MiniBio Series (Ken Smith)
Director of Military Outreach
Tell us a little about yourself!
I was raised in Tempe, AZ and have a diverse professional background. After graduating from the United States Military Academy (West Point), I spent almost 13 years as an Infantry officer in the US Army. I left in 2008 and joined the oil & gas industry. First as a drilling engineer for BHP and then as an Engineering Manager for FMC Technologies (which later became TechnipFMC). After 9 years in O&G, I started my leadership development company, Belair Leadership, Inc. (An Academy Leadership Franchise). I have 2 children in high school, I volunteer with Boy Scouts of America and really enjoy CrossFit. I love to cook and am getting very good at it.
How long have you been working in Project Management and what's your current professional position?
I have always managed projects, but never had the title of Project Manager. Whilst in the Army, I planned and executed airborne operations that included 500+ people and dropping heavy equipment. As a drilling engineer, I helped plan and execute 3 Deepwater wells. As an Engineering Manager, I led design, manufacture and installation projects. All of these projects required meeting time, budget and scope expectations. My current position (and passion) is developing inspirational leaders who better the lives of the people around them.
How long have you been involved with the Houston PMI® Chapter and in what capacities?
I joined the Houston PMI® Chapter in 2017. I joined because I believed that the leadership development I executed was perfectly suited for project managers and me, therefore, wanted to connect to the community. One of my colleagues in Kansas City asked me if our chapter has a program for preparing the U.S. Military members for project management careers. I realized it did not and contacted the President about starting one. Once the concept was approved, I was nominated as the Director of Military Outreach. I am also a silver sponsor of the chapter. I presented at the 2018 conference and have presented at 3 different meeting venues so far and intend to continue presenting in 2019.
What are the biggest benefits you’ve realized from volunteering at PMIH?
One of the biggest benefits I have gained as a PMIH volunteer was rebuilding a program that adds value to the chapter and members. I have received some great ideas from the members and realized just how generous people are with their ideas, time and energy. I have also learned from very experienced members about how to run a professional volunteer organization.
Describe the most interesting/challenging/exciting project you've ever been involved with.
The biggest project I led was redeploying 4,500 people, 300 pieces of rolling equipment and 100 containers from Iraq back to Hawaii. This involved planning and executing every aspect of personnel movement from Iraq, through Kuwait and finally onward to our homes. Making sure every person arrived safely and with all equipment accounted for was paramount. The vehicle movement included convoys from Iraq, wash racks, staging, loading on ships and maintenance en-route. Shipping containers were a nightmare - shipping them on local trucks from Iraq, locating them in Kuwait, inspecting them, staging them and finally making sure they got on the ships. We did all this without injury or loss of equipment!
Where is the Military Outreach program now and where is it going?
The program has a great foundation and we plan to have a hard launch this quarter. There is a good team of members that are getting engaged as volunteers. Our core services will be supporting current members who are Veterans (including family members because they served too!) and helping current service members transition into a career in project management. The volunteer team will be great mentors to help people through the process of earning certifications and becoming active members in the chapter.
By Paula Arthur, PMI Houston Contributor
This month we explore new project management trends in 2019. It makes me wonder what skills are more vital to project management.
Many would assume earning a PMP, CAPM or other certification should automatically propel their career to new heights. Career studies, however, indicate this may no longer be the case. In today’s competitive business market, we are finding companies looking deeper and seeking a broader skill set when hiring candidates as project managers.
An interesting article entitled Project Management Trends and Predictions for 2019
(written by Kat Boogaard) supports the project management shift. Recent developments and this article indicate the following trends are on the horizon:
- Approaches will be more tailored to specific project environments.
- Mentoring, coaching, and support will gain even more importance.
- There will be a growing emphasis on people.
- Skills will begin to outrank certifications.
- Analytics and metrics will continue to play an important role.
- Project management software will become easier to use and more integrated.
- Agile and Scrum methodologies will continue to grow in popularity.
- Systems thinking and systems integration will become a greater part of scope management.
I would like to focus on a few key points.
According to Boogard, unconventional ideas are bringing about changes that will influence how we work.
1) One trend hiring managers are starting to use is “less rigid and formal methods” and making an investment in the human side. This thought will benefit clients by improving project team interactions early on.
2) The focus on people may attract new professionals to the field. “As a profession, we are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that projects aren’t just about tasks and schedules, but also very much about people,” says Project Leadership Coach, Susanne Madsen, “Everybody would like to be part of a high-performing team, but too few people put in the effort to create one.”
3) While certifications remain important, the circle is expanding by casting a wider net to attract talented recruits and develop mentors. Mentorship is equally important to expand the industry with more rich field experiences and sharing resources.
4) Finally, software programs are becoming more user-friendly and seamless with integration to support technology. By simplifying more complex processes, a great advantage is to shorten learning curves, complete projects on schedule and improve response time. Technology can be on our side if we utilize it.
So, what’s the impact? Every project is unique and professionals must tailor practices to optimize project results. Overall, these trends will aid project managers to work smarter and faster no matter which industry. There is no “one size fits all” in project management anymore.
I encourage each of you to get involved in your local project management chapter and with related groups to remain current on industry standards.
By: Chizzy Menkiti MBA, PMP, CSM
PMI Houston, Newsletter Content Editor
Last month, the discourse was on how to apply PMBOK principles to your Job Search project. Here’s a link to the article from last month.
This month, we are taking a different perspective. An Agile approach to ‘Project Job Search’. Let’s get started.
A very simple definition for Agile will be: “relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.”
Project Scope: The scope of this project is simple: Find (good) employment.
Final Product to be delivered: Employment that meets the Product Owner’s satisfaction.
The Agile Roles
In any Agile team, there are 3 major roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster and Team - and the ideal team size is expected to consist of 3 - 9 people, committed to delivering the defined scope of the project - in this case, “Find (good) employment”.
In the Job Search project where we do not have the luxury of numerous resources, we will need to be extremely creative - as we try to navigate multiple roles with the limited resources we have.
In this case, you (the job seeker) will need to wear multiple hats.
Hat 1: Product Owner: In this role, you have the vision for your job search. You know what the product (Good employment) should look like in terms of professional, personal and financial benefit to you. What type of job do you want?
Hat 2: ScrumMaster: In this role, your primary assignment is to deliver this product - to the satisfaction of the Product Owner.
Hat 3: Team: In this role, you will assist the ‘ScrumMaster’ on delivering the Product Owner’s vision. Do you have the right skills? (there will be other ‘team members’ here, but keep in mind that these are not dedicated members of your team, so the ‘ScrumMaster’ (you) has to be creative over how best to utilize their time and expertise - towards achieving the project goals.)
Now that we’ve got the roles out of the way, let’s talk about the other key aspects of Agile.
The Agile Artifacts
There are 3 key artifacts - Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment (potentially shippable product)
Product Backlog: This is where all the requirements, necessary to successfully delivering the project goal are defined. You (the Product Owner) know what you need to have a successful job search. You need to document those. It does not have to be detailed but it needs to be documented. Examples of items that could be in the Job Search product backlog might be
- identify contacts in companies that you want to work for
- identify and document your strengths
- update my resume with relevant skills - and so on.
Sprint Backlog: These are the specific items that need to be worked on during a sprint. These items should be assessed and ‘prepped’ prior to entering the sprint, to ensure that they can be realistically completed during the sprint.
Product Increment: What do you have to show for your week’s work? The product of a ‘Job Search project’ is not really a visible item, until you are in possession of the much coveted ‘Offer letter’. However, you still need to set attainable sprint goals during Sprint Planning that will show progress being made - albeit in small measures.
The Agile Ceremonies
Finally, we look at the ceremonies.
There are 4 major Agile ceremonies - Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.
How can we carry out these ceremonies with our team of one?
Sprint Planning: Firstly, due to the highly fluid nature of a Job Search, here are a few suggestions
- stick to 1-week sprints. Easy to assess accomplishments and make necessary changes swiftly.
- be realistic on the tasks for the sprint - keep in mind that there might be some wait times for ‘team members’ who might not be immediately available/responsive.
- set sprint goals - talk to x number of recruiters, update resume, research target companies...
Daily Scrum: This is a quick session to plan for your day. Simply put -
- what have you done - what happened yesterday? Any follow-ups?
- what’s on the plan for today - what should I be focusing on today?
- what is in your way - do I need any external help and how do I manage that? This is where you determine if there are any impediments likely to impact your meeting the sprint goal and what you need to do to remove them.
Sprint Review: At the end of the sprint, what have you accomplished/achieved? (This is where you showcase the Product Increment, which could be proof of contact with recruiters, an updated resume...).
Did you meet your sprint goals?
Sprint Retrospective: This is where you review the entirety of your sprint. What worked, what went wrong, what can be done better? Am I using the right approach? Are my current processes too rigid? What can I improve on?
Having a strategy/plan for your Job Search is essential. It keeps you focused, helps you stay organized and keeps you actively engaged in your search. However, things change frequently in the job market - so we need to remain ‘Agile’. Assess often, identify areas of change, implement changes swiftly. Repeat. The frequency of ‘check-ins’ in Agile allows us to be very proactive with ensuring that our effort is optimized.
One key challenge in all of this specific project ‘The Job Search Project’, is that the Product Owner - in spite of the team ‘following all the rules’ - does not necessarily have the final ‘say’ - and remains dependent on an external factor - the Employer - for the final determination of Customer Satisfaction.
But this should not preclude the need for thinking through the process/project and identifying an approach that works for you. After all, “failing to plan is planning to fail” - Benjamin Franklin.
There are lots of useful resources on the internet to help with your job search - PMI website, Job Boards, Salary projection websites, Interview coaching sites, Resume writing and career guidance websites - to help you with this all-important project. Speak to people who have been through this and understand how they transitioned (or how they are transitioning). Above all, stay positive! Good luck!
(Note: This is a lighthearted adaptation of Agile principles and methodology for an individual’s job search. It is in no way depicting any standards for Agile. If you want to learn more about Agile practices and approach, please visit the websites of any of our PMI Houston Agile Sponsors.
Feedback: We’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Please feel free to send your comments to [email protected]
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