Graduate Heather Paulsen Wins B Corp Award

Project management graduate pays it forward

Last year, Heather Paulsen won the “Building the Movement 2016” award at the annual B Corporation Champions Retreat for her stewardship and project management expertise in helping companies become B Corp Certified.

For a company to become a certified B Corporation (the B stands for Benefit), it must pass a rigorous set of standards around transparency, performance, accountability and impact on stakeholders—a set of standards based on social and environmental responsibility. It is a significant undertaking that many companies want to achieve, but because of everyday’s normal hustle and bustle, do not have the means to do so.

Heather Paulsen holding B Corp award
Heather Paulsen holding her Building the Movement 2016 award

This is where Paulsen steps in. A graduate of our Project Management certificate, Paulsen manages the process by "breaking the steps down into bite-size pieces," she describes. "I make it doable and help them achieve things that they aren't able to get done on their own because of time constraints." And because of her newly acquired skills, Paulsen was able to help Harvest Market become the first certified B Corp in Mendocino County; since then, she has worked with Clover Sonoma, North Coast Brewing Co., Thanksgiving Coffee Co, Beckman Printing and Black Bear Press, FloBeds and her own consultancy company to become certified B Corps.

"The core of my consulting business is being a B Corp certification specialist," Paulsen adds. "But I also help companies do a very deep dive into all aspects of their operations, create a set of sustainability recommendations to implement over the next two years, and provide them with background documentation and a work plan for those implementations. Some of them have kept me on to help them with these implementations and the various projects. I'm able to see my work make a difference in the world."

The 2014 graduate (completing the certificate in just eight months!) recently chatted with me about her experience. Paulsen's story is fascinating and it's best to hear it directly from her.


I was doing a lot of project management, unbeknownst to me.

On Changing Careers Into Project Management:
Since her time working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and subsequently at California-based nonprofits dedicated to community health, Paulsen strives to make her world a better place. Complementing her intrinsic values is a natural understanding of project management. But that self-understanding didn’t make itself known until she found herself working in health care administration on the Mendocino Coast.

"I was doing a lot of project management, unbeknownst to me. At the end of that time, I was looking for a career shift. I wanted to get back to some of the ideals in my earlier Peace Corps and nonprofit work and also get outside of the four walls of the health care administration and back to a bigger geographic influence. In that career transition, I realized that I had done a lot of project management. My last large project management work was a complete conversion from paper medical records to an electronic record system. Our hospital hired a small project management consulting firm to help us through that huge transition.

"This project management team had a method of breaking projects down into bite-sized pieces. It was a revelation to me that I had been doing a lot of project management, but there was actually a method to it. They made it doable and for that I am forever grateful and inspired by that. So I thought, 'If I could pay forward in my career what they did for me, that would be a really good use of my time.'"


My classmates were from really diverse backgrounds and that enriched the experience so much because you could see how all of the same skills we were learning were applicable to these different settings.

On the Online Course Experience:
"What surprised me about the online experience was that the courses were still as rigorous and as high quality as I would expect in a classroom. The quality of the education was surprisingly and wonderfully high. I was skeptical about doing everything online and not meeting people face-to-face, but you do have enough interaction with other students and with the instructors that you feel like you're in a classroom and not just by yourself.

"In one class, I was a part of a team of five for a group project. My classmates were from really diverse backgrounds—a military background to financial auditing to construction to public affairs—and that enriched the experience so much because you could see how all of the same skills we were learning were applicable to these different settings. It was like project management in the real world where you’re working with a multidisciplinary team and need to be able to communicate across areas of expertise. And so often teams are remote, so it's actually good training."

On One Take-Away From Her Studies:
"The thing I use more than anything else is the contract scope of work. That class was so critical for me to develop clear, precise deliverables, what's in and out of the scope of work, what assumptions are included, what constraints are there. I have not run into a hiccup because of not having something clearly defined in a contract. That has been a huge gift."


Tip: Memorize the grid of project management phases and the tools used at each phase.

On Passing the PMP® Certification:
"The certificate prepared me to sit for the exam, though there were some things I wished I had studied more than I did. Tip: Memorize the grid of project management phases and the tools used at each phase."


I love what I'm doing now.

On Advice If You're Interested in Project Management:
"Do it. The certificate gave me the confidence and the credibility to be able to work with any client, in any industry, of any size, any where, any time. And I love what I'm doing now."