So, you want to be a Project Manager?

Oftentimes we’re approached by folks who are looking to transfer into digital project management from another discipline (event planning, office management, booking and scheduling), but they’re not sure how to make the jump. The truth about project management is that many of the best PMs out there simply fell into their role by doing jobs with similar responsibilities and skill sets. There’s typically not a clear career path that takes a person into project management; it’s a combination of your education, work experience, and general character traits.

We’ll hear from three project managers about the varied paths they took to get into project management, the skills that got them there, and what training they’ve received along the way.  

Christine Holcombe,
Whole Foods Market

I started out twelve years ago as a high school English teacher with Teach For America in Houston. Although the work was fulfilling, the work/life balance was brutal, and I had to be at school every day at 6:45am. I started pursuing my master’s degree the UT School of Information with the hopes of becoming a school librarian (fulfilling work, better work/life balance, and I wouldn’t have to get to school until 7:30). However, all of that changed when I took an introduction to usability course with Dr. Randolph Bias.

In Dr. Bais’ class, I learned the fundamentals of usability research and was introduced to my future boss, David Richard, when he was a guest speaker in my class. David mentioned he was looking for a student intern, and I ended up securing an internship with his consulting firm, Design For Use, as a UX Researcher.

I was David’s first hire at Design For Use, so in addition to managing the research component for our projects, I unwittingly became the defacto project manager. I started off taking charge of scheduling and communications with clients, and as we added more employees, my responsibilities grew to include managing project budget, time tracking, milestone achievement, and status reporting.

It wasn’t until I had been managing projects for about a year that David recommended we change my title to Project Manager. “What’s a Project Manager?” I asked. Once he realized I wasn’t kidding, he explained that the majority of my responsibilities were related more to Project Management than User Research. I had never heard of, let alone considered the role of Project Manager as a profession, yet suddenly here I was.

With David’s encouragement, I purused formal workshops and training relating to Project Management, and began to take my role more seriously as a legitimate career. After attending the inaugural Digital Project Management Summit in Philly in 2013, I met Dina Fitzpatrick and we started Kickass PM.

Christine's Tips

  • Follow up: If I hadn’t reached out to David after he was a speaker in my class, I never would have started down this career path.

  • Leverage a related skill: I started working as a UX Researcher, which opened doors for me in the digital/tech industry.

  • Continued learning: Professional development events like the DPM Summit and Kickass PM have helped me learn new tools and make connections with people who have made me a stronger Project Manager

Tracy Hennessy,

Back in High School I was that person always juggling tons of activities at once. My calendar was filled with water polo games, Model UN tournaments, student government meetings, and hostessing a few nights a week. Keeping such an active lifestyle meant I had to track every detail of my schedule in order to keep up with it all.

In college I managed to stay equally busy. For my senior project I worked with the Aerospace Engineering department at my school to help coordinate a large international conference hosted at a hotel in the area. My role was a combination of event planning and project management - making sure that the rest of the department was interviewing and selecting presenters according to a schedule I’d created, while also working with sponsors and volunteers to execute the event according to our shared vision. This unique experience gave me the opportunity to work alongside engineers while also tracking a healthy budget, managing schedules, and assigning tasks for all of the conference volunteers and attendees.

Post-college, I started working as a program coordinator at a business management software company. ‘Coordinator’ was a loose term to describe ‘do whatever needs to be done to move our product forward.’ Since we had an extremely small team in my section of the business, sometimes this meant quality assurance, customer support, sales, or managing a team in India working on a mobile application. Although I didn’t realize at the time that what I was doing for our mobile app was actually ‘project management,’ it quickly took over as my primary focus and my main love.

A few years later I moved to Austin where I worked at an agency building mobile applications for brands such as Nike, Disney, Verizon and Clover. I earned my CSM and eventually got my PMP. After a a few years in project management, my love for getting my hands dirty in the project vision, and desire to be more involved in what we were making, helped me transition from Project Manager to Product Manager. I continued to work as a Product Manager in the digital agency space until I landed in my current role as Product Management Director at Handsome.

