given me the opportunity to see the immediate value of good leadership and project management essentials to many different companies in several industries.  It makes such a difference!

 

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I love to learn and grow, personally and professionally, and then share that with others.

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

The ability to motivate without authority.  The skills, tools, and theories in the PMBOK can be learned and customized to each project or situation, but the ability to motivate without authority allows a project manager to lead a team cohesively to a successful outcome.  It is missing in many “leaders”.  People aren’t motivated by “because that’s what the plan says” or “because I said so” or “because it is time now”.  People come together and worked toward goals that are meaningful.  Translating data and plans into meaningful reason is a skill that isn’t always learned in a book and is much more empowering to the team.  Empowering teams is a much more lasting motivation than holding power over others.

Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?

Definitely.  I’ve even seen some organizations that are predominantly women, they are rare, but they are out there.  When I graduated from college, many graduates in technical fields were predominantly male.  That isn’t the case today.  Many schools have more women than men graduating with technical degrees (engineering, IT, sciences, etc.) and that is starting to become apparent in the work force as well.  It’s nice to see!

 

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization?

 It provides the structure and standards by which quality can be measured.  It also allows us to ensure we are thorough in our management of any project.  While many leaders are charismatic and motivating, the structure provided by the PMBOK allows us to consistently succeed in a high quality manner.

 

What is most rewarding about projects?

I love seeing projects succeed, who doesn’t?  Going to a product launch or seeing your teams’ ideas resonating and sustaining over time, that is a great feeling.  But if we are talking about long term rewards, we can’t forget about our failures either.  I don’t think of a failure as a loss, I prefer to think of it as gaining a lesson.  While I am not proud of my failures, the lesson usually lasts longer than the window of “wow” after a successful launch.  Our lessons can be blessings for the future!

 


Laura Vitale

Title:  Director of Operations

Organization: MediaBeacon

Sector: Pharmaceuticals/ Medical Device

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

 As Director of Operations for MediBeacon, I am responsible for strategy and execution of product design excellence and manufacturing while also managing aspects of procurement and business continuity.  I am also the project manager for products under development, leading internal and external teams of developers for our optics, monitoring systems, and software, working closely with internal and external clinical, quality, and regulatory functions to ensure adherence to all local and federal regulatory agency requirements.  Fully scoping projects, developing robust timelines, and ensuring financial forecast attainment are key elements to project success in our start-up environment. 

What three words best describe you?

Tenacious, passionate, resolute

How did you get into project management?

I started working with Mallinckrodt in St. Louis just after graduating with my chemistry degree.  The experience I gained as a spectroscopist enabled me to transition to leadership of the Quality Assurance / Quality Control organization for approximately 10 years, then move on to manage the corporate Logistics organization.  After several years of developing push-pull systems as well as other communication and inventory control mechanisms for our various sites in North America and Europe, I was given the opportunity to manage product launches in the Marketing organization.  One of our future products, for which I was developing the Marketing plan, was stalled in the final stages of development / validation and our leadership requested that I 'figure out how to get it moving' due to my manufacturing plant experience.  Without knowing the tools and techniques I should be using, this was my first true project management experience.  Soon after successfully launching the previously stalled product, I helped stand-up the first official Project Management organization for pharmaceutical development in Mallinckrodt in 2007.  My diverse background definitely helped me transition well into a PM role as I understood pharmaceutical product development from many different points of view.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

My most exciting project is definitely design and development of the transdermal kidney function monitor.  A huge unmet need in the critical care environment is evident as there is no real-time point of care technique for measuring kidney function (measured as GFR).  My project is to design, develop, and commercialize a noninvasive system for measuring GFR that works in a similar fashion to pulse oximetry, using a light sensor placed on the skin and administration of a proprietary biocompatible tracer.  The system can monitor a patient's real-time point of care kidney function, potentially allowing earlier detection of renal issues and more effective interventions.

How has project management been important to your organization?

Project management can be marginalized in companies that outsource development because resources are few and there is temptation to assume outsourced work will take care of itself.  However, there is great value brought from an internal project manager who works with external developers as well as all other internal and external functions.  The most important aspect that project management has brought to our organization is integration between all of these various functional areas.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

 I have been a tap dancer since the age of 5.  I credit this dance experience for helping me maintain composure in intense situations!

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

 Well-honed communication skills are the successful project manager's most valuable asset.  According to PMI, we project managers spend 90% of our time communicating, and highly effective communicators are more likely to complete projects on time and within budget.  Communications can take many different forms: project team meetings, ad hoc conversations, presentations, reports, e-mails, non-verbal, etc.  Knowing what stakeholders want and need to know, and planning accordingly, are important elements in ensuring effective communications.  I always probe a PM candidate's communication skills when interviewing and look for evidence that they value stakeholder identification, RACIs, and Communications Management Plans.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

I'm a stickler for scope so my favorite is - to the pessimist, the glass is half empty; to the optimist, the glass is half full; to the project manager, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be!

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization?

As I found through research while completing my PhD dissertation, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries are still early in the learning curve of applying project management tools and techniques to product development.  From direct experience, my work in development was strictly functional for many years with no project management support; we found that development often lagged because of poor communication and lack of understanding between functional groups.  The marketing, regulatory, clinical, and scientific teams are often managed separately and do not always value the importance of managing the overall development process.  When the project management office was created and project managers were trained and certified through PMI, development times and costs decreased significantly.  Functions naturally communicated with each other due to the project environment, and lag between activities was reduced.  Projects were tracked and leadership was able to view metrics on each stage of research and development.  Overall, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries now understand that effective project management is a critical success factor within organizations, however they still have a long way to go in establishing and implementing best practices.

What is most rewarding about projects?

It is tempting to say that the most rewarding experience in a project is when it is complete and the project manager can show that the team successfully managed all elements to produce on-time, on-budget deliverables.  However, I have found the most rewarding element of my role has been in the elucidation of risk.  Before implementing risk management techniques, we discussed various project risks but did not have any plans in place to manage them.  When a risk event occurred, it almost felt like a surprise.  Because we systematically identify, qualify, and quantify risks, then develop Risk Registers that include responses and management plans, our teams don't experience fear of the unknown.  Instead of being controlled by them, we own the risks and manage acceptable solutions should an event occur.  

What did you learn from completing a dissertation on project management?

My PhD was centered in Business Administration and Project Management.  The dissertation topic I chose was relating structure and success within pharmaceutical development projects.  I analyzed the relationship between structural project management tools and techniques from PMI's knowledge areas as viewed through the perceptions of pharmaceutical project managers from small, medium, and large companies.  Several themes emerged in the study - structured project communications, creation of strong schedules that are maintained throughout the project, and use of scope statements were all related to project success.  Differences were found in how project managers from small, medium, and large organizations approach projects.  Small company project managers manage risk informally and prefer not to create structure that require on-going management.  Medium and large company project managers identified the value of a PMO that ensures consistent project structure and intense management of risk.  Besides the structural aspect of managing projects, highly developed technical knowledge and soft skills were also linked to project success.  More studies would be valuable in identifying specific tools that worked well for managing communications, project schedules, scope management, and risk management.



August


 

Alicia Morrow

Title:  Project Management Director

Organization: Express Scripts

Sector: Healthcare

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

In my role, I am responsible for analyzing current business processes within rebate operations, documenting and improving process flow and design, and partnering cross-functionally to maximize processes in partnership with our Enterprise Value Office.  

What three words best describe you?

 Diligent, Intentional & Dynamic

How did you get into project management?

I worked as a business analyst on a shadow IT/reporting team many moons ago. In that role I had responsibility for partnering with the business team to define requirements and implement technology solutions. As part of that work, I had to also serve as a PM to build project plans and manage project teams to get the work done. Although the role gave me a structured framework and official title for the work I was doing, I think I’ve always been a project manager! I often joke that my brain works in lists and process maps because I’ve always had a knack for problem-solving and organizing things logically.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

The most important project I’ve worked on to-date was the Global Work-at-Home Integration program. When Express Scripts acquired Medco I had the opportunity to lead a project aimed at aligning the W@H strategy across our combined company. The project was complex and had many intricate pieces, including getting to a decision as to whether or not we would continue to provide paid internet service to hundreds of resources. This project was exciting because I got to meet so many amazing people and learn so many new things. Although I have been with the company more than 13 years, I still embrace every chance I get to learn new things. The W@H program afforded me an opportunity to stretch my skills and increase my project management knowledge on a larger scale.

How has project management been important to your organization?

Project management is essential to Express Scripts. We are a big company and we do important, strategic and ever-changing work. As we continue to grow and innovate, we will continue benefit from having strong project managers who can adapt quickly, formulate plans and push the organization forward.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

This probably doesn’t sound very ‘fun’ to others, but I am a giant nerd! I love learning and I am always looking for opportunities to learn new things.

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Organization. A good project manager must be organized. Complex processes involve the exchange of heaps of information and organization is critical to ensuring details are gathered, tracked and receive proper follow-up.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

Project managers are the most creative pros in the world; we have to figure out everything that could go wrong, before it does.

What is most rewarding about projects?

What I find most rewarding about projects is the satisfaction I feel when I’ve worked with a team on a challenging project and we finally reach the finish line. This may seem like an obvious reward, but it’s especially rewarding considering many projects die at 99% (or less). Many of the projects I’ve been involved in have been focused on improving a process or implementing a process or solution. It’s extremely rewarding to know that someone’s (work) life has been made better as a direct result of my work.


 

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Lisa Spahr

Title:  Director, IT Program Management

Organization: Maritz

Sector: IT Services for a multi-faceted company that is in the sales, incentives, travel and customer experience fields

 

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

I oversee large strategic programs for our Financial & Risk sector.  Programs include software implementation, product enhancements, and network consolidations as we move to digital/cloud-based services.  We supply products and services that allows the financial industry to provide market data to their customers.

What three words best describe you?

Trust-worthy, Dedicated, Positive

How did you get into project management?

