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Category Archives: My Experience

Valentine’s Baking Project

Valentine’s Day is a day focused a lot around flowers, cards, gifts, special dinners, and spending time with those that you love.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I absolutely love Valentine’s Day, along with all holidays, but the reason for this is because it provides me a great opportunity to show my appreciation for others.  (Plus it gives me a great excuse to bake something special to share with others).

This year, I had a great time making homemade Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes and Strawberry Cake Pops for my family, friends, and co-workers to enjoy.  Both of these projects lead to tons of fun in the kitchen, but as with most projects, you may run into challenges that you did not foresee. Before I get too far into my story, Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes are basically an ice cream cone filled with cake batter, baked in the oven, cooled down, frosted and sprinkles are added on top.  Cake Pops are basically cooked cake with frosting added into the mixture, rolled into a round ball, then covered with chocolate & sprinkles on a lollypop stick (Starbucks sells these, but they are so easy and cheaper to make).

Although the ice cream cone cupcakes were pretty easy to make, I found the most challenging task was figuring out how I was going to transport these dessert cones from my home to work.  I could not simply place them on a tray, as they were top-heavy and would fall over.  Here were some ideas I thought of to resolve this challenge:

  1. Cut holes in a paper plate to put the cones in, but it won’t hold that many on each plate
  2. Use a deep-dish 9 X 13 foil pan and skewers to poke holes in both directions to make a checker board to hold the cones up
  3. Turn the foil 9 X 13 plan over, cut circles on the bottom of the foil tray, and place the cones in the holes
  4. Purchase a custom ice cream cone cupcake tray

Some of you may have opted out for the easy solution of purchasing a special tray, but is that the most cost-effective solution?  What if I never made ice cream cones again or having to store the tray?  This baking example is exactly the type of challenges we face as project managers, as sometimes you are only given with what you have and are challenged to use your creative juices to figure out how to get to the end goal, while keeping cost, resources, and time in mind.  Each of my baking solutions may not have a large different in cost between the 4 ideas, but overtime you may be wasting valuable resources, time, and money without trying to think outside the box for better solutions.

Are you creative?  Do you look to others to come up with out of the box solutions? Do you tend to choose the easy-button option?  What helps you to think creatively?  Please comment below with your thoughts, as I would enjoy reading them. 

I hope each of you have a very special Valentine’s Day! 🙂

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The Target’s on the Project Manager

As a project manager, you often feel like you have a target on your back when something does not go well, you hit a roadblock, overlooked something or maybe your project results in failure.  Yes, these each are not fun memories to have and share with others, but most of these challenges you face provide you with a great learning opportunity.  Yes, is is difficult to foresee all challenges that you may encounter in a project, but one thing that you can control is how you handle, face, and resolve these challenges after they occur.

When you hit a roadblock or mistake or failure, I make time to fully understand what caused me to get to that state in a project to learn from it.  Below are the steps I follow to help me further investigate the issue:

  • Set up a meet with all of the stakeholders to fully understand the mistake or challenge
  • Lay down the foundation/guidelines of the meeting by saying we are not here to point fingers at everyone for an hour, but rather understand the issue
  • Walk through each step of the process to identify all trigger points that caused the issue
  • Document the issues, so you can learn from it
  • Discuss how to proceed, how to fix it, & move on
  • Take time to reflect upon the issue for yourself

I have faced several successes in life, but also my fair share of failures.  I would not be where I am or who I am today without these experiences that I have faced, learned from, and moved forward with.   We have all have our up days and down days, but the best thing we can all do is keep our head up, admit to our mistakes & apologize when needed, and simply never give up, but rather just keep learning & growing as a person!

What challenges or mistakes did you learn the most from?

The image I used in this post is a picture my dad had posted on his wall at work and is definitely one visual that comes to mind when life brings me challenges.  

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New Year, New Project Manager Attitude

This past year, 2011, my workplace decided to close our global organization down for 10 days total between Christmas and New Years for cost efficiencies (power, building maintenance, limited staff) and required us to use our discretionary time off (DTO).  At first, I actually bummed, as normally that 1 week is really quiet with so many out of the office, so you can get caught up with a lot of work before the new year begins.  I will say though, as the time came closer and closer to the break and during my time away, my thought process changed.   Take a moment and imagine yourself taking off time from work for longer than a week, where all of your other co-workers have the time off too and will not be sending you e-mails, calling you or even missing meetings.   This option provided all of us a way to all disconnect ourselves from work and enjoy spending time with our family & friends and making time for ourselves to relaxing at bit and recharge our batteries.

During my time off, I got to spend time with several of my family members and friends over coffee, dinner, movies, taking walking, and simply just talking to others.  I also took time to reflect upon 2011 and thought about what I want to accomplish next in 2012 and in the next 5 years, such as:

  • Where I what to be/go on a professional level
  • Time allocated to spend time with family & friends
  • Places to travel
  • Activities/Hobbies I want to do for myself
  • Classes I want to take
  • Organizations I want to join/support
  • Books I want to read
  • Make time for me for my own physical & mental health

Of course, it is not my intention to come across as bragging about my time off at all, as not everyone got to experience a break like I was grateful for.  My intention is to ask each of you to take a moment to reflect on yourself and found out what is important to you or what makes you happy and make time for it–DO IT!  Take a few days off or week, even if everyone else is still working for you to recharge once in awhile.   The last time I took that much time off work was back in high school, let alone taking a day or two off in the past years, so taking that time off allowed me to see what is important in life through a different lens.  You only live life once, so live it to the fullest!  I hope all of you had a fantastic holiday season!

