Archive for March, 2009

Please Excuse Johnny From Taxes This Year. Sincerely, Harry Reid, US Senate

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

In younger days, the only way out of a difficult patch was with an “excused” absence. All that was needed was a note from Mum. Congress has shown us over the past six months that they are capable of writing these “notes” as well for their friends having a rough time in the financial markets. Congress’ notes though are printed by their neighbors at the US Mint. Coincidentally, both a note from Mum and notes from Congress have about the same value these days. All either do is provide a temporary reprieve from dealing with the problems of the day.

We’re always being exorted to write to our congressmen or senator (as if that really does any good). All of them were inundated with missives from the masses against these upsurd bailouts. If we received any replies at all, were just told, “you just don’t understand.” (I will share the replies I’ve received from Harry Reid on this if anyone would like to see them). Just last night I tried to send another note to my senators and congressman and their servers were overloaded. So I well suppose there are many of us still participating in this futile exercise in modern civics.

I have a new idea – we need to get an excused absence note from our congressional representatives, similar to what we used to get from Mom, to be excused from paying our taxes. I am willing to bet that every single one of us, has had at least as tough a year as the millionaires getting the tax payer funded bonus’ from AIG. It can be thought of as a “you keep your money, and I’ll keep mine policy.” I am after all a much better manager of my money than the federal government or the banking industry (as I can bet is everyone else who is reading this blog post). I cover college for my children, create jobs for about 200 people with my business, and have helped about 30,000 people so far make at least $10k more per year over the past decade because of the skills they learn from Cheetah Learning. But it’s been a tough year to reconfigure my entire financial landscape as the rules were rewritten by several thousand greedy bastards in the financial world. Even though they rewrote the rules, I still have college to fund, a business to run, and retirement to consider (mine and now quite possibly my parents). I’d like to be excused from taxes this year – this has given me a wee bit of a headache and a year off is just what the doctor ordered.

Better yet, it would be nice to get the money back that went into the ether from the kids low risk college 529 accounts and what was even touted as more of a sure bet – that 401k. I’m not asking for anything extra – just put back in what was originally saved, of course adjusted for inflation. Yes, I am a bit daft, as I have been told by Harry Reid, which is why i don’t understand the bailouts. And yes I was a bit daft for not fully understanding the rules of my kid’s 529 college account and mine, and my employees 401k accounts.

For all this stupidity, enough to go around really on all fronts, please excuse Michelle from taxes for the year. Maybe for good measure, give her a pass on the next decade.

Thanks Harry, John, and Dean – I’ll make sure to put something extra in this year’s Holiday Greeting card if you’ll do me this little favor this year.

Project Management Fundamentals Certificate Program

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

My blog sidekick, Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM opened my eyes to the fact that the Generation Y folks really are the Y-Not generation.  Why not just go for it young and get all the education and credentials you can to be as successful as you can as soon as possible.   She is meeting all types of generation Y types who live by this credo.   So I decided to give them an extra boost and created a certificate program for people just starting their careers to give them a boost into higher levels of management faster.   I was lucky when I started my career – I was an Air Force ROTC graduate and the Air Force tossed me right into a management position overseeing multimillion dollar testing programs.  I got to deal with people at high levels of industry from around the world in a unique position – as their customer.   I learned VERY fast how to move in those circles, the lingo, the look, the tools.    By the age of 25, I had enough guts and know how to set out on my own and hit a block buster success with my first business.    Yes, I had subsequent failures as I spread my wings into areas where I did not yet know how to fly – but once I learned the solid foundation of project management, I was able to easily soar with my business pursuits.    Had I known at the age of 25 what I know now, I would’ve prevented the sputtering stalls I had in my mid-30’s.   I want to give the Gen Y folks the tools to surpass my success story and that is why I created the PM Fundamentals Certificate Program that helps people just starting in their career the tools to have very fast and enduring success.   It’s a five part course that teaches you how to leverage your innate strengths, how to get your projects done fast, teaches you how to pass the certified associate in project management (CAPM) certification exam so you have a credential that shows you have the requisite knowledge for PM, and then you learn how to use your PM skills to get your foot in the door and move up the career ladder fast.   I put together the program I wish I had in my 20’s.   And best of all, it passed the Kristen test.   She liked it.  (believe me she would let me know if she thought it was lame).