Tracy's Tips:

  • Everything Is A Project: A lot of people don’t think they have the experience to be a project manager because they’ve never had PM as part of their official title. My advice is to take a step back and realize that you’ve likely managed a ton of projects in your career; whether it’s a school project, working on a specific work assignment, or anything else with a definitive starting point, ending point, and some type of defined scope.

  • Value Your Soft Skills: Being a member of lots of clubs and organizations gave me the practice in dealing with a wide variety of people and personalities, which is a super valuable skill when managing a cross-functional team.

  • Tacos Go Far In Keeping A Team Happy: Never underestimate the power of a good breakfast taco or baked good to keep your team happy and healthy. Team morale can make or break a project, so don’t forget to keep an eye on the emotional health of your team.

Shahin Murray,

I have an undergraduate degree in business with a focus on Business Information Systems, or working with technology teams. I also have my master’s degree in Arts Entertainment and Media Management, which is essentially another business degree with a focus on working with creative teams. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do after graduate school. I thought something in the field of online marketing dealing with SEO would have been my best fit, but I wasn’t able to drum up any opportunities.

Eventually I attended a career fair at my university, and was able to generate some hot leads for open positions in Chicago. I was stood out from most people who attended that fair because of my advanced degree. I got introduced to a company called Nansen who said they were looking for a project manager. I thought my interview with them went really well, but they eventually turned me away citing “not enough experience.”

Based on the chemistry and cultural fit I felt during my interview, I appealed to them the next day and agreed that while I did not have enough experience, I had the determination to take whatever was handed to me. I asked them to allow me on the team for three month unpaid internship. At the end of the internship we could reevaluate whether I was too inexperienced for the position, or at the very least I would have generated some experience for my resume. Luckily, they agreed to my proposal.

Once I met with the team again, they decided it didn’t make sense to have me as an intern if I was working directly with clients, and they’d go ahead and bring me on as an employee!

Shahin's Tips:

  • Use your degree: Even though I don’t have a degree in project management specifically, the knowledge and skills I acquired with my undergrad and master’s degrees can both be leveraged towards project management.  

  • Network and attend career fairs: Not every networking event or career fair is going to yield a good match, but it does get you increased exposure to opportunities you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

  • Market yourself: I secured my position at Nansen by placing a bet on myself and winning. Offering to work unpaid for three months was risky, but my faith in my ability is what ultimately landed me the position.

SXSW: Embrace the chaos and build out your schedule!

SXSW is CRAZY. So crazy, it can be hard to figure out where to go and when. Fortunately, you can have a great time at SXSW without even needing a badge, so we here at Kickass PM have put together a list of other people's lists, so you can browse all the happenings over the next two weeks:

The Austin Chronicle list of unofficial parties and free shows during SXSW music

The Unofficial SXSW Guide facebook group

SXSW's 'official' guide for free events. No badges, y'all! Although you do need a 'free credential'

Austin360's SXSW 2017 Unofficial Party Guide

• Unofficial SXSW 2017's twitter and facebook groups

SXSW 2017 RSVP List by Unofficial SXSW Guide

We'll add more as we see them come in! Let's do this.

The Scheduling Monkey

Occasionally I have a slow week (or a slow month) when I’m between projects. Rather than relish this down time, I grow incredibly restless. Rather than take a deep breath and enjoying the break, I grow bored and anxious.  

Given the type A traits of folks in our profession, I can’t imagine I’m alone in this.

I recently switched projects in January. I went from working on a multi-year, large scale, design and technology project to working on piecemeal campaign work focused primarily on weekly or seasonal marketing initiatives. In the process of figuring out what my new role is, I’ve lost a lot of the momentum and responsibility that I had on my previous project. I’m no longer needed to facilitate meetings - only to find a room for them. I’m no longer needed to drive conversations - only to take and distribute notes. I don’t even have to distill feedback anymore - only schedule the meetings.

In the past few months, I’ve gone from being a Digital Project Manager, negotiator extraordinaire, to being little more than a scheduling monkey. (Although, sometimes I need to time box agenda items, so I guess on my best days, I’m at least a monkey with a stopwatch.)

