Q&A with Randy Smith, PMP®, CSM

It’s often helpful to hear about peers’ career trajectories and progression when thinking about where to take your career next. Randy Smith, PMP®, CSM is a PMA Student since 2016 and PMAccelerateTM Member with 30 years of Project Management experience. He is currently a Project Management Supervisor, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

PMP Credential Holder

Q: How did you decide to become a project manager?
Upon deciding to retire from the U.S. Coast Guard as the Officer in charge of a ship, I was at a crossroads on what direction I wanted to go in life. Though I could have easily stayed in the maritime industry, I was looking for something different. Having managed many vessel maintenances and rehabilitation projects and collaborated with various other agencies to carry out our many missions, I decided that formal Project Management would be my path.

Q: What inspired you to pursue your PMP® certification?
Over the years as a project management consultant in the telecom industry, I saw many interesting positions that I had to pass up because the PMP was a requirement. In most cases, the resume wouldn’t make it past HR if that requirement wasn’t met. Aside from that, I knew the PMP would make me stand out more predominantly in a very competitive field. It has opened doors for me and enabled me to attain the role I have now with PG&E, a premier utility company.

Q: In your current role at PG&E, what are some of your favorite responsibilities as project manager? Least favorite?
Far and above all else, my team and coworkers are the highlight of my job. As a Project Management Supervisor, I lead a team of Project Managers to deliver electric distribution capital construction projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Being able to support their success and bring a positive image to PG&E in doing so would be my favorite responsibility. Another would be involvement in a Tiger Team that is helping the organization achieve a higher Project Management Maturity Level. I think my least favorite is like a lot of other leaders who miss the front line, hands on aspects of managing projects. That is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Supervisors are able to get time in the field with their teams.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to continuously learn and improve your project-management related knowledge?
Aside from the obvious need to obtain PDU’s for recertification, the project management field changes so rapidly. When I took the PMP, Agile was barely a whisper in the PMBOK or on the exam. Today, agile and waterfall project management are often used in a more hybrid fashion. Also, as we focus on continuous improvement in the way we manage projects, we need to continuously learn and share the tips, tools, and change that comes at us.

Q: What topics have you / do you seek to learn more about and why? (e.g. Agile, Business Analysis, Leadership, IT, etc.)
Having been in leadership for over 30 years, I still constantly seek additional training and practice honing those skills. Building high performing teams and watching those team members grow both personally and professionally brings great pride and satisfaction. I do like to learn more on data driven solutions and business analysis, but the leadership skill building is my favorite. Recently I was a Leadership mentor in a cohort through the San Francisco Chapter of PMI.  The ability to pass on leadership knowledge and skills was so rewarding and I was able to learn from the mentees and expand my network even more. I call that a win win.

Studying for the PMP Exam?

Q: How has PMA helped your career?
Wow, PMA opened a lot of doors for me. When I decided to obtain the PMP certification, I researched some of the many resources that are available. I read great things about PMA and found that you offered a Veterans course every year around Veterans day at an extremely deep discount. I took advantage of it and was able to pass the PMP on my first try. I continuously follow PMA on LinkedIn and take advantage of your resources to continue honing my skills.

Q: What is your favorite feature of the new PMAcceleate program and why?
I would have to say that having PMAccelerate resources for keeping up with tools and techniques would be my favorite. I’ve not taken advantage of any discounts on training yet but that is nice to have available since PMBOK seven is right around the corner. It’s great that you have the job search functionality, but I hope that’s one that I never have to use since I love working at PG&E!

Q: What do you know now about project management/your career that you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish in my early days of project management that I knew how many doors the PMP would open. I stayed content where I was professionally for far too long. Instead of being content like I was, I would tell others to constantly strive for enhancement of knowledge and skills. My entire professional life I have strived for success but for some reason I waited way too long to obtain the PMP. I don’t know, maybe it was fear or the test since you always hear how daunting it can be. However, it is achievable and thanks to PMA for helping me do so!

Q: What advice would you give to project managers looking to take the next leap in their career? Take a course and get your PMP. I tell PMs who are preparing for the test to make a project out of getting PMP certified and deliver that project. Set your schedule for training and studying and stick to it. It also makes a difference where you work. Some companies are not very project management focused and do a lot of what I call, “managing by spreadsheet”. Working at a company that invests in their project management practice makes a huge difference in your ability to take that next leap.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO