PM-Mastery

Interview with Jonah Goska – A Technology Industry Sr. Project Manager

August 03, 2021 Walt Sparling Season 1 Episode 14
PM-Mastery
Interview with Jonah Goska – A Technology Industry Sr. Project Manager
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I interviewed Jonah Goska,  a Technology Industry Sr. Project Manager with Green Pages,  from the Boston Ma. area that works 100% remotely. During the interview, we discussed some of the common issues facing projects of all types now with shortages of materials and resources.

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Favorite Tool(s):

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Microsoft OneNote

Books:

Did you Know?

Links: 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

projects, project manager, technology, pm, working, organization, teams, people, project management, industry, resources, transitioned, year, bit, platform, zoom, kinds, conversations, easy, audiovisual

SPEAKERS

Walt Sparling, Intro, Jonah Goska

Intro  00:12

Welcome to the pm-mastery podcast. This podcast is all about helping you master your project management skills by sharing tips, tricks, tools, and training to get you to the next level while sharing the stories of other project managers on their journey in project management. And now here's your host, Walt Sparling.

Walt Sparling  00:35

Welcome, everybody to the current edition of pm mastery. In today's episode, I am interviewing Jonah Goska. Did I pronounce that right? 

Jonah Goska  00:46

That's right. 

Walt Sparling  00:47

Awesome. So Jonah is in the tech industry. And I'm gonna let him explain a little more about what he does.

Jonah Goska  00:55

Thanks, Walt,  glad we're able to finally meet up on here. I know it's been six or seven months since we originally reached out to you on LinkedIn. I am a Senior Project Manager at Green Pages, which is a technology company that's based out of the New England region. And I work on technology projects, ranging from infrastructure for data centers to migrations of on-premise to cloud, and cybersecurity, and other software-based solutions.

Walt Sparling  01:37

Okay, that sounds pretty cool. A good-sized company?

Jonah Goska  01:41

Yeah, I think we're somewhere between 200 and 500 employees. So decent footprints, we do have a lot of resources that are based out of the New England region, but there are resources that are all over the US. 

Walt Sparling  01:55

All right, and Where exactly are you based? 

Jonah Goska  01:59

I am right outside Boston, and one of the suburbs. So it's easy for me to bounce downtown if I need to. But I actually work 100% remotely in my position. So that's not needed anymore. That's cool. Hopefully, you still get out of the house, I actually have to sort of schedule it these days, scheduling a bike ride or a walk or, you know, hanging with some friends or something nearby. 

Walt Sparling  02:25

So that's cool. That's the one thing after, you know, in the beginning, it was so different to be home, and then kind of got used to it. And then it was like now I kind of look forward to getting back. I'm back in the office one day a week. But it's you've had a planet because it's so easy just to sit there and keep working.

Jonah Goska  02:45

Like, as a project manager, we sort of have to plan everything. So working in COVID really made us think a lot about everything that we do every day. And we really had to plan around everything. So it's amazing how COVID has really changed the landscape quite a bit, you know, with working and how we work every day.

Walt Sparling  03:08

Oh, yeah. It's changed the world. It's amazing what a year can do. So tell us a little bit about why you do and I believe you just made a transition. So technology hasn't always been what you did. You came from another industry.

Jonah Goska  03:23

Yeah, so I've actually worked in tech for quite a while since I graduated school. And jeez, is what 2006 at this point, which has been a while I studied audio and media technology. So me becoming a pm wasn't something that I thought of initially, but sort of through being a manager and being in a number of positions of basically thought about, what do I really enjoy doing. And one of those things was working on projects, and specifically technology projects. So I just transitioned to a senior project manager position. But before that, I was just a project manager, at another professional services organization. And the primary thing, or projects or delivery item that we were working on was audiovisual solutions for our clients. So that they could range from, you know, something as simple as digital signage in a hospital. You know, so you walk in your patient room, and we've heard your waiting room and you could see like some slides playing about, you know, upcoming events or weather or things like that to large format, led video walls, zoom and teams, conference rooms and pretty much any Unified Communication platform or highly integrated audiovisual system. So if you think about like, you go into a high-end conference room, where there's a touch On the wall and you press the on button. In the back end, that system is doing a bunch of different functions. But that's been set up by the integrators and programmers to automate those processes. So that one button press, you know, might turn on the display may switch the source may turn the audio on, and may do a bunch of things behind the scenes to make it easier for end-users to use AV systems.