Although I complain about my current responsibilities, I’m actually quite skillful at sequencing meetings, recognizing key stakeholders that need to attend those meetings, taking and disseminating meaningful notes, identifying and assigning action items to the team, and following up on those action items to meet the next milestone. When it comes to the most basic responsibilities of a project manager, I’m killing it.

My boredom with the basic PM role begs the question: What’s next? What am I missing in this role that fulfilled me so much before? What is the difference between a fulfilled PM and a monkey with a stop watch?

  • Ownership
    In my previous position, I managed a long-term, large-scale program that required someone to provide a holistic view of the scope and pacing of the project. There was a specific thing that was mine: the website redesign, the brand refresh, the launch of the rewards program. Without a “big thing” to own, I feel more like I’m monkeying around and less like I’m driving progress.

  • Building Relationships
    I excel at bringing people together. When I work on a cross-disciplinary team or on a project where we’re partnering with an outside vendor, I take great pride in my art for fostering cooperation between teams. When I’m working on a project with a single department or team, there’s less bridge building to do, and therefore, less of an art to my role.

  • Unique Perspective
    As a Senior PM on a long-term project, I was often the buffer between the production teams and the senior leadership team who were driving product decisions. My role in any decision point was unique. I was often the most senior person when I attended production meetings, and at leadership meetings I was the voice of the people. When everyone on a project is at roughly the same level as I am, there’s nothing special about the perspective I bring to the table.

My monkey-with-a-stop-watch symptoms seem to stem from that gap area many of us find ourselves in when we’ve spent a bit of time in the profession of Project Management (or any profession for that matter). I’ve been focused singularly on PM’ing for the past seven years. Beyond becoming a manager or director, there aren’t a ton of options for where I go from here in the PM world.

What if my boredom isn’t just with my project or team, and more indicative of a larger professional change I need to make? What if it is time for me to become a Director of PM? Or a Product Owner? Or a Product Manager?

...Or maybe I’ll just sit here with this stop watch...

What's in Your (PM) Bag?

“Does anyone have a dongle?”

The most prepared person in any meeting is the project manager. Whether we need to project a deck in that one weird conference room without an HDMI cable, or whether our creative review turns into a brainstorm requiring multi-colored stickies and dry erase markers, we come prepared.

I first put my “PM Pouch” (as my coworkers refer to it) together about two years ago, and it has proven one of my most commonly used project management tools (coming in a close third behind well-timed jokes and bringing snacks to meetings). Nothing stalls a meeting worse than managing an A/V nightmare, leaving the room to retrieve forgotten supplies, or waiting for a file to upload only to realize it’s above the storage limit on even Hightail.

While she started out quite small, my trusty PM Pouch is now nearly bursting at the seams. Below you will find a list of some of the most handy items I carry with me to meetings:

Contents of a PM Pouch


  1. Extra pens

  2. Sharpies

  3. Multiple packs of sticky notes

  4. HDMI Airplay dongle (labeled with my name just in case it grows legs)

  5. HDMI cable (just a small one!)

  6. USB drive x 2 (for large file transfer - don’t ask me why I have two…)

  7. Screen cleaner (in case the boss comes peeking around your screen)

  8. Sticky note with the office manager’s phone number in case even my dongle and HDMI cable fail us and we can’t project

Although my PM Pouch isn’t going to save us from a zombie apocalypse, I’m fairly confident it will save us from a lot of the little inefficiencies that eat away at the time we spend with our teams.

What’s in your bag? What are your go-to meeting supplies?

How to Claim PDUs for Kickass PM

Do you have your PMP? Did you know you can claim PDUs for Kickass PM? Heck yeah you can! 

(As a reminder, you can only log PDUs to help maintain an existing PMP credential, they don’t count towards the initial education requirements needed to apply for your PMP.)

Ready? Here we go!

Step 1

Start by logging into PMI’s website and clicking ‘Report PDUs’ under the Certifications category on the bottom right.


Step 2

This will take you to PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements system, and to your Dashboard. On the left you’ll see a ‘Report PDUs’ button.


If you’ve been submitting PDUs regularly for the past few years, you’ll notice there is a slightly different reporting breakdown that started in 2015. There are now a few more restrictions on the types of PDUs you can report per category. But such is life.

