May 31, 2016
The message was clear: “This training isn’t free. Take what you’ve learned and pass it down to your coworkers. As Project Excellence graduates, it’s your responsibility to pull others up and be the company’s leaders of tomorrow.” These words, spoken by chief operating officer John Whiteford at Pittsburgh’s historic Duquesne Club, resonated to the more than two dozen Core Project Management (Core PM) graduates poised to embrace cross-office and cross-practice collaboration as the company continues to grow.
On Thursday, May 19, the third class of Michael Baker International project managers graduated from the Core PM course, part of the Project Excellence program. Following the completion of 78 hours of classes and trainings spread across four months in Irvine, Dallas, Alexandria and Pittsburgh, the Core PM graduates earned a new toolbox of project management capabilities, leadership, presentation and negotiating techniques and, more importantly, an extended network of their Michael Baker International peers from around the company.
“Why is the Core PM course so important to the executive leadership team?” chief executive officer Kurt Bergman asked the graduates. “Because as carefully selected, high-performing individuals, we want your help to build the company into a cohesive unit that works together to better our society. You will drive this business to be something bigger and better than we could ever dream."
And the message is impacting the recent graduates from Class 3. Graduate Zach Harris (engineer, transportation, Richmond, Va.) noted, “As someone who is newer to project management, this course has been completely worth the effort. I’ve been able to learn from trainers and peers in other offices who can relate years of real-world project management experience to the work I’m doing.”
Throughout the trainings, and reinforced during the graduation ceremony, “collaboration” was expressed as a key driver of success for not only the Core PM course, but for the future of Michael Baker International as well.
“Having the opportunity to participate in the Core PM course and meet new people from across the company has been invaluable,” said Victoria Whitaker (project manager, land development, Irvine, Calif.). “It has been great to learn about the work and challenges that other offices and practices face to understand how we can lend our expertise to other projects moving forward.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Adam Aguila (project manager, transportation, Tampa, Fla.) who said, “It’s great to meet your coworkers face-to-face, have real conversations about the work they’re performing and figure out how that can align with what we’re doing in our office.”
The company re-launched the Project Excellence program in early 2015 and assembled the first course, Core PM with more than 30 future leaders in March of that year. Course instructors include subject matters experts within Michael Baker International. The course is designed to stimulate participants with a fifty-fifty balance of lectures and team exercises. Topics include budgeting and accounting, profit/loss management, client relationships and overall project management, and are designed to allow each participant to take on new roles within small groups to further expand their growing skill set.
As the Project Excellence Program evolves, a new course, Foundations of Project Management will debut in June. This course is designed for project managers with three years of experience or less, and will serve as a pre-requisite to the advanced Core PM course by establishing the fundamentals of solid project management for colleagues in the formative stages of their careers.
Between the Foundations of Project Management and Core Project Management courses, the company plans to enroll and train all project managers by 2018, which represents more than ten percent of its global workforce.
As Kurt Bergman concluded during his commencement address, “The industry is abuzz about Michael Baker International and that’s a testament to the work you and your colleagues have done and will continue to do. There’s much more for us to accomplish, together, and that’s why we made this investment in you, the management force of tomorrow.”