Project Manager, Sara Schmitz, was honored last Wednesday with a company luncheon for her win as “2016 Renodis Employee of the Year”. She was voted EOY by her peers and here are just a few nominations showcasing why she is out of this world:

Sara has been a rock whenever she needs to jump in and help out. She is a credit to our team.

Sara goes (and goes) above and beyond to follow up on customer orders, issues, contracts, discos, installs – she rocks!

Sara is accountable and you can always count on her to get things done. She goes out of her way to help the sales rep and the customer to deliver a quality outcome. Thank you for all that you do Sara!

Sara is a shining star and always willing to help out, resolve an issue and can be counted on in ANY situation.

Sara has so much patience. She not only has this beautiful attribute of patience, but has a way of explaining that is so ‘learn-able’ and ‘down to earth’. She truly demonstrates the term “team player”.

When she had a free moment from being a Rockstar, we asked her some questions on what makes her so unique.

Q: When did you join the Renodis Team? June 2015

Q: What did you do before Renodis? Worked in the telecom industry for over 20+ years in a variety of positions

Q: How would you describe your experience at Renodis so far? Wonderful. It feels like I’ve come home.

Q: How do you or your team continue to innovate and challenge the status quo? We consult with each other and use the lessons learned internally.

Q: Where can we find you when you are not at Renodis? With my family and friends or on a new adventure.

Q: In three adjectives, how would you describe your experience at Renodis so far? Thrilled, elated, gleeful.

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A pilot.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality you need to have for success? Good old fashioned Midwestern work ethic.

Q: What do you value most in a job? The people and satisfaction of doing a great job!

Q: What is your most treasured possession? My Costco Card

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement? A great network of family and friends

Q: Have any “hidden talents”? Blowing bubble circles underwater while scuba diving.

Q: If Renodis were a TV show, which character – from any sitcom, drama or reality show (of any period) – would represent you? Mork from Ork, Mork and Mindy

Employee of the Year Sara Schmitz 2016

Not sure if she is Mork from Ork, but she does make us all laugh.

Congratulations Sara on your well-deserved employee of the year award and recognition! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

Employee of the Year Sara Schmitz 2016

“It’s that time again. Has it already been three years? It can’t be!”

This is the voice that plays in the PMP’s (Project Management Professional) mind as the three-year renewal deadline approaches each cycle.

For anyone reading this who is not familiar with the “PMP”, the PMP certification is issued by the PMI (Project Management Institute) after training and an extensive exam process and it must be renewed every 36 months with credits or “PDUs” (Professional Development Units) to keep it active. Keeping your PMP credential in active status is a must in the PMP’s mind, as you do not want to go through the PMP exam again.

When my first renewal was coming up many years ago, I panicked. What I am going to do? What classes can I take in a condensed time?  How much money do I have to spend to keep my certification active? After that first round of panic, I made a promise to myself that I will not put myself through that again…and I did not.

There are countless and unlimited ways to earn the needed 60 PDUs over the 36 months to keep your PMP credential active at almost a zero budget and no stress! Below are just a few. You will want to check the PMI CCR handbook (Continuing Certification Renewal System) at the PMI website (WWW.PMI.ORG) for the actual number of PDUs that you can submit for each given area below.

#1 – Attend a meeting

You are probably on a committee in your local city, church or school. This counts! Participate in meetings, activities and local events in your area. There are also professional Project Management organization meetings for your PMI chapter in your area. Check the PMI web site (WWW.PMI.ORG) for your local chapter information.

#2 – Give a presentation

You most likely do this at least a couple of times a year already. It could be a small presentation at a team meeting at your employer or an update at one of the local meetings from above in your city. As long as you document your talk in a summary to submit towards your PDUs to the PMI, you are golden. PMI stresses the positives of presentations sharing knowledge that relates to your certification. By sharing your Project Management knowledge and sharing your skills with others, you are helping others learn and grow and also helping grow the profession. This enhances the practices that are essential to your certified role. Whether you are mentoring, teaching or applying your subject matter knowledge toward an activity, others will benefit from your experience and perspective.

#3 – Read a book

It is as simple as that! Reading is a valuable component of learning, and there are countless reading materials pertinent to Project Management. You can read books, articles, whitepapers, or blogs like this to stay informed and support your ongoing professional development.

#4 – Audit a class or meeting

This is considered informal learning but it still counts! You can earn PDUs by attending and engaging in structured professional discussions with others – for example a “lunch and learn” session with your organization.

#5 – Take credit for your employment

The PMI considers this “giving back”. They want you to share your knowledge and apply your skills to contribute to the Project Management profession and advance the goals of organizations you value and work in. If you are working in the Project Management area of your organization, this allows you to apply your knowledge and skills in a practical setting. Using these proficiencies actively contributes to sustaining and growing the Project Management profession.

#6 – Create content

Create new knowledge resources for use by practitioners and the public. By developing knowledge resources, you can share your skills and insight with others and contribute to their ongoing learning. There are many ways to create new content such as authoring books, blogs like this, articles, or creating webinars or presentations.

