For many, project management is a natural inclination: planning parties, coordinating wedding festivities, organizing community events. This inclination has led many to naturally “fall in” to a similar professional role, overseeing initiatives and directing teams. Yet not everyone who claims this innate ability possesses the knowledge and tools to effectively oversee processes, or manage teams within the workplace.
Jodi Davidson is among the many professionals who “fell” into project management; what began as a natural inclination - supported by a strong background in international business - soon became a career path. Now a seasoned professional, Davidson is committed to helping other similarly-inclined individuals hone and apply their project management skills.
Upon completing her MBA, Davidson sought a natural fit within the business world, a position where she could utilize her skills in communication, planning, and leadership. She began working with a technology company, leading credit card software project. From there, her role as a project manager broadened with consecutively larger projects - focusing on multi-site software installation - eventually leading her to launch project management offices for two different companies, instituting project management practices therein. “I have worked in every phase of project management,” Davidson explains, “driving everything from contracting, to planning, to leading teams of employees.”
Project Management, like some project managers, has evolved over time. What was once viewed as a role that someone took on within a office or company, has since become not only a job title, but a career onto itself. “In the past,” notes Davidson, “people were designated to project management roles, and sometimes chaos ensued; initiatives failed because of lack of clarity.” “Over time,” Davidson continues, “the realization came that project management is a separate skill set; showing you have capabilities to launch, lead, and drive efforts.” With this realization, came the desire for certified project managers, who adhered an industry standard.
Founded in 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI), is a globally-recognized organization and standard-bearer, whose certifications and publications are valued across industry. Increasingly, PMI’s PMP® (Project Management Professional) certification has become a requirement for advancement - or even initial hiring - within the project management field. “Employers and clients often want (the project manager) to be certified,” explains Davidson, “so they will see that this individual has studied the discipline, and has acquired the necessary hours of experience.” Noting that she herself sat for the exam years ago, after obtaining the requisite amount of hours in the field, Davidson adds, “Without certification, you can ‘max out’ professionally; certification garners respect.”
Prior to sitting for the PMP® exam, professionals must earn 7,500 hours of experience leading and directing projects, and must complete 35 hours of project management education. For those who have completed a degree or certificate program in the project management field, these hours are a given, but for others, a PMP® exam preparation course typically fills the void. The College of Charleston Center for Continuing and Professional Education recently added such a program to their roster, partnering with Davidson to develop and teach the course. “I know it is very difficult to find the time to obtain 35 hours (of education),” says Davidson. “The structure that we built into this course - evenings and two weekends - offers work-life balance.”
In addition to the condensed format, it was important to Davidson that the course have practical applications. Though the course curriculum - as with all PMP® preparatory courses - is drawn from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), it also utilizes real-life situations to help students envision what to expect, and how solutions might work. Davidson emphasizes the importance of learning from her students; engaging, understanding, listening to their stories, and then asking, ‘how we can think through this together?’ Explaining her instructional techniques, Davidson points out, “Rarely are you a one person show; most projects are driven by team work collaboration.” With 19 years of practical experience, Davidson is well equipped to help students not only remember the material, but understand the applications: “With most prep courses, students are very much prepared to take the exam, but are not ready to use knowledge in day-to day life.” She continues, “Project management can be very theoretical, but my goal is to have students apply skills and tools immediately.”
While the benefits of PMP® preparation are clearly defined for those seeking certification, there are also benefits for other professionals. “If within the average work day, an individual is asked to use project management skills, they have something to gain from this course,” notes Davidson. Professionals who are not quite ready for PMP® certification may see where they need to gain more experience, or where they require further study - and can perhaps volunteer in the workplace to acquire additional skills. Employers also stand to benefit from employee participation. Through a preparatory course, project managers gain a common language, and a prescribed method for working as a team. As Davidson enthusiastically shares, “If a project is driven by people with project management skills, it increases the likelihood that the initiative will be successful.” With each successful initiative increasing the likelihood that an employer will achieve their overarching goal, well-trained project managers are an obvious boon in any industry.
As to the future of both the field of project management and PMP® certification, Davidson sees only growth on the horizon: “When we look at how innovation is occurring, how companies are able to grow quickly - there is a limited window for failure. From conception to completion, hitting the mark will become more and more critical in project management roles.” To those who have a natural inclination for project management, or those who acknowledge that it is a serous discipline and desire certification, Davidson is encouraging: “If you have an interest, or want to develop stronger skills, why not get training? Certification is very beneficial, it opens doors within companies, and is a great addition to your resume.” Jodi Davidson’s passion for the discipline is palpable as she enthuses, “as much as I can spread the word, I’m all in; project management is a great career.”
The College of Charleston Center for Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE), a division of the School of Professional Studies, was created to provide Charleston residents with an opportunity to realize their intellectual, professional and personal potential.
The Project Management PMP® Prep Course, offered by the CCPE, begins Feburary 17, 2018. For more ifnormation, please visit our website, or click below to register.