One of the greatest benefits of engaging in a learning experience is being able to take what is newly acquired and bring its value to the real world.
We sat down and chatted with recent graduate Ally Hepp '21, P.B.C. Project Management about what she learned in her time studying at UMBC and how it's helped her gain a greater grasp on the role of project management as it relates to her position.
Tune in now!
About UMBC's P.B.C. in Project Management
The Project Management certificate program at UMBC provides experienced professionals with industry-relevant technical and soft skills. Our coursework will help you develop the critical analysis capabilities necessary to successfully complete projects and lead high-performing technical, virtual, and international teams. Upon graduation, you will demonstrate the ability to apply sound project management practices as outlined by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Welcome to UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona. I am from the Office of Professional Programs here at UMBC. I am here with a very special guest Ally Hepp. She is a UMBC employee, but she is also a student in the project management certificate program here at UMBC. And with a desire to enter the engineering management master's program in the future, Ally, welcome.
Ally Hepp 0:26
Thank you very much. It's nice to be here.
Dennise Cardona 0:29
Yeah, it's really nice to have you here. I wanted to talk with you a little bit today about your experiences with the graduate program, and maybe just a little bit of your background.
Ally Hepp 0:40
Absolutely. I work at UMBC in the department of information, information technology as an AV specialist. So I work in our audio visual department. I deal a lot with system design for classroom tech, departmental tech, systems design, project management, AV installs, which always every day is a little different. I love that. And then some programming as well.
Dennise Cardona 1:06
So Ally, what was your catalyst for enrolling in the project management certificate program?
Ally Hepp 1:12
So as a UMBC employee, I was looking for a master's program. So I actually because of my role, I do a lot of project management. And it's something that's always interested me, I used to work at events, and I love the wrangling. Lots of things. That's something I love. So wrangling projects is just so much fun. So I actually enrolled in the project management certificate program at UMBC. I guess it would have been early 2020. And I've been slowly kind of working my way through there and then hoping to officially start the master's in engineering management this summer.
Dennise Cardona 1:54
So yes, organization for project management in wrangling projects, multiple projects. It is it takes a skill. It's I think it's like an art and a science. And it's something that I continue to struggle with as a professional. So I probably would also benefit from enrolling in a program like the project management certificate as well. So far, what has been your experience with the program? Has it helped you Has it helped inform your thinking in terms of what you bring to your current job?
Ally Hepp 2:24
Yes, I think it definitely has. I've only been in a few classes so far. And they've all been online due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Regardless of that, I think I've learned quite a bit that I can relate back to my current job. Little like tidbits here and there. better ways to do things, better ways to organize myself, and my projects, keeping all of that kind of in a contained bubble. And then reading about more cases and other ways to do things and hearing from classmates in a variety of different fields, and how they can apply those to their jobs. That's what's really interesting to me. My experience so far is most of my classmates are also professionals, only a few have been full time grads, graduate students, most of us are in full time or part time jobs, in our careers in doing this as well. So it's kind of nice to be with people who are also trying to maintain the balance between work and school and life. And also hear their experiences in the workplace, see how they're applying project management skills to software development, and construction management, where and I mean, it kind of applying all these same principles to so many different fields is really interesting to me.
Dennise Cardona 3:42
And it's such a complex thing to do. And there's, I always feel like if there's a system or a process in place, it can make it can make things feel a lot more manageable. And are you feeling that way? Are you learning skills right now that that make it that make the processes that you deal with on an everyday basis? Feel more manageable?
Ally Hepp 4:02
Absolutely, I think so. My I had a bit of a background in events, I've done a lot of events and like kind of taking the massive information and everything and condensing it down into a very organized like day long affair. I love taking all of that and merging it into one condensed pile that is organized and clean and neat. So doing that with a project that I don't have control over everything that you never do. Even in an event you certainly don't doing that with a project is just as fun to me over a longer period of time. It's not condensing it into one weekend of activities or a day of something it's condensing it into. Okay, we have three weeks for this project. So how are we going to plan out every single day and account for all of these different things? And yes, it's very interesting and lots of new techniques.
Dennise Cardona 4:59
That's all actually, it sounds like a lot of fun. And it sounds very necessary in the workplace, I'll tell you that. I know like for myself with video production, there's a lot of project management involved, because there's a lot of moving pieces. And so I'm assuming that that's, you find that too. And I also do some event planning. So there are a lot of nuts and bolts that all need to have, they need to find their place in the world. And so I guess it's your job as a project manager of these types of events, or even systems as you're working in now, to be able to make it to take some complex major thing that's happening, and condense it down to something more simplified and digestible, if you will. So everybody else can also digest it and work the system.
