May 2019 Project Management Career Night Recap

Focusing on how to transition to a PM role

On Monday, May 20, prospective and current project management students arrived at our San Francisco campus ready to hear from certificate alumni, instructors and working professionals. 

Whether it was providing tips and experiences in transitioning to a project management role, the pros and cons of taking on a consulting position or describing the soft skills needed to excel in this position, the night saw lively discussions and successful networking throughout.

But first, meet our panelists:

Michael Batie looking away from the camera

Michael Batie, PMP, LEED AP

Head of Site Utilities and Maintenance at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Michael recently accepted this new position at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he manages 90 buildings on a 200-acre research site. The users of these facilities include the Advanced Light Source, Energy Sciences Network, Joint Genome Institute, Molecular Foundry and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. A line manager now, Michael started his career as a project engineer and achieved increasing levels of responsibility over 20-plus years working on biotech, semiconductor and nanotechnology engineering projects.

Tim Graham speaking into a microphone

Tim Graham, M.S., PMP, SA, SSM

Scientific Manager for Worldwide Research and Development at BioMarin Pharmaceutical

Tim leads work on the advancement of novel therapies for pediatric rare orphan diseases. After stumbling through academic science for many years, he accidentally found his way into project management. With those learned skills, he now provides operational and scientific support to early pipeline research programs. Along with his PMP®, Tim holds Scaled Agile Framework Agilist (SA) and Scrum Master (SSM) certifications. He is also Director of Mentorship at PMI®-SFBAC.

Ashley Loo looking at an event participant

Ashley Loo

Project Manager at Backroads and current student

Ashley will soon complete the Certificate Program in Project Management and has already completed the Professional Sequence in Project Human Resource Management. During the day, she is a project manager at Backroads, an active-travel company based in Berkeley. Her focus is go-to-market launches for new trips and key internal initiatives and events. She previously worked at Google in sales and marketing and has lived in the California Bay Area, New York, London and Sydney.

Helena Weiss Duman looking at the camera

Helena Weiss-Duman, M.A., PMP

Deputy Director, External Relations & Marketing Communications at UC Berkeley

Helena has more than 25 years of project management experience in industry, academic and nonprofit settings. In addition to her current role, she has taught in our Project Management program since 2007 and has been awarded the Honored Instructor designation. She also runs the highly regarded Event Planning Certificate Program for UC Berkeley staff.

Chris Von Bogdandy speaking into the microphone

Chris von Bogdandy, M.S., M.B.A.

Practice Director at Slalom

As Practice Director for Slalom, an international management consulting firm, Chris is responsible for revenue generation and utilization of more than 130 service professionals in the San Francisco market, with a strong focus on the high-tech and retail industries. Before joining Slalom, Chris worked at Alvarez & Marsal, Symantec, Cisco, Sofia University, The Gap, KPMG and Arthur Andersen. Chris has a strong background in project and program management, organizational development, change management and business transformation.

Lynne Von Bogdandy speaking into the microphone

Lynne von Bogdandy

Project Manager at Genentech and certificate graduate

Lynne started her career as a research associate, and transitioned into project management 12 years ago. She leads teams through the drug-development process, from discovery through development and commercialization. Her work at Genentech has been in a variety of therapeutic areas, including oncology, immunology, ophthalmology, asthma and multiple sclerosis. Lynne is also a licensed acupuncturist and has honed her skills as a wellness advocate and coach.


Audience members sitting down at the Project Management career night

What were the biggest challenges you faced transitioning into a project management role?

Ashley Loo: I reframed that biggest challenge into my greatest opportunity, which was having that foundation—that toolkit—to prep me to become a successful project manager. In my previous experiences, I had a lot of roles and functions that were adjacent to project management, but not necessarily the official project management role or title. This program allowed me to go deeper into the project management practice: to learn the lexicon, to take the time to understand all the fundamentals and to build my toolkit.

Lynne von Bogdandy: A lot of the project management advertisements for jobs require experience as a project manager, and I think there are a lot of different opportunities that you can have within the companies you work in or in your communities. Or, you can take on project management roles, use that experience and add that to your résumé. That helped me as I was able to get a project management role at Genentech. Of course, my courses at UC Berkeley Extension also taught me how to do timelines and resource management.

Tim Bombosch: Many of you are already on project teams doing project work. You should claim that as project management experience to convince yourself that you can do this, because you already are doing this.

What is the best way to overcome the challenge of transitioning into a project management role?

Chris von Bogdandy: There are two ways to transition careers: either vertically or horizontally. A vertical transition is when you stay within the same company, but you're taking a different role. People know you, people trust you, you have a personal brand. That enables your transition. It’s easier to do this if you're currently associated with an organization: Stay with that organization and claim that project management title and start working in that.

