You probably find so many business professionals in the project management community but only few of them are actually committed to their profession. Jesse Fewell is one of them. Jesse is passionate to train managers, empowers teams and explores the secrets of success of organizations. He has been coaching agile methods since long. He is an inspiring speaker for Scrum, Agile and PMI conferences. He is the founder of PMI Agile community of Practice. He is also the co-creator of PMI ACP Agile certification and co-author software extension to PMBOK guide. He has the honor to be the world’s only professional who hold PMP, expert level agile designations of certified scrum trainer (CST) and innovation games qualified instructor (IGQI) certification. His area of expertise include scrum, agile, innovation and collaboration. Let’s explore what made Jesse so unique? Why does he stand out?
TaskQue: First of all tell us about your career? How did you start your career? What challenges did you face in the early phase of your career?
Jesse Fewell: I started out as a software engineer, wanting to be a great craftsman, but struggling to find a reliable mentor. I moved across 5 jobs in my first 5 years, because of unmet expectations between myself and my managers.
TaskQue: Being the founder and principal coach of fewell innovation LLC, share with us the vision of your organization.
Jesse Fewell: I went independent in 2014, and my firm is simply a vehicle to have impact on the world of work. I’ve seen dozens of organizations with thousands of people stuck in the mire of the status quo. Whether its bitter employees, arrogant experts, or over-eager managers with silly initiatives, we are all surrounded by untapped potential. Work is a fundamental part of what it means to be human, and we are only as good at is as we are at saving for retirement, or fixing broken relationships. My life’s goal is to make a dent in that pattern.
TaskQue: You have received several project management certifications. What do you think which certification has played a vital role in your career growth?
Jesse Fewell: My first certification was the PMP, and it was a turning point, coinciding with my career pivot from engineering to management and leadership. After 10 years of work in several environments, I had seen enough recurring leadership issues to believe I could have an impact on how work was run, but I was insecure. “Who would listen to me? Wasn’t I still too young to have credibility? Didn’t I need an MBA?” Earning the PMP showed me the competitive advantage of career learning. Certification programs offer a structured path to professional growth. Recently, I’ve set a consistent annual goal of earning another certification every year. Only a few have yielded a direct financial benefit, but the continued learning helps establish a mental model of continued personal evolution.
TaskQue: Tell us about your family. I just came across the interview with your son Ajay Fewell at Leading Agile2016. Your son seems very enthusiast. What do you think how the younger generation will make the difference in the field of project management?
Jesse Fewell: The research we did together for that talk helped me gain insights on the generation gap, as incoming Millennial are overlapping with outgoing Baby Boomers. There’s a great quote “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” That quote came from Socrates, telling us that there are some tensions that are timeless. But there are something that are contemporary: namely we are living in a time of unprecedented change. With the advent of the internet, globalization, and tech-enabled everything, Millennial are more accustomed to that dynamic, but not even as much as the upcoming Generation Z. The take away for today’s leader is to reflect and discern on how much of the generational tension is timeless, and how much is contemporary.
TaskQue: You have worked in many organizations plus you have previously worked as a software developer too. What was the motivation behind entering in the field of project management?
Jesse Fewell: I will never forget the day. I had been working on a grueling death-march of a project for 2 years. I had become fairly competent as the only engineer out of a hundred coming out of quality testing with zero defects. I went to formal review, very proud of my work, only to be met with resistance from end users of the product: “what’s this do? Why is that different?….WAIT you’re automating my job! Reject! Reject!” I was crushed. The people we were trying to help had not been pulled into the conversation about the changes being made. I could be the greatest engineer in the world, and we would still fail, because of leadership issues. That was the day I decided to pivot from the career of a competent engineer to a under-qualified, has-no-business-doing-this leader…in order to have a larger impact.
TaskQue: You have also worked in India as a Managing Director. How was the experience? What differences did you find in adopting project management methodologies among Indians?
