It’s been 8 months since I “graduated” from my MPH program. (Yes, I received a degree and completed by requirements, but it’s difficult to feel like you’ve actually graduated when you forfeited the ceremony to pack and ship a storage unit off to Seattle and take a quick and well-deserved Christmas holiday on the Canary Islands– but I digress). I’m in a new city that I really like and have been having fun exploring, meeting truly solid people I now feel that I can call friends, and am in a new job in a new career taking advantage of every opportunity I can for professional development.
Real world experience is irreplaceable, but does not need to stand alone.
Being a “Program Associate” is pretty much a catch-all title and provides very little insight into the true nature of my job. If I were to title myself, I’m actually more of a Project Manager who is accountable for the implementation and guidance of a project within the overall program strategy set by the organizational leadership.
Knowing about structural determinants to health truly is an asset in working in global health. However, content expertise and project management are different set of skills. Honing in both is critical to “real world” success– not just in one’s own professional development, but in ensuring that the social impact I’m trying to have isn’t mucked up by shortfalls in my ability to carry that impact through.
Sadly, the skill and art of project management is not part of MPH curricula. Even with a semesters worth of courses at the business school under my belt, there is still so much to learn about how to strategically and methodically manage a project.
Never stop learning.
I’ve always been a book nerd. I recently picked up the book, MBA Fundamentals: Project Management at my local library. I just 67 pages in and already I am able to enact better management skills both on the job and with my personal passion projects: For Colored Girls Who Travel and Jay Bee Photography.
My aim is to complete the book and practice its principles in my real life everyday. In a few years, I’ll most likely go for my Project Management Professional Certification and who knows, maybe commit to a full-blown MBA.
I received advice from a trusted mentor before I left school: “Always remember that you have the ability to learn. Whatever you want to know, you can know”. That has never left me and I’m actualizing those principles right now.