How MSPM Alum Christina Olivarria “Simplifies the Complex” for Healthcare Facilities

Christina Olivarria Crop
Photo: Christina Olivarria

When Christina Olivarria graduated from the MS in Project Management program at USC in 2019, she was well into her project management career. Since graduating, Christina has proven integral to her team and is now the Director of Business Development and Communications at Yellow Brick Consulting,  a consulting firm dedicated to healthcare project management services.

With this organization, Christina contributed to two books, Simplifying the Complex: A Guide to Transition and Activation Planning for Healthcare Construction Projects and most recently, A Guide to Healthcare Facility Dress Rehearsal Simulation Planning. The latter provides a step-by-step scalable framework for project teams to coordinate an Interdisciplinary Dress Rehearsal event for any healthcare facility project. Both books are useful tools for healthcare facilities as they expand to meet the growing demands of our communities.

Below, Christina describes how the MSPM program and her background in communications helped her balance her many responsibilities, including her contributions to the books.

You earned your MSPM in 2019. How is the coursework relevant to your everyday work life?

We are exposed to project management principles from a very early age. From constructing a Lego set to working on a group project, many of us do not even realize we possess foundational project management skills. Refining these skills is key to ensuring success as a project manager.

Having managed projects prior to beginning the program, I had experiential knowledge, but the MSPM program reinforced my understanding. Offering practical and theoretical concepts in a setting with like-minded professionals enabled me to assess my organization’s tools and framework. I was able to apply this insight to drive change within my organization by implementing more rigorous risk management and change management structures.

Additionally, the conversations about earned value management inspired me to work with our Director of Finance to develop project closeout documentation. This new practice helped us document lessons learned and best practices that enabled our company to identify project gains or losses to analyze future opportunities in a more data-driven manner.

Christina Olivarria and her colleagues at Yellow Brick Consulting
Christina Olivarria and her colleagues at Yellow Brick Consulting.
Photo: Christina Olivarria

What are your responsibilities as a Director of Business Development and Communications in the healthcare project management field?

Working for a small business, you wear many hats. I manage an average of three to four client projects simultaneously while also being responsible for our company’s overall business marketing, sales, and communications strategies. As the Director of Business Development and Communications, I work closely with our Chief Executive Officer and senior leadership team to develop strategies to increase our market growth. My responsibilities include developing proposal responses, social media engagement plans, and potential client partner analysis. I evaluate marketing and communications initiatives to assist our brand recognition within the healthcare construction sector each year. Past initiatives have included webinars, video interviews with our senior leaders, and publishing our two books. This year, we launched a podcast to provide our audience with lessons learned from past clients about their experiences within our niche market.

A Guide to Healthcare Facility Dress Rehearsal Simulation Planning is intended for healthcare facility project management. How is project management changing the healthcare industry?

We are seeing project management practices be more formally introduced in almost every industry. I work in a really niche healthcare market, focusing on how organizations will operate in new healthcare environments. In many instances, organizations don’t know what they don’t know. Offering an operational framework and roadmap enables organizations to understand the dependencies of decisions and the impacts on the overall project delivery schedule. One of the most significant changes for teams, due to new healthcare environments and technology, is the structural change from siloed work processes to a multidisciplinary approach. This includes understanding requirements like IT integration and how clinical teams intend to incorporate that integration into daily operations.

How did you use your project management expertise with regards to the new book?

We approached each book’s writing, editing, and publishing like a project. We developed a project plan, defined team member roles, established a schedule, and scheduled regular review meetings. As the project manager for this internal initiative, I met with our team regularly to evaluate critical path items. We established a quality control process for editing the content and developing standard tools. Each month, I shared our progress with our entire organization, which served as an accountability method for our team to see tasks on track and those behind schedule.

Writing my chapters and juggling my daily project work presented its own challenges. I found it helpful to block-off time on my calendar to write. I iteratively approached the writing process. Like waterfall methodology, I started with an outline, added content, and refined the content, so each phase built on the last. This approach worked for me, and I completed my assigned chapters on time.

What were your contributions to the new book?

I am proud to have been an author of Chapters One and Chapter Four of A Guide to Healthcare Facility Dress Rehearsal Simulation Planning. Chapter One of the new book sets the tone for the subsequent chapters, introducing the reader to the concept of Dress Rehearsal, reviewing requirements and scheduling for the program, and components necessary to build the initial project plan. Chapter Four reviews the role of support and ancillary teams in the development of Dress Rehearsal scenarios through an event we call Round Robin. The chapter reviews recommended participants, logistics, and coordination activities.

How has the MSPM program helped your career goals?

What I appreciated most about the MSPM program was the time spent during the weekly sessions with our professors and cohort. The cohort selected for the MSPM program came from diverse backgrounds, so the experiential knowledge shared during discussions offered unique perspectives and insights that I could fold into how I approached projects. The concepts discussed enabled me to provide direct value to my organization by generating and refining our tools and implementing process improvements. I have maintained many relationships I developed during the program and still reach out to my cohort to discuss projects and gain feedback on tools and best practices.

Simplifying the Complex: A Guide to Transition and Activation Planning for Healthcare Construction Projects and A Guide to Healthcare Facility Dress Rehearsal Simulation Planning are available on Amazon and Google Play.

Learn more about the online Master of Science in Project Management program today.

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