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Interview with Apex System’s PMO Manager, David Nesbit

October 2017

David Nesbit has been with Apex Systems first as a contractor and now as our corporate PMO manager. He has over 25 years of IT and PMO experience. Prior to coming to Apex, David’s career included owning and managing his own printing business, as well as working for a variety of companies in managerial and technical roles. As Apex’s corporate PMO manager, David and the PMO team develop and manage the execution of projects to improve processes and applications to keep Apex relevant and efficient.

Where did you start your IT career?

David: In the 1970-80s, I was building a printing business in Glassboro, New Jersey. At that time, setting type was changing from “hot type” or lead type to “cold type” or direct impact typewriters such as the Selectric Composers (IBM typewriters with the rotating ball) or phototypesetting using photosensitive paper and lenses, which could image typefaces from 6 to 72 points. In 1972, I had my first experience with phototypesetting when I prepared headlines for a daily university newspaper. However, there was no ability to save any more than 50 characters. In 1979, I purchase a $4,000 Apple II w/monochrome monitor, two 5 ¼ floppy drives, dot matrix printer and joy stick, and I integrated the Apple II memory capabilities with phototypesetting and offered the ability to type, edit, save and provide multiple outputs. Using Basic programming language, I created applications to manage order taking. I also converted from manual to computerized accounting.

Can you describe your career path?

David: Growing a business requires a wide range of management skills which I learned on the job. My bachelor’s degree was a Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Public Relations and Communications. That being said, I took any class or subject I thought would improve my business skills. I attended seven or eight different technical schools, colleges, and universities over a period of twenty years before finally graduating. During that time, I sold my business and joined a startup business, which held licenses to magnetic levitation transportation technology. I spent eight years marketing high-speed transportation in Atlantic City, and the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida. Between 1989 and 1991, I managed business and fundraising support for a brain tumor research project for the School of Engineering at the University of Virginia and then eight years as a contracted project manager at the Office of Science Education Programs at the US Department of Energy Headquarters in Washington D.C. Over the next five years, I contracted to the Mental Health Association of the District of Columbia, doing project management and IT support for a minority-focused government contractor; technical phone support for a 56K dial up service; and technical support at the University of Virginia Medical Center Computing. Then in 2005, I joined the project management staff at Markel Insurance and became a formal Project Manager. Following those positions, I became a contractor through Apex Systems here in Glen Allen, VA as a project manager. Finally, I joined the corporate Apex IT staff as the manager for the Apex Project Management Office.

What do you believe are the top skills needed to be an effective Project Manager? Do you have any certifications?

David: In my experience, I think the most necessary skills to be an effective PM are flexibility, planning, risk identification and mitigation, building relationships and working effectively with people, and having a “thick skin” component. In my time managing a variety of businesses, I’ve never been required to have a PMI certification and have never obtained one.

I would also say that successful PMs learn not to fear the unknown. You’re not going to have experience with every tool, technology, industry, etc. Embrace the unknown, and do your best job facilitating the work among your team to fix the problem or accomplish the goal rather than focus on understanding every technical component.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

David: We start every project as an idea, then develop a team and plan to turn the idea into reality. Every project comes with a collection of challenges, which have to be understood and overcome to complete a project. We execute a plan, which results in a new or upgraded application, a new business entity, or an improved process. My other favorite activity is watching and listening as the engineers/developers resolve problems during an implementation. Often under time pressure, they dissect a problem and put it back together to a successful resolution just as time runs out.

What hurdles have you encountered during your career, and how have you overcome them?

David: Every project encounters an unplanned complication. They are never the same, always something different and something completely “out of the blue.” Project managers plan for known risks as part of their preparation, but weather, budgets, changing business requirements, personnel needs, technical complications and any number of other surprises will interrupt the project. The project manager must pull the team together with other specialists, analyze the problem, develop solutions, and then execute those solutions. It is important to be flexible and act immediately to keep a project on track.

What advice do you have for individuals interested in IT leadership?

David: I believe success is about solving problems. My job is solve problems. It is why I get paid.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

David: The concept of high-speed, low environmental impact, cost effective, Mag-Lev transportation attracted everyone’s imagination. One morning, I answered the company phone to a caller identifying himself as Buzz Aldrin. He wanted to visit our company to discuss the possibility of using magnetic levitation technology on the lunar surface. At the time, I was leading a project to return the U.S. to the moon for development of a lunar colony. So, several weeks later, I spent the day driving Buzz Aldrin around Atlantic City describing our project and discussing its use on the moon. I got a business card and autograph to boot.

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