Starting From Scratch: How Lily Hu Became a Project Management Pro in 18 Weeks

Lily Hu has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 14 years. When the pandemic hit and she found herself with extra time on her hands, she decided to make the most of it by doing something productive.

Intent on exploring a new field — and with no prior background in technology — she chose to try her luck at gaining technical project management skills in the Berkeley Technology Project Management Boot Camp.

In just 18 weeks, Lily gained a wealth of new knowledge that she was eager to apply to her career.

Working while learning, learning while working 

Lily is the director of sales marketing for Staybridge Suites Hotels in Milpitas, California. She’s been with this company for nine years, primarily handling long-term customer satisfaction and prospecting new business.

Although her role doesn’t require significant technology expertise, Lily found that many of the project management concepts she learned in the boot camp were applicable to her day-to-day responsibilities.

“The boot camp helped me both personally and professionally,” said Lily. “These aren’t skills I really need in my position, but having a new way of thinking has definitely made me better at my job.” 

Lily was working full-time for the hotel while attending the boot camp. At first, balancing both commitments was a struggle — but with the resources provided by the boot camp, she was able to excel. 

“It was overwhelming because I had to switch my thinking from hospitality to technology but once things started to click, it got easier,” said Lily. “I learned so much, and was even able to put these lessons into practice at work.” 

To help students solidify their understanding of various concepts, the program is project- and activity-based. Lily worked on a waterfall software implementation project, and projects involving agile initiation, Scrum and hybrid project management. 

“I learned how to use new software like Jira, Smartsheet and G Suite to build project plans and conduct online reports,” she said. “Doing this while working a full-time job was a huge challenge, but because I set aside the time to study and complete assignments, I was able to earn my certificate.” 

Throughout the boot camp, Lily’s instructors and assistant instructors were a constant source of support, always available to lend students a helping hand. 

“We were able to ask questions whenever we had them,” said Lily. “There were also hours before and after class where we could attend sessions to get additional help.”

Aside from the boot camp faculty, Lily said the boot camp’s website was extremely useful for keeping track of assignments and staying up-to-date with all things related to the boot camp. Each student had their own profile, and Lily referred back to it whenever she needed to.

Putting plans into action 

Although Lily’s position doesn’t necessarily require technical skills she learned at the boot camp, like conducting release, capacity and planning, she says it was still beneficial in teaching her new ways of improving customer satisfaction, managing information and giving her a more dynamic way of thinking. 

“The boot camp is all about learning different project management methodologies, and each method has its own rules and principles,” said Lily. “It’s so valuable and I’m able to incorporate it into my work with different clients. Those clients have become my stakeholders, so I’m using the same boot camp methods — just in a different context.”

Unlike many boot camp attendees, Lily wasn’t interested in finding a new job or breaking into the tech industry. Instead, she wanted to become a stronger asset to her company.

“The project management aspect, and the way the boot camp was taught, helped me understand things pretty quickly,” said Lily. “It taught me how to break complex concepts down into something that’s more understandable, which has helped me resolve issues faster at my job.”

Students have access to career services while they’re in the boot camp and for 90 days after they complete it. Despite the fact that Lily wasn’t looking for a job, she still took advantage of this resource to enhance her professional image by polishing her LinkedIn profile.

Looking ahead 

Lily continues to use the skills she learned in the boot camp to come up with new ideas for ongoing improvements at her company.

“I’m able to be very deliberate with my product and service offerings. During this time, there’s been a lot of change — and at my company, we have to be able to adapt to that change quickly,” said Lily. 

Her priority right now is being the best she can be at her job, and she hopes to increasingly use her skills in this position. 

“I just learned all of this fresh, new knowledge and I don’t want to feel like I’m just holding onto it,” said Lily. “I’m still getting a feel for exactly what I want to do with what I learned at the boot camp.” 

Looking ahead, Lily plans on completing the Professional Scrum Master Level 1 exam by the end of 2021. She’s still enjoying her current role and utilizes her project management skills each day to improve customer satisfaction.

She says that although the boot camp wasn’t always easy, the reward is tremendous.

“I feel more empowered in my current position,” said Lily. “The boot camp is all about self-empowerment. It’s an investment in yourself, not for anyone else. You’ll never regret learning something new.”

Interested in diving into the world of technology? Check out Berkeley Boot Camps in tech project management, coding, UX/UI and more. 

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