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Episode 454: Cornelius Fichtner's Project Business Career - Part 2 (Free)

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A few weeks ago, Cornelius Fichtner was interviewed by Martin Berneburg and Oliver Lehmann of the Project Business Foundation about his career as a project manager, project leader and experience in project business management. This is part 2 of the interview, and here is the announcement:

For many practitioners in project management, Cornelius Fichtner is a household name. He is known mostly for the digital offerings of his company OSP International LLC, such as the PM PrepCast for project managers heading for the PMP® certification of PMI®, the Project Management Institute.

Meanwhile, his lineup of exam preparation tools was expanded by a family of further podcasts, augmented with simulators and inhouse offerings for corporations.

Much less known are his personal roots in project management and particularly in project business management.

Interviewed by Martin Berneburg and Oliver F. Lehmann, he will tell us the most interesting stories of his years as a consultant and project manager under contract, working hard to make the customer happy, but also with the obligation to make the project profitable.

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Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, you will hear Part two of the interview with The Project Business Foundation where Martin Berneburg and Oliver Lehmann are interviewing me about my career.

Hello and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. This is Episode 454, and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you for joining me today.

This is Part two of my interview with The Project Business Foundation where I am being interviewed by Oliver Lehmann and Martin Berneburg about my career in project management and in particular in project business management.

Well, Part two at the end of Part one, we had this big cliffhanger. I had just been let go from my position at an internet startup company and you are probably sitting at the edge of your seat wondering where life took me next. Well, let’s find out.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: ‘Bye, bye. We don’t need you anymore.’ I was like flabbergasted. It was just completely unexpected.

From there I went to a bank and once again, it was an internal project. Interesting enough, my first office with the bank was literally on the other side of the street from my office with the internet startup company. So I could look out my window and see my previous office. It was just uncanny. It just happened, turned out that way.

This is an interesting situation. I don’t know if I want to call this a project business job or if I want to call this an internal job. So here’s what happened: There is a large bond management company in Newport Beach, California. A few years before I joined that outfit, they decided: “You know what? Our back-office and out IT Department, that’s not really our core business. We manage bonds. Client relationships, bond management, selling, trading, that’s what we do. That’s not really our core business.’ And they decided to sell that and to outsource it. And a bank in Boston bought that from them and so, I was working for the bank in Boston but it was the former IT and back-office department of that bond management company.

So on the one hand, this was project business because we were serving a customer, a single customer. That’s it! But at the same time, the feeling from everybody was; ‘We’re still that department. We still belong to the company.’ So the culture was we are part of the bond management company but it was clearly, we have to still be profitable because they pay us for doing the job. It’s sort of a mixed engagement.

Oliver Lehmann: Effort, yeah.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah!

Martin Berneburg: Speaking of culture there. You’re speaking of culture there. Once that moved over and it was sold, did the culture changed?

Cornelius Fichtner: No. No, it was still…everybody still felt like we are part of the bond management company. We are a department of the bond management company. And you can’t change that because they are the only customer. You only work for them, right? You can’t work with them. You work with them all day long. You go have lunch with them. They are your friends. You go to happy hour with them. Yes, separate entities. We are owned by a bank in Boston. You are owned by a bond management company here in Newport Beach, but we’re one. We work together for the same goal, right? So that was interesting.

Obviously, you know there was no time-tracking. It was sort of a package deal that was renegotiated once a year in terms of what’s the cost effort and all that. And it took about half a year before I left there. I stayed for about six years. About half a year before I left there, they brought in the second customer. That was like an earthquake through our department. What do you mean a second customer? We suddenly have to work with other people. Then our friends that we work with? Yeah, yes.