Walt Sparling  05:27

Yeah, we we do a lot of conference rooms like that in some of our corporate facilities. And it is amazing what that little display all the stuff that it does, and the cost of that stuff. While you've transitioned a little bit you've grown, you've gone from a pm to senior pm. So how do you keep up? How do you continue to learn,

Jonah Goska  05:48

Continue to learn is something that I think about quite a bit, I like to say that I subscribe to a continuous improvement mindset, which basically means that we should all be lifelong learners. And, you know, the life that we live and work in is very fluid. And we have to be, you know, ever adapting to change and keep up with things. I think the biggest things that I do to stay on top of tech are things that are just happening is I've read books, I have daily articles that I have subscribed to that I receive an email of and that I read, watching YouTube videos, going to virtual seminars going to the local PMI, Chapter meetings, being active on social. So LinkedIn is probably a big platform that I've been active on since I graduated in 2007. So I have a lot of contacts on there. And a lot of groups that I'm a part of, and have connected with a ton of people. And really just having a conversation. It's just like we're having with other PMs and just talking about, you know, what's working, what tools that are, they're using, and you know, what they're doing to stay up to speed.

Walt Sparling  07:10

That brings me to something I keep forgetting to bring up on here that I know you had expressed interest in it a few months ago was I had talked earlier in the year about starting a project management mastermind group, usually masterminds, I belong to another one and keep you keep it around five to six people, but you get together for about an hour. And you have a format where you, it's kind of like a roundtable and you share your challenges or your victories, and we rotate through the group. I found the mastermind that I'm in, which is success-focused one and is very enlightening and really enjoy it. So if there's anyone out there who is listening to this and would be interested in something like that, check out the website, go to the homepage, and you will see a link to the mastermind page, take a look at it. And if you drop me an email, I'd love to get three or four people signed up and get it started, and then with a maximum of six. And it would be awesome.

Jonah Goska  07:27

Yeah, it's definitely really important to stay in touch with other PMs and not just stay in your corporate bubble. Because there are all kinds of things out there tools, techniques, you know, even just having another ear to bounce an idea off of or, you know, issues or things that are popping up is really useful.

Walt Sparling  08:32

Absolutely. It's like, one of the topics, it's common in project management is lessons learned. And by associating with other PMs, you get to learn the things they've gone through to hopefully prevent you from dealing with the same struggles. Which brings me to the next question. Challenges. Do you have any specific challenges that you're going through or have gone through? That would be good, you could share?

Jonah Goska  08:59

Sure. So I recently transitioned to a new organization. So I think, you know, that can definitely be a challenge in itself. But I think something, especially working in tech and working in professional services organizations, is very common is staffing, you know, resources for your projects, and, you know, working through that. I think, you know, I don't know if you could speak to that yourself in your industry and construction and facility management. But you know, you always run into problems where, you know, it's like, you kick off a project, certain scope is sold. You look at that school, you try to align the resources in your organization, to those resources, or maybe you have a pool of subcontractors that you use, and how you try to deliver on that. But there's always going to be things that are may come up that might get in the way so you know in this last year with COVID, you know, there were all kinds of times when maybe a resource was out because they had to quarantine because they came in contact with someone on a job site, and sort of thinking about things in different ways. So I think when I filled out the questions and prepped for this, that was something I was thinking about quite a bit. And it's definitely something that is not unique to the industry that I'm working in. I think resourcing is something that is a challenge across I think, every industry.

Walt Sparling  10:31

Yes. And I know, in ours, we are dealing with that from a labor shortage right now, you've heard a lot, I'm sure in the news, and seeing posts on LinkedIn and otherwise, and other places that people aren't going back to work. A lot of those people are making enough money just off the stimulus that they're staying home. And there's a lot of people that were laid off, or let go during COVID, that have now transitioned to new industries, because they couldn't go without jobs. So you have a combination of things that have really changed the availability of, of your resources. Plus, not now resources being the people. But we've also we've run into a lot of materials issues, and I'm pretty sure you've probably run into some of these as well, because some of the AV stuff that we've dealt with computer stuff. There are shortages on the materials used to make those so we've actually run into supply chain issues with that as well.