 I was a Sr. Manager at a telecommunication company and wanted to make a change after company went through several reductions in force layoffs.  I had a strong technology and management background and when Reuters acquired Bridge Communications, I knew I wanted to make a change.  It was an opportunity to start something different.  When I joined Reuters I was given a SOX project that had failed an audit, prior to my arrival.  I was given 6 weeks to remediate the results and I knew I had made the right decision to go into project management when I planned and successfully implemented the corrective actions that needed to be done.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

 The most exciting project that I led was with our Legal division at Thomson Reuters.  The project automated the quoting, pricing, and ordering process of the customer’s request.  The application interfaced with Salesforce and significantly improved the time it took to place an order. One of the key reasons I enjoyed this project is that we used agile methodology and the scrum team worked very well together.  We had very positive stakeholder involvement and the product owner was empowered to make decisions to move the project forward.  It truly was a team effort to deliver and all individuals knew the value they brought to the team.   The success of this project truly was an exemplary example that continues to be used throughout the company.

How has project management been important to your organization?

 Project Management has been critical to our organization because we put governance and structure around all our implementations.  Project management assists to outline deliverables and identifies any risks, issues, dependencies, etc.  We assist the business units implement large strategic projects for the company.  I am focused on the blue-chip projects which receive a lot of visibility and help the company meet their strategic goals of reducing cost and increasing revenue growth.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I completed a Century (100 miles) Bike Ride before I turned 50.   I love the outdoors and enjoy trying new things.  I enjoy biking, running, kayaking, hiking, etc. 

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

 Ability to communicate and be a servant leader.

To whom would you give an honorary PMI certification to?

 Sheryl Sandberg.  She has made a tremendous difference for women in the workplace and she has used the PMI methodology in a lot of the work that she has done to achieve success.  She may not have called it out as PMI but based on the disciple of planning and executing she truly has done a lot for women in leadership.

Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?

 Yes, our company has a goal to have 40% women in leadership roles by 2020.  They have implemented programs to support women in leadership development to achieve that objective.  This also applies to project managers.

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization?

 The PMO that I was in recognized my PMI certification and I was given opportunities to work on large strategic programs rather than business as usual type of projects. In addition, by receiving my PMI-ACP it demonstrated that I was committed and valued as an agile professional.

What is most rewarding about projects?

 The people. I love working with individuals from around the world who all want to achieve success on project.  I enjoy the diversity and I find the diverse cultures very fascinating.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

 Project Management is about being a good leader.



July


 

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Rachel Turnbull

Title:  Senior Program & Portfolio Manager

Organization: MilliporeSigma – The Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Sector: Life Sciences

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?
  • I manage a team of six projects/senior project managers based in St Louis (MO), Temecula (CA), Milwaukee (WI) and Israel, within the Research Innovation Program Management Office. Our work typically falls within 3 categories:
  1. Portfolio Management – we provide accurate portfolio financial and status visibility to enable effective strategic investment planning by our executive team, and we facilitate the road mapping process, which helps define our future R&D strategy.
  2. New Product Introduction – we manage the introduction of new products through our commercialization process (according to Corporate standards and local manufacturing site requirements), for both in-house developed products and in collaboration with vendors, strategic partners, and academic collaborators.
  3. Special Projects – this is the catch-all bucket for key business development projects, technology evaluation, system, and process improvement initiatives.
  • Our projects teams are generally globally diverse and cross-functional in order to support the needs of our processes and business.
What three words best describe you?

Reliable, Driven, Curious

How did you get into project management?

I was an accidental project manager convert, to be honest. After my Ph.D. (in Organic Chemistry from Manchester University, UK) and Postdoctoral Fellowship (the University of Texas in Austin), I embarked upon a technical role as a lead process chemist at Sigma Aldrich Fine Chemicals (SAFC) in Dorset, UK where I developed scalable synthetic routes to active pharmaceutical ingredients under GMP conditions. Looking to improve my leadership skill set and business acumen, I moved through various positions in R&D, QC, and a QA secondment before finding my home in project management. I took the PRINCE project management qualification in 2012 and have been hooked ever since.When the operations facility of SAFC in Dorset was planned to close, I looked for project management opportunities at the Sigma-Aldrich corporate HQ in St Louis. I’ve been here for over 5 years now and was PMP certified in 2014.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

‘Exciting’ is relative right?! I’ve had high visibility projects with tight timelines, scope changes, and resource constraints that came in just under the wire. However, with a scientific background, I continue to be in awe at the expertise my projects teams display, the innovative products they produce, and the problems they solve for our customers. It is easy to lose sight of this perspective during the day-to-day processes.

How has project management been important to your organization?

Curiosity and Innovation are key drivers within our organization. Our PMO vision is to manage innovation with ease through the effective program and portfolio management. We do this by enabling innovation effectiveness - delivering on our commitments (time, cost, quality, scope) at the project level, managing communications and relationships, and through building a PMO center of excellence committed to training, mentoring, and development.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I’m a music enthusiast - I play saxophone in a local community orchestra and am attempting to relearn to play the piano along with my 4-year-old son.

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

One of the six key competencies within our corporate competency model is ‘Be Collaborative’ – I think the ability to effectively collaborate (which encapsulates communication, negotiation, problem-solving, and leadership skills) is a fundamental requirement for project managers. We work across departments and geographies to encourage teamwork that respects diverse backgrounds and cultural differences in order to achieve a common goal, typically within a matrix environment.

Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?

Women have historically had a strong presence in our PMO in fact 80% of our current PMO is female. MilliporeSigma also has an active Women in a Leadership program with a mission to create an inclusive community that engages development-minded women leaders and supports them in achieving their personal and professional best – we have an excellent network for mentoring, coaching and personal/professional development.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

Everyone wants a strong project manager until they get one.

What is most rewarding about projects?

Happy customers – our products enable academic institutions, biotech, and pharma R&D departments to understand the disease by providing the products and services required to make scientific discoveries. We help make scientific experiments happen in labs and research institutions all over the world. Our portfolio, supply chain, e-Commerce platforms, and technical and customer experts help the scientific community accelerate discoveries and solutions to the industry's toughest problems.



June


 

 

Jeronica Jenkins

Title:  Manager, Digital Customer Products

Organization: Ameren

Sector: Energy/Utilities

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

 I am a program manager for 4 agile teams supporting the digital customer experience and manager of a team of user experience designers focused on making it easy for customers to do business with Ameren.

What three words best describe you?

Energetic, spontaneous and motivated 

How did you get into project management?

I worked on a project in 2008 focused on providing customers with more options to manage their energy usage.  After successfully implementing the new platform, I worked on a team dedicated to building a new portal for contractors to initiate construction projects.  Before I knew it, I was knee deep in project management leading customer facing initiatives for Ameren Missouri.  I thoroughly enjoyed the work and the teams and received a lot of gratification from seeing final products in our customers’ hands.  

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

 The Digital Billing and Payment team is an agile team focused on providing quick and easy ways to pay energy bills.  The team is full of energy, very engaged and shares lots of innovative ways to move forward.  We are like family and still remain connected, although some have moved on to other positions at Ameren and beyond.  It’s an experience I will always remember!

How has project management been important to your organization?

 Project management allows us to deliver products faster with the use of self-organizing teams.  Project management serves as the catalyst to keep the team connected, stakeholders informed and projects in flight.  

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

 I was prom queen in high school.  I was a “nerd” in school and spent many lunch hours in the library studying.  I recall missing the opportunity to vote for prom queen/king during the lunch period and was totally unaware that my name was on the ballot.  When I arrived at prom, the activity coordinator asked me to line up with the other young ladies.  She proceeded to place a sash on me and gave me a bouquet of flowers.  I was stunned!  I remember calling my mom from the pay phone to tell her about it (I didn’t have a cell phone in 1994).

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Leadership

To whom would you give an honorary PMI certification to?

Katie Dorge is a supervisor leading the business analysts for Ameren Missouri.  Katie has the drive and motivation to conquer all the world’s problems.  If Katie cannot figure it out, no one can.  She is very organized, focused and committed to successful completion of all her projects.  She has been an amazing team member on various large projects, always jumping in to make sure we stay on schedule, under budget and deliver quality products.  She has done a great job learning new methodologies to increase team efficiencies.  She is a sponge and soaks up all she can to continuously improve her skills.  

Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?

Yes.  When I started at Ameren, all the project managers I knew were male and were embedded in the construction group.  Now, project managers are throughout the entire organization and most of the ones I work with are women.  It’s been a huge culture shift in the last two decades. 

What historical project do you wish you could have worked on? 

Building the Gateway Arch would have been an amazing project to be a part of.  I enjoy the gratification that comes with seeing a project to completion.  The Arch is significant in so many ways.  It is a grand monument with an architecture unlike any other.  It was built with the blood, sweat and tears of people who had a vision.  It represents St. Louis and has put us on the map.  People all over the world know St. Louis because of the Gateway Arch! 


Brenda Murphy

Title:  Capability Director, Programme Office & Reporting 

Organization: Refinitive (formerly Thomson Ruters)

Sector: Technology Program Office/Reporting

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

I am responsible for the Project Management Office, Technical Learning, Marketing and Web Development groups within Maritz IT Services.  

What three words best describe you?

Energetic, Determined, Curious

How did you get into project management?

Project Management is a natural fit for me but I grew into the practice. I started out in development. I quickly realized that I didn’t enjoy being behind the scenes and not interacting with people. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to move into sales and marketing to promote the products that I was helping develop. My role in the Sales and Marketing group morphed into a project management role.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

I have been involved in so many wonderful and exciting efforts it is very difficult to pinpoint just one.     The projects that I find most exciting are those which allow the resources to showcase their talents and feel proud of their efforts.     It is exciting when projects leave the team members with a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work they accomplished and when the experience builds on their relationships with others.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

I have been involved in so many wonderful and exciting efforts it is very difficult to pinpoint just one.     The projects that I find most exciting are those which allow the resources to showcase their talents and feel proud of their efforts.     It is exciting when projects leave the team members with a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work they accomplished and when the experience builds on their relationships with others.

How has project management been important to your organization?

Project Management helps to solidify what IT delivers.    It ensures that we are meeting our strategic objectives by ensuring that the projects that are implemented are in support of our goals and our customers goals.    Project Management has brought structure to chaos.    We are now able to articulate the portfolio of IT efforts, prioritization of these efforts, and resource needs from both an IT and customer perspective and timing.     This has allowed the IT organization to establish a more productive relationship with our customers by ensuring that we present them with organized and transparent facts about the efforts IT is rolling out.   

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I am a thrill seeker.   I haven’t met a roller coaster that I didn’t like.



May


 

Tabetha Sheaver

Title: COO

Organization:Trelus

Sector:FinTech

Tabetha Sheaver

 

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

I develop and oversee the execution of the strategic plan to serve the needs of business owners looking for growth capital or to exit their businesses.

What three words best describe you?

Driven, Creative, Intentional

How did you get into project management?

I was helping my cousin start a business and I lead a huge development effort that ended up going sideways. I decided from that experience I never wanted to go through the chaos that ensued thereafter. I believed there had to be a process to prevent some of the misunderstandings. I started searching and found out about PMI. I got my PMP and was offered a job at a technology firm as a consultant, from there its just continued to grow and develop.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on? 

The most exciting project I lead was an 800 seat global roll out of a Microsoft software. I enjoyed it the most because the organization I was working with understood the importance of change management and communication. It was also exciting because of the reach and impact the results had to the end users. Anytime I can make someone’s everyday job easier feels like a win! 

 

How has project management been important to your organization?

In my opinion, the #1 key to project management is getting the clarity of what the project is supposed to accomplish. If you can get clear about what exactly is supposed to be accomplished its not hard to accomplish it. People want to do good work, they just need clarity so they know they are running in the right direction. Getting clarity up front, developing a plan (including putting dollars and resources to it) clears up so many expectations and miscommunications and that has been the most important factor in every organization I have worked for.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I’ve had gray hair since I was 20 (no its not from being stressed out at work!)

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Ability to have the hard conversations. Someone who can communicate from a place of transparency, not a place of fear.

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization?

My PMI certification gave me the framework to have conversations that created clarity. It gave me the confidence to lead. I started leading projects, which led to people management, which ultimately lead to me being CEO of a tech firm. It opened up doors I never would have thought were possible.

What is most rewarding about projects?

Actually finishing something is so rewarding. The ability to look back and see that your efforts resulted in making a difference.

What would you say to someone just starting out in project management?

There are many facets to project management. From being able to see the big picture down to managing the day to day details (people skills/follow through/organization) down to the minutia details of contracts and billing details. These typically require all of the different DISC profiles. Don’t feel like you have to be amazing at every aspect. Know which you like and find roles that fit your strengths. Shore up the weaker areas by delegating the tasks you aren’t as strong at.



April


 

Zundra Bryant

Title:  Director, Project Managment Office

Organization: MasterCard

Sector: IT - Payment Processing

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

Lead multi-year, global initiatives and manage team of project management professionals to integrate cross functional services and transition work and associated positions from other corporate business areas into a shared services structure transforming service delivery. 

What three words best describe you?

Passionate, Innovative, and Strategic

How did you get into project management?

 My first job out of college was in a management training program and leading projects was part of our training; I was hooked.  You mean I can lead different projects, meet people across the company, and learn new things all the time! It was a natural fit and great extension of my Actuarial Science experience from college and internships.  I excelled and pursued project management oriented positions from that point forward. 

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

Helping expand and grow shared services at MasterCard both in HR and Finance, gaining exposure to associates across the globe and facilitating transformative interactions by far has been the most exciting project management experience. 

How has project management been important to your organization? 

Projects are the mechanism for executing on change and transformation initiatives; having strong Project Management expertise has been vital to the growth and innovation of our company, department, and teams.  

What is one fun fact we should know about you? 

I lived in Minnesota my first job out of college and had the opportunity to visit Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ recording studio and record the intro to one of their artist’s albums. It was a random, one time experience but so much fun! 

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager? 

Leadership – it’s a broad competency but it’s the one thing that makes all the difference navigating new projects in an ever changing business landscape.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard? 

I start my project management course by saying: People, people, people are the most valuable asset on any project!

What historical project do you wish you could have worked on? 

I would have loved being a part of a pyramid being built in Egypt. The ingenuity is amazing.  

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization? 

It demonstrates my commitment to the project management profession and continually sharpening my skills to deliver results and train others.  I’ve been able to move through multiple roles on different teams successfully and having my PMP has been a competitive advantage.


Kim Clark

Title:  Vice President, Project Managment Office

Organization: Maritz

Sector: IT

 

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Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

I am responsible to develop our cadre of seasoned IT Project Managers as well as participate in our overall department's strategy into a highly-sought after internal business entity. 

What three words best describe you?

Ideas-generator, Driven, Resourceful

How did you get into project management?

I fell into it. Thankfully, not literally. I was a Research Assistant in college (Temple University) and came to realize that my work as an RA was in alignment with project management. In fact, almost all of the positions I've had over the years required excellent project management skills to be successful, even though their titles were not PM. I think Project Management is a mindset and a unique set of skills, not solely a title. 

