You could say that project management instructor Edmond Matevosian is no stranger to risk management.
As the Senior Transportation Engineer of Project Management Improvement at Caltrans, Edmond continually strives to holistically improve project-management processes—understanding the risks involved and how to respond to the threats and the opportunities. In order to do this, Edmond relies on the PMBOK®’s set of standards, customizing and tailoring as each project demands. “It brings me great satisfaction to optimize procedures and processes in order to make state government project delivery more efficient so we can compete with the private sector,” Edmond explains.
Compete with the private sector?
“State government is being challenged to perform like the private sector,” Edmond answers. “We have various external governing entities looking at us, saying, ‘Show me how your work is more efficient than the private sector.’ So we optimize the projects so that we know that we’re being efficient.”
He’s also the state-wide Risk Management Coordinator, whereby he oversees and works with the 12 Department of Transportation district risk-management coordinators with whom he dialogues on a regular basis in order to capture and share best practices and lessons learned to improve ongoing and future project delivery.
And Caltrans as a whole is embracing risk-management best practices by using a scalable approach and introducing accountability checkpoints.
According to Caltrans, “The scalable approach will ensure that the appropriate level of risk management is applied to each project, dependent on project complexity. The accountability checkpoints will ensure that risks are documented and communicated throughout all the phases of project delivery.”
“So we optimize the projects so that we know that we’re being efficient,” Edmond adds. “I tell my students, ‘Remember, PMBOK® is a set of standards. We have to customize and tailor PMBOK® to each project to be efficient and effective.’”
With years of experience working in risk management, Edmond brings all of this knowledge to each course—whether it’s in the classroom or online. Having taught with us for almost seven years, Edmond has been influential in teaching myriad students to understand the benefits of project management in order to excel in their careers.
Just being there for the student is number one.
How has your course adapted since you’ve started teaching with us?
As time has passed, I have noticed that more and more students are liking the online means of course delivery. The feedback I’m getting is, “It’s easy for me to take an online class, it has the same high curriculum as the classroom and is as dynamic as the classroom. It also saves me a good amount of time in preparing for, traveling to and finding parking to get to class, followed by a long trip back home.”
With online delivery, we have to take advantage of the technology available. Because the students aren’t seeing each other face-to-face, I have to create a more dynamic environment. I have to make sure everyone is engaged by using technology: virtual desktop meetings, being there for student one-on-ones, having on-demand office hours.
Overall, just being there for the student is number one.
And with offering your course available online, a student from anywhere in the world can enroll.
That’s the beauty of online learning: I get a lot of international students who bring different perspectives from different cultures, which is wonderful. Their postings are eye-opening for our students and me.
They bring different experiences to the table and different approaches to problem-solving projects. We’re all continuously learning.
My students come from all walks of life and professions, and together we experience the world of project management.
You also teach at Sacramento State and UC Irvine. Why do you enjoy teaching adult learners?
The experience they bring to the table. They are practicing professionals and share their backgrounds.
I have gotten here through years of project delivery experience. I have stepped on landmines and my job is to make sure my students are aware of these so that they don’t step on them. But have I experienced my students’ professional worlds? No. Mine is limited to transportation project management and everything associated with that. But my students come from all walks of life and professions, and together we experience the world of project management.
I have my experiences and I know the value that PMBOK® has added to my project’s delivery. But when it comes to experiences, I am not as rich as all of my students together.
As much as I have my experience and I know what I’m teaching, I’m not a good instructor if I’m not willing to learn from the student and pass on that knowledge.
I think there is worldwide recognition that project management has value.
What changes have you seen in the project-management field?
I think there is worldwide recognition that project management has value. It’s not just an extra overhead item. Companies see the huge benefit of having a project manager who is watching out for the best interest of the company and the customer from the inception of the project to its end.
Another hot topic would be the greater awareness and acceptance of Agile project-management methodology, which was really born in the world of IT. This approach is typically used for projects where their scope cannot be well-defined early on during the project’s lifecycle. I am also glad to see that UC Berkeley Extension is offering this line of classes to our students worldwide.
In transportation, we use more of the waterfall methodology, but we will use Agile when the time is right. When a project is brand-new to us and the scope is new or we haven’t had experience with it before, Agile would be the better approach to developing and delivering the project.
What future developments in project management are you looking forward to?
PMBOK® is a wonderful tool: It’s applying lessons learned and passing it on. I refer to PMBOK® as my wonderful checklist of project management. By learning, by experience and sharing lessons and seeing the value of project management, that’s increasing. I see more awareness and recognition of project-management principles and how it can help your project.
You also bring your risk-management expertise outside of work—you rock climb!
This is my hobby for stress relief and to unplug. You will find my two older sons and me on the rock walls of Sierra and Sequoia National Forests, which include the Yosemite National Park.
My wife always says the reason why I love risk management is that I’m still alive and I use these principles every minute that I am on the face of a rock! That includes the different PMBOK® response strategies that I need to know for those threats: Can I avoid it, can I mitigate it or accept it and deal with the consequences—these are real response strategies.
Let’s be a little positive now and talk about opportunistic risks. There is an opportunity that exists in this sport: What happens if something truly adverse—such as a fall, which often equates to death—occurs? My wife will receive a large sum of money should this opportunistic risk come to fruition. That is as long as I maintain paying my insurance premiums—and I make sure I do! [laughs]