Christine Vaughan is the marketing projects and event manager for a start-up with a small team and limited resources. In order to grow, the organization needed to implement more processes and structure. Vaughan was in a position to lead the charge.
Vaughan’s supervisor worked with her to determine that project management training could help provide Vaughan with tools and knowledge necessary to put more structure in place in their organization.
When searching for project management programs, Vaughan sought a program that included practical application from a reputable organization.
“What attracted me to UofL is that I could come in and do an actual course, meet new people, and have practical application and experience … I’ve been through some other courses with UofL and I appreciated the content so I decided that this was the best place for me,” she said.
H. Ray Pait, Jr., a senior director for safety and security at Churchill Downs Racetrack, also decided to seek out additional project management training from UofL. One of the reasons he enrolled in the UofL’s project management program was to learn how to communicate better with construction vendors.
“The program helped me to be able to understand the formalized language I would hear when we’d bring vendors in,” Pait explained. “It made life easier for all of us to be able to talk on the same level. The program gave me a thorough understanding of the core values of what they did, from a project perspective.”
Since earning her certificate from UofL, Vaughan has begun to implement a new system at Insider Louisville that will streamline the way the organization approaches planning work.
“This program gave me the tools to be able to say, ‘This is the project that needs to take priority, this is the date we go live. Are we on schedule with our developers and our vendors?’ Implementing these project management processes has really helped the organization run more smoothly,” Vaughan said.
A universal application
Project management isn’t limited to one position or field because anything that requires collaboration and coordination between different resources under the umbrella of a common goal can be considered a project. The principles used in project management can be used in virtually any business, according to Chuck Millhollan, author and lead instructor for the UofL’s project management certificate.
“The project management skillset is truly universal,” Millhollan said. “Anyone who leads a temporary endeavor undertaken to produce a unique product, service or result is functioning as a project manager. Project management can open up a whole world of professional opportunities for people; it’s a growing profession that’s used by every industry and almost every professional focus.”
Skilled project managers can be a vital asset to an organization. With the right training, they’re able to provide initiative-based leadership that can boost productivity, efficiency, financial performance, customer and employee satisfaction—and more.
A new world of opportunities
After completing UofL’s program, Pait went on to earn his Project Management Professional Certification and was promoted to senior director of Churchill Downs’ Program Management Office.
“My professional life has changed immensely because of this program. After earning my certificate in 2006, I was promoted at Churchill Downs and began to teach project management for UofL.”
Project managers who become certified not only become more marketable, they may also see a financial benefit. According to the Project Management Institute, adding a PMP credential to your resume can result in a 20-percent higher salary than non-certified peers.
Vaughan hopes to work towards her PMP certification in the future. “With this program, I felt like I gained practical knowledge, things I can use, things that can help me get, my certification by taking the PMP test,” she said.
Project management isn’t just a career path, it is a skill set. Although some program participants are project managers by title, others are in different positions and feel they could benefit from learning project management skills.
Professionals with strong technical skills may find themselves transitioning into a project leader role, which can be challenging as it often involves a very different skill set, according to Millhollan.
“If you look at a job description for any senior leader or practitioner, you’ll find some component of project management in that role,” Millhollan said. “A lot of folks responsible for leading projects find themselves project managers and never have any formal education or training in project management.”
Seeking training out can ensure that you — and the overall project — perform well.
“We’ve known for years what causes projects to fail,” Millhollan explained. “If you know that, doesn’t it make sense to train and learn to help you overcome those typical causes of project failures? Our curriculum is built to overcome those.”
“The program is laid out so that when you complete your certificate, you will have tools you can use on a daily basis,” shared Pait.
Making connections with practical application
In addition to practical tools, students who participate in UofL’s project management program, which includes a Fundamentals of Project Management and Project Management: Practical Application seminar, gain beneficial industry connections through group work conducted during class.
“Our class has continued to talk; we text back and forth,” Vaughan said. “If I have a question, I know there are people I can reach out to. They’re learning at the same time I am but have different experiences, so we’re able to help each other.”
The Practical Application seminar focuses heavily on real-world project management problems. Participants are put into groups and are tasked with solving problems and implementing real projects. Perhaps the most valuable benefit of the program is that it enables participants to learn from one another’s experiences and to test out solutions.
“To be taught something, try it out, and the next week to come in and say ‘that worked’ or ‘that didn’t work’ and to have real time to discuss and learn about it instead of just getting a certification and figuring it out as you go, was really valuable,” Vaughan explained.
Some project management training programs may offer best practice tips, guides and digital tools to assist with planning — all of which are undoubtedly helpful.
The Project Management Certificate program and facilitated study offerings are two of UofL Professional Development’s most popular, according to Robbie Chitwood, director of professional development at UofL. The certificate program runs three times a year — 16-week sessions in spring and fall, and an eight-week summer intensive.
All courses, Chitwood says, are extremely collaborative, which provides program participants with hands-on experience that they’re able to immediately apply in the workplace.
“I receive a lot of feedback about our instructors and program in general, but most commonly it is about the projects [people] may be working on in the program that they’re able to further because of something they learned either from instructors or from the peer group that’s established in the program,” Chitwood says. “That shared learning experience is just as valuable to participants as what they’re taking away from instructors.”