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Taking Charge: Project Management for Publishing Professionals

The CWIP March program, Taking Charge: Project Management for Publishing Professionals, attracted a large and diverse crowd. Before the event began, attendees had the opportunity to mingle and discuss their different levels of involvement with project management. Some attendees identified themselves as project managers, others were hoping to break into the field, while still others were unfamiliar with project management and were attending the event in order to learn more about it. As it turned out, the March 21 event was worthwhile for all attendees regardless of background, since, in the words of Beth Ardolino, one of four panelists at the event, “Everyone is a project manager.”

The four panelists brought a wealth of project management experience to the discussion. The participants included Don Schneider, executive recruiter for Paladin Staffing; Patti Hall, publisher at Norwood House Press; Tess Mullen, publications manager for the University of Chicago Press; and Beth Ardolino, a professor in the Project Management Certificate Program at DePaul University. While their job titles differ, all four are heavily involved in project management and agreed that the common thread in all project management jobs is organization.

After the panelists introduced themselves, they dove right in, answering a series of prepared questions posed by Barbara Moriarty, CWIP member and event moderator.

How does a project manager claim authority over people whom he or she does not officially manage?
The panel discussed that earning authority, not claiming it, is the best approach. Gaining the respect of superiors, clients, and employees alike is possible through asking questions and making a concerted effort to understand the individual's needs.

How does a project manager fight for needed time and resources?
The panelists were in agreement that planning ahead with the help of a production schedule is the best way to ensure that the project gets done on time. Beth referred to the “triple constraints” each project manager faces: scope of the project, schedule, and costs. She and the other panelists reminded the audience of the importance of defining each constraint as firmly as possible before beginning work.

If a project manager is working at a small business, how does he or she know when to bring in subcontractors?
The panelists said that a production schedule can come in handy to forecast the need for subcontractors. While Beth admitted that many project managers plan as they go, she stated that this is a risky practice. However, for those times when the need for additional help arises more urgently, Patti encouraged everyone to keep an updated list of “go-to” people, adding that it is an invaluable resource for those times when subcontractors are needed on short notice.

What qualifications should a candidate have? What do employers look for on a resume?
Don and Patti both emphasized the importance of targeting a resume not just toward project management, but toward the specific industry the job is in. Don reminded the audience of the oft-quoted statistic that the average resume is studied for only fifteen seconds. The panelists all had opinions on what information will catch an employer's interest in those fifteen seconds. Don advised the use of “key words” to demonstrate familiarity with a particular industry, while Patti and Beth both encouraged attendees to include examples of times they improved a project or contributed to a business's progress. Patti also reminded panelists to draw connections between their current position and the desired new position.

How do you get your resume into the right person's hands?
For this question, Beth called on her college-aged daughter in the audience, who promptly responded, “Network.” The panel agreed: every professional or social interaction is an opportunity for networking, and it is up to every job seeker to search for the contacts that can lead to a desirable interview. LinkedIn, company websites, and the Chicago chapter of the Project Management Institute were all mentioned as valuable networking resources.

How can a project manager motivate his or her team?
The panel mentioned that all the traditional motivational tools—praise, recognition, rewards—are very effective. Don suggested that reminding the team that the project manager lacks the expertise of the team members could be an excellent incentive.

After the panelists answered the prepared questions, audience members had the opportunity to ask their own questions.

What are some tips for managing team members who have an area of expertise that you lack?
The panelists were in agreement that the best approach is to admit the weaknesses in your knowledge, ask questions, and remind team members that your focus is the project rather than the substantive material.

And the final question: What one piece of advice would you give to a person hoping to become a project manager?
Each panelist condensed his or her advice into just a few words.

Patti: Stay flexible.
Beth:
Find a mentor.
Tess:
Get educated.
Don:
Understand the concepts.

The event was valuable for everyone who attended, galvanized many would-be project managers to try out the panel's tips in their career searches, and inspired established project managers to try some new approaches at work.

Kate Mosesso is a practicing attorney by day and a freelance writer and editor by night. She holds a B.A. in English and a J.D., both from the University of Notre Dame. Kate lives in Lincoln Park and is an active member of CWIP. She can be reached at kmosesso@alumni.nd.edu.

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