Meet Wendy Foster, Project Manager in the healthcare industry.
Project manager is a title that encompasses a lot of different careers. Not only in medicine, but if you look at the want ads, there’s project managers for engineering departments and for the government and things like that. So it just means that you don’t go in and do the same thing everyday. You manage projects. It’s a very interesting and unique role because what are you going to do for that day? You don’t know until you get there. Certainly at times there are big projects that you work on that take weeks to solve. And you are going to be working on that. But for the most part you find a hurdle that day and you jump it. And then the next day there may be a different hurdle. It may be higher, it may be longer.
I chose this career path through on-the-job experiences. I didn’t start out as a project manager working in administration for cardiology. I started doing clinical research prior to this. And I was very good at solving problems and so they created a different position for me, one that is based on solving problems that come up throughout the day. I think it is important to a department chief to have a person that they can rely on that can help them solve the problems day in and day out because, in any given particular day there are many issues that come up that need a person who has good critical thinking skills. So he relies on me to solve the problems day in and day out.
So right out of high school I chose to move out of my parents’ house, went to junior college, worked full time, graduated junior college, went to a four-year school, graduated four-year school, the whole time working a full-time job supporting myself. And I found out about clinical research. So I kind of tailored my degree toward being able to work in clinical research. And I got my degree in biological sciences. This position was created for me because there was a need for one person to be able to be available to help out as needed. Whether it’s helping a patient navigate the system or whether it’s putting on a conference for 250 people. There was a special need and I had the critical thinking skills and the patience and the demeanor to interact with patients. So all the pieces kind of fell into place.
In order to be a good project manager you have to be flexible. And you have to be able to think on your feet and to solve any kind of problem that comes your way. And you need to do it with a smile. You cannot have attitude. You can want to roll your eyes, but you can’t. You just have to go with the flow. I have to interact with so many different types of people on a daily basis, whether it’s physicians, whether it’s device or pharmaceutical representatives, whether it’s other ancillary staff or patients. I have to be able to transcend all of those different people. And you would need to leave a positive impression.
The most fun thing about my day is that I don’t really know what I’m going to do. From the time I start to the time I end it could completely change. So that’s exciting and fun for me because I have learned to expect the unexpected. When I started here I started as a project coordinator. But as time developed and the projects that I was assigned became more and more complex I was promoted to the title of project manager.