We have been conducting interviews with project managers for a long time. You must have perused through interviews of industry experts, leadership coaches, mentors and project managers here.
Today, we have Wanda Curlee, a 30-year-old, experienced project management professional on board. She is a conference keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. She has proven herself as a stellar project, program and portfolio manager.
Dr. Wanda Curlee was part of the team that was the brainchild behind portfolio management professional PfMP certification. She is the publisher of 2 well-known books, ‘virtual PMOs’ and ‘complexity theory’. She has four credentials under her belt, namely PMI-RMP, PMP, PgMP and PfMP.
She was actively engaged with PMI’s certifications and standard teams. She is the contributor of program management standard (4th edition) and requirements practice guide core teams.
She has given consultancies to world’s leading companies about sharing complexity, techniques, and knowledge.
Wanda Curlee was also an adjunct professor, teaching strategic management, critical thinking and project management at Kaplan and University of Phoenix.
She has worked in Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Spain, and many other countries. She has worked in multiple industries including telecommunications, consulting, insurance, government and IT. She is a full-time faculty at the American Public University.
TaskQue: To break the ice, we are really curious to know what really inspired you to choose project management as a career.
Wanda Curlee: I am what is called an accidental project manager. However, I enjoyed it very much and decided to stay in the field. I enjoy change and project management provides that for me. I also enjoy taking a team and leading it to a common goal. What better way to do that than in project management?
TaskQue: Being a faculty member at the American Public University, what would you like to recommend to students of project management who aspire to pursue a career in project management?
Wanda Curlee: Enter the profession with an open mind and with the great insight that you are the future of project management. You introduce the newest thoughts and ideas to the table while bringing the understanding of what is happening in the technological world. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the landscape of project management and you will drive this new landscape. Do it with gusto and confidence. Yes, you will make mistakes but that is how you learn.
Related Read: Worth of a Project Manager
TaskQue: You have worked across many countries in various sectors. What difference did you witness among people’s workstyles and” work cultures at different places?
Wanda Curlee: I enjoy working with diverse cultures because you get to learn so many things. When you are working with distinct cultures, you need to ask questions. There are cultures that will not share differences because that is not how they understand the world. But if you do not ask questions, how will you know if you are offending or helping? Do some research as well. Learn the holidays. Learn about their working times. For example, in Spain, lunch is followed by a siesta that may last up to three hours. There is also a coffee break in the morning soon after starting. While it was very foreign to me, it was my responsibility to understand it and work around it.
TaskQue: Please tell us the major concept elaborated in your book virtual PMO’s. What do you think are the biggest challenges for PMO’s?
Wanda Curlee: PMOs need to stay relevant. If the PMO does not understand the culture of the organization, understand what senior leadership wants/needs and what must be provided to project managers, the PMO will fail. Those are harsh words, but I have seen it too often. So, listen and continue to listen and learn to change as the demands, the culture and the industry change.
TaskQue: What courses do you recommend for passing project portfolio management of PMI? Any bonus tip for the students preparing for the exam?
Wanda Curlee: This certification is based more on experience. I would recommend understanding the portfolio standard but don’t memorize it. I would also select 2-3 books from the reading suggestions from PMI and read those books and understand the concepts. The test is tough. Many have to take it more than once to pass.
TaskQue: You have decades of experience? I am sure, there have been people in your career who were your source of motivation. Please tell us, which personalities have been your inspiration?
Wanda Curlee: I do not like to be micromanaged, so leaders who assigned me a task and let me do it on my own without breathing down my neck, were the best. Those leaders were also available if I ran into problems or just did not know the next step. They also supported me when I failed. Those great figures would always ask me if learned something from my failure. We always learn from our failures.
TaskQue: How does your team organize and juggle between myriad tasks and projects simultaneously? Which tools do you use to facilitate multitasking? What do you think are the key components of best tools being used in this domain?
Wanda Curlee: I use the tool that is being used by the company that I am consulting. There are those that I am consulting and who are looking for an appropriate tool for the company to go forward. There are so many tools out there and some are better than others, but they all have their good points and bad points.
I must admit that I still use paper and pencil and a simple Gantt chart to follow what is happening on the project. I am very social with my team. I check in with them more than once per week, maybe even daily, if the task is critical and needs to be delivered within the week. I keep the tasks manageable which means that I keep them in 10 to 15-day task-periods. Anything longer is unmanageable for me.
TaskQue: You have been a speaker as well on many occasions. Please elucidate on any memorable speaking experience in any event.
Wanda Curlee: I enjoy all speaking engagement because you never know what to expect. I know I have done well when I receive the tough questions to answer. Those are the most enjoyable for me because it makes me think.
TaskQue: Being a successful woman project manager yourself, what would you like to recommend to women project managers?
Wanda Curlee: Never be afraid to express your opinion. Also, take calculated risks when leading. If you do not you will not differentiate yourself from your peers. Also, brand yourself. In other words, why should you be picked over someone else? I call the brand statement your two-minute elevator pitch.
TaskQue: It would be great if you can share with us your workstation picture?
Wanda Curlee: I am in the process of updating my station with dual monitors. It is much needed. I work from home and I stand up while working.
TaskQue: Your family has served in US military. Please tell us how you enjoy with your family leisure time? How do you keep work-life balance?
Wanda Curlee: My family is spread all over the United States and my daughter is now deployed in the Middle East. I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren. I enjoy seeing my family over the holidays. I learned a long time ago that when you work at home, you must learn to just shut the computer and spend time with yourself and your family. If you do not, your life becomes one-sided and that does not make for a balanced lifestyle.
TaskQue: Technological advancements are reshaping the arena of project management. Businesses are implementing various tools for boosting efficiency these days. TaskQue is one such emerging task management tool across the market. What are your thoughts on TaskQue?
Wanda Curlee: I have not had the opportunity to use TaskQue but looking at the options it offers, it would appear to be a well-thought-out tool and should be considered as a viable tool for organizations.