Ally Hepp 5:44
Dennise Cardona 5:45
Absolutely. What were your expectations, when you first enrolled in the project management certificate program,
Ally Hepp 5:53
To be totally honest, I kind of had been planning on going back for a Master's at some point in the future. I wasn't sure what I wanted, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go, I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. So I've kind of been like, you know, still weighing it in my mind, but hadn't done anything. And then, in early 2020, shortly before COVID hit, I was like, Well, you know, I have a bit of free time this spring. And turned out I had a lot more free time when I expected once. Let's march it. I was like I have a little bit of free time, maybe I'll just do a class for fun. So I started looking at different things. And I found the project management program, I thought I could apply a lot of this to my job. It's something I've always enjoyed. So I'm going to try it we're going to see, and I started with the project management certificate, because I kind of figured well, for classes, I can do that knock that out pretty quick. If I don't like it, I'll stop, move on to something else. Right. And if I like it, I have four classes towards the Masters in Engineering Management. I'm three classes in I think, and I do really enjoy it, I think I probably will continue into the engineering management program. Just got to get the application done. Hopefully for the fall, he's I'm really enjoying it so far. My little experiment kind of worked so
Dennise Cardona 7:13
Awesome. It's funny because something similar happened to me too, when COVID hit and I actually enrolled in August of 2020. For the fall semester. It took me a little time, but I kept going. I do I produce all of the information sessions that we do for the professional programs. And I've listened and marketed to the ones for the LA PT, which is the Learning and Performance Technology graduate program for 14 years now. And for some reason, it clicked this year, when I was listening to Dr. Greg Williams talk about it. I was sitting there saying, Gosh, this sounds like it'd be something interesting. And I don't know about you. But during the pandemic, I felt like I needed to do something just a little different in terms of outside of work, because we were on our computers all day and I love what I do. But I needed something to challenge myself. So I wasn't thinking about the big scary world outside.
Ally Hepp 8:02
Absolutely. I completely agree. That's exactly what I was looking for. I needed something different credit something, even though it's still mostly on my computer, something a little different, something fun. So yeah, I completely agree. Yeah, why not?
Dennise Cardona 8:16
Why not? Right. And as UMBC staff, we get a tuition remission. So that works out nicely. And I did the same thing. I dipped my toe in one class, I said, I'll just take one for the fun of it. That's exactly my attitude. Do this for the fun of it, dip my toe in it. And now I'm, I took two classes this semester. And now I'm just going through the whole I'm just gonna do it. I'm committed to the whole master's program. So good for you. Yeah. What was your biggest fear? Did you have an apprehension before enrolling in this graduate program?
Ally Hepp 8:49
I did. I was a little apprehensive of balancing work and life and school. I was a little also a little nervous about being in like a night class again. And being in school again. It's certainly been a few years. Like, I know how to write papers, I've done that. It's just I haven't had to write them in a while. So kind of getting back into the groove of having homework and discussion boards and getting on class like one night a week. It was a bit of an adjustment. My class right now runs until 10:10. And it's a struggle staying awake and like alert for that long at night. That's not something I've done since undergrad. Back then I love night classes and now I'm kind of like, man, like, I'm like 1010 is is late for me. So I was a little apprehensive about that. But it has been really good. I've had great professors so far great classes, and it's been engaging and I haven't had a problem. So
Dennise Cardona 9:54
You're able to stay away. That's Oh, yeah.
Ally Hepp 9:57
Like classes like I Oh, Ha, they struggle. But
Dennise Cardona 10:03
yeah, and of course, all of our programs work the professional programs happen to be at night. So yeah, but
Unknown Speaker 10:10
some of them are so convenient. I know it is,
Dennise Cardona 10:13
it really is because you know, it doesn't mess with your work schedule. It's yeah, adaptable to working professionals. And so if it's the synchronous course, like, I'm in a synchronous course, which means I have to be there from seven to 930. And by 930, my eyes are like, Oh, my gosh, I need to go to sleep.
Ally Hepp 10:30
Yeah. Especially after working all day. And then I think the the balance is, is a little tough at times. But I feel like it's working. Even though there are, there are some times when I'm like, oh, man, like, I have to be on another zoom call or another WebEx call today. But it all works out. In the end,
Dennise Cardona 10:53
it all works out. And I think it makes us stronger. In the end, you know, you go through the column challenges and not really challenges in you think about in the grand scheme of life, but it's a way to get out of our comfort zone, right and do something out of that routine. And really, that's what I was looking forward to get out of my routine. It sounds like that's what you were looking forward to. So stantly Any we did it? Let's talk about your fellow classmates. Was there a is there I should say a spirit of collaboration amongst you. Are they you did mention that they are working professionals? Are they bringing their experiences into these Blackboard discussions? If you will, the ones that are happening online? What is absolutely,
Ally Hepp 11:33
Yeah, absolutely. Most of us are working professionals, I think my class there probably only one or two who are graduate students full time. And even then I believe they have internships as well. So we're all in some way engaged professionally. It's really interesting to hear, we do some discussions in my class right now we do some discussions over in class. And then we do a bunch of discussion boards. So it's interesting to hear from everyone their experiences, how they can apply things we've learned in class to their own jobs. We're all kind of in a variety of fields, we have variety of backgrounds. So it's really interesting to like, kind of compare experiences and see how it's affecting everyone. It's also really interesting, in light of the current COVID pandemic, to hear from everyone regarding that we've had a few discussion boards in class discussions about how is COVID affected your job? Are you remote? Are you in person? Are you both? Are you? Yeah, and we've all kind of had different experiences. And it's really interesting to hear from everyone, how it's gone. And we have some international students as well, that have been working in other countries and trying to manage a US schedule on a different time zone. And so it's really interesting to hear all those stories. And I think, although we are fully online, we do have a good sense of collaboration. And we all work together, even though it's just virtually,
Dennise Cardona 13:07
Yeah, it's gonna be really exciting to be able to work collaboratively like that with people from especially across the world International to get their perspectives, and especially in this COVID days to be able to get their their perspective on COVID. And how it affects a workplace environment. Because what I'm sure it's so completely different in different parts of the country, different parts of the world, even here in Maryland for some people. Yeah, so that's going to be that I think it adds to the value of the virtual world, if you will, but also it adds to the value of professional programs, even when we're in person, because having that that conversation with people who are outside your typical sphere, you're able to see the world and experience it through a different lens than you would just in your everyday life. And I think that helps to shape us as professionals.
Ally Hepp 13:59
Absolutely, absolutely. Everyone has different backgrounds, we have a few who have been in their careers for 3035 years and are now coming back to get a masters or certificate. And then we have some like me who have been in their fields for a few years, and are just coming back and some who just finished their undergrad and are doing internships. So it is interesting to kind of weigh all of those experiences and see how we can all we all have similarities and see how we can all apply the same concepts to our own lives in very different ways.
Dennise Cardona 14:33
Yeah, that's so true. Can you talk a little bit about how the faculty members that you've had so far have encouraged you with your educational journey?
Ally Hepp 14:44
I haven't met any of my faculty members in person, of course. I've obviously it's all been aligned at this point. But everyone's been very great. Encouraging. Very good like with feedback on papers. Discussion Boards and even just replying and talking in class about anything and everything. It's been a good experience. Although it's been a little distant at times, they've really worked hard to still make it feel like a community and feel like we're all together even if we might not be physically together.
Dennise Cardona 15:21
Yeah, that's so true. Because that's one thing about UMBC has such a strong community feel, that's never been more apparent than during this COVID experience, and just being on some of the virtual events and the the leadership and just how welcoming they are, how they communicate, how they communicate, how they are just open and transparent. And some beautiful community really is we all they all want. We all want what's best for everybody. And that's how it feels. So that's a great place to be to, to learn as well as to work. It's a great thing. What advice would you give to somebody who is maybe considering going to college, but they're working full time, they have a busy schedule outside of the classroom? How you talked a little bit about balance and work life balance being one of your your apprehensions at first. And also a challenge? Can you talk about how you do balance that out?
Ally Hepp 16:15
I'm highly scheduled. I feel like everything in my life is kind of on a schedule, and that's okay. I also when when you're busy, you learned how to prioritize your time, I definitely like I had a few things that weren't as important to me that I had to let go. But I decided that, you know, my continuing my education was more important to me than some minor extracurriculars or hobbies or things like that, you do really learn how to balance your time. One thing I learned in undergrad, I was very busy in undergrad. And the less time I had to complete a task, the more focused I could be, if I said, I only have an hour and I need to do these three things, I could get those three things done if an hour versus you know, now if I say okay, I have three hours, I should probably get a couple of things done. It's gonna take me a little bit longer to do those. So definitely like prioritizing your time, establishing your priorities. If education wasn't a priority to me, I wouldn't be dedicating this time to it. But it is a priority. It's something I want to do, I know it's going to benefit me in the long run. And I'm really enjoying it. So it's one of my top priorities. So I make sure I have time for it. And I make sure I blocked my schedule on those nights. So I know I have time to sit down and focus in class. I think it's all about prioritizing and scheduling as much as you need to.
