[00:00:01.050] - Chris Kopp
In this episode of great practices. I'm talking with Chris Carter, chief engineer and executive GM at Toyota North America by day and academic program director at Georgia Tech by night. Listen into this episode as Chris discusses the history of the Project Management Certificate program at Georgia Tech, how it's been recently revamped to include experiential learning with modern modular design. Don't worry, he'll make this easy to understand who the program is perfect for and where you can find more information. Plus, find out what chicken nuggets and dipping sauce have to do with teaching project management.
[00:00:40.990] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great practice. And that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with CMO and project management leaders who, through years of trial and error, have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Coff uncovers another great practice in this episode.
[00:01:10.230] - Chris Kopp
So one quick program note before we start our episode. Chris Carter was gracious enough to record this while he was traveling, so he was in the airport between flights. So you're going to hear some airport sounds, a couple of beeping sounds here and there, a couple of people talking in the background. Not a big deal. The audio sounded good, and we just wanted to make sure it was a good conversation and wanted to share it with everyone. So if you haven't traveled for a while and you miss those airport sounds, this will make you feel right at home. Well, we'd like to welcome you to another episode of Great Practices. And I think we've got another great episode today that hopefully is going to solve a problem that you may encounter from time to time, because sometimes, frequently and frequently, I don't know. But your boss, your manager leadership, may come and say that you need training for yourself or for your project managers. So you need to get project management training. You need to work on your soft skills. You need to work on your hard skills. You need to become more fluent in current project management methodologies.
[00:02:19.700] - Chris Kopp
So what do you do when you receive this challenge? Well, like most, you may Google it. Who knows what you're going to come back with once you do that? Put in project management best practices. Who knows what that ends up looking like? You may be a little more targeted. You go to LinkedIn, Learning, maybe plural sites, O'Reilly, and hope that you're picking the right courses and that you're going down the right path. Or you may even pay for a high price coach who will just share their one point of view and what methodology they're familiar with. So there's nothing wrong with any of these. But today we want to present you with another option. This is a project management certificate that is available from Georgia Tech and this is really the best of all worlds. It's current realworld education that focuses on strategic project management, technical project management, and leadership in project management. Here's a brief excerpt from their certification description. It says, the courses in this Project Management Certificate program teach proven strategies and practical hands on tools to drive successful project outcomes. The concepts, tools, and language of project management in this program can be applied to any size or type of project.
[00:03:43.190] - Chris Kopp
That sounds great, doesn't it? So we are glad to have Chris Carter, the academic program director who's behind this program on Great Practices today. And we're going to really kind of dig deep into why was this formed, what's involved in this? What does this program look like, and how can you take advantage of it? So, Chris, we'd like to welcome you to great practices.
[00:04:08.270] - Chris Carter
Thank you, Chris. It's great to be here and appreciate the opportunity to share.
[00:04:14.390] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, we're looking forward to the conversation. And Chris, we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule because you're at an airport in Kentucky right now somewhere, right?
[00:04:24.130] - Chris Carter
I'm passing through Louisville right now and hopefully get home safely to Texas later this evening.
[00:04:29.810] - Chris Kopp
All right, nice. So we may hear a little bit of background noise, but this was an important enough conversation that we wanted to make sure that we got this recorded today. So we appreciate you joining us. So, Chris, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and what you do?
[00:04:45.930] - Chris Carter
Yeah. So again, I'm Chris Carter. I'm an executive at Toyota Motor North America. So we have our headquarter office in Texas. That's where I live. But at the same time, I do teach at Georgia Tech. I've been with Toyota for 18 years. Well, I had to think about that for a moment. So coming up on 20 here in a couple of years, I look maybe a little younger than what I really am, but I do have one wife and four children and a little older than my appearance. But I try to do everything I can to stay young. And definitely project management is one thing that continuously keeps my mind young, and also I'd say my body, in a way, because I'm always learning. And that's really my passion. I love to learn. It also helps me with my day job. I'm a chief engineer, executive GM over new technologies that we put in all of our Toyota and Lexus models. So if you ever get inside a Toyota or Lexus vehicle and you touch the screen, that's my division. So really passionate about waterfall and agile practices and hybrid practices.
