Multi-million dollar project manager goes back to school
By many measures, Melissa Slater has had a successful career. After starting out as a drafting intern when she was 19 years old, she’s gone on to work in the engineering and architectural design field for more than 25 years, and is currently managing a multi-million dollar portfolio. Impressively, she worked her way up for most of her career without a college degree, but with her sights set on the goal of becoming the Director of Projects at her company, she decided to go back to school.
“I went back to college in 2013 and attained my Bachelor of Applied Science in Project Management from Columbia Basin College, and two of my mentors in that program recommended that I continue and get my master’s degree, and recommended I look at CityU,” Melissa said.
Following their advice, Melissa looked at several degree programs. She ultimately narrowed her choices down to her top two Master of Science in Project Management programs.
“When I compared the programs side-by-side they were really close as far as the academic perspective, but CityU was far more cost effective,” Melissa said. “I went with CityU because I felt I was going to get a fantastic education at a reasonable cost, and at almost 50-years-old having the ability to mitigate cost was huge. The other thing I found unique was that the accreditation CityU has (ACBSP) is the same level in the business world as the Harvard School of Business, which indicated to me that the program at CityU was top shelf.”
Applying project management lessons on the job
Melissa is currently in her final quarter and will finish the program in September.
“The professors have been great mentors, and some have become my friends,” Melissa said. “They’ve challenged me to raise the bar, and they’ve helped me elevate the way I think about project management. The fundamentals I learned in my baccalaureate program positioned me to succeed, but CityU taught me a whole different level of information. I have avenues of growth they’ve pointed me to so I can maintain a high level in my field even after graduation.”
The knowledge that Melissa has gained has already helped her excel in her current role.
“The one huge ‘aha moment’ I had when I was going through this program is that the people are the projects, and when I put effort into taking care of my people and get the skills and tools to better serve them, the sky is the limit to achievement for project management,” Melissa said. “That is the key that opened the door to everything, and has shown in dividends. Month after month, I’ve been on the top of the heap. Our teams are thriving, the people are happy and we’re getting paid well.”
Offering advice to future project managers
Melissa has a hectic schedule. As a full-time employee and a full-time student, she juggles a lot of responsibilities.
“I’ve been able to maintain my educational status and work full time by having great time management skills,” Melissa said. “It’s not only important in life. For anyone who is going to succeed as a project manager, it’s number one important. Stay ahead and self-motivated.”
Asked what advice she has for future project management students, Melissa said:
“I would tell them that the program will be the best thing they could ever do. Be prepared to understand the concepts they’ll be teaching and to do additional research and discovery to make the most of it.”