Jesse Fewell: To any global citizen, I would say: you never know what it means to come from a given country, until you live outside your homeland. St. Augustine said “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I count my travels abroad among greatest influences of who I have become and what I have learned.
The first learning is that every culture has assets. For example those from the US are regarded higher than Indians for individualism, innovation, and coloring outside the lines. However, Indians are much more communally minded, which makes for amazing collaboration opportunities.
The second learning Domestic culture informs work, but does not predetermine how things will go. I’ve seen some great organizational cultures of innovation in Beijing, and some very toxic power-structures in the so-called collaborative US.
Today’s leaders should be aware of global differences, but not defined by them.
TaskQue: You have worked in multiple organizations in various places. Who has inspired you a lot in the project management community?
Jesse Fewell: This is my favorite question you’ve asked so far…
Dave Prior as a “giver” who introduced me to this community; Mike Griffiths as a thought leader, who challenged me to get involved; Michele Sliger and Stacia Heimgartner Viscardi for showing me that two opposing worlds can become better together. Andy Crowe and Bill Yates as accessible role models, Ken Schwaber for his story telling, Elizabeth Harrin for rising up to lend her voice, Thomas Juli as a deep thinker. Mike Cottmeyer as a risk-taker. Gene Bounds for accepting the call to serve, after he thought he was done serving. Andy Jordan as a prolific writer and Mark Price Perry as a focused communicator. Maria Matarelli, Julee Bellomo, and Becky Hartman as examples of people who make personal investment worthwhile.
There just isn’t the time or space to mention everyone in the PM community that has inspired me. Bottom line: you can find good people only when you go looking for them.
TaskQue: You are a very famous speaker and trainer, what are your plans for year 2017 about attending the conferences or project management events?
Jesse Fewell: This year I’ve been focusing on “the PMO tour”. Andy Jordan, Mark Price Perry, and myself have been presenting the “Hybrid PMO” workshops at PMI Seminars World in the US, and at the PMO Conference in London. Then at the global Agile2017 conference Kim Brainard and I will be facilitating a large group dialog on “The PMO Paradox”.
Meanwhile, I’m also hosting a few workshops for the brand new Advanced Certified ScrumMaster program. All of the info for these is on my website.
TaskQue: Research suggests that workstations do play an important role in maintaining the motivation level of professionals. So, what is your workstation like?
Jesse Fewell: Like others, I enjoy my standing desk. Since I have a closed office, I get to play music through area speakers. That dynamic creates a spaciousness that energizes me. I do NOT like multiple monitors, which I find terribly distracting. Instead, I use a larger single monitor (Apple Thunderbolt Display) to help me stay focused.
I’ve tried literally every productivity tool and technique out there and have found the best thing is really just to keep a clean desk. I may end up throwing a bunch of books, conference bags, and papers onto my shelves and guest chairs, but at least my desk is usually clutter free.
TaskQue: IT professionals normally work 12 hours a day, so how do you maintain a work life balance?
Jesse Fewell: As a solopreneur, I find that to be more challenging than ever. It helps to leave your work at the office. My home office is a detached “Shedquarters” that requires me to walk outside one building to another. That psychological barrier sends a message the work is mostly over. I will carry my laptop into the house as an emotional security blanket, but rarely open it after 6pm.
The real challenge is to say “No” to work. Unlike internal employees, a consultant makes money by selling his time. So for me, it’s really saying “No” to money. Granted, as my business has become more stable, I’ve been more able to decline work opportunities that aren’t worth it. But it’s still a struggle to find the right balance.
TaskQue: Apart from professional life, what are your hobbies and interests? How do you enjoy your vacations?
Jesse Fewell: My wife and I spend way too much time on Netflix, jumping from one series to another. She recently started a career as a shift nurse, so we enjoy relaxing on the couch after her long day of helping people.
Meanwhile, I’ve always been fascinated by spiritual traditions and comparative religion, but my time in India has turned that into a passion. It also informs my daily work.