[00:05:54.690] - Chris Kopp
Man, that's a heck of a day job. And then just kind of couple that with teaching at Georgia Tech. That's a lot going on now, probably about maybe, what, ten years ago or so, you felt a need to create something. I guess you saw a gap or something like that. So can you tell us a little more about what that was.
[00:06:14.710] - Chris Carter
Yeah, I mean, it did start at Toyota. I was a middle level manager in our PMO at Toyota and realized that a lot of our junior members didn't quite understand project management. They were in the PMO. They got hired in straight from college and stuff. And as a middle level manager, I really wanted to be able to train my teams and other teams to be successful in launching projects, launching them on time with quality to achieve their scope, to be somewhat the budget and not so delayed. And quite frankly, we were going through a time, Toyota about a decade ago, where we had a series of challenges really executing projects well. So I ended up going back to school myself, went back to Georgia Tech, got some project management training, and linked up with PMI Project Management Institute and got my PMP. And that was probably one of the best decisions I ever made for my career.
[00:07:10.570] - Chris Kopp
So what motivated you to do this? I mean, why would you even think about taking on such a challenge?
[00:07:17.370] - Chris Carter
Yeah, like I said, I wanted to develop other people on my team. That was probably my purest motivation, and I felt like I got to know what I'm talking about. Even though I had experience, I wanted more than just my personal experience. I really wanted an industry standard or I wanted to understand the core definitions a little bit better, almost from academic standpoint so I could deeply understand how to teach this. That's where it started for me.
[00:07:45.410] - Chris Kopp
Got it. Yeah, it's just like, basically you got something to kind of push back on, kind of have that body of knowledge right behind you that you could base this all upon you as you move forward there. So that's good. How long has this program been around now, Chris?
[00:08:01.210] - Chris Carter
This program has been around at Georgia Tech for about 15 years. It went through a major revamp in 2020, right before the pandemic, and that's when they decided to let me take over the program in 2019. Actually, the end of 2019, they allowed me to take over the program. But I've been teaching for Jordan Tech up until that time for roughly eight years.
[00:08:24.240] - Chris Kopp
Okay, all right, got it. So it's been recent then, that you've really taken over and just kind of revamped this whole program.
[00:08:33.650] - Chris Carter
I was an instructor at Georgia Tech from 2015. I was an instructor there. And then after teaching for many years, we saw the need that we needed to revamp the program. So about three years ago, we completely redesigned the program. We went to one, be a little bit more modern in the best industry practices, bringing that into the classroom, the real world, practical applications, that's what it's all about. Most of our students, yes, they like the Georgia Tech brand, but really what they want is give me some practical, applicable skills and takeaways that I can immediately use tomorrow in my job and be successful. So we took a really deep dive with PMI advisors and the textbook was changing as well, going from pinbox six to pinbox seven and agile was becoming more of a hot topic. So we saw the need to one, bring in more agile. We saw the need two to be a little bit more up to date with people leadership skills combined with technical project management skills. And we also saw the need to really make experiential modular learning a part of our curriculum so that when you come to our classes, you practice it, you just don't get lectures, you actually get more practice and engagement rather than lectures.
[00:09:54.550] - Chris Carter
And that way we can improve that you are practicing model or tool or technique the right way so that we can have confidence you're going to go back to your job and be more successful. And that's really what we're very passionate about. Sorry for a long answer there, but that's what the redesign look like.
[00:10:11.350] - Chris Kopp
No, I mean it's great because what it sounds like is enough of the theory, enough of all of what it should be and all that kind of stuff, but let's make this real where you can actually be plugged into an organization and start bringing value, right?
[00:10:26.840] - Chris Carter
[00:10:27.850] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, no, that's key to that. So when did you say was it 2019, 2020? You started revamping it. Was that when that was?
[00:10:37.640] - Chris Carter
Yeah, 2019. That's when I took over as academic program director. It included a major curriculum redesign, rehaul and recruiting of some new instructors that were more SMEs from different various industries and fields. It also included revitalizing our national accreditation.
[00:11:00.290] - Chris Kopp
Right. Smack dab before COVID came. Right. So you guys probably started down a particular path of how you thought this was going to go and then what happened there?
