Helping Students “Get Awesome Stuff Done”

September 18, 2023 Kevin Sikes

Sharing Watermark’s project management principles with the next generation of leaders

There is something magical about the pure jubilation children express, waving their hands in the air to answer a simple, yet powerful question:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I experienced this magic firsthand when I was invited to present on behalf of Watermark at a Career Fair hosted by River Oaks Elementary School in Austin, Texas. Throughout the day, I heard from students who dreamed of working in public service, video game design, professional athletics, and more. Their excitement, while contagious, also reinforced the need we have in our communities to ensure we’re equipping our next generation with the knowledge and skills that will one day help them be productive contributors to the world around them.

To put it simply, what I learned was that kids want to grow up and “get awesome stuff done.” The students I met during the fair will likely be the next generation of college students that we at Watermark will have the honor of serving. For this reason, It was a true pleasure to connect with these young students to share how my desire to “get awesome stuff done” led me to becoming a Project Manager on our Watermark Client Services team.

Now you might be thinking, “How do you teach software implementation and project management concepts to kids this young?” As I prepared my presentation, my wife was the one who actually suggested I do this in a way that students could not only understand but would be excited about…so that’s when I decided we were going to plan and project manage a birthday party.

teaching project management to children - watermark insights

It proved to be an excellent exercise in how laying out a process with a clear end goal is the essence of project management. We picked a student from the group to be celebrated (our client!) and asked him or her to tell us what she envisioned for the party. What followed was an experience that mirrored the principles we employ at Watermark for all our client implementation projects:

Planning & Setup: Discover the needs of your client. Find out what location, games, decorations, and food they like. We asked a lot of questions during this part and did our best to listen!

Design & Build: Gather and implement the pieces that will best meet the party’s requirements for success. We did this by pretend phoning the right vendors to make sure they could help us deliver what we needed.

Validation/Graduation: Measure success. How do we know if we were successful? In a wave of creativity, these party-planning, project-managing students decided that we would know we did a good job if we saw the birthday kid “smiling” and “exhausted” after a long day of fun.

By the end of the day, rotating groups of students planned about 30 of these birthday parties — each with its own unique style but all following a tried and true process.

I’m confident that my students for a day engaged in meaningful learning outcomes…and had a little bit of project management fun. These are our future leaders, and there’s nothing more exciting to me that getting to support them through this learning opportunity! This experience is certainly one of the most awesome things that I’ve helped to get done!

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