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

When I lived in the Washington DC area, I worked for a military training company and a police think-tank. We were always engaged in exciting work. For example, I managed a project that delivered guidelines on how to stop a suicide bomber. Another, required me to develop an officer-discipline system for a major metropolitan city, with stakeholders from the department, city and unions.

How has project management been important to your organization?

I've always been impressed with PM work at Maritz. Kim Clark established our PMO 18 years ago. We have a robust framework with dedicated meetings to acquire and review resources, across our IT organization. Our on-time, on budget track record is impressive. Our culture and inclusion of PM as an integral part of that often brings candidates to our doors. PM makes our work successful here, and people recognize that. 

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

 I wrote a book on World War II and ham radio.

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

 Speaking abilities- to all audiences, formally and informally.

What historical project do you wish you could have worked on?

I would love to marry my appreciation for the outdoors with a project with the National Parks.

How has your PMI certification(s) help you drive value for your organization?

My PMI certification allowed me to get a better opportunity, elsewhere.

What is most rewarding about projects?

Being the driver of something great. Or at the very least, the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a team of people who may end up being your friends.



March


 

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Trish Rose-Sandler

Title:  Project Manager

Organization: Missouri Botanical Garden, Center for Biodiversity Informatics

Sector: Non-profit/Education/Research

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

I work as a project manager in the Center for Biodiversity Informatics (CBI) at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) where I conceive of projects and lead teams towards developing value-added services and tools around biodiversity data repositories. I get to work with a global community of life science scholars and better understand their information needs. 

Their research is focused on documenting Earth’s species and understanding the complexities of swiftly-changing ecosystems in the midst of a major extinction crisis and widespread climate change. My goal is to ensure these scholars have the information and tools they need to study, explore and help conserve life on Earth at this critical time.

What three words best describe you?

collaborative, transparent, learner

How did you get into project management?

I came into project management through a library path. I’ve always had a passion for libraries because I feel they are one of the few remaining “truly democratic” institutions. They ensure people have access to information regardless of age, gender, income, race, language or physical limitations. When working on my masters in library and information science, I gravitated towards the “digital library” areas such as: knowledge management, taxonomy, digital preservation, information architecture, and user interface design. It seemed to me those were the areas where real innovation was happening in this field. I had some project management responsibilities in my past library jobs but it wasn’t a primary part of my duties. Six years ago I had an opportunity to step into the PM role full time and have never looked back! Project management is really of extension of that desire I have to deliver a high level of service and build superior products and information services for end users. It also taps into my “arranger” strength - I enjoy orchestrating many tasks and people towards a successful outcome.

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

One of my favorites was a project called “Art of Life” in which we were investigating the discovery of images in a literature repository MOBOT helped build called the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). This repository contains about 55 million pages of historic text pages about plants and animals going all the way back to the 14th century. Approximately 10% of those pages contain incredible natural history illustrations produced by some of the finest botanical and zoological illustrators but are virtually undiscoverable because there is no information about their location in the books or their subject matter. Our goal was to develop algorithms to automatically identify which pages contained images and then use the public to help us describe the content of those images. As a result, we improved access to millions of images for researchers and created a highly-celebrated website, called Science Gossip, which garnered extensive news coverage from over 13 media outlets including Scientific American and Nature Conservancy.

How has project management been important to your organization?

Most of the money we need to run our projects relies on grant funding – both government and private foundations. Because of this we have pretty tight constraints around budget and scope once we receive a grant. We can’t go back to the funder to ask for more money or change our scope during the project period. Sometimes we can get an extension on the timeline but even then, only under truly extenuating circumstances. This adds a lot of pressure to my work. But by following project management standards and in particular the PMBOK guidelines set forth by PMI, I’ve been successful in working within these constraints and delivering high value for both the grant funders and research community I serve.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I spent my honeymoon in India

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Superior Communication skills – I think it is absolutely key to being a successful project manager because you have to consistently communicate out about the project’s progress to a wide variety of stakeholders with varying levels of detail and frequency. If everyone is kept in the loop about what is happening in a project, successes and roadblocks, there will be much less conflict and confusion. Teams will have the support and flexibility required to respond to issues as they arise and be able to meet the deliverables they committed to.

What historical project do you wish you could have worked on?

I interviewed for a Project Manager job for the Obama Foundation. The project was to lead the digitization of more than 30 million archive pages and 50,000 artifacts from President Obama's campaigns and administration. Besides the enormous challenge of managing both the physical and digital items, the job would have involved strategizing with other stakeholders on how the digital archive would be made accessible through the Barack Obama Presidential Center. While I didn’t get the position, it was exciting just to be interviewed and to consider the possibility of being a part of preserving and making accessible such a significant archival collection in our country’s history.

What is most rewarding about projects?

One of my favorite parts of a project is the closure stage because I love bringing my team together and evaluating what we did well but also how we could work together more effectively. Opportunities to reflect on the work we do are often not prioritized in our day to day work but it is critically important to helping us improve and grow. (Update: Trish recently accepted a position as Project Manager at Nestlé’s NBE Program Management Office based at their IT headquarters in St Louis.)