Jonah Goska  11:44

Yeah, absolutely. I've seen, you know, that's one of the first signs of COVID happening very early on, where all of a sudden, we were seeing all these weird shortages, and we didn't know what it was from. It's amazing how, you know, when there's a major event that happens in the world, because we really work in a global economy these days. And it's not something that maybe everyone thinks about on a day-to-day basis. But if you're buying electronics, you may have components that are made partially in one factory on one side of the world, and then they're assembled on another side. Yeah, I've seen, you know, 26, week, 40, week, 60 week lead times on devices where, you know, there was semiconductor shortages or other things that were impacting those electronic equipment from being, you know, assembled, and then, you know, delivered to make a budget, or on a project schedule, rather.

Walt Sparling  12:47

Yeah, that's, that's a big concern for us for completing all our projects by the end of the year. A lot of them are in design right now. And we've already got contractors involved for basically sourcing the materials, but they're warning us already, that it could get really nasty towards the end of the year. And the one thing I hear a lot of people talk about how Oh, new president, you know, look at what they've done. It's like, you got to think about the fact that a year, you know, I don't know what percentage of the population, but a major percentage of the population wasn't working. So factories, warehouses, delivery vehicles, nothing was happening. And now you have to catch up, because everything that was made during that time has already been consumed.

Jonah Goska  13:38

So yeah, there's all those sorts of juices. And then there's also just new things. Because, you know, a lot of the technology was selling like hotcakes during the pandemic is, you know, we're setting up home offices, buying webcams, buying TVs, buying monitors, the prices of items online, definitely, the soared because of that, there are all kinds of cascading effects. And yeah, like you mentioned, you know, through the end of the year, even into next year, we're still going to be seeing implications of all this. It's not going to go away anytime soon.

Walt Sparling  14:16

No, but hopefully, it starts to, you know, things start getting back to some form of normal, then over the course of this year,

Jonah Goska  14:27

It's definitely always tough to, you know, you, you're working with a client, you tell them that you can implement a solution at X price, and then things that are outside of your control happened. And then you had to have those conversations. You know, X price can still happen, but it's going to be X time later. You know, it's like, we can no longer source this, this part and manufacturers are saying that's going to be one or two months out, you know, to get it. So we can either wait the one to two months or weekend, you know, move to another product. But obviously, there's costs and locations of doing that, which are all, you know, difficult conversations at times.

Walt Sparling  15:15

Oh yeah, let's talk a little bit about tools. Do you have any specific items, whether they'd be hardware software, some kind of technology that you feel are your favorites that help you get your job done?

Jonah Goska  15:30

Sure, I use basically, all of the tools, and really depends on what tasks and doing but always trying to learn something new. Lots of Microsoft Teams, I know you've had other PMS, talk about Microsoft Teams, I kind of view that as a way to navigate to SharePoint, but really easy way to chat with your co-workers and, you know, have some simple conversations, you know, just through your chat function, I use OneNote a lot in trying to ramp up and create more templates with that, so that it's really easy. And, you know, just kind of have what you need for your meeting minutes, kind of pre-loaded. So when you post a meeting, you can just launch that and type in the info and then send it over right away. As you could probably relate, you know, there's all kinds of platforms out there Smartsheet Wrike, lots of emails still, especially as a professional service organization, you know, like you're working with clients, which means you kind of have to interface with them, and the easiest way that they want to communicate, sometimes that's a text message, sometimes that's an email or even a phone call, ton of Zoom calls, Teams calls, I basically live in Zoom and teams all day, just, you know, whatever platform I'm using, I try to be really thoughtful about how we're using it. I mean, in the end, you know, being a PM, I think what does PMI say? It's like 80 or 90% of what we do is communication. So thinking about, what are we trying to achieve? And kind of ratcheting the communication to that. And if it's a quick status update, and we can send a quick email over it. And that's enough, then that's fine. Sometimes it requires to hop in a Zoom call or view a slide deck, you know, whether that's PowerPoint or Microsoft Word or just a PDF or something. Yeah, there's all kinds of things that I'm doing in any given day.

