Jennifer Bridges, PMP is a highly sought-after Executive Coach in Project Management who is globally recognized as one of the most prolific YouTube video whiteboard trainers. She is also the founder/CEO of PDUs2Go.com, the global leader of mobile learning and self-paced, downloadable courses on demand that offer the opportunity to earn professional development unit credits simply and easily. We recently spoke with Jennifer to learn more about the ins and outs of project management and which steps should be taken by individuals to embark upon this exciting career path.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into project management?
I was one of the “accidental project managers.” I was hired at BellSouth Telecommunications after college in the late eighties as a Unix Systems administrator. Because there was no project manager role, the Unix Systems administrator performed what we know now as the project management activities. In 1995, I transferred into a newly-formed project management group where I managed projects and led process improvement initiatives.
This began my journey from the “accidental” to the “intentional” project manager. As such, I became an avid learner and took courses to improve my skills to manage projects and lead teams. Because I led the process improvement initiatives, I was responsible for rolling them out to the organizations that were impacted. This included speaking to and teaching large groups.
What are some of the common professional development courses or certifications that project managers could benefit from?
Most companies today require that their project managers are certified as Project Management Professionals (PMPs) from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Through input from corporations, PMI just changed their program requiring PMPs to earn Professional Development Units to strengthen these three skill areas: Technical Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic/Business Management.
All project managers can benefit by taking development courses in Communication, Leadership, Business Relationships, Listening, Business Acumen, and Project Management Fundamentals
What are the traits, skills, and qualities needed to be a successful and effective project manager?
The following is a short list of traits: organized, efficient, reliable, communicator, leader, results-oriented.
This is not a comprehensive list, but an important list of qualities: vision, communication, integrity, passion, competence, problem-solving, team building, composure.
Let’s talk about the employment projections for project managers. How much are they in demand right now? How valuable will they be in the future?
According to PMI’s Talent Gap Report dated March 2013, the demand for project management professionals is not currently matched by an availability of resources with relevant project management skills. This will create an unparalleled opportunity for discerning job seekers to build valuable project management skills.
The demand for project management practitioners will expand by more than 12 percent through the year 2020, resulting in almost 6.2 million project management jobs in the United States.
How easy is it to obtain professional development units today as compared to 10 or 20 years ago?
Today, there are more options in content delivery methods, which makes it easier. Ten or twenty years ago, the traditional course room or annual conference were the typical options, which made it difficult for project managers who were managing critical projects each day or traveling. As such, it was part of my mission to innovate a new way of learning, so I launched the first mobile learning platform into the global project management community in 2007 called PDUs2Go.com. Through this platform, project managers who travel and find it difficult to get into a traditional course room can download courses on demand for self-paced study anywhere and anytime.
We also sponsor several large virtual training events each year that provide several keynote speakers and concurrent training sessions on different aspects of project management.
What are the advantages of incorporating video into professional development education?
Video done well can engage the learner and help facilitate learning more quickly. It provides an easier application to show visually how something is done. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Why is it beneficial for companies to encourage or incentivize their employees to pursue additional professional development education?
• Prepares them for their job.
• Sets them up for success.
• Shows they care.
For someone who has decided that he or she wants to learn a new skill (such as project management), what would be your suggestion for the first step he or she should take?
Many people invest a significant amount of time and money into the project management path with an expensive training investment, only to learn too late that it’s just not for them. The first step I always recommend is to determine if it’s the right fit. This can be done several ways:
1) Talk with someone who is in the role. Find out what they do on a day-to-day basis and what they enjoy or struggle with in the role.
2) Talk with team members and stakeholders to find out what they expect from their project manager.
3) Assess your skills. Find out your strengths and weaknesses to determine if they align with this role.
4) Volunteer to assist a project manager. Walk in their shoes.
5) Research several project management curriculums to get a sense if the courses resonate.
6) Review the requirements to become certified. Start with the end in mind, since most companies require their project managers to become certified. If you determine it’s a possible fit, jump in and take a class.