Online Learning Brings Berkeley Education to Switzerland

Project management graduate Sian Fennessey moves from R&D to technical project manager

Because the Certificate Program in Project Management can be completed fully online, we see students who come from all regions of the United States—and even abroad. Such is the case with 2016 graduate Sian Fennessey, who was living and working in Switzerland when she completed our certificate.

And like so many of our certificate students, Sian found herself moving into a project management role at work without having the base knowledge and skills to truly succeed.

Starting out her career as a polymer scientist working as a Research and Development Engineer at 3M, Sian progressed into product- and process-focused development (where she worked as both a project leader and team member on international projects). She then landed a Development Engineer position in Sulzer’s Process Technology department, where she held what was essentially a project manager role.

“As a technical project leader," Sian explains, "I completed regular patent and literature reviews in order to develop formulations and processes for partial foam. I planned and executed both internal development trials and customer project trials, including data analysis and presentation of results."

But, Sian is quick to point out, she didn’t yet have formal project management training; instead, she relied on learning by observation, and trial and error.


The concepts and theories you learn here are applicable to a wide variety of project types and industries.



“I wanted to move out of my role as a development engineer and progress into a role as a technical project manager or program manager, with the end goal of becoming a technical manager,” Sian says. “I chose to start a course in project management to broaden my area of expertise and training, and to improve my business understanding.”

Drawn by our certificate’s reputation, the option to complete it fully online and accelerated course options, Sian quickly registered for the program and began her formal project management training.


The courses were quite intensive, but in retrospect I found them very effective.



Living in Switzerland, taking courses online was truly distance learning!

Prior to starting the courses, I had never attended a course online and really had no idea how it would be organized. Also, I had only attended a few business management courses during my graduate degree program, so I really was not sure of what awaited me. I just knew that I wanted to try this—I wanted to learn the correct or ideal concept of project management.

I was positively surprised! I realized quite quickly that I had a very limited view of project management, but thanks to the courses, I now have a much improved knowledge and understanding of the full project cycle—from request for quotes, project initiation and planning, risk analysis and mitigation, change control, earned value performance management, and, most importantly, project closure and handover. The courses were quite intensive, but in retrospect I found them very effective.

The level of interaction with the instructors was more than I expected. I always received prompt feedback or comments to discussions or assignments. I felt as if I had more access to the instructors online than I would have expected or experienced in courses that met regularly. I never had to wait until office hours or until the next class to ask a question.

Did you feel a sense of camaraderie with fellow classmates in the online learning environment?

There was quite a lot of interaction through discussion boards and group projects. Many of my classmates had previous work experience and would share their experiences in our discussion boards. It was interesting because I could learn about different industries and how project management was implemented in each.

Also, several courses had group projects, which I have always dreaded—but for the first time, I was a part of several group projects that functioned! My classmates were both motivated and reliable—everyone in the courses clearly had a reason to be there.

In addition to the certificate program on your résumé, you’ve also added PMP certification. How have both of these additions affected your current work?

After completing the certificate, I started a new position as a Project Manager in the Medical department at BAUMANN Springs Ltd., here in Switzerland. BAUMANN produces springs for medical devices, such as syringes, auto-injectors, inhalers and pumps. I lead customer projects from the development phase to series-ready products. I provide technical support and coordinate projects for our customers. I act as a pivot point between sales, customers, design engineering and production.

With our team, I support our customers’ device-development process and coordinate both support and the production of parts for their functional and assembly tests. Additionally, I support our customers’ New Product Introduction teams with process validation, change control and standard operating procedures—all the way through to ramp-up of production.


I would absolutely recommend taking the certificate.



What has earning the certificate meant to you both personally and professionally?

The certificate and PMP credential are achievements for me. They have allowed me to broaden myself and increase my career opportunities. I have made the jump from the research laboratory to manufacturing. Now, I have the chance to experience the next phase in a project after feasibility and development. I am in the position where I have been able to change industries and still implement my technical training.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about taking the project management certificate?

I would absolutely recommend taking the certificate. The concepts and theories you learn here are applicable to a wide variety of project types and industries. The coursework and class interactions let you obtain different perspectives on organizations and identify the positives and negatives from each example.

Even if you do not become a project manager at the end of the certificate, you will have learned concepts that will allow you to be a more effective participant in projects, with a better appreciation and understanding of the project design and lifecycle.