Adding Project Management Skills to a Business Role

Certificate graduate Eleanor Portacio Abea learns to manage a team under deadline

Three years ago, Eleanor Portacio Abea decided to steer away from a career track that she no longer found challenging. While she had worn many different hats at Stanford Health Care—including titles as varied as Payroll Processor, HR Assistant, Business Operations Manager, Paralegal and Executive Assistant—she was ready for something not only new, but also more ambitious.

That’s when a cousin who’d completed the Project Management certificate program told her about UC Berkeley Extension—and the clincher for Eleanor was the opportunity to complete all of her courses online.

Initially, she was nervous about continuing her education. “I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time to devote to class, reading and project work,” she says.

But the prerequisite Project Management course gave her the confidence to continue. “It helped me experience the online class format, work with virtual teams and develop a system to manage my time to complete the coursework,” she says.

Eleanor continued to work full time, taking most of her courses online, as well as some Saturday classes. But managing this demanding schedule paid off immediately: She saw her work performance improve in real time.

“Interestingly, we were learning how to deal with resistant team members just as I was experiencing the same situation in a work project,” Eleanor describes. “I was able to resolve the matter instead of delaying the project deadline. Every single course within the program taught me skills and principles that I put into practice immediately at the office.”

And just three months after completing the Certificate Program in Project Management, Eleanor stepped into the role of Program Project Coordinator at Stanford Health Care. Her new day-to-day looks like this:

“I provide executive and departmental teams with administrative support related to business operations. I manage contracts and purchase orders, process invoices and track spending. I’m currently working on a manual-writing project and will soon be assisting with a process-improvement project that will integrate an organizational change while improving efficiency.”

Portrait of Eleanor Portacio Abea wearing dark shirt and necklace

In this position, Eleanor feels that she’s able to combine her years of administrative experience with her newfound project management knowledge. “The certificate has given me the opportunity to integrate project work into my daily work,” she says. “I feel it would have been much more difficult to find a role managing projects without the certificate.”

Eleanor feels that the certificate opened doors for her into the field, and, crucially, has given her confidence in herself as a team leader. She advises those on the fence, or without a background in project management, to take the leap and sign up for that first course. “It will give you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the program,” says Eleanor. “There is so much you will learn, regardless of your profession or position in your company. It’s also an opportunity to work with other project managers and learn from their experiences.”

And she hasn’t stopped working toward her goals. Currently preparing for the PMP® exam, Eleanor expects to meet her goal of PMP® certification by August 2019.

“I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned from the many projects and group work to all aspects of my life,” says Eleanor. “Completing the program takes dedication and commitment, but it’s worth all the time and effort. I view work with a new set of eyes and I’m excited for the road ahead.”