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Project MBA

As some of you may know, I have been working on my Master’s in Business Administration Degree at our local University for the past 2 years.  After several group projects, homework, presentations, and exams, this rewarding project came to an end last Saturday, December 10th, by walking across stage at graduation and enjoying a graduation party with family and friends.

Over the course of my time in school, I have met some neat life-long friends and mentors, experienced some interesting project groups & discussions, enjoyed some insightful lectures, developed a great learning toolbox full of helpful techniques and tips, and several great memories.  Since this project’s closure, I have been asked by several individuals, “What’s your next set of goals?”

  • Are you going to get your PhD?
  • Start your own business or become a manager?
  • Travel the world?
  • Teach a college course?
  • Start a family of your own?

Honestly, it is an interesting question to reflect upon before answering, especially when you have completed one project in your live, such as school, for which you have done for a very long time.  Yes, in this case, learning never stops, but maybe sitting in a formal education setting may.

So, what’s next?  Most importantly, I am excited to spend more time with my family and friends and thank them for all of their love and support they have given me, as I could not have completed this accomplishment without them.  I plan to enjoy cooking, baking, go on vacations, relax (if I know what that word means J), but I look forward to what is about to come and is written down in my next chapter in my book of life.  Life is a journey and you don’t know what path you’ll head down, but it’s nice to have an open door of several opportunities before me. 

What is your next project or goals you are reaching for this upcoming New Year?

 

Importance of Communication in Project Management

Communication is such a vital part in any profession and industry that can ultimately end in success or failure in any project, as no matter how big or small a project is, the impacts can be felt across several different individuals and departments.  

This week, I have been asked to make a presentation to the students in an IT Project Management Class, taught at the University of Nevada, Reno, about the importance of Communication in Project Management. Some highlights of this presentation will include:
Poor Communication Can Lead to:
  • Duplicate Work
  • Unclear Expectations
  • Misunderstandings
  • Missed Opportunities: Delayed Go-Live Date for a Project
Effective Communication Includes:
  • Know your audience to tailor your communication to them (Top Executives vs. Project Team Members)
  • Make sure you’re talking to the right group of people
  • Keep your communication clear & to the point
  • Provide proper time to respond, question, and react to communication
What tips have helped you successfully to communicate with others?
 

Importance of Personal Relationships

This week I traveled to the big gaming show in Las Vegas called G2E, to sign up customers for our special “On the Floor” customer promotion for work.  I have never been to this show before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than that it would probably crowded with lots of people and slot machines.  One highlight of the trip I was looking forward to was getting to talk with our customers and put names with faces with so many of our company’s employees that I talk to on the phone or send e-mails to.  I feel it is important to take time to shake their hand, introduce myself, and learn a little more about them.  I feel it is all about the personal relationships that I find make my job exciting, as you feel that you actually communicating with helping real, live, breathing people, and not just a virtual relationship taking through technology.

Why Are Personal Relationships Importance?

  • Helps Builds Trust/Support Amongst Others
  • Makes Communicating With Others Easier
  • Great Networking
  • Builds Stronger, More Meaningful Business Relationships
  • Great For Your Mental Health When Socializing With Others.  We are social creatures and isolation is harmful.
  • Engage and Observe Verbal and Non-Verbal Behavioral Styles

Tips to Success When Meeting Others In Person:

  • Be aware, in person meetings allows others to evaluate and judge the integrity competencies and skills
  • Most effective communicators may not know everything, but they fine-tuned their speeches to reflect on an important niche where they are the experts
  • Listen to others to show interest in getting to know others and do not steal the show
  • You can’t meet with everyone, so maximize your time by meeting with a handful of people at a time, to make those relationships strong, not just a quick hi and hand shake
  • Follow-up after talking with them to thank them for the opportunity to meet them

What tips do you have when building personal relationships with your business colleagues?

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Learning as the Project Manager

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Raechel from Talking Work asking if I would be interested in being a guest on their show.  I had listened to a few of their shows in the past and was very impressed with the content and guests they have had on their show.  I was quite honored and excited by the invitation, so I wholeheartedly agreed.  Although, I did not know what to expect or what questions I would be asked, I will say it was an absolutely neat experience to be a guest on their show and share what we all have in common, which is work.  Below, you will find one of the questions I was asked, but please feel free to listen to the entire showThank you Ty and Raechel for the honor & opportunity to be a guest on your show, I really appreciate it! 

When Team Members Have More Experience Than The Project Manager, is That a Positive or Negative Thing? How Do/Can They Help You Make Better Decisions?

I think it can be both a positive opportunity and also a challenge. I am the type of person that absolutely enjoys learning from and working with others, as it provides an opportunity to:

  • Gain tribal knowledge from these experienced professionals in the organization
  • Discover new ideas & tricks
  • Have a great resource or mentor to bounce ideas off of
  • Know whom to contact if you run into an issue

I find learning from others is similar to learning about history in school, as you want to learn about what has happened in the past to help prevent mistakes in the future.  I also feel that by taking time to listen to others and learn from them, it helps you to grow more on a professional level, become more informed, and show others that you value their input and help.  Of course, we are not experts on everything, so it’s nice to have the support of others to help you throughout the entire process of a project.

On the other hand, it can be challenging if you may run into a situation where it feels like there are too many Chiefs, but not enough Indians.  If you are new to a company or just started a new career path, others may question or test you to see if you are capable of doing that job in the organization.  Of course this makes doing your job a little more challenging at times, but we all started at the bottom at some point or switch to work at a new business, so it takes time to learn from others and more about the organization, so others feel that you are on the same playing field.  It’s always good to setup side meetings with others to better understand what role they play in the organization and show others you appreciate learning from others that will best benefit both parties.

Please comment below with your thoughts and comments, as I would love to hear them!

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