Do you already feel like a project manager as an admin or executive assistant, but want to prove your expertise and impress your boss? Joe Pusz (The PMO Squad) talks with Alexa Kirby about how to approach your tasks as projects and the right project management questions to ask before you begin for a higher likelihood of success.
Recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at asaporg.com/podcast.
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Leah Warwick: Hey, everyone. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to The Admin Edge. We're back with another episode recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 that's all about project management and how admins are often accidental project managers. Alexa Kirby, operations associate, talked to Joe Pusz, founder and president of the PMO Squad and an APC 2023 presenter.
Alexa Kirby: Today we're talking about project management. I know that it's been on the rise for professionals, especially for administrative professionals, so they can impress their boss, executive team, or just gain that project management experience. What do you think about it being on the rise in this field?
Joe Pusz: I love it. The Project Management Institute is the group that oversees formal project management, and they've estimated that we're going to have probably 30 million project managers over the next decade, and there aren't enough people to come into the profession new to do that. So really that's all going to be populated by folks at this conference, right? Administrative professionals who are delivering projects today. They just don't have a title of "project manager."
Alexa Kirby: Exactly.
Joe Pusz: To me, in the project management industry, we call them "accidental project managers," so they're doing it, even though they don't know they are. I think if we can upskill them and train them on some of the basics to deliver projects better, I think everybody wins in that scenario.
Alexa Kirby: That's awesome. I know at my old job, my title was executive assistant, then it turned into chief of staff, but I was really interested in project management. So I led the force on that and going to take a course at the nearby college I was at and learned a lot about project management and brought it back.
So it's very true: A lot of admins are picking up on it. It's stuff we already do.
Joe Pusz: It's not the standard coursework that you get at a university. I know I'm a little bit older, I think, than you, and when I went to school, no college or university offered project management. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and we just had an announcement last week that ASU (Arizona State University) is going to offer for the first time a bachelor's degree in project management.
Alexa Kirby: Oh, wow.
Joe Pusz: And this is another thing, I think, to be able to help folks in this profession. You may be an executive assistant, or a leader, chief of staff. Now you have a degree program that you can go get to be able to get skilled in this, and master's degrees are popular in project management as well.
Alexa Kirby: That's awesome. Why is it so important for admins and executive assistants to excel in project management?
Joe Pusz: I think because they're given projects all day long, right? It's, "Hey, I need you to go do something." That's a project. If you can approach that as a project and not just a request, we can give you a recipe to follow to help you be successful at delivering on those projects. I'm speaking tomorrow, and that's my topic. How do we use recipes to be able to deliver on something successfully? I think [for] the executive assistants and the leaders here, it's a perfect fit for them and what they do every day in their job.
Alexa Kirby: So what are some ways administrative professionals can impress their boss or their team as a project manager?
Joe Pusz: I think one of the hardest parts [for] an executive assistant is finding out what the project really is. They just get a request, and then they have to go figure out: “What really was the request, and how do I go do it?” With some project management techniques, we can give them the tools to be able to ask some probing questions up front to help them define what the project really is. That random request of "I need you to get this done." "Yes, sir."
And then you walk away and you're like, "Oh, man. I wish I could've asked him five questions." Well, that's the scope. That's a project management term. "Help us define the scope. When do you need that done by (the duration)? Is there a budget for this, or do we have to use existing funds?" That's the cost. There's different measures that we look at in project management that an uneducated person in our discipline struggles with. If we give you just some basic fundamentals... this isn't trying to get you certified to be a project manager. It's just trying to help make your job easier, to deliver the project that you were asked, even though you have no idea what the real scope was that they were giving to you.
Alexa Kirby: Exactly, yeah. So, we have an anonymously submitted listener question, so I'm going to read that to you. They say, "I'm an office manager, and de facto event planner, and leader of countless office and organizational projects at my company. However, I don't think my boss sees me as a project manager when compared to some of my colleagues in different departments who have that title. How do I prove the project management experience I already have, and advocate for more, with the goal of an eventual title and compensation change?"
Joe Pusz: Ooh, how exciting. This is a good, juicy question. Many organizations have a formal department for project management that's called the project management office, and a lot of the people with the title of project manager report into the PMO. If you're an accidental PM who's running projects, even though that's not in your title, and you want to migrate towards a career in project management, go make friends in the PMO. Go ask if you can sit in on some projects. Maybe they'll even let you lead a small project or two just to demonstrate what your capabilities are. Ask for mentoring. Ask for coaching. Ask for what training they provide.
There are so many different opportunities available for those who want to be moving into a career in project management, but the best place to look is, if you already have project managers in your organization, use them as a tool to be able to help you advance in your own career.
Alexa Kirby: That's awesome. I love that. Joe, thanks for coming on the show and sharing your insights. Where can listeners find more information about you?
Joe Pusz: Certainly. LinkedIn. Everybody is out on LinkedIn these days, so you can search "PMO Joe." I'm the only PMO Joe out on LinkedIn. Or you can go to our company website, www.thepmosquad.com. I'd love to connect with everybody. I have an open-door policy, and I'm here to help serve those who are trying to get better at project management.
Alexa Kirby: Thanks so much.
Joe Pusz: Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you today. I appreciate it.
Leah Warwick: Thank you for listening to The Admin Edge, produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals. Original music and audio editing by Warwick Productions, with audio and video production at APC by 5 Tool Productions. If you like this podcast, please leave us a nice review wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe. If you want to send a listener question, you can submit via the form on our website at asaporg.com/podcast.