Becoming a Project Management Professional

Alumna Anna Kuzmenko finds there is so much more to project management than she ever realized!

Back in early 2020, Anna Kuzmenko was working as a project manager at small IT startup Renetec Inc. There, she handled various project management duties—from scheduling to agenda prep to leading retrospective meetings.

You may be wondering: If Anna is already a project manager, why take our Project Management certificate? “Because there is always room to grow personally and professionally, with courses from UC Berkeley Extension,” Anna answers. Thanks to some of her friends who went through our certificate, Anna heard only great things about their experiences. She knew this was an institution she could count on to enhance her project management, leadership and communication skills.

With her experience at Renetec under her belt, Anna wanted to build on that knowledge by learning from top instructors in the field so that she could feel confident in project-managing any future project.

Courses That Collaborate

Focusing her education goals on learning how a successful project works from beginning to end, Anna opted out of just taking a few courses and instead committed to completing the full Project Management certificate.

Hailing from Ukraine—where she earned a master’s degree in linguistics from the National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”—Anna found the U.S. classroom to be quite different from what she had experienced before. She was struck by the instructors’ unique teaching approaches and conversations among her classmates. The discussions were a large part of her exciting student experience.

Anna particularly enjoyed the Project Leadership and Building High-Performance Teams course with Alan Tsuda. Learning the ins and outs of communication and team building was something she valued. The topics discussed in class allowed her to not only learn new leadership techniques, but also reflect on previous managerial style.

The Project Scope and Quality Management course with Catherine Pinkas was also a favorite of hers. She learned about concepts that she hadn’t experienced at work before, such as controlling the quality of a project. This is a crucial skill for a project manager.

Anna's course interactions were nothing short of unique. Her project management instructors made clear the importance of collaboration in the classroom. They were able to use team building exercises, group projects and video conferences to take their learning to the next level.

“I appreciated how my instructors allowed every student to come up with their own idea for a project. All this helped a lot in learning and memorizing the material better! Instructors were easygoing, sometimes extraordinary and smart. I learned so much from their own experience. They engaged students in discussions! We were able to discuss this in a smaller group and then choose the project we would like to work on together,” Anna explains.

Aside from the projects, Anna didn’t just sit and listen during her lectures. She was always in the conversation, listening to different points of view while engaging with her instructor. This approach allowed Anna to learn from not only the lecture’s content, but also from her peers. 

Utilizing New Knowledge

Within one short year, Anna completed the certificate and quickly realized how much project management played a part in all aspects of her life—worklife, continuous studies and motherhood.

Looking back at her time at Renetec, Anna worked on a customer web portal project with a team of developers. Anna flexed her project management muscle. She organized their work, distributed tasks and designed a project roadmap, all while taking the lead on the retrospective analysis.

Anna enjoyed putting her project management skills to work within the IT company. But she was ready to dive deeper into her education and study coding at Diablo Community College. Currently working toward receiving an associate’s degree in computer science, the lessons Anna learned—both in project management and in everyday soft skills—are being utilized at any given moment.

“I am more confident than ever in my current associate’s degree courses. I used to be anxious about public speaking, but now I am much more comfortable speaking on these subjects and always asking questions in class. Most of these skills I had learned in the Project Management program,” Anna explains.

“All of the project management courses I took contributed to both my professional and everyday life”. 

But of course Anna’s biggest and most important life project is raising her children. There is no question that being a mother is a job in itself and requires many project management skills. Anna is constantly hard at work scheduling daily/weekly/monthly tasks while managing her children’s education. 

“I have little kids with different temperaments who require different approaches. I even have Excel sheets for each of them filled with tasks we need to do. Very similar to project management! So, don’t be afraid of multiple projects. The more you have, the more you will learn and achieve,” Anna shares.

Just like a typical office job, Anna attacks each task step-by step throughout the day. Although there will always be challenges when raising her kids, her achievements throughout motherhood makes the “job” all worthwhile.

“All of the project management courses I took contributed to both my professional and everyday life. I know that whenever I decide to return to the workplace that my Project Management certificate will help me become a better employee and leader in the future,” Anna enthuses.

A Note To Future Students…

“Every student who took classes at UC Berkeley Extension with me was treated like an experienced person. They were treated as if every student already knew the basics of project management but was seeking a deeper knowledge.

“All of the instructors listen to you and learn from their students. They allow and encourage collaboration and want you to ask various questions. They even coordinate fun games to help you understand the concepts and get acquainted with your peers. In my experience this built trust and friendships within the classroom.

My advice to you is be open and ask as many questions as you have (even if you think they are silly)! You are there to learn. Always be open about sharing your experiences and listen to others. If you work in a group, work as a team player. The projects are most successful when the team is dedicated to work. Be sure to pay attention to homework. I promise that it was never boring at Berkeley. The homework allowed me to practice my skills and really learn about the content.”