Michael Batie: I would frame this as you having the depth of experience from your current positions. Use the breadth option to expand your portfolio of projects. Use the breadth to gain more experience outside of your depth experience—whether it's in HR, IT, supply chain or quality management. Expand your willingness to take options outside of your comfort zone. This will expand your abilities to lead projects in many different areas without becoming exclusively an engineering or IT project manager.

How would you compare the Berkeley certificate to the PMP® certificate and how important is that PMP® certification?

Helena Weiss-Duman: To take the PMP® certification exam, you pay $500 and have hours of formal education to prove that you have PMP® knowledge.

I took the PMP® prep course at Extension 13 years ago. The project management certificate teaches you how to be a project manager; that's the big distinction to me. If you want to learn skills, then you should take the certificate. Certain industries require the PMP® and certain industries don't, so just reverse-engineer where you want to go.


Audience members sitting down at the Project Management career night

Can you speak to consulting work for project managers?

Chris: Independent consultants need really good marketing skills and really good relationships. Also, there's probably a time that you are not utilized and financially you have to model out what happens if you go three or four months without a gig.

I know some people who are very happy with that. I know a lot of people who after a while come to companies like us, and they say, “I've been on my own and now I want to come to a company because I'm tired of the acquisition process of finding my next client.”

If you're an independent consultant, you work by yourself and you're not really part of the client team. It's lonely, especially when you're floating around between different companies.

Michael: I have the perspective of somebody who hires project managers and also the perspective of the project manager. It's about risk tolerance. As someone who hires project managers and project teams, I look to diversify my risk. If I hire an individual consultant and for whatever reason I have to turn them loose, I am now looking for a replacement. I've increased my risk on this project.

From your personal perspective, are you willing to walk away from a job and hustle up more work in a moment's notice? It's all about risk.

How do I branch out or transition into another industry?

Lynne von Bogdandy: In my experience at Genentech, when the project management organizations are looking for project managers, generally they ask for industry experience. I have encountered a manager who felt that if you had the people skills, you could be a project manager. The technical skills can be taught so he hired people from other industries.

Chris: This really goes to one of the core competencies that I see in a project manager: learning muscle. You bring this rich skill set of project management to figure out how that group of people, that project, that business outcome is relevant. Where's the business value? How do you manage to do something that adds the most value to the business? How do you manage a group of people and understand their language?

How valuable is the PMP® as opposed to getting certifications in Scrum or Agile?

Michael: The qualities for project manager aren't dependent upon your education or your methodology. Whether it's Agile, Scrum or a traditional project management method, these are all tools to use. Don't think that one specific application or technology or methodology is going to make you successful. You have to borrow not only from what you learned and how you apply it, but also from the experience in dealing with people.



I was building my network in class and gained some great opportunities.—Lynne von Bogdandy



What are the skills and tools that I'm going to learn with this certificate?

Lynne: You learn the jargon of project management. When you take in in-class courses, you gain a network—that was invaluable for me. There is also an opportunity to do an internship. Part of how I gained project management experience was doing an internship and that gave me hands-on experience. I was building my network in class and gained some great opportunities.

Michael: The tools are exceptionally important from a foundational level: If you don't understand what a critical path schedule is, you will not excel as a project manager.

Ashley: From my experience, a lot of risk-management tools come to mind: being able to assess what that risk tolerance is, how to mitigate, how to transfer that risk. What do you do when your stakeholders are not attending your team meetings or your stand-ups? What do you do when you run out of funding? That’s really powerful to learn to help you grow into your project management role.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Ashley: The day in and day out are very varied in terms of what I'm working on and who I'm working with. Running meetings for our go-to-market launches, planning internal initiatives, working with our founder on various types of individual performance goals or even larger company goals. What I really appreciate are the teamwork and collaboration that are critical to becoming a successful project manager.

Chris: We don't call it project management; we call it delivery leadership. Leading the internal team, managing the client’s expectations and making sure that the deliverable is of high quality and meets a business outcome rather than just driving to deliver by a certain date.

Helena: My superpower is taking chaos and bringing order to it. I make sure the trains run on time. That's a lot of setting up meetings, anticipating who needs to be involved and anticipating next steps.



Take the risk, get out there and challenge yourself.—Michael Batie



Do I need to assemble this complete skill set before I can be an effective project manager?

Tim Graham: It's important to be able to practice those skills—to get better over time in the hopes that one day you will have a complete toolset that you are comfortable with.

Michael: Breadth and depth are really important. You cannot achieve success in this profession without learning something new every day. Take the risk, get out there and challenge yourself.


Watch a recording of this Career Night: