As the senior program manager at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Shannon Bennett uses her PMP to better serve engineers and business professionals all throughout the company.
CPE: How did you begin your career in project management?
Shannon: I had been in the field of engineering management for a long time (about 8 or 9 years) and was looking for a change. The project manager I worked with for several years retired, and I ended up taking his position. It’s been a good change as I have learned how to relate with different business units and people.
C: Why did you pursue the PMP certification?
S: I had career goals within my company, and I knew that I would need the PMP certification to achieve them. So, I went for it! I also knew it would be a good learning experience. My previous project manager showed me the “people” side of things, but I didn’t understand all the record keeping and more detailed data management that goes on behind the scenes. The PMP helped me understand how those aspects relate to and tie in with leading people that I don’t manage directly.
C: You mentioned data management and keeping up with files. What is one PMP tool you use daily?
S: The change management function is one of my most-used tools. With many programs, you can set up the program ahead of time but don’t necessarily know what the scope of the program will be. The scope may change throughout the year, which is why that function is important to me.
C: How else do you use the PMP as a program manager?
S: At TVA, I meet with engineers before the beginning of the fiscal year to plan for what we think will happen throughout the year. We set up estimates for our budget, I ask the board for that amount, and we move forward with the project if it’s approved. Then, more detailed scopes of what we will be doing have to be created. As the project is set in motion, things may pop up that have to be maintained or constructed; I either set up proposals, do Project Change Requests for the work, or adjust the budget. Oftentimes, work pops up mid-year that is less important than other projects, so I am constantly reprioritizing what we need to get done with the budget we have. I have five projects and programs going on right now, with 27 proposals being processed.
C: Wow, you stay busy! So, what advice would you give someone studying for the PMP? What are some study tips/takeaways you implemented?
S: Make sure you understand the intent and relationship between the steps of the project management processes. Don’t just memorize the processes themselves but learn how they all interrelate. I also did practice tests and had the PMP Pocket Prep app on my phone. The app let me complete quick, 10-15-minute sessions of answering questions.
C: After taking the class, what project management areas did you gain more clarity on?
S: So many! The flow of the processes, how to move through a project, creating project timelines, integrating project timelines into the project itself…the list goes on.
C: What’s next now that you are PMP certified?
S: I hope to continue working toward my career goals and growing as a professional. Actually, I got a new project this year that I will work on with lots of internal and external groups. I am excited to collaborate with a new team and see what we can accomplish. I also hope to get involved with Chattanooga’s PMI chapter. I haven’t been able to participate since the COVID craziness began, but I think it’s important to get involved with a community.
Also, I would say that the class gave me a good community, too. I met people who work at TVA that I didn’t know before the class, and I was able to network with others from different industries. I have kept in touch with some of them via LinkedIn.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M) serves as the marketing assistant for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, she spends time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with CPE’s customer base. During her free time, you can find her getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, she aspires to live by Mr. Feeny’s advice, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” She strives to use her passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around her.
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Jeff Grant sees himself as a storyteller, and thankfully, he gets to tell some incredible stories by serving as the marketing coordinator for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, Jeff can be found implementing new marketing strategies or writing content. When Jeff is away from the office, he could be found hiking the Cumberland Trail, trying new recipes, or getting lost in a good book.
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