Walt Sparling  17:42

I think it's interesting to talk about Zoom and Teams as far as chatting and on calls, prior to the pandemic, and probably a little bit into the year before. We were transitioning from Skype on a corporate platform to Teams. And of course, it's like, oh, something new. And we were just kind of getting comfortable with it, when the pandemic came out. And then all of a sudden, you saw massive improvements. Microsoft kicked in, because Zoom was becoming super popular. And I think I've spent probably 90, maybe 85% of my time in Teams calls because it's the corporate standard. And then the rest is in a combination of Zoom. I'm trying to think of some of the other there's the sharing ones like Adobe, we do. WebEx.

Jonah Goska  18:42

Webex is were still around, I feel like less organizations are using WebEx still exists.

Walt Sparling  18:50

Yeah. So yeah, teams, it's always up on one of my monitors. And it's some chatting in it popping up instead of asking someone a question, or I'll ask him, do you have a minute and then pop into a five-minute video and then boom, be done and go? Because it's so much better to be able to talk to someone sometimes than try to exchange emails. So that 

Jonah Goska  19:12

Yeah, absolutely. 

Walt Sparling  19:13

Yeah, the fact that it's become so comfortable. Versus Oh, jeez, I wonder if they'll do a video with me. You know, or, or even get on a voice call. And now it's bam. It's and you can see when they're online when they're offline. So it Yeah, Teams has really changed how we communicate, especially since we've been removed for so long.

Jonah Goska  19:36

Yeah, it's great. I mean, it's amazing how like you were mentioning, you know, Zoom or Teams, all these platforms have put in a ton of resources in the past year and some change, developing the platforms and making them better. The technology adoption. Over the past year and a half has been astronomical because of that. And just because there are people watching working remotely and a lot more people using the platforms, I think it's quite amazing to be part of that and be part of rolling out solutions to organizations. In its simplest form, all of this technology is just a communication aid. So it's amazing that we can roll out these Unified Communication Systems that enable business conversations to happen and to have a seamless experience. So you can work wherever you are, you know, from your phone from your tablet, or laptop or desktop, and everyone can join a meeting and collaborate, have conversations and do what they need to do, and then go to their next meeting. So

Walt Sparling  20:43

Yeah, I've had probably this week was or not this week, last week was the worst I've ever had, I think I had seven meetings that were back to back 30-minute meetings, 15-minute breaks. for four days, it was crazy. I couldn't wait for Friday,

Jonah Goska  20:59

Zoom fatigue, or zoom, or Teams fatigue, or really just fatigue from being on your device. Really, it happens. And you have to make a conscious effort to every 10 minutes or so maybe look away from your screen for 10 seconds, just so your eyes can sort of get a little bit of a break and not get so burnt out on, you know, staring at the screen all day.

Walt Sparling  21:27

Yeah, and definitely get up and walk around and stretch. I think people have gotten better at that, as things loosen up a little bit. But yeah, that this last year has been crazy. One of my favorite topics, of course, is did you know where we ask our guests to share something that maybe someone might not know about the industry? Or maybe about an individual or yourself? Have you thought of any Did You Knows you'd like to share?

Jonah Goska  22:01

I was thinking about those bits and I came up with a cheesy do not know it wasn't really necessarily related to my history or you know what I do as a PM, which was just more of a random facts. The BU bridge in Boston is a place where you can be in a boat that's above you has a train and above you has a car and above you has an airplane, when I researched it a little bit, it looks like there are actually three locations around the world where you can have that happen. But that's a cool thing in the Boston area to check out. If you're ever in the area. One thing about me, that is a do not do you know, that might be something you may not think of right off the bat, I was homeschooled and really did not take a very traditional path to education in my career. And I think since I subscribe to that continuous learning mindset, you know, working in tech has really fit me really well. You know, there's always something new coming out. And growing up. I was kind of very self-directed read books, take quizzes, touch base with my parents, and that sort of mindset of, you know, I don't know who is reading a book or always working on a search or trying to better myself or look at a process that we follow and figure out Does that make sense? Like, why are we doing this? I think that's you know, something, it's served me really well.

