How did I find my calling to help people make a bigger difference by doing their projects better?
Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, CAL, CPD, PMP, RYT
I came from a large family – my parents had six children in eight years and I was number four Both my parents were public school teachers so we were encouraged to go to college. By the time I was a junior, there were five of us in college and I was fortunate to get a full Air Force scholarship to study Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University.
My parents raised us like in the book “Cheaper by the Dozen” Well, except we were only half a dozen – so maybe it was more expensive?
In that book, they had automated everything – it’s all about the process and how to streamline things. This is where I got indoctrinated into the idea that to make things better in life, you just have to create a simple process.
I enjoyed Engineering school and being an Air Force Officer. About ten years into this career though, I started questioning if this was the right path for me. As much of life happens, by chance I stumbled into a book called “Do What You Are.” It’s about picking your career based on your personality type.
I am an ENTP (you’ll learn much more about what these letters mean in Cheetah’s project manager training program). I am what is called “life’s entrepreneur” and also much better suited to a life of inventing and teaching.
At the same time, I had also gravitated to studying accelerated learning. I had found most ways of corporate training, with their lecture and powerpoint format, maybe an activity here and there or a case study, a serious lesson in boredom tolerance.
I knew we could be doing much better with how we were helping adults learn the skills they needed to morph into their 7 – 10 different careers in their lifetimes.
In 1995, I made the leap out of Aerospace Engineering and into Accelerated Learning. This was not an easy decision as I had worked so hard to become an Aerospace Engineer. My first company into this new realm was called “Wired For Success.” I created an online accelerated learning platform, had several hundred colleges reselling my courses but no one was registering. I was at the bleeding edge and bombed a “dot com” before it was the fashionable thing to do.
I found myself back in Aerospace Engineering as a Research Scientist for a large multi-national Aerospace Company. I was encouraged to keep doing research on accelerated learning – at least part-time.
While there I soon found myself doing project disaster recovery. We had 150 engineers and scientists who also called themselves “project managers.” But we had 250 different ways of doing projects. These very bright people spent much of their time arguing over how to manage their projects.
We even sent some of these project managers to a five-day project management course. They would come back more confused than ever.
I started testing out an idea to create a one day accelerated learning course to teach a simple project management process I had invented for project disaster recovery. Why not start the project right from the get-go?
I tested out this idea all over the research center and with several of the business units. It was a huge success. Then the company went through a downsizing and gave me a choice – move back into engineering or take the course with me as severance.
Well, it’s obvious the path I took. I had already failed one company and I was now a single mom with two elementary aged children to take care of solo. Another not so easy decision.
It’s never easy starting or running a company – but I stuck with it. PLUS – I now also had a great way of doing the projects of the business. This was the difference between success and failure for me – we call it at Cheetah Learning “eating our own cat food.” That is using the techniques we teach to run and grow a thriving business.
As fate would have it, I met the authors of the “Do What You Are” book at my children’s school. I asked if they could help me customize my accelerated project management curriculum based on people’s personality types.
It just made sense to me that if people could learn more in line with who they are, could set up their projects and negotiate too based on their natural strengths, they would have much better results.
We created several courses based on these ideas (even wrote two books on it). And tested out personality based learning. The results were inspiring. Ten years into this, we decided to put all the programs together into the Cheetah Certified Project Manager program.
It combines learning how to learn, do projects and negotiate based on your innate strengths. And it actually works extremely well. It’s not your “normal” way to learn project management though.
But what I saw 20 years ago – the “normal” way of learning project management doesn’t work all that well. (Unfortunately it’s still the way most teach projet management). With about 2000 other organizations teaching project management in the “normal” way, it didn’t make sense to go to market with just “another” project management training company.
There is one “right” way for you to projects – but it’s the one “right” way for YOU. The oxymoron here – you use a simple process you customize for you. Since everyone else uses the same simple process too, there are elements of both standardization and customization that make it work amazingly well.
Cheetah Learning has helped tens of thousands of people learn a better way for them to do projects – this is not some out there approach without validation.
This calling to help people do their projects better is even stronger today then it was 20 years ago. We all do projects. The more successful you are with your projects, the more successful you’ll be in life. All of us need to help create a better world – especially with today’s challenges. This is not a nice to have any more, it’s a must-have. Each of us must best leverage our innate strengths to make this a better world for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come. We do that be doing our projects better.
I’ve watched those shows like “The Secret” that talk about think whatever you want into being. But just thinking about things, without taking focused action in the direction of your dreams and goals keeps your head in the clouds. The real secret to “The Secret” is to do a great job with the projects required to achieve your goals.
I’ve attached a mind map that shows how life is a series of projects and what it means to “Be a Cheetah” with your projects.
Project Management is not something someone else does somewhere else in the organization – it’s something each and every single one of us does to achieve what we want in life. It’s how we influence others, how we establish the trust required to move mountains together.
This is why it’s my calling to help create a better world by teaching a way for you to do your projects the right way for YOU.
Looking forward to helping you achieve your dreams and goals, cheetah fast,