Instructor Spotlight: Madison Rose Florian, PMP, PMI-ACPJul 07, 2023
At School of PE, we employ multiple instructors to teach the material in their areas of expertise-this sets us apart from our competitors. We have received a great deal of positive feedback from our students, and we believe that learning from experts in their respective areas provides the most comprehensive learning experience.
Our Instructor Spotlight series gives you a peek behind the scenes with some of School of PE's highly acclaimed instructors. Read on to find out more about our very own Madison Rose Florian, PMP, PMI-ACP.
Ms. Florian earned her BA in Economics from the University of Colorado and then went on to work in the financial technology (fintech) industry for five years. Since 2021, she has been an independent project management consultant for small to midsize companies, and she has also partnered with School of PE to launch multiple project management certification courses for CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) and PMP (Project Management Professional). If you opt to take these courses Ondemand, it's her voice you'll hear! She also teaches PMP courses live and is a content writer for EduMind.
During the first quarter of 2023, Ms. Florian partnered with School of PE to launch a brand-new Ondemand PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) course and looks forward to its launch later this year.
What attracted you to a career in project management?
My friends can attest to the fact that I've never been great at staying in one place. This is true for my career as well! I first got involved in project management when I was about a year out of university, working as a financial consultant at a large fintech firm. I became informally involved in an internal "company culture transformation" project, and I just remember thinking how cool it was that every day, there were new and dynamic problems to solve.
I began talking with lifelong project managers who would work on a project for eight months to a year, and then they would get assigned to a new project and work on something completely different. I loved the idea of leading a project, creating something new and exciting, and then launching that into the world.
What has been your most successful project?
This was more program than project management, but I think the project that I've felt the most personal connection with was when I oversaw the "Culture, Morale, & Employee Experience" branch of a major company acquisition. The financial broker I was working for at the time announced that it was acquiring another company, and I led the project team that was responsible for the employee transition experience. This was a major undertaking-I coordinated teams that managed systems and software access for the entire company as well as teams focused on training, morale, & engagement of employees transitioning into new roles. As this company is very large, the end result was the creation of processes and guidelines for the entire organization to follow to help ease the transition for employees.
Company acquisitions are really scary, especially for the company being acquired because the employees have no idea what their role is going to look like when all is said and done. Departments get consolidated, duplicate roles get eliminated, and it's a time of major anxiety for everyone involved. On top of that, this acquisition was happening in the middle of 2020, so everyone was transitioning to remote roles at the same time-talk about stressful! It was really rewarding to be a part of a project that helped to alleviate some of that anxiety and made that transition easier for the employees we were integrating into the company.
How do you prioritize tasks in a project?
Prioritization is one of the most important parts of managing a successful project. The key to keep in mind is that you can never prioritize in a silo. I've never been the expert on any of the projects I've managed-and not only is that okay, that's expected! My job as a project manager is to enable communication between the experts. I identify and bring together the stakeholders who can help me prioritize what is most important. It's always a balance between what the business stakeholders want and what is technically possible. Usually that means I'm a constant negotiator between business representatives and my project team that will actually be doing the work. It's also important to revisit priorities often; just because something was a priority two weeks ago doesn't mean it's a priority today. Business moves at a faster pace than ever before and your customer's demands will always be changing.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a project manager?
The field of project management is the field of innovation. You are always working on something new that is going to bring functionality, capability, or something else of value to a customer. That's never easy-your plans will constantly change and you will always have to think on your toes-but that's what makes it so rewarding when you get to deliver that "shiny new thing" to your stakeholders.
What do you think is the most important skill for a project manager?
Project managers are sometimes considered to be a jack of all trades, but one of the most important skills you can have as a project manager is emotional intelligence. The ability to identify and regulate your own emotions as well as the emotions of your team and stakeholders is so important. As a project manager, you are constantly negotiating, resolving conflicts, and prioritizing the needs of many groups. The ability to understand the emotions of others will go a long way in keeping your stakeholders engaged and committed to a project. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but projects are much more likely to fail if you don't have the commitment of your stakeholders.
What is the best way to prepare for the CAPM or PMP exam?
What was true for myself when I was preparing to take the PMP exam seems to be true for my students as well. Consistent practice is key. Rote memorization will only get you so far. Unfortunately, I don't think most students can take the PMP certification course and then pass the PMP exam the next day. The exam is situational, and answering mock exam questions is one of the best ways to prepare. Luckily, we provide full-length mock exams and extensive question banks with the PMP and CAPM certification courses. I recommend setting a personal deadline to take the exam and giving yourself at least a few weeks to prepare. Set aside time to study and answer practice questions on a regular basis and take at least one full-length mock exam before taking the real test.
What are the biggest challenges with obtaining PMP certification?
Honestly, I think one of the biggest challenges is motivating yourself to commit. The PMP certification is a time-consuming exam to prepare for, and even after you are approved by PMI to take the exam, you have a whole year to take it before your application expires! This makes it really easy to put off the exam or let other things take priority. If you are serious about passing the PMP exam and obtaining your certification, I recommend treating it like a temporary second job. Stay committed to the process, and you will pass the exam before you know it. And don't wait a whole year to take the test-you might start forgetting everything you need to know!
What is your approach to teaching exam prep?
It can be a challenge to keep students engaged in a virtual classroom; that is why I attempt to make the classes as engaging and interactive as possible. There is a lot of information you need to know to pass the PMP exam, but if I just talk to you the whole time, you're not likely to absorb a whole lot. I like to blend instruction time with opportunities for students to answer open-ended, thought-provoking questions. I also end each section of the course with mock exam questions so students can see how the concepts will apply to the exam.
What study strategies would you suggest for someone taking the PMP exam?
Here is the advice I give to all my students:
• Less memorization, more understanding: Use the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), 7th Edition and the Agile Practice Guide for reference. Reading these guides cover to cover is not a time-efficient way to prepare for the exam.
• Practice, practice, practice (exams). Answering situational questions is a great way to prepare.
o Do not aim to answer the same questions every time. When you answer a question you have seen before, you are likely to have memorized the answer.
• Set aside time to study every day, especially in the week leading up to your scheduled exam date.
• Participate in study groups and online forums. Many discussion forums for the PMP exist online and can be very helpful, especially if you cannot form a study group with people you know. Just remember that information you find online is not guaranteed to be true or correct; use online forums to discuss ideas and talk through concepts you are having a difficult time understanding.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone starting out as a project manager?
I struggled heavily with imposter syndrome when I was first starting out as a project manager, and this had a lot to do with the fact that I was supposed to manage the project, but I was never the expert or the most technically advanced person on the team. I thought the term "generalized specialist" was just a buzzword that project managers used to make themselves feel better, and I spent a lot of time poring over the technical details of the solutions my team was discussing because I didn't want to look stupid when I was running a meeting.
My advice to my past self, and to anyone else starting out in project management, is this: spend enough time with the technical details to be competent, but don't stress out so much about being the expert. It's okay that you don't know everything about the backend architecture of a software solution and you don't need to know how to code in C++. That's the team's job. Your job is to know enough to ask the right questions, and to trust the team to give you truthful and thoughtful answers. Being a good communicator is much more important than knowing as much as the team does.
My other piece of less exciting advice: stay organized. Always keep important project documentation front and center, and dedicate time to organizing project documents often. Without proper documentation and artifact management, your project team members will start getting confused fast. No one likes doing the project documentation, but don't procrastinate on it because it's more important than you think.