Paul Webster was introduced to project management about 5 years ago when he took on a special project for a high-profile client. He was inspired by watching the project management team orchestrate project deliverables. A few years later, when Paul was researching graduate programs, he knew that diving deep into project management would immediately help him in his career. He enrolled in USC Bovard College’s Master of Science in Project Management program and is a member of the inaugural graduating class.
Today, Paul is a Project Manager II at Epsilon, a Marketing data company, based out of San Francisco. Equipped with the knowledge he gained in his graduate program, he leads global project teams that drive CRM marketing communications. In fact, after developing a template that could be used in the estimation process, Paul was recognized at his job for driving organizational change.
Paul will serve as the flag bearer for USC Bovard College for the 2019 Commencement Ceremony. He was nominated by faculty for his outstanding academic achievement, leadership and commitment to his classes. He shares, “I am excited for commencement and the opportunity to represent our college in front of the entire university!”
In the interview below, Paul reflects on his experience in the MSPM program and how it has accelerated his career and fostered his passion for the project management field.
How did you choose the MSPM program at USC Bovard College?
I came across Bovard College on LinkedIn in November, 2017. This came at a pivotal moment in my career, as I knew I needed a form of continued education to accelerate my career path. I had considered an MBA, but as a Project Manager I, I did not feel that degree would address my career needs for the foreseeable future. I believe the MSPM will aid me in years to come as I have had an amazing experience learning the fundamentals of project management. No matter where my career heads, whether that be project, product, or program management, I know I will be well equipped for success due to my participation in this program. The ability to further my education while continuing to work was also appealing. The program provided a great format for implementing what I learned directly into my work.
What would you say to someone considering this program?
This program presents a great opportunity for those who want to further their career in project management, as it emphasizes how to critically think through key concepts and strategy. In my three years of experience before I entered the program, I had received little training in regards to the fundamentals of project management. Throughout the course, I saw my capability and confidence rise significantly. Also, the program is presented in a way that helps balance work and school life. Where the program was rigorous and challenging, I always felt I could juggle all the responsibilities in my life.
How would you describe the live sessions?
The live sessions were excellent. USC Bovard College selected accomplished professors who were experts in the materials related to the course work. Through lecture, discussion, and break out rooms, key concepts were thoroughly evaluated. Participation was encouraged, and it was beneficial to hear the perspective of other classmates, especially considering the many industries that were represented by the students.
What do you consider a strength of the program?
Flexibility. While there was a set schedule in terms of when assignments and live sessions were to occur, there was much freedom as to when and where I could study. Not being tied to a physical location was beneficial, as I could still travel for work or pleasure and keep current on my class responsibilities. During the program I worked in both Europe and the Caribbean and was able to complete all responsibilities on time.
How has the curriculum prepared you for the professional challenges you face?
The program has provided me with the skills and confidence to tackle challenges I will face in my professional career. I am now equipped with techniques I can implement to mitigate and solve the everyday issues that arise in project management. It was beneficial to take what I learned in the classroom directly into the workplace. I could test out techniques and strategies to determine their effectiveness for projects in my organization. I was also able to share new skills with my management team for improvements.
What was your experience like with the faculty in your program?
The faculty were professional and a pleasure to learn from. Their broad knowledge in project management brought a holistic approach to classes, discussions and assignments. They were all effective in describing concepts through multiple lenses, providing a tailored education to each student. I had wondered how a virtual classroom would affect the student/professor relationship, but I was blown away with how effective and professional the faculty were.
Have you experienced a sense of community—within your program or with USC in general?
Over time, the students and even professors developed great relationships, even in the virtual environment. Everyone had an understanding of the challenges we all faced balancing work and school, so we were all willing to help and support one another. I would consider all classmates my friends, and I look forward to staying in touch throughout our professional careers.
What was your overall experience like in the MSPM program?
I had an incredible experience in the MSPM program. I gained so much knowledge regarding the world of project management. This has been an invaluable experience in advancing my career, and I know the skills I have developed this past year will suit me well in my future endeavors.
Before starting the program, being a project manager was simply a job, but with the education I received at Bovard College, I now see how project management is a career. The ability to bring my skills and experience to an organization and in providing guidance and structure to their project management team is motivating to me. I want to use my passion to help make those around me better!
Learn more about USC’s online MS in Project Management program.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.