Project242: Build Strength in Multiple Areas, Not Just a Few

Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.

I checked my Garmin. It was a fast 10.3 miles done in 27 minutes and 47 seconds. At a 22+ mph average pace, it was quicker than the 16 mph average I did over the weekend when I rode 117 miles.

I parked my bike, quickly changed, and stared at the workout mat with the dreaded kettlebell and resistance bands waiting for me. With speed work done, it was time to throw in some strength, too. Legs. Back. Core. Arms. Everything was being worked. Thirty minutes later, I was done with those devices of torture. Now for the finale; a one mile fast run.

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It felt good to be finished with the morning workout. After work would be another; a 30 minute spin class on our Stryde stationary bike. These workouts include heavy tension and faster cadence at lower resistance. Sweat will be drippin’!!

When I talk about biking, most people think it’s all about the legs. Though legs do the brunt of the work, it is a whole body sport. Your back, core, arms, neck, hips…everything gets in on the action! That’s why I change up routines to include long-distance endurance work, speed, hills HIIT (high intensity interval training), and strength training. I’ve also found being strong in only a few areas can make you weak in others. This can lead to injury (trust me, I’ve had it happen!). So for that reason, I spend time working on multiple areas of my body.

If I think about my career, I love project management. I never thought it was going to be a career for me 20+ years ago. But since that March day in 1999 when someone threw a project plan at me and said to do it better, I’ve enjoyed the challenges, opportunities, people, successes, and failures that go along with it. I’ve learned about different frameworks and increased my tool chest of methods for helping clients be successful.

As much as I love project management, I wanted to learn more. Leading projects is a slice of the pie. I wanted to know about the whole pie. So, I started asking questions. Asked to attend meetings. Can I go to this conference? I’d be happy to go on that business trip! Could I listen in on the pre-sales call? I was always curious. Here are some of the key things I’ve learned in addition to project management, building those other “professional muscles”:

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Strategy: This was a HUGE eye opener. I was someone who was just assigned to manage a project. I wanted to know WHY these projects were important. Then one day, my CIO at the time brought me into a room with the executive team. I listened to them talk about the future of the company. Sometimes the conversation turned into a heated debate. Other times it was 100% agreement. But in the end, they aligned the company’s mission to long-term goals, to what the top strategies were. Those strategies turned into projects. Learning that process helped me see the bigger picture and how the pieces of the strategic puzzle fit together.

Finance and Accounting: This is the language of business. I worked with a young and eager accountant who must’ve dreamt about numbers. One day, I had to ask him a question about our project. I then sat down and said “Tell me something about accounting I probably don’t know.” I learned a LOT about revenue recognition. Another day, debt equity ratios. Then, more finance related topics about assets and calculations that go into capital investments. I learned a lot from him that helped with project budgeting discussions later.

Sales and Marketing: Let’s be honest, those in delivery usually don’t play well with those who over-promise to get a sale done. Instead of complain, I asked a sales person if I could join him. He thought having someone from delivery was a great idea. We visited three potential clients that day, one of which came back later to further talks, which I also got to sit in on. I learned about their selling techniques, and how marketing materials supported their work. I understood them better after tagging along (though, still get frustrated when there’s an over-promise).

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Various Operational Groups: When starting with a new company or client, I want to spend time with the those performing the daily operational tasks to understand end to end processes, and how those fit into the overall value chain. Groups like project management/PMO, fulfillment, billing, manufacturing, shipping, supply chain, and even pilots have all been on my list. It’s amazing what nuggets you pick up!

Each group I spend time with builds some knowledge muscle, which helps me be a more well rounded professional. Even if you have an area of interest and a career in a specific field, spend time learning other areas. On my projects, this knowledge has definitely come in handy!

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