Graham School News

A Future of Limitless Variety Learning Project Management at the University of Chicago

Philip Baker

After utilizing her MS in finance for three years working in affordable housing as an underwriter, Alka Kumar felt she was ready for a change. It was not that she wanted something entirely new, she says, only that she was interested in a position that might offer a little more variety to her workday. She was also hoping to find something that would satisfy her curiosity and desire to be challenged.

“Working in affordable housing is a very niche field,” she says. “At a fundamental level, the projects I work on follow the same path. I know what to expect. What drew me to the idea of project management is the opportunity it gives to work in such a variety of fields.”


I could see that it was very practical and very interactive and also that it would give me what I need to start making my transition. Plus, it took place over two days, which made it very convenient and meant that I wouldn’t have to miss any work completing it.” 


Knowing that project managers have an array of tools they bring to the projects they lead, Alka began looking online for possible ways to acquire those skills. It did not take long for her to discover the University of Chicago’s Project Management homepage, where she found a class that seemed to offer exactly what she was looking for.

Making Projects Work had everything I wanted,” Alka says. “I could see that it was very practical and very interactive and also that it would give me what I need to start making my transition. Plus, it took place over two days, which made it very convenient and meant that I wouldn’t have to miss any work completing it.” 

“I also knew,” she adds, “that the knowledge I would gain about agile would be very helpful during interviews, since that’s something you need to know about.”

One of the many things Alka enjoyed about Joe D’Mello’s Making Projects Work was that her classmates arrived prepared to learn. Although they had different professional backgrounds, the task of learning project management brought everyone together, whether that involved working in groups or taking part in class discussions. Alka enthusiastically notes how Joe D’Mello’s understanding and passion for the material made the classroom an exciting environment in which to learn.

“He is brilliant,” Alka says. “Although you’re obviously getting a lot of information during the two intensive days of class, it didn’t feel like anything was rushed or being stuffed down on me. The case studies were very carefully chosen to illuminate the concepts from a very practical point of view. Also, he makes everyone feel extremely welcome, so that even if it was an entirely new field for me I still felt comfortable opening up and sharing my views.”


It makes you feel like you don’t have limits in what you can do.


Alka also points out that Making Projects Work is a great starting point for the rest of the Project Management Strategy certificate, one of two certificates offered by the University of Chicago in the area of project management. In fact, in the upcoming year, Alka intends to continue her study of project management by taking the remaining courses required to earn the certificate.

“It’s definitely a core part of my plan for the upcoming year,” she says. “Project management is a career path I am very excited about. It makes you feel like you don’t have limits in what you can do. Even if there might be a general approach, each project is different and interesting in its own way, which keeps the projects challenging and new.”