Deanna, Portfolio Manager and Director of the Board of Directors of the Project Management Institute (2009-2014)

Today, I am very excited to portray the first American female project manager in this blog - the amazing Deanna Landers: 

  • Deanna has more than 30 years of project management experience in big player organizations such as IBM and Charter Communications

More on Deanna's work with the PMI can be found here.

  • She ist the founder of the nonprofit-organization "Project Managers Without Borders" which aims to apply project management expertise to community challenges, to make a positive difference in the world.
  • Deanna holds a MBA from the University of Colorado and BS in Computer Science from the California State University.  
  • She lives with her family in the Greater Denver Area.

Dear Deanna, why did you go into project management in the first place? 


When I was starting my career as a programmer, if you were good at what you did, you were often tapped to manage people who did what you were doing. When I began to manage a team, I didn't realize I was a project manager and project management wasn't a career I'd ever considered. But over time I learned the tools of the trade and met many people who became my mentors, and now I've been enjoying the profession for almost 30 years.

I had an opportunity to talk with Dan Pink, the author of Drive and other business and behavioral science books, and he was fascinated by the thought of going from a programming job where you sit in a corner staring at a screen without interacting with others, to a project management job where you are constantly communicating and balancing human needs and desires, including those of the people sitting in the corner staring at screens. Though I enjoyed the programming role, including the solitude, I didn't have much difficulty transitioning into the project management role. The hardest part was going from seeing the results of your work immediately, on the screen, to seeing the results a bit later, on the screens of others. I actually found the people part of the work much more rewarding after time.


What do you like about this particular profession?


What I like most about project management is the constant change. Because projects by definition are temporary endeavors, there's always a new and different need that has to be filled, a new challenge to undertake. This means that I'm never bored, and always have to be on my toes to figure out how to apply the many tools of the trade to each new situation.

Another thing I love about project management is that the professional community is so supportive of one another and of the profession. There are many conferences, seminars, and other events where PMs gather to share knowledge and experience. Even those in competing companies and industries put those differences aside and focus on improving themselves and the profession as a whole. And improving the profession of project management is improving the world. That's because any change, improvement, innovation, or delivery of a strategic plan is through project management. 


As the founder of „Project Managers Without Borders“, what role do you see for project management in driving social change?  


Since every new endeavor, whether in the social sector, private or public sectors, is managed with project management, the profession is just as important for social change as it is for business or government change. The level of project management maturity and the skill level of those PMs involved will determine to some extent the level of success the organization will have with the change they are attempting to implement. Currently in the social sector there are many well-meaning people who are passionate about what they do, as engineers, doctors, food service people, etc, but they don't necessarily know much about project management.  If we can support this sector in improving their skills, tools, processes in project management, they could provide even greater impact. They could do more with the limited resources they have, and make the world even better through project management.


Could you describe us one exemplary project of „Project Managers Without Borders“ and how your organization supported? 


We recently completed a project for the people and government of Ghana that we learned about at the second annual PMI Africa Conference held in Ghana in 2016. A PMWB director from Belgium was attending the event and learned that every year the city of Accra floods, but not much had been done to mitigate the reoccurring disaster.  He engaged project managers, engineers, experts in water treatment and others from Africa and Europe, from PMWB and several PMI chapters, held workshops to collect information and develop action plans for the government. Then he met with the government of Ghana to learn and determine what the team could do to help the most.  The team met several times and ended up developing a comprehensive stakeholder list, and action plans to address the flooding.  


More on this project can be found here


What do you see as the value in volunteering with our project management skills?


I'm glad you asked! I gain so much from my project management volunteering activities, so I'd highly recommend others volunteer some of their project management life skills as well. It's so rewarding to make a difference in the lives of others, and to do it in a way that makes the most of our unique skills. Doing so also could lead to connections with people and cultures from around the world, opportunities for learning, and unique experiences.  Some of my closest friendships were formed through volunteering together. 


What advice would you give to a young female graduate looking to enter the project management profession?


I would tell her that she's joining an amazing profession that is has remarkable potential to develop skills and a toolset that she will be able to apply in various areas of her life, not just her career. Also, I would mention that confidence is key to any profession.

Women tend to have less confidence than men overall, perhaps because of hormones, or upbringing, or society, but that doesn't mean that we have any less potential or are any less skilled, knowledgeable or prepared. Success in project management is in our control, and if we decide to step forward and take action, focus on the end result and do what it takes to excel, then we will excel. Part of that preparation means staying informed about evolving trends and new approaches, being involved in the profession outside the day job, connecting with peers, and contributing to the profession through support of local professional associations or other nonprofits.