Dennise Cardona 17:46
Yeah, you know, when you were talking, it reminded me of this might be on my mind, because I was just doing it but weeding the garden. So in other words, when you prioritize, and it sounds like you had to do that, you have to decide, okay, I have to give some things up certain hobbies or just fun, maybe some different fun activities that you used to partake in prior to graduate school. And that's no different than weeding a garden, just getting rid of the weeds so that the actual plants can grow and have the nourishment, they need to be able to focus and be as strong as they can be. And so that's kind of what the analogy is that I think of when I think of what because I had to do the same thing. You have to you have to do those priorities. You have to look at what's at stake and say, Do I really need to binge watch Netflix? Netflix anymore? I mean, okay, maybe during the early days of the COVID, the lockdowns it was necessary because there was nothing else my mind wanted to do. But now okay, maybe I can let go of the remote control. It's not as healthy for me as a graduate classes.
Ally Hepp 18:44
Yeah, like looking 50 years down the road. I'm not going to regret the time that I spent furthering my education, if I spent all this time like watching Netflix or you know, doing maybe some other useless things, some minor hobbies, I can I can do that once I finished this. So prioritizing.
Dennise Cardona 19:05
Yeah, I love that. What would you say is so far your favorite course and why?
Ally Hepp 19:12
I'm in a management leadership Communications course right now that I'm really enjoying. It's a lot of work. But I'm getting a lot out of it. I feel like I'm learning to be a better leader. I'm learning more about so many different types of leadership and things you can do to improve communication in an organization with others, personally and professionally. I also took project management fundamentals, which is like the very beginning of it all, really sort of all of the things I've been doing for years to organize events and organize myself and expand upon them and figure out like, oh, there's actually a term for this or all these things that I've been sketching out on paper. There's actually a chart that does all this for you It kind of solidified a lot of things in my mind and really kind of cleaned up a lot of processes that I had in my head, kind of put them on paper for me and cleaned up like, oh, I can do this, this and this and streamline some things. And there are actual terms for these things that I've been like, making up as I go. So that was really interesting to kind of get some of the fundamentals that I've been kind of making up for years, put them, put them to paper and have them actually be real, and learn some true definitions and some real concepts behind them.
Dennise Cardona 20:39
I love that very applicable skills that you can learn on Wednesday night and bring into the classroom or I mean, workplace on Thursday, right? So it's very applied. That's what I like about it's very applied learning. And you can everything you're learning, yes, there's some theory involved. But there's some concrete things I'm assuming that you can take away from there and and bring to your work and see it multiply.
Ally Hepp 21:04
Dennise Cardona 21:06
What was your what has been your biggest takeaway, so far, being a student at UMBC.
Ally Hepp 21:12
So I actually started at UMBC as a staff member, in January of 2020. So shortly before COVID, so I was only on campus for a couple months before we all went remote. I was back on campus part time over the summer. But it was definitely a bit strange. becoming part of the MVC is community virtually, for the most part, most people I know at UMBC. I met online, on video calls and however else, and I really learned that it's a community, it's, it's more than just a workplace. It's more than just a school. And I know everybody says this, but it is a community. Everybody has your back, they watch out for you. I might I've met some people online. And then when I see them in person, like on campus with our masks, they're like, it's that alley under there. Like it's so it's it's heartwarming, and everyone really does care. I don't feel like I'm a number. I don't feel like I'm a student in a classroom. I feel like I'm a person in a community. And that's my biggest takeaway so far is that this is not just a program, it's not just a class, it is very much a community of people who are all watching out for you, and you're watching out for them.
Dennise Cardona 22:26
Wow, I don't I can't even imagine you saying something more brilliant than that to close out this episode. Because that was really that was a beautiful summation of the UMBC spirit and you just really you just summarized it in such an amazing way. And I couldn't agree with you more. It really is that it feels like that as a staff member and as a student as well. It's it feels like that has been an amazing conversation. I've really enjoyed it. It's always so much fun to talk with somebody who is both a student and you know appear as as a as a worker as well at UMBC. It just reignites that spark and it always makes me feel like more connected. So thank you for this conversation. Thank you to everybody who's listening in. And if you want to learn more about project management certificate here at UMBC then I will be putting that in the show notes a link to it. So be on the lookout for it. Thank you so much.