Step 3

Under ‘Education’ there’s a section for “Organization Meetings.” (That’s us!) 

You’ll notice that it says it is limited to 2 PDUs – this means limited to 2 PDUs per entry, not in total. Go ahead and click “Organization Meetings.”


Step 4

n order to fulfill your PDU requirements for Education you need a minimum of 8 PDUs in each of the Technical, Leadership, and Strategic & Business categories. This screen is where you submit the detailed information about the specific Meetup that you attended.  

Organization/Host: KickassPM
Title: The name of the meetup you attended (for example: “Project Managing Your Career”)
Meeting Number: n/a
Description: One or two sentences about the topic of the meetup you attended.

The Fine Print

You can claim up to 2 PDUs per meetup you attend, and determine which category you’d like to log it under. The general rule of thumb is 1 hour = 1 PDU. Generally I’d say about 1.5 PDUs is appropriate for a single event we host. 

Once you’ve filled out the form, hit submit, and you’re done! Generally Education PDUs are approved almost instantly. You should receive an email from PMI when your PDU entry is approved.

Here’s a link to a document from PMI that might help explain in more detail how to know which type of PDU to claim if you have any additional questions.

Good luck! If you have any questions, please email us at 

Digital Project Management Summit 2016

Takeaways you don’t want to miss

The Digital Project Management Summit, organized by the Bureau of Digital, exists primarily to unify PMs in the digital and tech spaces and provide a forum for knowledge sharing and collaboration for professionals that quite often get a little siloed in their processes (I’m looking at you, army-of-one PM). This year’s summit, held in San Antonio on October 13th and 14th delivered on all counts with topics ranging from utilizing soft skills to break the Iron Triangle to getting your zen on and practicing mindfulness to hone your project management skills. Equal parts validation and practical skills and processes, the DPMS provided a fresh set of tools for my project management arsenal and a long list of professional contacts with an incredibly robust experience in Digital Project Management. 

As this has been my first year to attend the DPMS, I had expectations that were somewhat ambiguous. What exactly was I to think my key takeaways should be? What were my measures of success at the end of the week? Luckily, the ambiguity quickly cleared after the first few speakers presented and the overall value of the summit became apparent. This is, after all, a summit for Project Managers organized by Project Managers, and let’s be honest. When are we ever irresolute or unclear about a session’s takeaways? Below are just a few of topics and takeaways I found most impactful, as well as resources to some of the tool and templates speakers shared at the DPMS.

Army of Awesome with Brett Harned

Brett Harned has lived in the DPM space for the past 15 years and is one of the primary organizers for the DPMS this year. He shared 7 principles of Digital Project Management – chock full of validations and templates available for your own use. It was a warm and fuzzy affirmation of what brought us to digital project management professionally in the first place as well as an easily digested list of best-practices for keeping our skills super-sharp.

Harned has a blog packed to the gills with resources at The principles I mentioned before are tucked away in there, and they are definitely words to live by. 

How Can I Help You Now It’s Too Late with Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin is a PM in health care across the pond in the UK. She described how a large part of her role managing IT is supporting other health care professionals whose entire day is sometimes telling people the worst news of their life. Yikes, right?

Harrin broke down her technique for constantly soliciting and tracking her performance across several groups including her direct team members, clients, and business partners. She stressed the importance of taking action when feedback is provided and highlighted the sizable gains she measured after dedicating a year to her endeavor.

Author of Customer-Centric Project Management and active speaker/organizer of her own slew of events, Harrin shares many more actionable tips and insights to improve your PM game on her blog

Your Brain Hates Project Management (AKA You Are Dumb) with Carson Pierce

Despite its brash-as-hell title, Carson Pierce’s talk on human nature, the evolution of the brain, and the vast disparity between how you work now and how you work best is strangely uplifting. This highly interactive topic showed the audience time after time that techniques like filtering and multi-tasking are fundamentally flawed, that we are not good at estimations at all, and that we will always succumb to procrastination. But through that dismal self esteem beatdown came self-awareness and easy tips to keep us on top, even when our dumb brains want only to keep us down. 

