Women in Project Management

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

    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!