All About PMP, An Exclusive Interview with Raymond Vaccari, MBA, PMP

At New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), our mission is to leverage the vast resources of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in order to have a positive impact on local and statewide businesses, organizations, and communities. One way this is accomplished is through a variety of Learning and Development based courses offered by NJIT, to train students and professionals on skills and qualifications such as project management, Six Sigma Green Belt, and more.

To get more insight into some of NJIT’s Project Management Professional (PMP) Program, we interviewed Raymond Vaccari, an adjunct professor who teaches the course designed to prepare students for the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) certification exam.

Q: I’d love to hear about your experience as a project management professional, and how you got into this field in the first place.

A: Well, I’ve had about 50 years of experience in Project management. I started off in manufacturing for 10 years as a project manager in a manufacturing company. I worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories for 20 years as an overall program project manager for IT development, I worked as an IT consultant project manager for IBM and General Motors for a number of years. I worked in the electrical construction industry as a project manager as well. Somewhere along the way, I think it was 2010, I received my PMP certification. That’s the Project Management Professional certification from PMI.

Since then, I’ve had that PMP certification. Then you need to maintain it every few years. You have to accumulate a certain number of PDU’s, and I’ve been able to do that. Somewhere around 2016, I was asked to teach a course at NJIT on PMP certification. It’s a requirement if you’re going to go for your PMP or your CAPM, which is the Certified Associate in Project Management certification. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you go for your CAPM. But in both cases you have to pass the test, and you will also have to take a course to qualify to apply for the test. It’s a 35-hour course, and I was asked to teach. I also was asked to join NJIT as an adjunct professor to teach project management. I’ve been doing this for quite a while.

Q: Over your career, what would you say the biggest changes have been specifically in terms of project management?

A: The biggest change is the introduction of agile. Agile is a software development that’s very “agile”. You very quickly develop a prototype, get it out to the customer and get feedback. Develop another. There are project management methodologies that are a little bit different than the traditional environment.

So that’s been the biggest change, and it’s falling over into other industries as well because it is a good approach to getting projects completed quickly and out to the customer.

Q: When did that change happen?

A: Right. Well, the Agile software development methodology started in the early 2000s. PMI recognized its importance in the latest version of their ‘PMBOK’. They have published a Project Management Book of Knowledge, they call it, and we’re up to version 7 now. But I believe it was in edition six, which was published a couple of years ago, where they published all of the methodologies, including Agile, and incorporated them into the required certification test.

A: [I teach] mostly experienced people who graduated a number of years ago and have been working in industry for a while; they’ve recognized the value of learning, project management methodologies and attaining their PMP certification. They see that as a good career move. In some cases, they’re part of an organization that values project management methodology; most of the larger companies do that. In some cases, they’re smaller companies that don’t have a formal project management methodology, and these students are looking to introduce that into their company. Having your PMP or CAPM certification verifies that you know of and can apply PMI’s Best-in-Class project management methodologies.

I see, actually, the advent of more technology. Types of software development programs that you could purchase that could help you with organizing your project and running, conducting your project, etc. But the newest thing now is AI, and that’s something that I’m starting to incorporate into the classes as well. We know that people are going to start using it, so let’s see how we could apply it to project management. As a matter of fact, when I do teach the class at Newark College of Engineering (NCE, one of NJIT’s colleges), one of the requirements is for students to write a term paper. One of the options is to write about “What’s the future of project management and how is technology going to affect it?” I expect a lot of information on how Artificial Intelligence can be applied to project management. The practicing project managers are aware of it and it’s going to be applied going forward.

Q: How does getting PMP Certified help you become a better project manager?

A: Well, again, because of the thoroughness. Understanding all the methodologies. Being able to cover those areas that I mentioned.

Usually what happens typically is “Oh, you’re a project manager, got a project. OK, go ahead and do it!” There’s no training for a project manager. By taking this course, you are being trained in the different methodologies, and your awareness about the different aspects of project management becomes incredible and you could apply it right away to all your projects. I recommend project management. I think everybody should take a project management course. We all run projects, one way or another. We all need to know who our stakeholders are. What are the requirements in making sure we do it on-time and under budget, with quality. So those are the areas you want to focus on.

Q: Outside of the workplace, do you think there’s any benefit to being a Project Management Professional?

A: Absolutely! You have items that you do at home, you have projects, the same thing. Again, the carpentry example, measure twice and cut once. Being prepared and understanding what you want to do, and having a methodology to have it done is very important. You could apply it in your everyday life as well.

Q: I heard about some of the work you did providing PMP training programs to NJ Transit. Could you maybe describe some of the challenges they were facing and maybe the type of training that they received and how it helped them?

A: Originally, we were approached by a fellow who was the chief project manager at NJ Transit, and he had a PMP certification as well and he saw the value of that. He wanted to get all his project managers trained in PMI and get their PMP certification. So, we ran a couple of cohorts. We conducted a couple of classes of ten or so each. Additionally, in their IT department they have about 240 individuals. Their goal is to train everyone in project management to different degrees.

What we’re working with them on now is developing a four-hour course as an overview of project management, pointing out the things that NJ Transit is doing that fall in line with PMI’s best in class project management methodologies. And then after that, a subset of that group will take an 8-hour course more focused on the basics, and understanding a little bit more about what each of the key areas are. Beyond that, another course for those who want to go further, CAPM, and beyond that a course for those who want to finish and get their PMP certification.

The challenge is to get all the information that you want, to try to squeeze it into four hours.

Q: What is the number one piece of advice for a student who is looking to start a career in project management?

A: Start with taking a course! Either the for-credit course at NJIT or the non-credit, PMP Certification course at NJII. Taking these courses would give them all the information to get started. A student without a lot of experience would go for a CAPM, the Certified Associate in Project Management certificate, which only requires 23 hours of training, and it doesn’t require experience. Once receiving PMP or CAPM certification, they could formally list it after their name, and it’ll help them along the way in their career.

To watch the full video interview, click here.