#7 – Volunteer

Seriously, think about it…you do this all of the time. By providing volunteer services to non-employer or non-client organizations in your community, you can earn PDUs! The PMI also has an active community of thousands of volunteers who support the PMI and the profession in a wide range of roles so you can serve on a PMI committee or team if you desire. You can also volunteer your job-related services to other not-for-profit organizations.

#8 – Further your education

You can always take continuing education at little or no cost. Most employers these days offer tuition reimbursement and these credits are PDU eligible if related to the Project Management arena. There are many outlets for these activities offered by PMI and also third-party providers such as online or digital media classes, self-paced learning conducted online or through varied forms of digital media, or live leader led classes. The possibilities in this are endless. Technology allows you to cater learning and educational opportunities to your schedule and needs.

To close, I would like to share my personal guidelines to achieve your 60 PDUs in 36 months utilizing the above concepts and resources:

Tip #1: Do not wait until month 35

Make a realistic goal. My goal is that I complete 5-7 PDUs each quarter. This will keep you on track with the needed 60 units by the end of three years.

Tip #2 – Select items that you enjoy

Maybe reading and presenting is not your thing, but volunteering is. Choose the PDU fulfillment area that works best for you and your schedule.

Tip #3 – Stay close to your PMI account

Log in at least once a month to check your approved PDUs and also to keep your finger on the pulse on any new updates or announcements PMI has for you.

Tip #4 – Stay focused on your career in combination with your PMP credential

As long as you follow the above tools, resources and my simple guidelines (that work for me), I guarantee this next round of renewal will be stress-free.

Your Project Management career is a journey and you will need to stay on top of the Project Management profession as the needs of employers grow and change. This is the primary reason PMI requires the PDUs every three years. A PMP certification gives you a significant competitive edge over your Project Management peers in the industry, so keeping it current and active is so very important. It keeps you relevant and helps you to better position yourself as ‘the asset’ to what companies are looking for and require.

Melissa Wold is an experienced Certified Project Management Professional who has worked in the telecom industry for over 27 years. For more information on Melissa’s tips, or if you have any comments or questions related to this post, please contact her at

Many IT organizations have developed a Project Management Office (PMO).  They are usually staffed with competent project managers who have good project management tools and who understand how to get their project across the finish line in a predictable manner (cost and quality).  However, there are unique characteristics of Communications / Telecom projects that demand a hybrid approach, with simple and flexible tools, and staffed by PMs with unique skills.  Yes, this premise is counter-intuitive for anyone who thinks of themselves as a progressive IT leader (me included).  But reality can’t be denied.

First let’s describe how telecom projects are unique, and it all starts with the carriers.  They are the central part of the project, we are trying to implement THEIR services.  Hard to pin down on dates, constantly changing resources, no firm commitments on anything, seemingly no one who can make a decision, “escalation” as a standard operational term, email driven processes, he-said-she-said mistakes … on and on.  Then add a complexity like last-mile services delivered by a completely different LEC than the one holding the contract, and the resulting tiered service model.  And add to all that the environmental component: the services are delivered outside in mother-nature’s domain, where weather can trigger delays, and streets and buildings and parking lots hold secrets until the digging starts.

How does a telecom PM manage through all of that?  First, they need to have a personal skill set that is a match for the chaos:

  • Masters of context switching, as some days are only about nudging a project forward.  They have to be able to manage multiple initiatives, just to stay busy
  • Broad telecom knowledge, the technologies, yes, but equally what can go wrong, and how to get it back on track
  • Expert communicators
  • Skilled at getting things done via influence.  Knowing the art of escalation
  • Managers of project risk and predictors of impact to schedules
  • Effective meeting leaders, covering status and to-dos with clarity and conciseness
  • Unflappable and dogged.

Then their execution model has to simplify the project for everyone involved, right to its essence.  Their PM processes should boil down to:

  • Create and keep a basic project plan
    • What are we trying to accomplish
    • What are the key milestones
    • What help do I need and what resources do I have
    • What are the constraints (time, budget, etc.)
  • Maintain an issues log and decision tracker
  • Effectively build and leverage a stakeholder-based communications matrix.

Trying to model out and maintain a beautiful Work-Breakdown-Structure with task dependencies, resource allocations, activity-level dates and a critical path is ultimately counter-productive.  It will be out-of-date and incorrect almost immediately on project commencement, and take a ton of time to maintain.

And finally, their tools need to be aligned with the execution model.  Flexible, simple to use, easy to understand.  The tools just help track activities, keep project participants on the same page (status)  and allow for issue tracking.   Most projects can be run most effectively with a relatively simple spreadsheet.  Put your energy into staff development and coaching, not tool deployments.

If you apply that lens to your telecom PMO projects it will pay huge dividends for your organization.  The work will get effectively completed, the costs of Project Management will be optimized, and your PMO staff will take great pride in their results and productivity.

About the Author

As Vice President of Client Solutions, Paul Cashin is responsible for leading the services organization at Renodis.

With over 25 years in business/IT consulting, Paul brings strong leadership experience in developing strategy, service offerings, sales/marketing programs, team development, partnership management, and implementation management of projects.

For more information on driving Telecom PMO and improving business outcomes, or if you have any comments or questions related to this post, please contact him at