Women in Project Management

      In 2019, PMIMSL will highlight the achievements and experiences of notable local women in Project Management.


    February

    Leslie Whitlock, SAFe(SA)PMP

    Title:  Director of Program Management – Strategy and Transformation

    Organization: Express-Scripts

    Sector: Healthcare

    Leslie

     

    Can you briefly help us understand your current role?
    • My role is to provide organizational leadership around ensuring strategic alignment, determining prioritization and value; and execution planning of our home delivery pharmacy’s initiatives that align with our strategic business framework.  In addition, I have the privilege of managing a team of amazing program and project managers who partner with our business owners, key stakeholders and technology partners to execute and deliver project value. Finally, I am the business owner of our operations CORE program, a job rotational leadership development program for front-line leaders designed to advance their skills in leading self, leading others and leading change – preparing them for their next level up.  Developing talent is something I am passionate about, so I am thrilled to have that opportunity.

    What three words best describe you?
    • Compassionate, authentic and persistent

    How did you get into project management?
    • If you think about it, project management is really a part of our everyday lives. Beginning in school while working on a group project with classmates, to working with your family to accomplish projects at home, to working with colleagues professionally to deliver business value. So it’s always been a part of me.  However, my first close formal exposure to a project management organization was when I was in Product Management as a business owner. In that role I worked closely with an amazing project manager and Business Analyst and learned a lot from both of those ladies.  We delivered Auto Refills for Express Scripts which brought tons of value to the company and peace of mind to patients.  That’s when I knew that I enjoyed working on key initiatives and accepted a Program Management role. 

    What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?
    • I’ve worked on a few key strategic projects that really excited me. When I think about the common characteristics each had to make them so much fun to work on, each were projects that were transformative in the way we do business as well as our impact on the market.  Any project that puts our customers first, provides them with peace of mind and strengthens our market position is a project that I want to be a part.  For example, thanks to the collaborative, awesome work of many, we recently delivered on a key strategic project that expanded our presence to a completely new customer base – pets! 

    How has project management been important to your organization?
    • Our goal is the become THE Pharmacy of Choice, where new markets and new customers recognize us as a pharmacy leader both in quality and speed to delivery. Effective project management is critical to our organization’s ability to deliver that strategic value and achieve our goals.

    What is one fun fact we should know about you?
    • My first job after getting my MBA was working for Union Pacific Railroad as a team leader in the National Customer Service Center. As a part of my training, I actually got a chance to work as a switch person coupling box cars to build trains, as well as a locomotive engineer actually driving and operating the locomotive of the freight train in Searcy Arkansas. Second to project management, that was the most exciting job experience.

    What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?
    • Being an excellent communicator.  Many studies have shown that project managers spend 90% of their time communicating some aspect of their project.  Developing an effective communications plan and artifacts are essential – whether it’s effective communications via an executive summary status, or communicating risks, actions, issues and decisions; or the plan, it’s critical to be able to tailor communications effectively and often both in writing and verbally with all key stakeholders across all levels of the organization. You can have a strong overall skillset, but without effective communications, there’s a great chance the project will suffer. Communications is the essence of project management.

     



    January

    Joanna Eagan

    Joanna Eagan, PMP

    Title:  Senior Manager Human Resources, Strategic Planning & Operations

    Organization: Core & Main

    Sector: Distribution

     

    Can you briefly help us understand your current role? 
    • Strategic Planning and Operations for Human Resources, and Mergers and Acquisitions
    • Core & Main was divested in 2017 to private equity, which meant our Human Resources function had to be created from the ground up.  My role was to facilitate our independent stand up, develop plans and efficient processes to support our associates and business objectives over the long-term, plus develop and implement technology that aligns with our business/strategic goals.  We have a huge focus on talent with our shifting demographics and my role is to enable us to analyze people analytics to allow us to stay one step ahead of the shift. Another area that has been particularly interesting is the strategic analysis and decisions related to benefits by embracing innovative benefit offerings and developing plans to target cost savings opportunities across the country. With M&A, we are determining the impact of the acquisition as it relates to the people being acquired and our internal workforce.  This requires cross functional project management to drive the deal to sign and close. Often times, I wear multiple hats that I have to quickly take off and put back on in order to address the particular need.

    What three words best describe you?
    • Compassionate, Determined, Resilient

    How did you get into project management?
    • I sort of fell into it.  I was working in corporate finance, responsible for financial planning and analysis type work as well as various projects, implementations, etc. My manager and CFO asked if I would lead a new project team that would drive large cross-functional projects shared by finance and IT, varying from large systems implementations to cost/time saving initiatives.  I was skeptical about my passion for it at first, but then quickly realized it was in my wheel house, so I decided to study for the PMP [Project Management Professional] exam.  At a certain point, based on where I was in my personal and professional aspirations, I left the corporate world to run the business side of a private school here in St. Louis as the Director of Finance and Business Operations.  There I continued to utilize my natural project management tendencies until I received a call from my former human resources leader proposing a role in HR that would help the organization stand up while taking on a new business objective of multiple acquisitions.  It was intriguing and an opportunity that appealed to my inner drive learn something completely new.  So I quickly found myself putting on a PM hat again, but with a new twist.  I’m definitely not a traditional PM, but I enjoy the new and different--and applying a deep knowledge of finance, operations, human resources and acquisitions.  I feel like it will prove to be invaluable experience as I progress in my career.

     

    What has been the most exciting project you've worked on?
    • Standing up this new organization has been extremely exciting. Every day I’m soaking up more and more.  Our organization had to stand up core HR functions in less than two months: payroll, benefits, etc. for 3000+ associates.  For the first year we would put out one fire only to address several others that were smoldering in the wings.  There was never a dull moment.  On top of stand-up, we are doing multiple acquisitions.  That part has been an extremely fun rollercoaster ride.  Each acquisition is different, and some don’t materialize, but the opportunity to learn about the world of acquisitions has been very rewarding.

    How has project management been important to your organization?
    • Because there have been so many balls in the air in order to stand up the organization, project management has been key to allowing us to prioritize and keep our team on track.  At times it felt like we were drinking from a fire hose as we attempted to set up every function of a large organization’s HR processes.  It was and is critical to keep leaders on track and utilize every second of time efficiently.  Wasting time is not an option.

    What is one fun fact we should know about you?
    • I’m a winemaker and a beekeeper.

    What is the single most important skill you look for in a project manager?
    • Ability to be in the weeds, but also step out of them and see the bigger picture.  People often are too personally invested to see the full picture. As project managers, I believe it’s critical to understand the problem you are trying to solve and know the impact from five immediate steps to one year, or 10 years down the road as best you can.  The ability to identify a potential issue and quickly offer suggestions as alternate best courses of action, allows PMs to be valued not only for their organizational skills, but also on their ability to advise leaders.   
    Have you seen an increase in project managers who are women at your organization?
    • Yes and no, many who have sort of fallen into it but I’m not certain they are PMI certified.   It seems to reside more on the IT side.

    What is the best project management punchline you've heard?
    • Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them. –Henry Ford

    What is most rewarding about projects?
    • Definitely seeing the impact you made upon completion.  Knowing that, because you were able to see the big picture and organize the individual parts, you created/accomplished something amazing!