I got this job and with the bank only through PMI. I was volunteering for PMI Orange County Chapter as let’s see, I was the Director of Programs at that time. And the President of the chapter, she got to know me through my volunteering. I was unemployed for a year after I got laid off from the internet startup company. And I started to volunteer during that year for PMI. She got to know me as a volunteer, got to see my work ethic and all that, and she decided: ‘You know what? I have an opening. Would you like to come join us?’ And that’s how I got my job. So my recommendation to everybody is always the same. Volunteer for your local project management organization. I recommend volunteering for The Project Business Foundation.

Oliver Lehmann: Thank you!

Cornelius Fichtner: You’re welcome.

Martin Berneburg: Much appreciated.

Cornelius Fichtner: And connect with your peers in that way, right? Remember, I started out in Oxford and I said: That’s really where a big foundation was laid. During that time as I was working for the bond management company, the bank in Boston, I was at a PMI event and somebody put down a flyer and said: “Why don’t you join the Toast Masters?” Toast Masters? No idea what that was. A flyer looked interesting. I spoke to the guy. Oh this is all about public speaking and communicating and all that. You know what? I’m Director of Programs. I have to all these announcements. I’ll give it a try. And that changed so much for me.

My public speaking went from stuttering to being very comfortable being in front of people. Remember, I would speak to people so I had been in front of 25,000 people on stage previously. There’s a bit of stage freight there still but now having to be in a room full of your peers and presenting, and you know having field questions and all that, it’s a different dynamic. So Toast Masters really helped me hone my public speaking skills and communicating. It was also a bit of leadership involved, I became the President of the Toast Masters organization. Then I became the President of PMI Orange Country Chapter. So all of that helped me to grow on a personal level and on a business level as well.

It also gave me the belief when I came across podcasting at some point that said: Yeah, you can do this. You have all this public speaking. You know how to articulate. Your English is good enough. You know about project management. You know about business. You can start a podcast about project management, yeah and I did! Look where it got me, yeah!

Yes! So that’s kind of my story there. Started in Oxford with the language, did the apprenticeship then worked as a software developer, then management consultant, then worked for the supermarket chain, then went back in to project business working for the internet startup company, then I worked in the mixed environment where it felt like it was an internal job but it was really a project business job because every minute of my pay was billed. And then the end of eight years working for them, I decided: You know what? I have built my side business with the Podcast and the Project Management Professional (PMP)® training. I think this is going to sustain me and I did. I quit the job and founded my own company there.

Had I waited for three more months, I would never have done it because that was in 2008 when the economy tanked. So three months before the economy tanked, I decided to get out for my own business and then everything went south, which was sort of a strange way good for me because so many people got laid off, were unemployed, project managers in particular that they decided I need to distinguish myself. So where do I get this? Oh look at this, this 49 dollars for the PMP Exam preparation. That was back then. I’m not losing that much money and they bought my product. They realized, well this is actually quite good. And that helped my company grow as well from one person then to today we are 22 team members all around the world. Right!

Martin Berneburg: Good!

Cornelius Fichtner: I have spoken for about an hour.

Oliver Lehmann: No! It’s so interesting. So interesting listening to you and your experience and I’m pretty sure a lot of people can relate to what you told us, and they have similar experiences. I have some questions here. Sorry, this was the reason why…

Cornelius Fichtner: Somebody said: ‘Hope you have a nice shoot.’

Oliver Lehmann: Something’s popping up. Yeah, but I have a question. [Caller 1 Name], I hope I pronounced it correctly. [Caller 1 Name] has a question on maturity. Can you just ask Cornelius directly?

Cornelius Fichtner: I think he has no audio.

Oliver Lehmann: You are allowed to talk now.

Caller 1: Alright, thank you for the opportunity, yeah. By the way, from Asia. I’m a being a fan for both of you especially of Cornelius Fichtner. I am one who actually bought you for countless times for my PMP back in 2012. Thanks for that.

Cornelius Fichtner: Thank you! And I’m sorry. I’m probably now the little voice in your head that you hear.

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

PDUs: Technical Project Management, PDUs: Strategic and Business Management, PDUs: Leadership

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on projectmanagement.com and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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