The Trends that Help Project Managers Capitalize on the Recession

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Carey Earle has captured the top trends facing us in business now. She was a guest on our Capitalize on The Recession radio show today. On that show, we explored how these trends can be used by project managers to capitalize on the recession. Here are the top ten trends we explored on the show: Economic Slim-Fast, Whole life living and healing, Entertainment as escapism, Back to the basics, Novel perks, DIY, The Full Monty, Generation G, Redefining Community, and ECO-Buzz.

See more on Carey’s Top Ten Current Trends.

Listen to the Capitalize on the Recession Radio Show
to see how Project Managers can capitalize on the recession using these trends.

When You Care About Your Customers, it Shows

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Road Warrior Support Another Way Southwest Airline Cares About their Customers

Road Warrior Support Another Way Southwest Airline Cares About their Customers

I’m sitting here at Bradley Airport in Connecticut waiting for my flight. I’ve spent probably 1/5th of my life the past twenty years waiting in airports. Okay, maybe it just seems like 1/5th of my life. It has been a considerable amount of time. I’m pretty much set up to be productive wherever I am – that is IF I have access to a power outlet.

On my wall of shame in this department are the United concourses in O’Hare. I have had the misfortune of being stranded in O’Hare more often than I care to remember. I have scads of frequent flyer points to allow me to lanquish the hours away in those swanky airline clubs – but for some reason whenever I get into O’Hare – wherever I have the most recent membership tends to literally be a mile or so walk. Since the ONLY reason I’ll hang in the membership club is if the flight is delayed AND I need to get some juice to my laptop lifeline, I typically opt for plugging in near my gate. Strangely enough – in the United Concourse a plug for the laptop is next to impossible to find. In my last adventure through there, I managed to find one outlet in a remote hallway between United Concourses.

Lets fast forward to today. I’m enjoying my wait for a Southwest Flight sitting in a nice club chair in their gate waiting area with a plug conveniently placed just to my right. Across from me are two bars set up with space for six road warriors. This is an airline that cares about it’s customers. Yes, they have unique boarding policies, and if you like to fly first class, that option is not available. HOWEVER, I swear they have a comfortable amount of room in their planes. You don’t have to choose between the obscene price of first class or the cramped cattle class of coach when you fly Southwest. And I swear Southwest pays attention to the needs of business travelers more than anyone else based on how they schedule their flights between the cities where business travelers frequent. I’m not sure how the other airlines pick their routes – might have something do to with the hub and spoke commitments they made years ago that have nothing to do with how business travelers move today.

When a company sets up practices and policies based on the comfort of their customers it shows. And this is what Southwest Airlines does consistently. This is what I have and continually strive to do with Cheetah Learning as well. It does appear we succeed at that based on these random customer surveys people do on my company from time to time (GSA did a survey a few years back that showed Cheetah Learning had a 96% customer service approval rating). But it has to be a continual focus as what people need does change over time. I’m sure when the United Concourses were designed, having readily available plugs for road warriors was not something in high demand. Now, not having those just well, doesn’t give you that oh so loving feeling from the airline.

For Cheetah Learning, we’re working on enhancing how quickly our students find new project opportunities after finishing their latest project and find good people to help them on their projects as well. I’ve started a group on Linkedin for Cheetah Alumni so that we can share ideas and opportunities. We do find that our students are in high demand because of a proven ability to reach their goals, FAST. Helping them better connect with each other in a way that is easy to do, shows we care about them as well.

Welcome to the World Thor – our new Belgian Blue Bull

Friday, March 6th, 2009

By Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Pixie Dust As a Baby on the Far Right.  Her Surrogate Mama on the Left.

Pixie Dust As a Baby on the Far Right. Her Surrogate Mama on the Left.