Pierce has a blog focused on PM techniques and experiences viewed through a psychology lens and told through his whip-smart sense of humor at He also has a robust reading list available at

Key Moves for Better Scoping and Estimation with Jack Skeels

Jack Skeels is the founder and CEO of AgencyAgile, a management training company out of LA teaching a striped-down version of the Agile Manifesto we all know and love. Skeels’ talk raised some of the flaws of a traditional project scoping and showed us how vastly different our assumptions of our understanding of scope can be from our actual understanding of scope. Skeels also laid out some extreme ground rules for stepping back and letting teams ask the scoping questions they need to get the work done. 

Find out more about AgencyAgile and read up on other articles from Jack Skeels at Pretty soon you’ll be the laziest manager with the most awesome team, just how Skeels would want it.

Interested in other Bureau of Digital events? They are constantly putting on camps, summits, and workshops across the country so stay informed at

Sarah Wood is a Technical Program Manager at Umbel, a data management platform in Austin, Texas. When she isn’t finding new ways to quietly project manage her entire life, she can be found drinking great local beers on her patio with her dog Aloysius.

A PM in a Nonprofit World

Nonprofit project management can, at times, be an uphill battle or even feel like you are inside an oxymoron. It can be tricky to implement process into an environment that has several layers of stakeholders; a board of directors, national staff and chapter staff. And an evolving budget determined by the approval of government grants or exist only with successful fundraising efforts. Although it may seem daunting, nonprofit organizations, that are historically understaffed, can benefit greatly from basic project management.

In the last year and a half while working with Charity Dynamics,  I have had the privilege of working with several national non-profit organizations like Easter SealsSave the Children and the ALS Association. Here are five tricks I use to project manage non-profits, slip in some process and empower my clients and their organizations to achieve success.

Know the players and the roles

There are always different levels of stakeholders and these layers will become intertwined, they will intersect and they will become blurred. The trick is to not only identify your stakeholders, but identify when they will be part of the conversation. I have client engagements where the milestones have to align with monthly leadership meetings. In that meeting, all deliverables are approved and the project moves forward. If I miss a monthly leadership meeting, my project timeline is in jeopardy. Do large decisions happen at quarterly meetings? Can you join that conversation? Is there only final approval with the board of directors?  How often do they meet and what is their approval process? Knowing the answers to these questions will influence your project timeline and help keep all the parties accountable for big decisions.

Process plans made to order

When working with nonprofit development or marketing departments, listening to their needs and determining a process that works for them is ultimately going to be beneficial for all parties. If you have a team that only responds to phone meetings, plan to have strong, agenda driven project status calls. If your team responds well to project management software, utilize Basecamp or Asana to communicate progress and deliverables. Be open to finessing your process to work for the client. Hold a mini-training session to discuss how all communication will be managed during the project.  Trying to force a plan that is only ignored will leave both sides frustrated.

Timelines are a team effort

I have found that all clients are more willing to follow and successfully meet deadlines if they are part of the conversation when you build the timeline. By identifying their team’s internal deadlines, for example; receiving  new branding guidelines from their marketing department, adding that date to a shared calendar creates team bond – you are all working toward the same goals.  The more clients feel it’s a joint effort they more ownership they feel and will assist with the movement of the timeline.  These are groups that traditionally thrive in teamwork scenarios.

Your project is part of a bigger picture

The more you understand the role your project plays in the larger organizational picture – the more you can anticipate scope creep and obstacles. Don’t work on a project in a vacuum! If you are working on an event fundraising and communication plan, how does this particular event factor into overall fundraising revenue goals for the year? If you are managing an end of year giving campaign, what percentage of total revenue does the end of the year campaign represent? If you are aware of the desired outcome of a specific project, you can be strategic with milestones and anticipate changes you may have to make either with deadlines, deliverables or scope.

Retrospective on all projects is a must

While it goes without saying that completing a retrospective at the conclusion of projects is an important step in PM process, it often becomes the clients ROI and is often necessary in order to move forward with more work. All non-profits have budget restraints that can range from proving why then need a grant for research to justifying the marketing behind fundraising events. Performing a retrospective can help identify successful process management and in some cases, illustrate how performing certain steps in a project saved money and gave the organization greater ROI.

