Experienced Manager Discovers the Art of Project Management


- Kelly Smentek

Term : January, 2013
Department : Business and Management
Program : Project and Program Management

Kelly Smentek had recently relocated to Silicon Valley from Southern California and was looking to build job skills when she learned about UCSC Extension’s Project and Program Management certificate program.

“A lot of the jobs were looking for someone who had completed a certificate program, either through a school or by passing the PMP exam,” Smentek says. “I felt like to take the test, I really had to go back to the basics…Even if you take a class that prepares you for the test, you still have to have the foundation in project management. You need something you can actually use.”

Smentek says that, like many professionals whose jobs have transitioned into project management roles, the program’s focus on building positive communication skills, risk management and effective project planning has really helped her in her current job, which she does remotely. She was especially impressed by the Role of the Project Manager class. She was surprised to see how many fundamental concepts she learned that had not been introduced to her before, despite having worked in project management for seven years.

“The first thing we did was work on a project together. It was an exercise where everyone wanted to jump in and get started, and none of us realized you have to plan first. I still use it at work: think first, spend some time planning [before going forward].”

She also gained practical knowledge in the Project Integration and Risk Management cousre. She says that it taught her to have more confidence in her capability to assess risk and make calculated decisions at work.

“That class was harder than some of the others, but you learn so much. The instructor uses actual case studies, and you have to write a whole project plan from beginning to end. You learn a lot from it...Lots of projects fail all the time in all kinds of companies—we all have projects that fail, but planning for the risk and having backup plans is something I have been able to use the next day at work. The course teaches you to make an educated decision, and that’s where the confidence comes in.”

Smentek says that she appreciates Extension’s focus on what she calls “the art of project management.”

“A lot of people come here to learn decision-making tools like Microsoft Project. You think that once I have these tools, I’ll be a better manager. I think that learning the art of being a project manager is more important. The people skills, being able to negotiate what you need for your project, getting the right people on board, figuring out who the right people are, working with your sponsors. There’s so many human interaction pieces to being a project manager that you don’t really see on the job description or even when you are learning the tools. That’s the art side of it: how to get all those people to work together…There are a lot of project management prep courses out there, but they don’t have the credibility that UCSC does.”

Smentek was also surprised at how much information was packed into each course, noting that her instructors made it “really easy to learn technical skills in a short amount of time.  It’s perfect.”

Visit our Project and Program Management program page to learn more about UCSC Extension’s unique offerings. Browse ucpoming Project and Program Management courses.

Return to UCSC Extension Student Stories.

Share your Extension story.