[00:11:11.910] - Chris Carter
Yeah, we had the pivot. That was our favorite word, I think it was everyone's favorite word for about two years. Pivot before covered, we primarily taught in the classroom, in person. We didn't do much online, we didn't use much technology in our teaching, to be quite honest. It was all in person, all on campus at Georgia Tech. So we had to make a major shift to make sure our experiential modular curriculum was designed and flexible enough to be offered in a hybrid or online format and an online format that actually have good technology and good interfaces for our students.
[00:11:46.530] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, no, that's good. Yeah, you're right. Pivot, that was the word of the year for sure. Something we all kind of had to learn. So it's good to hear this went with that as well. So let's actually get into this enterprise project management, corporate program. Let's kind of talk about the nitty gritty of this. So I appreciate the background of what formed it, your involvement and everything. Now, who was involved in putting this new version together the way it is. Now, who is all involved in that?
[00:12:17.150] - Chris Carter
My faculty members were involved. That's something we wanted to be very collaborative about it, so we wanted all voices to be a part of it. One instructor. Her name is Dana Boyd. She's PMP, MBA, CPA, you name it. She's pretty much a genius. Dana is our corporate champion. She was really behind tailoring this curriculum together really well. We also had other PMPs, agile certified practitioners and Agile coaches. Joe Cisco was another one member. He's big in PMI Atlanta. He's the Vice President of Engagement there. Joe was excellent in that. Mustafa shabaz also PNP MBA. Just a number of our faculty members were involved in putting this together. And the thing about our faculty combined, if I may brag just for one moment, all of our members, we have tween us, I think, seven PMP certifications, two Agile certified practitioners, two Agile certified coaches. We also have three MBAs and one six sigma. So between our collective 120 years of industry experience, all of us are still in our day jobs. And we did that on purpose because we're not just bringing academic prowess to the classroom, even though we have that. We all have the academic background with our Certs and Pinbach and Agile Practice Guide trainings.
[00:13:45.120] - Chris Carter
However, what's more important to us is that we're able to relate to students in real world applications. So that was huge for us, that the faculty needs to reflect the student body.
[00:13:56.410] - Chris Kopp
120 years of experience.
[00:13:58.160] - Chris Carter
Is that what you said between the seven of us? Yes, I've got 18.
[00:14:05.790] - Chris Kopp
That's impressive. And like you're saying, everybody's working, so keeping up with and understand the realities of what goes on in any organization. So it's great. Let's talk about some of these numbers then. And what makes this project management the Georgia Tech way? Like, what makes this to be unique for Georgia Tech, the way that is delivered there?
[00:14:28.390] - Chris Carter
Well, we give you more than what you need, I'll say that. So anyone who wants to sit for a PMP or ACP exam, you get 64 plus contact hours in our program, which is a lot of contact hours. The exam typically wants somewhere between 35 contact hours of education. So we give you more than what you need. But the reason why is because, of course, we are in cahoots with PMI. We want you to get that PMP and ACP, but more than that, we want you to walk away with core knowledge areas and performance domains. That's kind of Pinbox language there. But really what that means is we want you to walk away with those practical skills. That's what we want. We are nationally accredited with PMI, so there's some confidence there that our material and programs are audited and approved. That's a short list, by the way. If you look at the schools around the nation, most schools are not nationally accredited with PMI that teach project management. So we're happy about that. Another thing I'll mention is that the Georgia Tech way, we do pride ourselves on those who take PMP to have a really high first time pass rate.
[00:15:30.750] - Chris Carter
Historically we've had a 96% 1st time pass rate. So when you come through our program, we're not a boot camp. I want to say that one more time, we're not a boot camp. We're not just here to get you a passive exam. It's not our goal. Our immediate goal of Broken Record here is to really instill real world SME experience to you in the classroom so that you'll be successful in your career development. That's what it's about for us. So I gave you some quick stats there. You get the pinbox six and pinbox seven. With our curriculum, we just don't do one or the other. We do the process based approach which is pinbox Six, which is the ten knowledge areas and five process groups. But you also get the eight performance domains in pinbox seven along with the twelve new principles. So we have a hybrid between pinbox seven and pinbox six. And we also have an Agile curriculum that's based upon the Agile Practice Guide from PMI and Agile Alliance, which we were very much so in cahoots with.