February


 

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Carolyn Traband

Title:  Technology Program Office Manager

Organization: InterVision

Sector: Technology Solutions Provider

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

As a Technology Solutions Provider, InterVision offers Cloud, Managed and Professional Services. Our vision is to transform business through the evolutionary power of technology. We offer a wide variety of technology products and services and are constantly bringing new products to market. I am currently responsible for managing a PMO which provides project management, resource scheduling, voice and circuit provisioning and onboarding services to the organization in support of our clients. The PMO consists of three functional teams and I have the privilege to manage a great group. Since 2017, we have experienced tremendous growth as a part of a merger and several acquisitions. The PMO interfaces with multiple functional teams in the organization (finance, operations, engineering, sales, etc.) as well as with hundreds of clients. A major focus for the PMO in the last eighteen months is to merge our processes and products and bring our teams together. I like to keep my project management skills “sharp” and often lead internal initiatives. I am currently working on an exciting project to select a vendor to integrate all the various company systems that resulted from the merger and acquisitions.

What three words best describe you?

Organized

Persistent

Detailed

How did you get into project management?

I started my technology career in an IT engineering and support role but naturally gravitated toward project management. Early in my career, I had the privilege of working for a company that was experiencing tremendous growth and I was exposed to multiple areas in the IT department. After participating as a project team member on multiple projects, I started managing small engineering and support efforts for my team. I had some great mentors and continued to manage projects and grow my skill set. I found my passion! 

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

It’s hard to pick just one! During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects. If I had to pick one, I would say that early in my career I led the effort to roll out new technology hardware to approximately 5,000 domestic and 300 international branches. This included managing the integration vendor selection process for North America, United Kingdom and Germany. Three pilot phases were completed (total of 22 branches) to test the implementation processes and technical architecture. From there, we rolled out the new technology to the top 50 airports in North America. This enabled us to validate the integration vendor processes. The results of this project provided the branch field offices with technology to improve customer service.

I think part of the reason this project was so exciting was I was given a “blank slate” to work from and developed many processes, procedures and best practices that were adopted by other teams and used for other projects. I enjoyed worked with a wide variety of people throughout IT, Corporate business areas, branch offices and vendors. I learned a lot about considerations that need to be taken into consideration for international project efforts.

How has project management been important to your organization?

As a Technology Solution Provider, having Project Managers with PMP certifications is a great “selling point” and distinguisher. Our clients are looking for and paying for a seamless delivery of services. By providing a structured project methodology and framework, the PMO is a key contributor to ensuring client satisfaction.Project management has helped to deliver internal efforts and raise visibility to the value a project manager brings to the table. Bringing structure and discipline helps to “get things done”. A good project manager knows how to ‘herd the cats”!

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

I am a big “prankster”. I love to have play tricks on my co-workers and family!

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Communication Skills. A Project Manager needs to have outstanding verbal and written communication skills. A Project Manager needs to be comfortable being able to deliver both the good and bad news (i.e. issue, timeline change, etc.). Also, being able to adjust their communication style based on their audience (i.e. CEO, Clients, team members and peers). Establishing a solid communication plan in a project helps to set expectations and contributes to the success of a project.

What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

I have three punchlines that I refer to often:

• Never “Assume” (we all know what that stands for)

• Trust but verify

• “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Einstein

What is most rewarding about projects?

I love the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in contributing to the successful delivery of a service or solution to a client. Knowing that you have met client expectations and delivered the “WOW” to move their business forward is a great feeling!


leslie_whitlock2.jpg Leslie Whitlock, SAFe(SA)PMP

Title:  Director of Program Management – Strategy and Transformation

Organization: Express-Scripts

Sector: Healthcare

Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

My role is to provide organizational leadership around ensuring strategic alignment, determining prioritization and value; and execution planning of our home delivery pharmacy’s initiatives that align with our strategic business framework.  In addition, I have the privilege of managing a team of amazing program and project managers who partner with our business owners, key stakeholders and technology partners to execute and deliver project value. Finally, I am the business owner of our operations CORE program, a job rotational leadership development program for front-line leaders designed to advance their skills in leading self, leading others and leading change – preparing them for their next level up.  Developing talent is something I am passionate about, so I am thrilled to have that opportunity.

What three words best describe you?

Compassionate, authentic and persistent

How did you get into project management?

If you think about it, project management is really a part of our everyday lives. Beginning in school while working on a group project with classmates, to working with your family to accomplish projects at home, to working with colleagues professionally to deliver business value. So it’s always been a part of me.  However, my first close formal exposure to a project management organization was when I was in Product Management as a business owner. In that role I worked closely with an amazing project manager and Business Analyst and learned a lot from both of those ladies.  We delivered Auto Refills for Express Scripts which brought tons of value to the company and peace of mind to patients.  That’s when I knew that I enjoyed working on key initiatives and accepted a Program Management role. 

What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

I’ve worked on a few key strategic projects that really excited me. When I think about the common characteristics each had to make them so much fun to work on, each were projects that were transformative in the way we do business as well as our impact on the market.  Any project that puts our customers first, provides them with peace of mind and strengthens our market position is a project that I want to be a part.  For example, thanks to the collaborative, awesome work of many, we recently delivered on a key strategic project that expanded our presence to a completely new customer base – pets! 

