Success Stories
Marie Spark faculty profile image
LINKEDIN
Photo credit: Lorena De Benedittis
November 23, 2019 |
:::

Creativity and Problem-Solving Combine in Project Management Career

Marie Spark wanted to be a journalist. Then she discovered that what she loved doing—creative problem-solving and coordinating logistics—was project management.

By Jenny McKeel
:::

Lecturer and Project Management program director Marie Spark loves preparing students for an industry experiencing surging growth. By 2020, it’s anticipated that 11 million project management jobs will be added by the United States and its 10 major trading partners. Marie’s classes emphasize hands-on, situational application of theory. The technical knowledge and advanced communication skills students gain makes all the difference on-the-job.

Marie’s own professional path started at UC Berkeley, where she majored in Rhetoric and minored in French. She couldn’t have predicted the career that followed. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

From NPR to MBA

After discovering a passion for journalism, Marie landed an internship with NPR that, she later realized, was her first project management role. She loved tracking down information and coordinating studio interviews, but decided against a career in radio where job prospects were low.

Participants at the Project Management Institute's Leadership Institute Meeting
Project managers at the Leadership Institute Meeting
Project managers from around the world gather at the Leadership Institute Meeting

At the Leadership Institute Meeting, participants promote their local project management communities

Participants commemorate PMI's 50th anniversary

Project managers collaborate at the Leadership Institute Meeting

previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow
Shadow
Slider

She went back to school for her MBA and discovered the project management field—a mix of creative problem-solving and detail orientation that was an immediate fit. She took a consulting position with IBM and learned IT project management on-the-job before moving to Bank of America in IT project management.

“My strengths,” said Marie, “are that I dive into learning things and I’m not afraid to ask questions. I’m good at understanding complex concepts and explaining them. That’s a lot of what it takes to be a project manager.”

Six Sigma Certification

At Bank of America, Marie received Black Belt certification in Six Sigma, a set of tools for improving processes, products, and services. She also coached people pursuing Green Belt certification. When Marie was laid off from B of A, she seized the opportunity for growth and realized coaching others was what she loved most.

“I volunteered with the Project Management Institute’s San Francisco chapter in a leadership role—an amazing opportunity,” said Marie. “Through contacts I eventually was offered a teaching position at Golden Gate University. There’s tremendous value in volunteering with professional organizations and putting yourself out there because you never know where things will end up.”

Leadership and Problem-Solving Skills

Today, Marie equips students with crucial leadership and problem-solving skills like negotiation, motivation, and conflict resolution.

“There used to be the idea that project management is administrative overhead,” said Marie. “Today, companies are realizing that project management provides a structure that gives you the freedom to create change. Any business you can think of is going through massive transformation and in order to change effectively you need to understand how to manage projects. That’s why it’s exciting to be in project management.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons

GGU Law associate dean of admissions Paulette Palafox and second-year GGU Law School student Jose Padron-Lemus are featured in a profile in Hispanic Outlook Magazine about GGU Law's commitment to diversity and equity. Kudos to you both! ow.ly/aBnV50GsDhV ... See MoreSee Less

GGU Law associate dean of admissions Paulette Palafox and second-year GGU Law School student Jose Padron-Lemus are featured in a profile in Hispanic Outlook Magazine about GGU Laws commitment to diversity and equity. Kudos to you both! http://ow.ly/aBnV50GsDhV

This week, EMPA faculty, staff, students, and alums had the privilege of attending a fascinating GGU talk by renowned urbanist, researcher, writer, and entrepreneur Dr. Richard Florida. He discussed challenges to U.S. cities in a post-pandemic world focusing on urbanization, economic and social impacts to places and people, and opportunities for creating a more fair, equitable, and livable urban society. He touched on some of the tenets of his books and explored the concept that the pandemic is not so much a fundamental disruption but an accelerator of trends already underway. Thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful event! ... See MoreSee Less

This week, EMPA faculty, staff, students, and alums had the privilege of attending a fascinating GGU talk by renowned urbanist, researcher, writer, and entrepreneur Dr. Richard Florida. He discussed challenges to U.S. cities in a post-pandemic world focusing on urbanization, economic and social impacts to places and people, and opportunities for creating a more fair, equitable, and livable urban society. He touched on some of the tenets of his books and explored the concept that the pandemic is not so much a fundamental disruption but an accelerator of trends already underway. Thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful event!

Don't forget to participate in the Student Government Association elections! Polls close on Oct. 8. Vote today: ow.ly/hyda50Gn9H1 ... See MoreSee Less

Dont forget to participate in the Student Government Association elections! Polls close on Oct. 8. Vote today: http://ow.ly/hyda50Gn9H1

We're proud of GGU EMPA alum Glenn Galman who is the newly appointed Merced County Veterans Services Officer!

Glenn earned his EMPA in 2019 and on GGU's recommendation applied to the prestigious and highly competitive Capitol Fellows Program in Sacramento where he served as a fellow in 2019.
... See MoreSee Less

Were proud of GGU EMPA alum Glenn Galman who is the newly  appointed Merced County Veterans Services Officer!

Glenn earned his EMPA in 2019 and on GGUs recommendation applied to the prestigious and highly competitive Capitol Fellows Program in Sacramento where he served as a fellow in 2019.

Comment on Facebook

Congratulations Glenn!

Meet Wendy McWilliams, a certified career counselor within GGU's Career Services. Wendy provides one-on-one support for career planning/exploration, resume development, career and industry research, self-assessment/inventories, networking coaching, informational and formal interview prep. Prior to her transition to career counseling, Wendy was a software project manager in the SF Bay Area tech industry for 15 years and had a stint as a stay-at-home mom. She understands how important it is to find a good fit for both the job and work environment in order to love what you do and thrive. She enjoys working with people in transition at all stages and ages.

"I love working with GGU students. They bring a real variety of backgrounds and are coming in with their own ideas of where they want to take their careers. I often am simply a facilitator to help realize their aspirations. It is a motivated student body."
... See MoreSee Less

Meet Wendy McWilliams, a certified career counselor within GGUs Career Services. Wendy provides one-on-one support for career planning/exploration, resume development, career and industry research, self-assessment/inventories, networking coaching, informational and formal interview prep. Prior to her transition to career counseling, Wendy was a software project manager in the SF Bay Area tech industry for 15 years and had a stint as a stay-at-home mom.  She understands how important it is to find a good fit for both the job and work environment in order to love what you do and thrive.  She enjoys working with people in transition at all stages and ages.

I love working with GGU students. They bring a real variety of backgrounds and are coming in with their own ideas of where they want to take their careers. I often am simply a facilitator to help realize their aspirations. It is a motivated student body.
Load more