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Trina Rogers: Leading the Next Generation of Project Managers

Memphians hear about many plans and initiatives that are, in theory, going to improve our city’s way of life. But oftentimes, there is a disconnect between plan, action, and community understanding. 

A project’s success hinges on more than individual boots-on-the-ground work. Poor marketing, misled stakeholders, or confused team members can sink any initiative.  

“We hear a lot of grand plans from elected officials and large companies wanting to make an impact in our area,” said Trina Rogers, a professional project manager and one of our adjunct professors. “These initiatives usually have a face and a name attached to them. But what I hardly ever see is a clear ‘how.’”

Trina has made it part of her life mission to teach the next generation to lead with “how.” 2024 marks her third year instructing our IT Project course, bringing with her years of industry experience.

She began her IT career as a developer but felt mentally out of sync in the role. On the side, she explored project management through a volunteer role at a local school. She quickly found that communication and planning were her core strengths. 

Eventually, she talked to her team about transitioning to a project manager role so she could best benefit their efforts. They obliged.

“I'm not the best coder or engineer,” Rogers said. “But I am very good at the planning and communication part, which are foundational tools for project management. When I saw I could apply these skills in my volunteer role, I realized this is how I could benefit my team members and I was able to transition into the project manager role.”

But what exactly is project management and how does it relate to IT? Let Trina explain.

“To get anything done in IT, at least one team member has to possess clear communication skills,” Rogers said. “That person must have a vision and be able to coherently lay out a plan to reach the desired deliverables and to convey the level of support required of project stakeholders succinctly.”

Rogers continues, “In short, project managers are the head cheerleaders for a project. They have an overall view of what needs to happen, who needs to be involved, and what roadblocks they can clear along the way. It takes creativity to craft clear messages that accurately represent what the team is doing.”

2024_February_Tech901_REM-5766IT Project is a perfect course for current IT professionals looking to supplement and elevate their other skills. It is also built for those interested in a project management career, offering students multiple paths forward after graduation.

“I love being able to teach a course with instantly transferable real-world skills,” Rogers said. “Some of my students don’t plan on pursuing project management roles, and that’s okay. Because what they learn helps with more than just a career, it helps them know how to plan a church event or possibly their wedding!”

The course preps students for the CompTIA Project+ exam by way of a class project with built-in deliverables. Beyond the exam prep, this project helps students discover the roles they excel at in a team setting and also form a professional portfolio that they can present in future job interviews.

“We design our course around a class project,” Rogers said. “Students work in groups, brainstorm their project, and split up working on the staggered timeline of expected deliverables that are set up for each group to fulfill. Because these are mock projects, we don’t judge on 100% data accuracy, but we want students to have thought things out.”

Rogers continued, “For example, if a group is organizing a music festival, you’ve got to assign a talent coordinator, food and vending, logistics, finance, etc., and then they come to myself and other instructors like they would an advisory board.”

The final presentation day is what Trina loves most about the course. Students get to show off their creativity and experience a “boardroom” environment.

“I just love seeing everything come together and the energy of the classroom rise,” Rogers said. “And students get so into it. We’ve even had one that was SpongeBob-themed and they spoke in pirate speak the whole time.”

“When they present, we allot time for questions that project managers would get in real life at a typical kick-off meeting,” Rogers continued. “Things like, ‘Do you understand the risk involved?’ Or, ‘Who else will need to get involved to make X possible?’ We had a couple of music festival presentations where the budget was $10,000, but the artists were huge names. So, that leads to constructive feedback and how to adjust goals.”

This live feedback from the class is crucial to Trina, as the “how” she feels is often overlooked in real-world projects and can stem from narrow POVs. But, not every team member has the capacity to think big picture. That duty falls to the project manager.

Success in this field demands versatility, which is best learned by doing—something Trina’s course provides in spades.

“This class teaches skill sets that help you learn versatility between roles, which is what you need in a project management role,” Rogers said. “Even if you never fill that specific role, those communication skills will always benefit you.”

As our 2024 Project students near graduation, we know they’ll head into the workforce ready to embrace challenges and lead confidently.

To see our remaining 2024 class offerings, click here.

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