Enthusiastic Project Management Program Graduate Shares Insights

Mark McCoy

Mark McCoy, Senior Training & Development Specialist
General Dynamics NASSCO

Mark McCoy, senior training and development specialist for General Dynamics NASSCO recently completed the Project Management Professional Certificate program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, and reached out to share this testimonial:

“The program was awesome and I hope to get some of my colleagues to attend. The instructors were engaging and knowledgeable, and the coursework was challenging yet manageable for working folks. Even though I have had a lot of PM experience and coursework, I found a great deal of application for the program to my work. Thanks for driving such a cool program.”

Naturally, we wanted to know a bit more about his experience, both in his career and with the program.

Can you give us a brief history of your career – where you got your degree, and how you came to be at General Dynamics NASSCO?
I spent 20 years in the military and retired in 2003. Before I retired, I managed to earn a bachelor’s degree then I started on a master’s in Organizational Management. NASSCO hired me while I was still on active duty and I immediately went to work after I left the service.

What are your primary duties as senior training and development specialist?
My two primary duties are instructional design and training delivery. Both functions involve a high degree of project management.

How did you hear about the SDSU College of Extended Studies’ Project Management program?
Part of my job duties is to provide employees with local learning resources. I have known about CES and the PM certificate for many years.

What did you hope to gain by taking the program?
After being out school for seven years, I wanted to go back and take a course of study that I could apply to my work. Since most of my job requirements are project-based, I chose Project Management.

How did SDSU’s Project Management courses differ from your previous PM coursework?
My prior coursework was online. I also went through a week long PM “boot camp.” I think CES’ course was different because of the caliber of the instructors. My biggest compliment to them (and I gave them direct feedback on this) was their ability to keep weary adult learners engaged in the class. They were enthusiastic and transferred that energy to their classes.

You had commented that the coursework was challenging yet manageable for working folks. How many hours per week did you invest?
While it varied, I spent about four hours outside of class on homework and projects. Team projects may have added another hour.

Did you take all eight courses in the program? If so, what was your capstone project?
I completed all of the courses. For the capstone project, my wonderful team decided to have some fun and we put on a rubber duck race to benefit a local group.

What gems of wisdom did you come away with from courses such as Team Building, Procurement, and Scope, Time and Cost?/strong>
The common key point to all the courses was the importance of planning. Many project teams spend little time on charters, team selection and communications planning. This often results in difficult and even failed projects. The importance of planning was emphasized throughout the courses and is one of the major takeaways.

How important was it that the instructors actually worked as project managers in local companies?
The experience base of the instructors was very important and increased the credibility and relevance of the course work.

Do you think professionals from certain industries would benefit more from having project management skills, or is it a skill we can all benefit from?
PM is a skill that cuts across every industry. I think many people believe they have project management skills, but until they get some coursework behind them, those skills may not be effective.

Just since you completed the program, did a situation come up at work where you were able to directly apply something you had just learned, and head off a potential problem?
The importance of creating a project charter came up recently. Many people want to jump to creating a schedule, but before a team does that, a well-defined project charter has to be created. I was able to point that out and we are now going to concentrate on this issue in future projects.

Many companies require key employees–and those of any organization they work with–to be certified project managers. Why do you think that is?
A certificate program provides a common knowledge and skill set that enables better project communication. Speaking the same language among different projects is very important.

Did the program lead to any networking opportunities with fellow students or instructors?
There are a lot of networking opportunities in the course. Many students were in transition and were able to make contacts. I offered to network if any of those folks were interested in NASSCO.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Only that is was an awesome experience!