Finding balance is a key to working with non-profits. These organizations are filled with individuals that are passionate about their cause, that are driven to succeed by personal connections and are looking for a partnership to help them reach their goals. To be a successful project manager, you have to have open communication and be willing to adjust and modify your process throughout the project duration.

Why Agile Projects Fail: Does Agile work for or against your project success?

While studying at the University of Texas, Austin, Courtney Leonard researched the significance of Agile as a methodology. She was able to demonstrate factors that are perceived as important for Agile’s success on creative teams, such as:

  • Client or stakeholder involvement
  • Educational resources
  • Flexible timeline and budget
  • The overall technical ability of the creative team

Below is an overview of her research results on why Agile projects fail. 

Agile Stats

In 2015, 94% of agencies surveyed by Version One, an agile enterprise software company, claimed to practice Agile. Highlighting the fact that there is some uncertainty surrounding Agile, 53% of the organizations believed that the “Agile” projects were successful. Many designers claim to use Agile, and many prefer it to other linear or traditional models.

But is it working for your company?

The study by Version One found that when using an Agile model, perceived product quality does not increase significantly, project timelines are negatively affected, and stakeholder value decreases by nearly 50%. This  might be due to the fact that Agile changes the relationship between the team and the client or product owner and the company’s culture and philosophies. 

Interestingly, 42% of companies believed that if Agile has failed a project, it was because their company culture and philosophies do not align with the core values listed in the Agile Manifesto (i.e. placing value on individuals and interactions over process and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, responding to change over following a plan.)

Three reasons project situations do not work in an Agile environment

  1. Agile requires responding to change over following a plan, and customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  2. It often takes one year for a creative team to reach a working stride in an Agile environment.
  3. Clients do not always fully understand why the process’s open timeline is integral to reaching the benefits of evolving requirements and deliverable features.

Four contexts in which Agile may be suitable for creative teams

Seeing that there are many ways Agile can fail a project, here are instances when the Agile process should have a higher success rate:

  1. Independent product design (when you’re working solo, working with a smaller team, or  working without the influence of an external stakeholder group)
  2. Speculative work (“spec work” that you’re conducting as part of the discovery phase for a larger project)
  3. When an agency has adequate resources for comprehensive internal team and client education on the process and its benefits, if applicable.
  4. A situation where creatives do not have many technical limitations.

Although many agencies claim to practice Agile for creative client work successfully when it is considered as an appropriate approach, their teams are still at odds regarding its legitimacy, gravity, and core principles. The project manager should use a systematic approach to determine when Agile is appropriate on creative teams — is their team knowledgeable with the process and can it lead to successful project work.

All statistics and images for this post are provided by the 9th Annual State of Agile Development Survey by Version One. 

Five Tips for Client Calls

Client interaction is a weekly if not daily activity; however, face-to-face client interaction is becoming an irregular way to manage client and project expectations. So how can you increase the productivity on projects and manage a successful client relationship on the phone? Below is a list of tools to help you organize and manage an effective and productive client call.

Be prepared.
Every call needs a plan. Have an agenda, a goal for the meeting, and share that with the team. Define the information you need to obtain in the meeting in order to move forward on a project. Communicate in advance of the call what your expectation is with the client to ensure everyone that is dialing in is on the same page. Are you utilizing visual technology to present information? Test your technology to ensure you are comfortable and able to operate correctly.

Keep it professional.
Have ground rules for each call. Ensure success by reminding attendees to pay attention (no surfing the web while semi-listening) and be on time, it will set the tone for a professional call. Keeping everyone engaged and involved in the call will help people feel their time is being respected and the call is useful. Make sure the conversation is productive and task-oriented and limit emotional responses or knee-jerk reactions to statements.  Lead by example and keep things focused.

Know your audience.
Varying personalities respond to information differently, so be sure to phrase your conversation in the best way for your audience to receive the information. Set your client up for success with clear examples, clarifying visual samples and project documentation. They will likely have to deliver this information internally to their team. Be patient with explanations; it’s human nature to need to hear things more than once.

