Sarah Calhoun

Major: Environmental Studies

Year of Graduation: 2014

Current Position/Location: Project Management Consultant, Boom Lab (currently assigned at Cargill), Minneapolis, MN

Please give a brief description of your current position.
I am a project management consultant with a company called Boom Lab and am currently assigned at Cargill where I work in the Global IT PMO. I’m assisting on a couple of large-scale global IT plant modernization projects within the Animal Nutrition business. 

What path did you follow to get to your current position?
After graduating from St. Ben’s, I spent two years working as a volunteer for a non-profit called Masinyusane in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Upon my return to the states, I got an entry level job as a project coordinator for an energy and sustainability management company. I worked there for a year and half before deciding it was time for something new. I was reached out to on LinkedIn regarding a position as a project coordinator for a small class action law suit administration company and ended up working there for about 9 months. I decided to start applying for a different job and ended up hearing about Boom Lab. I was interested because of the unique model that Boom Lab follows compared to other consulting firms. As a Boom Lab employee, I am salaried with benefits, but still work as a consultant. I receive job placements at companies with contracts usually ranging from 6-18 months. Once the contract with that company is up, I will be placed with a different company for another 6-18 months depending on the length of the project. This was ideal for me because I wanted to get exposure to a variety of industries without having to keep searching for new jobs every year or so on my own. 

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
A career in project management can mean many things. Most companies, regardless of the industry, have project managers or coordinators working behind the scenes. When it comes down to it, project managers are there to keep things on budget and on time. I would say project management is a great path to go down if you aren’t quite sure what industry you want to work in. Once you have solid project management skills you can easily transfer them between industries, which makes for an exciting career path. 

What skills are important in your field?
It’s important to be very organized, detail oriented, and understand big picture ideas without forgetting the little details. Flexibility, adaptability, and communication are also key. Often you are tasked with keeping a variety of people on the same path. It’s important to keep everyone on the same track and ensure you are alert for any risks that might knock the project off the timeline or budget.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
There are a few things that I would say are the most rewarding parts of project management. First, you get to interact with a variety of people on each project. I enjoy talking to people with different backgrounds who might be able to offer solutions or insights that we haven’t thought of before. Getting to the finish line and completing projects is also very rewarding. It is a good feeling to get to the end of a project knowing that a big part of its success was your ability to guide it to the finish line.

Most challenging?
There are a lot of things that fall outside of your control that can affect project deadlines and budgets and that can sometimes be a little frustrating, especially if they were unexpected. That’s why being flexible and adaptable is so important. It definitely keeps you on your toes!

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I think extracurricular activities and student employment positions really helped me prepare for this career. Having responsibilities outside of your classes helps prepare you for how to manage lots of things at once in the “real-world.” I was very used to having things planned for me or decided for me in high school, so being in control of my own schedule and having a lot of responsibilities in college was a good way to teach me how to juggle a lot of work. I also attribute a lot of my success to the global opportunities I was exposed to while at St. Ben’s. I did a May term trip to South Africa after my Sophomore year and went to Australia for spring semester of my junior year. Both programs opened my eyes to the world. I not only learned how to travel independently and be on my own, but I also learned how to communicate and live with a diverse group of people. This helps me in my current role because I talk to people from all over the world every day!

 

(March 2019)