The Best Resource to Help you Start your Project Management Career

June 13, 2011

Josh Nankivel, BSc PM, PMP

If you have ever done an online search on how to get started in project management, you certainly have bumped into content written by our guest Josh Nankivel, BSc PM, PMP.  I have certainly enjoyed his articles, blogs, and interviews, so when I was thinking about this interview series, his name was one of the ones at the top of my list.

I absolutely recommend you check out Josh’s website, including his online training for new project managers materials (links below).

Below you will find an interview I did with him in which he shared his story and some fantastic links.  I recommend you get your browser’s bookmark button ready.

About Josh Nankivel, BSc PM, PMP

Josh coaches new and aspiring project managers to achieve their career goals through various publications and training courses. He founded pmStudent in 2006 to help himself and others learn more about project management as a discipline and career.

He has been managing IT and non-IT projects in Computing, Financial Services, Telecommunications, and Aerospace for over a decade. Josh’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Project Management and he is PMP certified.

He lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA with his wife and 3 sons.

Featured Interview

Cesar: Can you tell us how you got started in Project Management?

Josh: In early 2004 I had been laid off from my role as an Operations Manager.  My wife was pregnant with our first child too, and for the first time I decided to really get strategic about my career. I asked myself “what parts of my previous roles have I really enjoyed doing?” The list was fairly long, but here is an example of the items on it:

  • figuring out what the business needed
  • working on something brand new
  • leading people

During my research into going back to school and what companies were hiring for, I found out about something called project management. It was a discipline, with organizations and standards, etc. As I was learning more about it, I was like “Hey, I do that!” quite a bit.  I was shocked and overjoyed!

I had found my calling. I knew this is what I was meant to focus my career on. There were parts I loved and hated about my previous work….nearly all of what I loved was actually this crazy thing called project management that I had been doing all along, but never knew existed as a distinct discipline.

From that point, I looked for organizations who knew about and valued formal project management as a discipline.  I landed a job working on projects in a department where I could easily learn and grow.  Although it was a hefty pay cut from what I was used to, it was worth it.  Shortly afterward, I started going to night school for a degree in Project Management.

In very little time, I was managing projects and opening up new opportunities for myself to manage bigger and more complex projects.  I had moved from call centers and telecom as an ‘accidental project manager’ into financial services and eventually aerospace a few years later as a very intentional project manager.


Josh at the PMI Global Congress, 2009.

Cesar: What advice can you give to those planning to start a career in Project Management?

Josh: That is a huge question, and I’ve written hundreds of articles and developed many hours of online training about it.  In general though, I would say the following are key points:

  • Take stock of your starting point and career goals first.  Then you can formulate a plan.
  • A 4-year degree is required for most project manager positions
  • Experience trumps graduate education in most cases for a project management role
  • Certifications can be useful, but usually only once you have some experience to back them up.  Otherwise, view them as a learning tool, not a job marketing tool.
  • Target organizations first, jobs second.  The organization you work for is more important than a job title at any organization.
  • Networking is critical.  The majority of jobs are never posted.  You want to be a referral from someone who knows and trusts you.
  • Volunteering internally within your current organization and externally is also critical.  Expect that you should prove by demonstration you can do a job before you earn it.

Cesar: Many of our readers run small businesses. What is the most valuable PM concept/technique one can use in their small business?

Josh: Start with a lean, flexible, systems-thinking process using the general flow of

  • why
  • what
  • how/who
  • when/where
  • iterate as needed

Too many project managers jump to creating a schedule in MS Project.  Define your why and what in some way before getting to that point.  It could be just an email or a formal project charter and PBS/WBS.  You can evolve as needed.

Cesar: Do you bring any Project Management concepts/techniques to your personal life? How do you implement them?

Josh: Absolutely.   The discipline of project management can be applied to many places in personal life.  In fact I once recorded a video titled “Project Management in Everyday Life” in which I give a few examples.

Cesar: What tools or resources can you recommend to the Project Manager wannabe?

Josh: I care passionately about helping new and aspiring project managers reach their career goals.  My goal is to be the best online resource for them.  So I:

Soma’s blog is linked a few times above and is a good blog for new project managers too.  It’s at

I’ll also add the Project Management Podcast as a recommended tool as well.  It’s at

I would encourage everyone to go back to episode 1 and listen straight through to all episodes as a way to get steeped in project management via podcast format.

Offline, I recommend getting involved with a local project management organization in your area.  Here’s how to find them and get involved.

Cesar: Fantastic, Josh.  Thank you very much for answering my questions.