[00:16:29.080] - Chris Kopp
And that's why you get more than just what the minimum is to just pass, right?
[00:16:33.100] - Chris Carter
[00:16:34.910] - Chris Kopp
Here's all the real world life experience that you're going to be able to implement tomorrow. And oh, by the way, you can also pass the PMP, right. That's kind of the focus there, right?
[00:16:45.970] - Chris Carter
The mantra benefit.
[00:16:48.060] - Chris Kopp
[00:16:48.520] - Chris Carter
More than the boot camp. That's right.
[00:16:50.560] - Chris Kopp
That's good. So what you're saying is it's not a boot camp. I think we got that loud and clear. That's good. You've mentioned this a couple of times, this experiential learning with modular design, right? So those are big words. Break it down. What does that really mean? Like for a person that would be going through this course?
[00:17:13.160] - Chris Carter
Chickfila. Chickfila. Do you know Chickfila? I hope most of our listeners know Chickfila. So you go to Chickfila and you get an eight piece nugget or a twelve piece nugget, depending on how hungry you are. And they come in a box and it's a mental trick. You eat your first nugget, right, and you remember it and you savor it, but then you're already anticipating the second one and the third one. And somewhere in between the fifth or 6th nugget, you forget eating the ones in the middle because you had an anticipation of rhythm, of familiarity with how the eating experience was. So then by the time you eat your last note you're like, wow, that was delicious. I'm going to eat another box later on. That is almost I know it's funny, but that is almost what modular learning is all about. What we're doing is we're establishing a familiarity or a rhythm of learning. So there's a modular format where there's seven pieces. We give you a new concept and we define it for you. We immediately connect it, number two, the practical application. And then we stop lecturing you immediately. We open it up for Q and A on the practical application because as instructors, we want to confirm that you just followed the small minimize lecture and that you could connect it to the real world immediately.
[00:18:31.750] - Chris Carter
That's very important. That's the third step in our modules, right? So there's chunks. It has the same flow every time, different content with the same flow. After that Q and A, we immediately go into a group exercise. That's the experiential part. The group exercise is specifically designed to take that practical application and have our teams I call them teams, but student groups broken up. Typically, teams are four to five. They break up. They work on their exercise for five to ten minutes, and then we come back and they all share out. So every group will present that's the fourth piece of the module. The fifth piece of the module is called a debrief, where we debrief expected learning outcomes. So as instructors, what we're doing is we're trying to check the results of their exercise, almost like checking someone's homework, and we're giving it immediate feedback. And there's a great two way conversation established between the teams now and then. Last but not least, we validate those learning outcomes and we do a very nice chalkboard, kind of white chalk on a blackboard summary of here are the key points you should be walking away with.
[00:19:36.950] - Chris Carter
Let's pause, take a break onto the next module. So what you just got there were seven core pieces to a modular design. Now, somebody might hear that, but you're not seeing it on paper. It's kind of IP for Georgia Tech now that we designed it, but we found it to be extremely engaging for our online audiences, but also our in person classroom. So it's really fit both formats. The point of it is it's engaging and it's not an hour long lecture. It's a ten to 15 minutes lecture immediately with a probing question to draw out our students and then an exercise, and then a confirmation of expected learning outcomes. Or enrichment. Some academics would call that enrichment. So that's kind of the modular design. Super excited about it. Now, all of our courses, we have a total of eight courses. All eight courses have this modular design format.
[00:20:28.870] - Chris Kopp
And do they come with your choice of dipping sauce as well, or how does that work?
[00:20:33.600] - Chris Carter
I guess the dipping sauce may be the instructor you get, but we pretty much all follow the same standard rule of thumb.
[00:20:39.310] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, no, that's great. That makes it very practical, because I just was like, what is experiential learning with modular design? But that makes perfect sense. So it's like you're just really immersing yourself in it, right, and just applying it to your situation. So that's really a good way of doing that.
[00:20:57.970] - Chris Carter
[00:20:59.250] - Chris Kopp
So who is this program perfect for? Is it good for brand new people? Is it people that have been in the workforce for a while? Who's going to benefit from the most from going through this?
[00:21:12.410] - Chris Carter
Yeah, we studied psychographics and demographics when we started designing this new curriculum. And one thing we noticed is that we had a large portion of gen X mid career people coming to our classroom. But we need to expand that. We need to prepare for gen Y and gen Z, but we also need to think about professionals going through career changes and we also need to think about undergrad and graduate students, those who are just starting their career path. So now our curriculum is more broadly extended and not just so those people kind of already have a little bit of project management experience. We're trying to meet everyone where they are now, so we typically even team up people depending on the project management experience so they can have a little bit of interesting kind of dynamic going on. But this is a great class for those trying to learn project management from the ground up, the fundamentals. It's also a great curriculum for those seeking to get their official license, right. Whether it be PMP or ACP. And last but not least, it's certainly designed for those mid career professionals going through career change, but also for corporate PMOs because now we're training corporate PMOs as groups.
[00:22:21.510] - Chris Carter
So I'd say that those are kind of our core focuses. Undergrad and grad students certainly welcome them, but also career professionals, people going through mid career changes, and certainly PMO organizations at large.
[00:22:35.090] - Chris Kopp
So that's an interesting point. So you'll basically take a whole Pmo.org and just train the whole like going through the exact same process, bring them all together at the same time, right?
[00:22:45.930] - Chris Carter
Yeah. Literally two weeks ago we just wrapped up a twelve week training program with maximus PMO. Maximus, the Fortune 500 for up in outside of DC. And it was a great time. We had 30 team members for maximus PMO and two cohorts and they did excellent. They did excellent for twelve weeks with us.
[00:23:08.840] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, no, that's great, man. I tell you, just get everybody on the same page, literally and just go and execute. That's exciting. And I'm thinking about it. Those that are just getting out of college and everything, it's like everything is a project. I don't care how small or how big it is. It's like everything ultimately is a project when you really think about it. So just being able to get those principles in your mind will be great even if this isn't what you're going to be doing as far as a career. Right, right.
[00:23:41.750] - Chris Carter
I definitely can echo that. I mean, if you're working on something new or you're introducing the change, PMI's definition is very simple. Project a temporary endeavor. That means it has a start and a finish date, has a rollout time, and it's introducing either a new product, service, or result. And I think that if you're working on a new product, a new service, or a new result of some sort, most likely if you don't call a project, it's probably a project. And it certainly is a cross discipline, industry wide skill set. Very needed in multiple skills, whether you're in the finance sector, construction, oil, finance, healthcare, automotive, like me, and I could go on it's in most of the sectors in the industry.
[00:24:31.230] - Chris Kopp
Yes, it applies across so many industries, for sure. So how has it been received so far? Any numbers you can share? Is it doing what you thought it would do? What are your thoughts there?
[00:24:43.240] - Chris Carter
It's growing a little faster than what we thought. I'm recruiting teachers right now because our supply is a little higher than our demand is. A little higher than our supply is. But, yeah, I think over the last two semesters, last fall semester 22 and spring semester 22, we're in spring semester 23 now, but the last two semesters, we had 577 total enrollments in two semesters. So that's averaging about over 250 students per semester on average. We do have exams. They're test scores. The average test scores from all 22 want to say was 92%. Some of the content is challenging. This is not a cake walk by any means. It's a college curriculum. It's a college course. But still, our students are succeeding. Roughly the average score of 92%, 577 enrollments. We had a number about over 350 certifications last year. Student satisfaction rates on a liquid scale was 4.7 out of five. That includes format delivery and content and instructor academic knowledge. Those are kind of some of the areas that were rated on the liquid scale there. So 4.7 out of five students, for the most part, are very highly satisfied or extremely satisfied with the course delivery.
[00:26:13.090] - Chris Carter
We have a lot of success stories. Students write us letters when they pass the PNP exam on the first time. We get them all the time. People post on social media. Those are just some quick numbers there as far as student satisfaction test scores, our average exam scores, and our total number of enrollments of 2022. Looking forward to having even more in 2023 and beyond. So we're in an expansion mode right now. Trying to sustain it, though. Yes, I want sustainment, though. It's a bit of a sprint. You can't sprint forever. You got to be sustained pace for the marathon. But we're building sustainment now.
[00:26:47.490] - Chris Kopp
Yeah, that's good. Anything else you think we should know about this program that you haven't covered?
[00:26:54.460] - Chris Carter
I think we covered the bases again. Georgia Tech. I'm a Georgia Tech alum twice over. I did my engineering undergrad there many moons ago, over 20 years ago. But, yeah, I think Georgia Tech is a great brand. We pride ourselves on engineering, but we also georgia Tech has a deep history in project management. A lot of people I'll just share one factoid that didn't come up is PMI Project Management Institute, which is the really global international authority on project management. They had their beginnings at Georgia Tech. A lot of people don't know that the founder of PMI was a Georgia Tech industrial engineering grad. His name is Jim Schneider. So he was one of the primary founding members of PMI back in the 60s, actually. And Georgia Tech. We hosted the 50th anniversary of PMI at Georgia Tech. And then we were also honored a couple of years ago to host the 40th anniversary of PMI Atlanta. Again, the third largest chapter. And most of all, my faculty, we are members of PMI Atlanta as well. So I'll put a plug in to PMI Atlanta. And I'll also say that they were gracious enough to have me as a guest speaker at that fourth anniversary.
[00:28:04.390] - Chris Carter
So Georgia Tech, we do have our core in engineering, but I would almost argue that another core of Georgia Tech is project management. So that's why we take it so seriously, and that's why we're very vested.
[00:28:17.010] - Chris Kopp
Yeah. Well, it sounds like it's absolutely getting front and center here again, right? There's no doubt about that. That's great. Where can people find more information about this? Or if they want to register, what's the next steps that you would ask them to do?
[00:28:33.810] - Chris Carter
Probably I'll give you a website here in a second. But the most easy thing is go to Google, because everyone goes to Doctor Google nowadays.
[00:28:40.560] - Chris Kopp
[00:28:41.100] - Chris Carter
And just type in Project management. Georgia Tech forwards project management. Georgia Tech. And you'll get our home website there. You'll get some ads. Some flyers will pop up. You might even get an info session link, because we do info sessions about once a quarter right now that are public. So people can sign up for info sessions, but otherwise go to Pet TechG atechedu PM. I'll say it one time, PE, like professional education, pet Tech for Jordancheck.edu, for project management. And that's take you straight to our home page. And you'll see all the goodies there. Perfect.
[00:29:25.460] - Chris Kopp
And we'll include that in the show notes as well, and they'll be able to just link to it and jump to it from there. Well, Chris, we appreciate you being on great practices today and sharing this information with us. This has been very educational on a number of levels, and we certainly encourage people to look into this more.
[00:29:46.970] - Chris Carter
Awesome. Thank you, Chris Cop, again for inviting me, and I'm very honored and humbled to do this. And again, my apologies for being in the airport and any background noise that was caused. My apologies.
[00:29:57.350] - Chris Kopp
It's all right, man. We'll let you get back to your chickfila nuggets.
[00:30:00.120] - Chris Carter
Okay, sounds great. All right, thank you so much.
[00:30:04.560] - Chris Kopp
All right, we'll talk to you soon. Well, we'd like to thank Chris Carter again for being on today and taking time out of. His busy schedule to come on great practices and talk about this exciting project management certificate program at Georgia Tech. Now, if you want to find out more information about this program, virtual classes are available so you can take it anywhere. You can go to peprofessional Education gatec.edu, PM, or just click on the link in the show notes, and you'll be able to get there and find more information out about the program. So do you have a great practice you'd like to share? If so, you can go to the PMO leader, click on Explore Great Practices Podcast, and fill out the form at the bottom of the screen. Someone will get in touch with you shortly. Also, be sure not to miss an episode by subscribing to Great Practices on your favorite podcast platform. And if you like what you hear, be sure to share this with your manager, your colleagues, anyone else that you think would benefit it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and keep putting Great Practices in the practice.