For the past six years, I have been raising Belgian Blue cattle. I got this idea by reading two magazine articles simultaneously – a Time Magazine article on the obesity crises in America and a Scientific American article on gene doping and this breed of cattle that naturally does not produce any fat, however the beef is especially tender. Being a beef eating capitalist, and also getting on in years and being told by the medical profession that red meat was bad for me, I wanted to come up with a better beef product. So I started on a quest to raise a breed of cattle that would produce beef that was actually “heart healthy.”

I got my first five Belgian Blue hefers (these are young cows that have not had babies) in 2004. They were born to surrogate dairy cows near Houston, Texas. The dairy cows were implanted with fertilized Belgian blue embryos. You see, there is a problem with this breed – the cows have a difficult time giving birth naturally. The babies are a bit large, and the cows tend to have pelvis’ that are too small for natural births. NOT A GOOD THING when you’re trying to raise free range cattle. The trick to be successful with this breed, we soon learned was to raise a variation of them that could give birth naturally. This meant literally being very Darwinian. It meant we lost some cows and their babies in child birth.

Pixie Dust with Baby Thor Shortly After Birth - March 3, 2009

Pixie Dust with Baby Thor Shortly After Birth - March 3, 2009

We had a plan on how to not lose the mother and baby by making sure the first baby created with the cow was with a small bull in another breed. This has worked well – we ended up with some very lovely Belgian Blue/Angus crossbreeds. We also purchased several Belgian Blue bulls that were small in the hopes that they would create smaller babies for the cows’ second pregnancy.

Our experiment worked. This week one of our first cows – named Pixie Dust, gave birth to a 90 pound full blood Belgian Blue bull. Both mother and baby survived and are doing well.

And to top off a great week, a friend sent me the Facetime article in Business Week about Jim Rogers. Mr. Rogers ended the interview with this statement: “So you should find yourself a nice farmer and hook up with him or her, because that’s where the money’s going to be in the next couple of decades.” Well thank you Mr. Rogers for the endorsement of my fantastic business concept that I am pulling off here – woo hoo!!!!!!!!!

Capitalize on the Recession Using Project Management

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Michelle LaBrosse, PMP
Working in the studio with my co-host, Bryne Edwards

Working in the studio with my co-host, Bryne Edwards

When times appear hopeless, and you show up offering hope and solutions, everyone wins.   As Project Managers we have the skills needed to pull us out of this recession.   This is why Cheetah Learning just did our March Know How Network article titled – “Are You Shovel Ready?” and the podcast “Calling All PMPs to Rebuild America”. And it’s why we are doing a live radio show today called Capitalize on the Recession.  It relates to being ready as a Project Manager to pounce on opportunities as they emerge.  Here is how you can capitalize on the recession as a project manager:

1. Be prepared to create value for other people FAST.   The faster you can create value, the more demand you will create for yourself.   You can learn how to do this by mastering Cheetah Project Management – this is a technique I created over 8 years ago to complete projects of significant value in under three months.

2. Know how you can leverage your innate strengths to be of the most service to others.   We are all different and those differences are what create the most value for others.   You can learn how to leverage your differences to create more value for others with our PM Strength Builder course.   

3. Make sure the commitments you are considering pursuing will make sense in another week, another month, and another year.  A good way I have found to do this sense making is with doing a project agreement on goals I am considering pursuing.   You can get a free project agreement template from the Cheetah Learning PM Tools Page. 

4. Learn how to best manage resources so you can complete your projects with a variety of non-financial capital (i.e. you don’t have to sit around and wait for the credit markets to unfreeze to pursue your goals).  I teach you how to do this in the Capitalize on the Recession online course. 

5. Ferret out the emerging opportunities that offer the most chances for you to create value.   This is based on how competitive you are in the area where the opportunity is emerging.  Not every opportunity is right for every person to pursue.   The better you can establish your competitive advantage, the more value you can create, faster.   We discuss how to do this on the live Capitalize on the Recession radio show and in the online course.

Project Management Certification- It Pays (Literally)

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

What is in a name? Would your rather take medical advice from just any Joe Shmoe, or would a DOCTOR Joe Shmoe have a little more influence on you?

