Josh Nankivel is a Project Manager who produces the training at
He writes great blog articles and serves as a leader in the Project
Management community. He sets a high standard for a Mind on a Mission
and I hope you enjoy hearing his story as much as I did.
Please welcome Josh to the blog podium. (insert large crowd
What is your proper title at work? Senior Project Manager,
Director of the Project Management Office, Guy Everyone Cusses
Probably the last one, "Guy Everyone Cusses At"
at least unofficially :-) My official title is Senior Systems
Engineer / Project Manager for the Ingest, Subsetter, Inventory,
and MDS ground systems of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
(LDCM), a joint project between NASA and the USGS.
you start to become a Project Manager and what did you have to
sacrifice for that goal?
I first started managing projects
around 1998. I was 20 years old and in my first management role in
the training department of a major computer manufacturer. I just
called it 'getting things done' back then when we created a new
system or product.
It wasn't until 2004 when I discovered this
thing called "Project Management" and that there were
organizations and standards out there. It was a real paradigm
shift for me. The more I researched about what project management
was, the more I said "out of everything I love about the
roles I've had, this 'project management' thing is the part I love
and am best at."
Probably the biggest sacrifice was
when I went back to school to get a degree in Project Management.
I was very passionate about learning everything I could, which is
probably the only thing that got me through it. I worked a
full-time job during the day, and trudged to class every night. It
was a full-time class load and I took every class offered during the
summers. I finished the 4-year BSc in Project Management degree in
a little over 3 years. It was an exhausting stretch.
from my degree, there have been several times in my career where I've
taken a "step down" in order to get my foot into the right
company or department for long-term advancement in project
management. Moving down in pay and responsibility level is a hard
pill to swallow, but if it's a strategic move it can and probably
should be done. I've given up management roles to take individual
contributor roles like "project coordinator" for instance,
which is how I moved into my current project with remote sensing
satellites. It took me a year to learn the ropes and lingo for how
the systems work in aerospace and satellite ground systems before I
was ready to even think about managing project teams in this
Who has helped you become the success you are
Thousands of people too numerous to mention. I
credit the authors of all the books I've read, the great people
I've worked with and for who have taught me lessons along the way,
and the fantastic people I've had the privilege to interact with
online through my blog and elsewhere. I learn new things with
The constant drive to learn and listen to
other people's experiences and opinions are exactly what makes
people better and better. There was a time when I was a young
"hotshot" who had a pretty big ego. I was afraid to admit
when I didn't know something, and always thought my way was the
best way. Only after I matured a bit more did I realize that if
I'm not listening to other people, I'm not learning jack squat.
There is a huge difference in my professional growth rate and I
can't recommend LISTENING as a primary mode of communicating with
peers and advisers enough.
You do a lot of things for the
Project Management Community; run the PM Student Website, a lead
contributor for the "Career in Project Management" LinkedIn
Group, teach project management on-line, work as a project manager,
and now you are coming out with a free course for new project
managers. How do you stay fresh and rejuvenated with all that going
There's really only one "secret": Do what
you love, and it will never feel like work.
I love that quote. It has been guiding me for two decades.
I've been writing and training about project management since 2006
and I simply love teaching people about project management and
trying to make sure everyone (including me) is doing the best work
we possibly can.
Another thing that sustains me is all the
great people out there who genuinely appreciate what I'm doing for
them. When I started really listening to people I also realized
that to live a fulfilling and happy life, I had to make it
primarily about helping other people. I realized that when you
give freely, you get back the things that help sustain and fulfill
you and make it all worthwhile. If I were just concerned
about collecting a paycheck and putting my time in, there's no way
I could do this.
Sometimes it is tough to keep going, there
are good and bad stretches. But then someone leaves a positive
review on my book or sends me an email about how a training course
or article helped them. Maybe to land a job, gain a certification,
or just understand a new concept they've been struggling with.
Those help keep me energized too.
What do you wish someone
had told you early on in your career?
I wished there had
been some resource that focused on helping new project managers
get into the field in the first place and figure out how to do
it. That's really why I created the blog in the first place,
because I had no resources like that when I started. It was all
experienced people talking about advanced topics that went way
over my head most of the time. There are hundreds of individual
questions I wish someone would have been there to answer for me
early on. I try to answer them with my writing and
Who do you turn to for
Everywhere available to me. Offline, online.
Books, articles, journals, blogs, podcasts. I like to study areas
that aren't really just about project management but a somewhat
related topic. I like to try and figure out how seemingly
unrelated concepts can apply to project management. Most of my
current inspiration comes from the Software and Systems
Engineering discipline, but in the past I've learned a lot from
people who focus more on other areas like process
improvement/engineering, people management and leadership, or
My blog and forum groups are great resources for
me to learn too. I've interacted with thousands of people this
way, and I learn new things all the time. People who haven't
written a book or whatever can still have tremendous wisdom and
experience to share with you....if you are only willing to listen.
Sometimes in answering someone's question about a topic it becomes
clear to me that I've been doing it wrong. I just hadn't
been prompted to think deeply about that particular aspect of
project management before. These "light bulb moments"
are awesome for me.