Walt Sparling  23:38

Yeah, and the well, continuous learning is definitely something I believe in. And if you're in the technology world, you know, even more, so I spent quite a lot of years doing that. And what I found was even though I was a constant learner, I dealt with a lot of small companies. And a lot of them didn't want to grow with the technologies, but some of them did. So I had to now maintain old technology and learn new technology. And at some point, I just said, No, I got get out of this. I can't do it anymore. But yeah, you have to keep up or you fall behind. So that's, that's great. I appreciate you sharing that. Anything else you'd like to share? or discuss?

Jonah Goska  24:23

You know, I guess I can kind of share a little bit more about how I became a PM. I don't think a lot of PMs think about Oh, man, I really want to be a PM when I grow up. But, you know, through working within higher education and then working in corporate companies, and kind of learning about how projects evolved and how you can be a resource on a project and then getting my PMP certification going through that whole process. It, You know, it really to me felt like a really good place to be, and really exciting place to be because, you know, as a, as a project manager, you're helping to bring in change to an organization. And part of that process is, you know, understanding, why are we doing this. And so maybe the senior leadership or CEO or, you know, managing partners, or managers from an organization see a need for something, and they take that and, you know, gets turned into a project or resources get allocated, as the project manager, a solution is sold, you know, in my professional services organization, and it's, it's like a puzzle, I have to look at, you know, what, what was the solution? What was the intent? Have conversations internally, with my team, have conversations with the external team and clients? Try to understand what's important to them? You know, what are the things that drive in an organization I work with, over the past few years, hundreds of companies, which you get a lot of insight from working with so many different companies about what makes them tick? What what's important and just, you know, sit down and have a simple conversation and ask where it's beginning of a project, you know, why are we trying to do this, instead of, you know, kicking off the project and spinning resources right off the bat, you know, right at the beginning, I just think it's, it's really exciting being a project manager. So,

Walt Sparling  26:37

And I agree with you wholeheartedly on that, I don't believe in fact, I think it would be very rare for someone to get out of high school. And so you know, what, I want to be a project manager. Because it, you really have to get exposed to, I don't know, exposed to the process. And once you start learning that you have specific skills, like organizational or communication, or God, if you got them both, and then you start organizing things and managing things, and then you realize, somehow, through an industry that, hey, you could be a project manager. I mean, I've held project management positions for years, but I didn't decide to be like a professional, full-blown, until many years down into my career. It's just something that you kind of walk into. There's actually a really good book on that you can get on Amazon, and I think I have it in one of the previous episodes. I can't even now I can't think of the title, but I'll include it in the links. But it's basically project management for the unofficial project manager, it's like, you're not really titled as a project manager, but that's what you do. And then some people get into that, and then they realize, wow, what if I actually became a project manager, and project managers can do quite well financially. And there's a lot of opportunities there in every industry, it's a great place to be.

Jonah Goska  28:13

I agree. Yeah. My previous organization that I just left, I was, you know, working specifically in audiovisual integration projects, and one of the reasons why I wanted to, you know, move and transition into my current role, you know, in a more IT-centric space was that you know, that's kind of like the direction that everything's moving in, you know, AV system and technology systems are all kinds of, like, converging, you know, in, in the cloud. And, I think, working as a PM in the tech space, and just in general, there are so many different places that you can kind of go in those, those. Those skills are transferable, you know, even you know, in any industry, that's not exactly the same thing that you're doing. I've even seen that you know, my past few weeks, you know, all the concepts are, are the same. It's just, you know, maybe it's called something different or whatever, in a different organization. But, you know, the PMP mindset and keeping kickoff, your project, you know, do all your initiation, your execution, monitoring, control, and all, you know, all the different phases of your project. Now, all those concepts, you know, apply across industries and across different types of projects. So,

Walt Sparling  29:35

Yep. Well, Jon, I appreciate you spending time with us here. And it's been great getting to know you a little better. I will keep working on trying to promote the mastermind group because I know it's something you want to get into. And hopefully, we can pull something together with that here soon. And maybe we'll get together in a year or so and see how this new role is working out for you. And for the rest of you out there. If you're interested in the mastermind, please go by the website and drop me an email. And we will see everyone on the next episode of pm-mastery.

Intro  30:13

Thanks for listening to the pm mastery podcast at WWW.PM-Mastery.com. Be sure to subscribe in your podcast player. Until next time, keep working on your craft!