In our society, a title does matter, because not only does it represent a certification and a knowledgebase, but also a dedication to a profession that is quantifiable and meaningful.

So what do the letters PMP after a name mean to you? To many employers who are actively seeking to hire, these letters can mean the difference between a second look at a resume and a shuffle to the bottom of the stack. PMP Certification, which if offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), provides a clear message to potential employers of competence and a foundation of knowledge that is crucial to be a successful project manager. Due to the extensive requirements established in obtaining and maintaining this certification, the letters PMP signify much more than just a test. Prospective PMP’s have to have a certain amount of education/work experience in order to sit for the exam, and after they have received their PMP, they must take Continued Certification Requirements in order to maintain their PMP status.

So, now that you know the benefits of having a PMP, you may be more inclined to consider obtaining this certification if you have not already done so. But what if I told you that some companies today not only prefer their Project Managers to have their PMP, but REQUIRE it? This is the reality for many organizations. Requiring PMP certification makes sense for many companies who want the assurance that their employees share the PMBOK knowledge base and are committed to staying current with their project management skills.

While I have not found a list that reveals the exact number of employers who are requiring the PMP credential (if you know of such a list existing, please share!), and cannot quantify the trend throughout the years, there is a general consensus among the Project Management community, both job seeker and employers, that the PMP is becoming the new standard. So if you have your PMP credential and are maintaining it, publicize it! If you are working towards your credential, well done, your efforts will be well worth the payback.

Thanks for reading,

Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM


Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

By: Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM

Last week I attended the PMI San Diego Chapter’s February Component Dinner Meeting, where the theme was celebrating the 2008 volunteers… OSCAR STYLE! This was an evening dedicated to honoring the people who had given back to the chapter in the form of donating their time and hard work.
My friend Sarah was one of the head volunteers at this event, and as her cohort I jumped in to provide as much help as possible. Her duties included putting together gift bags for the 150 guests that would be attending, and not just any gift bags, but Oscar style gift bags. Since the budget did not provide for fancy watches or Safari trips to Africa, creativity was a necessity.      

The gift bags that resulted were a fun mixture of popcorn, chocolate bars wrapped with Oscar Award emblems, fun-fetty (which was just the right mixture of glamour and  annoyance as it exploded out of the gift bag upon opening), and the famous gold Cheetah Learning caps. Creating these gift bags may have been a daunting job for one person, but with the promise of wine and hors d’oeuvre we found our friends could be easily persuaded to attend a gift bag making soirée.

Sarah and I arrived early to the event to help set up the Oscar themed room and to get on our best “red-carpet-interviewer” game faces. As the guests arrived, we approached them, microphone in hand, and slammed them with questions, such as “WHO are you wearing this evening?” or, the very important question, “Team Aniston or Jolie?!” Some guests were thoroughly delighted by the attention, while others were confused, but everyone’s face lit right up when we pointed them in the direction of the bar. And so the night at the Oscars- PMI style- began.  

The night was dedicated to celebrating and thanking volunteers. What I took away from this event was just how important volunteering is, a message that rings especially true for people who are employed-challenged at the moment and are looking to find not only their next job, but their next career in a field that is meaningful to them and matches their skill sets.

San Diego Chapter PMI Dinner- Oscar Style

San Diego Chapter PMI Dinner- Oscar Style

Volunteering is a very powerful tool that should not be overlooked when considering expanding your network in order to enhance your job search. Three-fourths of people find jobs through personal contacts, which means that 75% of jobs are already filled before they ever hit the job boards. Volunteering provides the opportunity to come in contact with a wide variety of people, which can never hurt when you are on the job hunt.  Another great reason to volunteer is to avoid that gap in your resume, so that when you do apply to your next job you have a slew of experience (experience is experience, paid or not) that will aidindemonstrating your skills.

So if you do find yourself with some free time on your hands, you could hole yourself up in your house and catch up on the Lost series, or you could grab your friends, your skills, and career by the bull horns and get out there and volunteer.

Thanks for reading,

Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM