My Project-Management Fellowship Experience With Code For Philly’s PHLASK Project

By Seif Sekalala, CAPM

As a newly-minted project manager with a CAPM certification from PMI, I feel very lucky, grateful, and honored to have participated in this fellowship. In this blog post, I will discuss some of the lessons I learned from the experience, from the perspective of a junior project manager (PM).

Whereas PMI is one of—if not the—leading organization(s) for project-management certification, there are in fact numerous types of project-management philosophies/systems, and organizations. Some of the most prominent include Scrum, Agile, Lean, Kanban, etc. However, from PMI, my own certification—the CAPM—is for junior PMs, while PMP is for senior/mid-level management. There are also many others above that for more senior roles.

According to PMI, a project can be defined as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” Moreover, there are 12 main aspects or focus areas of project-management, according to PMI’s philosophy, namely:

  1. Project life cycle

  2. Integration

  3. Scope

  4. Schedule

  5. Cost

  6. Quality

  7. Resource

  8. Communication

  9. Risk

  10. Procurement

  11. Stakeholders

  12. Professionalism

And it’s important to note that different industries and contexts have different needs, trainings, tools, systems, etc. Even NASA, the defense department, and other large complex organizations have PM systems, but they’re narrowly tailored to their own unique functions.

From the perspective of PMI’s philosophy, CfP can be defined as a program—i.e., a group of separate but related projects. PHLASK is thus one of the constitutive projects of the CfP program.

As a CfP fellow with PHLASK, some of my main duties were:

• Re-organizing Google Drive folders

• Composing “Interface 2.0” and other planning deliverables for app’s V.2

• Maintaining weekly hack-night notes log

• Helping with GitHub ticket maintenance

• Assisting with planning and implementing smooth volunteer-onboarding and training

With Billy Hanafee’s guidance, I was able to execute these duties via a “PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT” process, which is part of the project life-cycle process. And in the end, I should note that the overarching task/goal for me was paradoxically both simple and complex.

In one sense it is simple, as the goal of the app is straightforward: assisting Philly residents with finding free clean water—with more products being added such as foraging and bathrooms. Moreover, the work isn’t too time-consuming. But it is also complex, at least from my junior PM expertise’s POV, and with no background in software-development. After all, it is a growing initiative, with unique human-resource needs due to nature of the work, the organizational-structure, culture, etc. Overall, the fellowship helped me learn three main lessons, namely:

  1. The real world is much messier than my PMBOK and exam notes!

  2. I am a slow-learner, but I can use it to my advantage.

  3. But I need to learn to be more patient, and humility is important!

I am also very grateful to the PHLASK team, Marieke, and CfP for this great opportunity; thank you!