Alex Yost has opened a branch of the family business, founded a business coaching company, and conducted corporate training in Turkey for an international consulting firm. Today, he’s managing director of project management for a design and technology company.
As he delved into his varied business career, he grew increasingly impressed with the role of project management in getting things done.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how brilliant your plan is,” he said. “If you’re not able to execute, then it’s not really of much value.”
Yost, of Lancaster, PA, graduated in May 2013 with a Harrisburg University master’s degree in project management and a concentration in information technology. His business exposure has taught him about entrepreneurship and setting priorities. It also piqued his interested in project management. He learned what he could about project management through hands-on experience but came to realize that there was “a whole lot more to learn.”
“It’s all the technical things that go into project management related to the discipline itself — how to manage time appropriately, how to manage risk, and the importance of cost management and scope management,” he says.
Project managers work with all the departments of a company one of Yost’s favorite aspects of the field.
“Projects are the link between corporate strategy and execution, and it’s through projects that sustainable change happens within an organization,” he says. “To be a good project manager, you have to have a good understanding of industry and good people skills and good business sense. It ties together why we’re doing this project, what it means for our business and the client, and what it means for cash flow and the company strategically.”
Project management has grown as a discipline and will continue growing because it’s “designed to accommodate change,” and change is crucial to surviving and competing in today’s business climate.
“A project is a temporary endeavor that’s producing a unique result. You’re building something unique. There are going to be things that change. There’s going to be uncertainty, simply because of the speed of technological changes and socioeconomic changes and globalization. Companies have to adapt all the time, and it’s only through projects that they’re able to make those organizational changes.”
Yost has an hour-plus commute to Harrisburg University, and a wife and three kids, ages 11 to 16, at home. But the family supports his quest for a master’s degree, which he pursued because project management is growing increasingly specialized.
“To have a degree with an information technology concentration in project management is a big deal in our industry,” he says. Yost credits his mother with inspiring a desire for lifelong learning. He was a junior in high school when she graduated from college with a degree in music education.
“My mom has always said that if you feel like there’s something you want to do with your life, and you have a passion for it, then go for it,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re older. I’d done a few different things, and here was something brand new.”
Still, Yost might have been stopped in his pursuit without access to HU’s project management master’s and IT concentration. The only other options were a distance-learning program, “which isn’t ideal,” or commuting to Philadelphia.
“HU has done a really good job of emphasizing repeatedly the basics of good, solid project management,” he says. As evidence, he notes that he passed his Project Management Professional certification test on the first try.
Yost says that his adviser, Assistant Professor of Geospatial Technology and Project Management Albert Sarvis, is an experienced project manager who helped him transfer credits and built an IT concentration.
“He’s always been available and open to giving advice and direction,” Yost says. “I’ve always asked more questions than most people, and he’s been very accommodating.”
Yost also appreciates learning directly from Dr. Amjad Umar, HU’s director of Management & eBusiness, and director of the Information Systems Engineering and Management Program. Umar is not only knowledgeable in project management “You would expect that” but brings high-level, practical experience into the classroom. He is a senior adviser to the United Nations on information and communications technologies in developing countries, and a Fulbright senior specialist with the U.S. Council for International Exchange of Scholars.
“He’s up to date on the latest technology thinking,” says Yost. “He has current information but provides a high-level of understanding about where the industry is going.”
Project management skills come in handy as he juggles school, work, and family, Yost notes.
“All of life,” he says, “is project management.”