Thursday, November 19, 2015

Project Management from a Social Sciences Perspective

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

My background is in psychology. I only have a bachelor’s degree. I say that like it isn’t an accomplishment, but it is. Anytime an individual takes the time to pursue learning, it is an accomplishment, especially with how expensive ‘certified’ learning can be.

That’s what it is like living In the information age, where information is readily available and individuals can make millions of dollars without a degree, just like they can make 30K a year with one.

I love psychology. I have since I was young, I’ve always been interested in how people think and why they think. On my 16th birthday my stepfather gave me a subscription to Psychology Today. I had that subscription until I went to college to study psychology.

Back then the magazine was more ‘journalistic’ in its ways. It provided research and recently published studies. I recently started receiving the magazine again. It’s not like it was… it’s much more commercial and mainstream, including cover lines like “How People See You.” That’s not the psychology I know or love. The magazine is meh… I rarely read it because when I do I get shitty about the loss of quality.

I started college at Indiana University. At the time the psychology program was ranked 2nd in the country under Stanford.

It has the oldest continuing psychology laboratory in the America, and has produced famous psychologists like B.F. Skinner and Alfred Kinsey, and (my favorite attribution) even made its way to the show Home Improvement when in the last episode of the sitcom, Jill tells Tim that she was accepted to teach psychology at Indiana University in Bloomington and the family will be moving.

The Psychology department there is still comprised of dedicated individuals. My first professor ever, like legit an 8am class on the first day of school, was a well known neuropsychologist who worked with some of the most famous ‘cases’ that psychology has ever seen. He did work with Oliver Sacks, the gentleman who was able to make psychology fun for many people and helped shine a light on how interesting this area of study can be.

The psychology department at IU has made a global impact and for a while I was a part of that. I’m saying all of this because for me, psychology runs in my blood and is a core part of who I am and how I think. But, I’m not a practicing psychologist, I’m not licensed, I don’t give counseling, basically, I’m not a ‘psychologist’.

But I am...

Adjusting to the corporate world has been difficult for me. Growing up I always pictured myself in academia, but experiencing the political rhetoric around the institution drove me from wanting to be a part of it. And I could never figure out how the churning wheel of academia gave back to those who needed their work. A core part of what I want to do with my life.

So I thought I will just take what I love and make it into what I want and how I want it

Easier said than done.

So we started a company; one where I can use my passion for psychology and where I get to define how it is used. Where PhDs aren’t required, and where the stigma around having one vs. not having one doesn’t stifle a room full of people to near choking.

This doesn’t mean we don’t learn, this doesn’t mean we don’t challenge ourselves. But it does mean we don’t judge others for what they do or do not have. Where we respect everyone who comes to the table as long as they are willing to stand for something and to maintain a curiosity about it; a curiosity that motivates innovation and acceptance. And in the process, empowers others.

This is how I found myself in the position of managing a project locally. A project where we get to better understand the psychology behind curbside recycling behavior. A project that I was tasked with managing…and had very little experience doing so.

The projects have gone well. It’s been an intense learning curve for myself. It is through these projects that I have learned what my strengths and weaknesses are. What I find important in a project and what I need to make a priority.

What I find most important is the relationships that I build with people; the networking, the discussions, the follow-thru.

What I need to make a priority is organization, preparation, and execution of the project.

The big picture if you will

Project management is no easy task. Nor is it something that I ever studied, experienced (outside of volunteer projects), or thought about in a ‘professional’ way. But I’m learning. And I’m learning about not being embarrassed to learn. I’ve joined some online courses, through Coursera, and I’ve enjoyed the discourse so far.

I notice that many projects provided as examples are engineering and medical projects. Very few discuss dealing with people and how to create a system of human beings vs. machines.

This is where I hope to bridge the gap.
As we move into the age of Social Sciences, many projects are going to involve the building of people not just monuments. I hope to be at the forefront of what can be done with a small bachelor’s degree, some passion, and a little bit of learning from an online platform. 

The Psychology I love is curious about the human condition. Why we are how we are. Each of us is unique and we each offer something important in this world.

The Psychology I pursue is about how to bring that out in people and how to use that momentum to create positive impact that lasts longer than any constructed monument.

And that’s going to take one hell of a project manager….

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