An Interview with Chuck Novack

I recently saw an excellent YouTube video referenced in a discussion in the PMLink Project Managers Group. The video was created and uploaded by a project manager named Chuck Novack, as a video cover letter for his job application. It got 17 comments on that discussion, as well as over 600 views on YouTube. Just two minutes long, and safe for work.

As it turns out, Chuck recently moved here to Las Vegas from Southern California. I gave him a call and introduced myself. After the call, I sent him a list of interview questions and he graciously took the time to answer them.

How long have you been managing projects, and how did you get into this sort of work?

Long before “Project Management” was considered science, err, an art. And I morphed into this career. Started as a computer operator (for a Honeywell 2020), with COBOL (gasp) utility programming, business programming and, hocus-pocus, changed into an analyst position. Whew. Some corporate jobs but my niche, my favorite is Project Management. I like its challenges and variety.

Do you have a preferred knowledge domain, or specialty?  Or do you consider yourself a PM generalist?

Not by any plan or design, most of my PM work has been in the Healthcare domain. I’ve worked with hospitals, HMOs, Skilled Nursing Facilities, health insurance companies and even insurance brokers. But also non-profits, real estate, food manufacturing, government and more. Generalist? Nah. Perhaps an IT generalist, but I truly don’t want to limit myself into a pigeonhole. A PM is a PM is a PM.

What are your thoughts on the value of professional credentials, like the PMP, PMI-ACP, and so on?

I’m not certified, so maybe I am just a little biased. The success of a PM is not the sheepskin hanging on the wall, in fact, the success of a PM is more than the bean-counting part of the job. I am talking the burn-rates, WBS, GANTT, EVM. CPI and so on and so on ad nauseam. Critical, essential. However also essential is ‘the fit.’ The relationship to the stakeholders and all the ‘suits’, the respect from all the team who are affected by the project. In many cases, the PM cannot control the environment. And a PMP cert doesn’t give a Hiring Manager insights about ‘the fit.’ And a good PM can fail in a good company just because the chemistry doesn’t work.

What advice would you give to a project team member who was thinking of a career in project management?

I would recommend a psychologist. Well, not really. But I would suggest some self-assessment. Really. A good manager has be detail oriented and a clock watcher. Yet, a good PM also needs to be a big vision person. Entirely divergent skill sets all in one. A good PM manages projects, not people. Cannot hire or fire people. Must facilitate. Must coordinate. Should inspire. But a PM gets the blame, especially for contract positions, and only sometimes receives some of the credit. Not inspiring.

What do you see as the biggest challenge we’re going to face in managing projects over the next few years?

If I was planning for the future I would empower the PMO and fund the PMO to experiment with new processes and with new resources. That is challenge 3.

Challenge 2 is to engage the Senior Management and get all the suits on-board. They should not just ‘sign-off’ with your PMO and the PMOs new initiatives, make sure that they ‘sign-on’ to the future of Project Management.

Challenge ONE is security. If you have to be OCD on something, this is what you should be compulsive about. I don’t know if it will be corporate espionage, disgruntled (ex)employees, terrorism or just teens getting into mischief. But this is the biggest challenge … for the Project Management world and the corporate world at large.

Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Chuck!

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources and in benefits administration. In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.