The ‘Aha’ Moment: PM Influencer Series

The ‘Aha’ Moment: PM Influencer Series

In our seriesThe Aha Moment, we chat with influencers in the PM & PPM space and get to know them better. We ask a bunch of questions, some biz related and some not so biz related, in order to understand what makes them tick and find their aha moment.

This month’s feature is Melissa Khan-Blackmore, an exceptional and innovative leader in program management. Explore the fascinating journey of how her profound expertise in startup consultation, diverse project management methodologies, and experience across various industries have shaped her remarkable career in project and program management.

Q. What is your job title and in which industry are you working in?

A. In order to feel fully engaged and fulfilled through my work, I need to have my hands in multiple things at once. My brain goes a million miles a minute and I needed to shape my career around that, so I currently split my time between my work in healthcare tech as an Enterprise Program Manager and my Project Management education company, Powerhouse Project Manager where I teach people how to grow their careers in project management. I’m also a project management content creator.

Q. What is something unique that most people don’t know about you?

A. I love this question. I don’t think many people know how creative I am. In my free time I love drawing with oil pastel, practicing my calligraphy with a dip pen, I also like to write creatively, I’m also a BIG planner fan, I map out my weeks and months on a paper planner with lots of colors, washi tapes, and stickers. I also have a goal to get back into playing the piano, which I did when I was younger. I don’t talk about my creative side very often, but it’s definitely a big part of who I am and also a factor in what makes me a good project manager. I believe that I can solve almost any problem in my projects and programs with a little creative thinking.

Professional Stuff….

Q. What led you to this career?

A. I always thought I’d be some sort of healthcare clinician, a doctor or a nurse. In college, I started to realize that wasn’t what I wanted for myself. When I graduated I took a job as a clinical data analyst and while I enjoyed it and was good at it, I knew that wasn’t the end goal. I started to do some research on the different careers out there based on my personality and interests. In college they don’t teach you about project management as a career, so I had no idea it was even an option. I spent about a year researching different career paths, taking personality quizzes, and tried to align my personality traits with different career paths, project management was a perfect fit. I like to say I’m an “Intentional” project manager, not an accidental one. I mapped out everything in order to build my career in project management. I’m a planner by nature, so me finding project management was all through careful planning and analysis. Full circle moment.

Q. What is your biggest challenge in your profession? How do you overcome it?

A. Balancing what’s right for the project and clients while satisfying sponsors can be tough as a PM. That’s why nailing stakeholder buy-in is a big deal. Lots of PMs cave to sponsor wishes, even if it’s not ideal for the project. It’s easy to throw in the towel, but it’s HARD to stick up for what’s best/ right. As PMs we know whats best for the project, client, and team members, so we have an ethical responsibility to stand up for that. I’ve learned it’s okay to face short-term dislike if it means fighting for the project’s success and team health in the long run.

Q. What’s the most difficult thing about managing stakeholder expectations?

A. When emotions run high, talking a stakeholder down or managing expectations that are driven by emotion can be pretty challenging. Oftentimes, stakeholders take the project VERY personally and can let their emotions get in the way. As project manager you’re the face of the project (and company, if you are client-facing). This can be taxing work, and can be extremely challenging. This is why I always say emotional intelligence is one of the most valuable skills a project manager can have.

Q. If there was one activity you could remove from your daily routine what would it be and why?

A. Meetings that could have been an email. I’ll be the one to say it, daily standups when you’re not actually solving something or moving the needle on something, are a waste of time. Humans aren’t wired to go from heads down work to meeting then back to heads down work. It takes our brains time to adjust and having 5 meetings a day is not only unnecessary, it’s also making us less productive! Sorry not sorry!

Q. What advice would you give to up-and-coming professionals like yourself?

A. Your work should light you up inside. Not every day will be perfect and not every task will be fun, but 80% of your day-to-day should be things you do look forward to. If you ever find yourself extremely unhappy due to work, it’s likely time to make a change. You don’t need to fit into a box, your career is yours to curate however you see fit. If you get bored easily like I do, find a company that can support your need to grow and learn or start a side hustle. Stay curious and embrace new experiences, especially when starting out. I managed to fast-track my career by actively seeking more responsibilities, never shying away from asking questions, and building genuine relationships with my leaders (the C-level execs from my company came to my wedding!). When you’re starting out, it’s okay to ask for mentorship and guidance, to show eagerness and to learn. Seasoned professionals are often open to sharing advice and offering new opportunities to younger professionals. Remember, nothing is impossible, the world really is yours. Its your career, make it whatever you want it to be.

Fun Stuff

Q. If you had an unlimited supply of one thing what would it be?

A. TIME. Is that answer allowed? I have so many goals and so much to do, I need an unlimited supply of time, but then again… don’t we all?!

Q. What is your favorite breakfast food?

A. I think breakfast food is a social construct (sue me), I like to have something warm and hearty for breakfast like a bowl of chili, soup, rice and chicken, or an Indian meal like curry chicken and roti. I don’t always have time for lunch, so in a perfect world, I would have a big warm breakfast that consists of lots of flavors and warmth, I try not to stick to the confines of what society or culture categorizes as “breakfast foods”. Trust me, I know how that sounds, but you asked!

Q. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?

I’d spend it with my best (furry) friend, Kylie. Let’s set the scene: I’d take her to get a pup cup, to the beach, let her frolic in the water, then we’d hit the dog park, and go on a long, long walk. Kylie was my shadow and biggest supporter. She, alongside my husband, is a big reason for everything I’ve been able to accomplish (and a driving factor in everything I plan to accomplish). Reliving a day with her would be incredible! Her companionship and support was invaluable, and she remains a cherished part of my journey.

Q. Do you love or hate rollercoasters?

A. HATE. I feel so out of control… I know what you’re thinking, is she a control-freak? Yes, I absolutely am.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and did you follow it?

A. Your reaction to adversity, not the actual adversity itself, will determine how your life will develop. Resilience always wins. – Yes, ever since getting this advice, I’ve followed it. Bad things happen to us all, your life is your story to do with it what you want. Resilience is something I try to embody every day. This mentality is what drives me to move forward and never quit.

If you want to connect with Melissa and gain key insights from her expert ppm content, look her up on LinkedIn. Thank you Melissa for hanging out with us and answering our questions!

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