What an interesting year it has been for me. Even though I have been involved with projects and responsible for managing projects throughout my career as a front end web developer/marketing specialist for 15 years, last year I decided that with growing hands-on experience across the complete project lifecycle in my various work capacities, I wanted to supplement my work knowledge with formal training in best practices and principles. But the question was, what was the best way to do that?
One of the best things that happened to me was early in my career was that I had a chance to work on an amazing team in Washington, DC. I was working in the communications division, having a great time developing websites, coding and in general, being as happy as a clam. Then one day, and by my extreme good fortune, I was tapped to work on a cross organizational team that was tasked with creating a new enterprise web portal, including a Content Management System (CMS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
That experience was the best thing to happen to me. It taught me new skills, it gave me more responsibility and it led me to work with incredibly talented people. But more than anything this new path, as innocuous as it seemed at the time, gave me something far more valuable. It gave me a mentor. I actually want to write about that experience in another post, as it was the most amazing thing in my professional career to happen to me. It opened my eyes to this profession and it taught me how to work on a team and to someday hope and aspire to be even remotely as talented a leader as this project manager was. But to get back to the theme of this post, this mentor whom I am so lucky to still keep in contact with to this day, was the one that led me on my current path to pursue my PMP credential.
I was able to call her and discuss the pros and cons of a PMP versus a masters in project management. That could be a post on it’s own, as that was a fascinating discussion. But in the end, I think the advice I got was very sound: the everyday, practical application of the discipline of project management and the everyday implementation of those principles is what drives project success and what people want to know you can do.
Of course, studying for and passing a test (oh, and I did I mention a lot of studying?) and getting a certification doesn’t mean you are the world’s most savvy PM. But when I was filling out the application for the PMP and looking back over the last five years of my professional work in essentially managing projects, I realized how important this work and discipline is. Then I went back even further to see what other projects I had worked on and been responsible for and an amazing thing happened. I realized I had been doing this for a fairly long time. Of course, so much of that was due in large part to the people I have worked and learned from over the past 15 years, but to see my work history filled with projects was, in a really geeky way, fascinating to me. I also realized that project work didn’t have to be dry and boring as I always feared getting into this profession would mean. Every interesting job and project I led involved project management. In fact, when I was getting the information ready at the end of last year for my application, I realized how fun and interesting the work of these projects actually was. What a great discovery.
So now, since I had this newly ignited kernel of knowledge to work with, and once I got the good advice to just go for it and get certified, I can’t tell you how glad I am to have done so. I hope to write another post about my experience in obtaining my certification, but the whole process of examing what it meant to be a “project management professional” opened my eyes to see projects in pretty much every aspect of life around me. Not that I am running around assigning scope, time and cost to my everyday activities, but you really technically can. And because I have always been the kind of person who likes to see the path before I start out on it, I am glad I followed the advice and went for it.
However, I still maintain the right to step off the known path, because that is how I operate. Life and projects are about the journey after all.