Project Management Students Lands Coveted Job Before Even Completing Program

Brett Higdon

Brett Higdon in Chicago, Illinois

Who would leave beautiful San Diego for the frigid Midwest? Brett Higdon would. After graduating from St. Augustine High in North Park, he decided to test his “comfort level” and pursue higher education in Wisconsin. After graduating from Marquette University in Milwaukee with a B.A. in communications studies and a minor in public relations, Higdon held a series of jobs before moving back to San Diego, interning, then eventually landing a contractor position at the San Diego Unified School District through a project management contracting firm.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, he began taking courses in the Project Management program at San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies. Before even finishing the program,

Higdon was hired by General Atomics as an entry-level project planner.

“That was a huge step for me, both personally and professionally,” said Higdon. “Given that I was interviewing for a position that I had no background in, I’m convinced that showing an active interest in project management and demonstrating a level of seriousness and willingness to learn were the main reasons I was eventually selected for this position. Without the active participation in SDSU’s project management certificate, I do not feel my background would have been sufficient enough for consideration.”

Higdon shares his experience.

What did you hope to gain by taking SDSU’s Project Management program?
I hoped to gain a better understanding of project management principles, have something noteworthy to put on my résumé, and advance my career.

How convenient was it to fit into your schedule and how many hours per week?
I found that a three-hour class, one day a week was very convenient for my situation. Even with homework and studying, it was very manageable and I never felt overwhelmed. Including the class, I probably averaged anywhere from 6-10 hours per week depending on the amount of reading, projects, homework, etc.

What do you think are the biggest strengths of SDSU’s Project Management program?
I think the real value of the program is how concepts are reinforced with in-class activities and hands-on projects. This helps solidify one’s understanding of concepts in a fun and interactive manner.

How important was it that the instructors actually worked as project managers in local companies?
I enjoyed listening to instructors draw from their real-world experience when explaining concepts and fundamentals. It makes the information being taught much more tangible verses being purely academic, and makes what they’re saying more credible.

Do you think project management training benefits employees of certain industries more than others?
Most jobs are, at their very nature, project driven. I think anyone can benefit from project management courses, regardless of industry. Even if you don’t earn your PMP [Project Management Professional Certification], having a familiarity with project management will be valuable. It demonstrates to an employer that an employee has a grasp of project management fundamentals, understands crucial elements, and can use this knowledge to be a direct contributor to a project’s success.

How was the program instrumental in helping you get your new job?
I was able to network with the friend I had mentioned earlier who had completed and recommended SDSU’s Project Management certificate course. He had been hired by General Atomics about eight months before me and was integral in my hiring; he forwarded my résumé to his supervisors and helped prepare me for the interview.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Based on experience with other project management certificate classes offered by other universities, I would definitely recommended SDSU over the competition. SDSU instructors are much friendlier, more interactive, and legitimately want you to understand concepts and, ultimately, be successful.

<For more information on the Project Management Professional Certificate program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, please visit neverstoplearning.net/pm.