Having a meaningful Q/A session.
Have a healthy dialogue with your client. Explain your recommendations utilizing previous project experience or industry standards. Offer opinions and advice when needed to illustrate the benefits of the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and repeat and confirm statements to ensure clarity. Be an active listener. Let the client complete their thoughts and ideas; it’s okay to pause and wait to respond. Just because the client doesn’t immediately respond doesn’t mean that they don’t have questions.

Assumptions are the enemy.
Don’t assume you know everything about the team you are talking with. They might have an internal protocol they have not shared. Technological skill level may vary with your audience, make sure to describe process and outcomes in easy to grasp explanations. Avoid using internal or industry jargon. Does your team use a lot of acronyms or tech terms? Have a team member review all documentation prior to delivering it to the client to remove the jargon you use internally. It is your job to create a successful work and communications environment for the client.

Controlling communications with clients and hanging up from a call with answers, a plan and next steps outlined will lead to successful forward momentum for all projects. Make all client calls count!


As a co-founder of Kickass PM, people often assume that I have my PMP, meaning I’m a certified Project Management Professional. However, I don’t have my PMP, nor do I have any other project-management related certification, such as Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), Certified Scrum Master (CSM), or Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). Aside from being a Kickass Project Manager, I have no acronyms after my name.

For a long time, I didn’t think there was any reason to become certifi\ed. I had worked at the same company for several years with great job security, and I felt like I was learning a lot on the job from my boss and my project management peers. I was under the impression that getting my PMP was only a measure I needed to take if I was looking for a job.

Ask the Experts

The panelists for our April meetup represent a broad swath of certified Project Managers:

Alicia Ross – PMP

Sharon Henry – PMP

Dan Corbin – CSP, CSPO

Christopher C Robbins – PMP, CSM

We opened the questions for our PMP and CSM panel up to our audience via Twitter, and here are a few major takeaways.

Career Advancement

Although each of our panelists ultimately sought their certifications for different reasons, they all agreed that getting their certification had advanced their career in some way. Regardless of whether the certification ended up having an impact on their day-to-day practice of project management, they all saw benefits to having that certification. Whether it was for better job offers, the opportunity to travel for their company, or ensuring they would be assigned to a high-profile project based on their credentials, all of the panelists indicated that certifications improved the opportunities available to them.

Everyday PM’ing

The panelists acknowledged that getting a PMP didn’t immediately alter their day-to-day role and interactions with their clients and teams, Every company has it’s own processes in place, and has it’s own way of doing things. While the knowledge gained from the PMP has proven helpful for problem solving and large scale project planning, it’s not as immediately actionable as the ACP, CSM, or CSPO certifications.

Specifically, the ACP, CSM, and CSPO cover a much more specific element of project management (either Agile or Scrum) whereas the PMP is much broader in the type of project management styles that are addressed.

The Head of the Class

Two of the biggest drawbacks to taking the test are the cost of the class and the time commitment. Although it’s not required that testers take a prep course, it is highly recommended. There were a few project managers in the audience who did not take a class, but studied the PMI books individually and took the test successfully; so it can be done! However, our panelists all agreed that the class was invaluable to passing the test and managing their workload.

Most classes also come with some sort of guarantee success rate, and also offer study groups and practice exams.

The Price Tag

In addition to the PMI books (which are typically about $100 a piece), the price of taking a prep course can range from $800 to $1,200. The test itself can cost $400 – $500 depending on whether you pay to be a member of PMI.

One of our Kickass PM audience members also recommends the Head First PMP book.

Folks interested in the Agile and Scrum certifications and application fees cost about $300 total, and classes can range from a few hundred to $1,000.

The Bottom Line

Although getting certified can take considerable time, effort, and money, none of our panelists regret their decision to become certified as a PMP or with Agile or Scrum. As one Kickass PM put it, “I didn’t get my PMP for the job I have now, or the next one I have. I got my PMP so that I can have the type of career I want to have when I’m 45 or 50.” As your dedication to the field of project management evolves, and if you find this becoming your career path instead of just a role you’re fulfilling at your current company, then it may be just the right move for you.