How has project management been important to your organization?

Our goal is the become THE Pharmacy of Choice, where new markets and new customers recognize us as a pharmacy leader both in quality and speed to delivery. Effective project management is critical to our organization’s ability to deliver that strategic value and achieve our goals.

What is one fun fact we should know about you?

My first job after getting my MBA was working for Union Pacific Railroad as a team leader in the National Customer Service Center. As a part of my training, I actually got a chance to work as a switch person coupling box cars to build trains, as well as a locomotive engineer actually driving and operating the locomotive of the freight train in Searcy Arkansas. Second to project management, that was the most exciting job experience.

What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

Being an excellent communicator.  Many studies have shown that project managers spend 90% of their time communicating some aspect of their project.  Developing an effective communications plan and artifacts are essential – whether it’s effective communications via an executive summary status, or communicating risks, actions, issues and decisions; or the plan, it’s critical to be able to tailor communications effectively and often both in writing and verbally with all key stakeholders across all levels of the organization. You can have a strong overall skillset, but without effective communications, there’s a great chance the project will suffer. Communications is the essence of project management.



January


 

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Joanna Eagan, PMP

Title:  Senior Manager Human Resources, Strategic Planning & Operations

Organization: Core & Main

Sector: Distribution

Q. Can you briefly help us understand your current role?

    A. 

  • Strategic Planning and Operations for Human Resources, and Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Core & Main was divested in 2017 to private equity, which meant our Human Resources function had to be created from the ground up.  My role was to facilitate our independent stand up, develop plans and efficient processes to support our associates and business objectives over the long-term, plus develop and implement technology that aligns with our business/strategic goals.  We have a huge focus on talent with our shifting demographics and my role is to enable us to analyze people analytics to allow us to stay one step ahead of the shift. Another area that has been particularly interesting is the strategic analysis and decisions related to benefits by embracing innovative benefit offerings and developing plans to target cost savings opportunities across the country. With M&A, we are determining the impact of the acquisition as it relates to the people being acquired and our internal workforce.  This requires cross functional project management to drive the deal to sign and close. Often times, I wear multiple hats that I have to quickly take off and put back on in order to address the particular need. 
Q. What three words best describe you?

A. Compassionate, Determined, Resilient

Q. How did you get into project management?

A. I sort of fell into it.  I was working in corporate finance, responsible for financial planning and analysis type work as well as various projects, implementations, etc. My manager and CFO asked if I would lead a new project team that would drive large cross-functional projects shared by finance and IT, varying from large systems implementations to cost/time saving initiatives.  I was skeptical about my passion for it at first, but then quickly realized it was in my wheel house, so I decided to study for the PMP [Project Management Professional] exam.  At a certain point, based on where I was in my personal and professional aspirations, I left the corporate world to run the business side of a private school here in St. Louis as the Director of Finance and Business Operations.  There I continued to utilize my natural project management tendencies until I received a call from my former human resources leader proposing a role in HR that would help the organization stand up while taking on a new business objective of multiple acquisitions.  It was intriguing and an opportunity that appealed to my inner drive learn something completely new.  So I quickly found myself putting on a PM hat again, but with a new twist.  I’m definitely not a traditional PM, but I enjoy the new and different--and applying a deep knowledge of finance, operations, human resources and acquisitions.  I feel like it will prove to be invaluable experience as I progress in my career.

 

Q. What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?

A. Standing up this new organization has been extremely exciting. Every day I’m soaking up more and more.  Our organization had to stand up core HR functions in less than two months: payroll, benefits, etc. for 3000+ associates.  For the first year we would put out one fire only to address several others that were smoldering in the wings.  There was never a dull moment.  On top of stand-up, we are doing multiple acquisitions.  That part has been an extremely fun rollercoaster ride.  Each acquisition is different, and some don’t materialize, but the opportunity to learn about the world of acquisitions has been very rewarding.

Q. How has project management been important to your organization?

A. Because there have been so many balls in the air in order to stand up the organization, project management has been key to allowing us to prioritize and keep our team on track.  At times it felt like we were drinking from a fire hose as we attempted to set up every function of a large organization’s HR processes.  It was and is critical to keep leaders on track and utilize every second of time efficiently.  Wasting time is not an option.

Q. What is one fun fact we should know about you?

A. I’m a winemaker and a beekeeper.

Q. What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?

A. Ability to be in the weeds, but also step out of them and see the bigger picture.  People often are too personally invested to see the full picture. As project managers, I believe it’s critical to understand the problem you are trying to solve and know the impact from five immediate steps to one year, or 10 years down the road as best you can.  The ability to identify a potential issue and quickly offer suggestions as alternate best courses of action, allows PMs to be valued not only for their organizational skills, but also on their ability to advise leaders.   

 

Q. Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?

A. Yes and no, many who have sort of fallen into it but I’m not certain they are PMI certified. It seems to reside more on the IT side.

 

Q. What is the best project management punchline you've heard?

A. Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them.

–Henry Ford

Q. What is most rewarding about projects?

A. Definitely seeing the impact you made upon completion.  Knowing that, because you were able to see the big picture and organize the individual parts, you created/accomplished something amazing!