Thriving in Times of Change

Project Management Certificate Graduate Launches Dynamic New Career

March 31, 2017 | By Gordana Goudie
Chris Sticher

In today’s work environment, change is a given. It affects most employees at some point in their careers – if not throughout their working lives. While some struggle to adapt to new realities, others thrive. When Chris Sticher faced the biggest challenge of his 22-year career at Larson-Juhl, a Berkshire Hathaway company, he chose to thrive.

By 2012, Sticher had held eight graduating positions at Larson-Jul and built a strong reputation in distribution, operations, supply chain and logistics, and customer service. When the new CEO joined the company that year, Sticher was the vice president of operations for the U.S. With new leadership came much-needed change for the organization and new expectations of Sticher,“My role was changing wildly as a result of our new CEO’s global and lean manufacturing focus, and I needed to succeed to stay with the company.”

Succeeding in this context meant exploring unfamiliar territory and building new expertise that the company needed. Sticher considered his options: find an employer that needed his existing expertise or reinvent himself to meet his company’s needs. He was confident that his experience would translate well in a new organization. Although he admitted that continuing to build on his current capabilities with a new employer would be the safer route to take, he decided against it. Instead, he chose the riskier option. ”I’m a lifetime learner and I took the opportunity to learn something new,” he explained.

The new direction the company was taking meant that project management would play a crucial role in the company’s future. Recognizing the opportunity to master a new field and advance his company’s strategic goals, Sticher signed up for the Georgia Tech Project Management Certificate program. With full support from his employer, he took the program and embarked on a career-changing journey. 

Recommendations from friends and his own experience taking courses in lean manufacturing and supply chain management led him to choose Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). And he was glad he did. He found project management to be a natural fit, and his learning experience exemplary. “There’s nothing about this program that’s not first class,” he said. From the program’s applicability to real-world business situations to perfect class sizes, to the range of companies represented and the valuable perspectives gained from other participants, the program was a winner for Sticher on all fronts. “Others try but don’t get it right. Georgia Tech makes sure participants internalize the conceptual aspects of project management and apply them to their jobs as they learn.” He also found that as he built his expertise during the program, his belief in his ability to excel in the field also grew. He completed the program in early 2014 feeling ready to tackle new challenges, “My confidence went through the roof.”

Sticher considers taking the project management certificate program at GTPE to be the beginning of his success story. The program prepared him for his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which he obtained shortly afterwards. And it opened new doors for him at his organization where he was tasked with leading project management across the board. “During a heavy investment year for the company, I was able to serve as project, program and portfolio manager for the entire organization,” he explained. He credits the program for enabling him to reinvent himself at a time of change. “Thanks to your program and a great deal of hard work, I was able to rebuild an executive role within my company as the senior director, Project Management Office (PMO) and strategic partner to the president.”

Like all true success stories, this one continues long after Sticher’s graduation from the project management certificate program. Following his initial wins at work, he moved on to manage the project management portfolio for the entire company. He developed an internal project management program tailored to the needs of his company, which he taught to all team members. His passion for project management also led him to volunteer at a local community college as a PMP mentor.

In early 2017, three years after completing the Georgia Tech Project Management Certificate, Sticher took a new leap forward. He accepted the position of senior director, global PMO at Kids II, an Atlanta-based company specializing in baby toys and gear, which has 14 global locations. In this role, Sticher is tasked with building a global PMO and training Kids II project managers around the world. He considers the last three years of building expertise in a  new field to be time well spent. “The opportunity that my investment in project management experience, skills and education has afforded me is astounding,” he stated. “My future is a perfect match for my aspirations, and I am really excited to take this next bold step.”

When faced with change after more than twenty years with his company, Sticher chose to embrace it. The project management certificate program at GTPE enabled him to reinvent himself and launch a dynamic new career. As his experience shows, change can be daunting – but it can also be the source of the greatest success story of your career.