Personal interests lead an alumnus to a career in project management
Weighing career options and deciding what to do in the long-term is a daunting challenge. That’s the situation where City University of Seattle alumnus Michael Cusick found himself. After living in Japan, relocating back to Seattle and working in apartment leasing for a couple of years, he was ready to move toward something more permanent.
“It was after the recession and I was a bit lost career-wise,” Michael said. “I’d been at the property for three years and they started doing renovations. I found I really enjoyed the mix of technical and process driven work that project management is all about, but balancing that with working with people. I was drawn to the fact that there’s always something new and different.”
Earning a master’s degree
Without any prior experience in the project management field, Michael took a leap and enrolled in City University of Seattle’s Master of Science in Project Management program. He chose the university for a couple of reasons.
“It’s one of few places that has global PMI accreditation,” Michael said. “I really liked having that sort of back up from the industry, recognition that you went to a reputable place. It was also flexible; I didn’t have to give up my day job.”
While the degree is offered online, he decided to take in-seat classes.
“I knew if I took online only, I wouldn’t be successful personally,” Michael said. “Going to class and interacting in person was a huge contributor to my success.”
As he progressed through the program, he found that much of what he learned in the classroom was immediately applicable in the field.
“I feel like a lot of times in academics you learn these theories, and you get out into the world and it doesn’t apply,” Michael said. “We went through all this schooling and everything is applicable. They did a good job of making it concrete and real, not just some abstract idea.”
Starting a career as a project manager
Michael got his first job opportunity in project management before finishing his degree.
“Before I even graduated, I was offered a job doing project coordination, which is similar to but not the whole scope of project management,” Michael said. “At graduation, I met a woman who worked at Boeing, and she asked if I was interested in coming there because she had work that was outside the scope of her job. I worked there for a year. Then my wife and I decided we wanted to move to Spokane, and I’ve worked at Metals Fabrication Company for the last year and a half.”
Now that he has experience, Michael has started exploring new areas within the field.
“I really like technology and enjoy IT and technology infrastructure projects,” Michael said. “It aligns my personal interest with project management. The reason I like project management hasn’t changed – it’s process oriented and people centric.”
Sharing advice with others
In a few short years, Michael has gone from being unsure of what to do with his career, to a full-time project manager. He credits much of this success to the strong foundation of skills he gained at CityU.
“I didn’t have any experience in project management – literally zero – before doing this,” Michael said. “To anybody who is unsure about taking that step, to anyone who is unsure about getting a master’s or feeling like an imposter – I had no experience, but I was wildly successful at school and very easily able to turn it into a career.”
Asked what advice he might give someone considering a career in project management, Michael said:
“Do it. It’s a great school with great people. I’m sure there are a lot of great schools, but I can’t imagine how my experience at CityU could’ve been improved upon. If anyone is not sure about CityU, knowing that they’re very open, accommodating and genuinely want their students to succeed is really neat.”