Monica Borrell: Inspiring Women to Project Management

To celebrate 10 years of blogging, I am interviewing 10 women in project management. Monica Borrell, PMP, CEO and cofounder of Cardsmith is today’s guest. Cardsmith is a visual planning, communication and project management tool that was inspired by one of her passions: sticky notes.
Monica, it was an honor to meet you. Few project managers make it to the top of the corporate ladder. How did you do it?
My story is slightly different. In the early 1990s, I was an accidental “CEO” and began independent consulting to assist manufacturing companies with ERP software implementation. The market was booming, and I was overwhelmed by work so I hired ex-colleagues to help me meet the demand.
As the owner of a small service company, I was required to manage all aspects of projects. I consider myself an Accidental Project Manager, as I wasn’t trained in project management at the beginning. However, I had to do it for clients and my own company.
So, at heart, I’m an entrepreneur first. Secondly, and out of necessity, I am a project manager.
How did you find out more about project management?
Once I realized that there was a better way than just following your nose, I became very interested in project management.
I learned a lot through my clients and from a few mentors and decided to continue learning. After doing a lot of business process improvement work, I began to see projects as another business process that could be improved in a continuous improvement fashion.
It was only two and a quarter years ago that I decided to become a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. It was a great experience to go through the education required to become a PMP. Although I knew most of the basics, it was great to finally learn about project management.
What is the one thing that you wish you knew about project management before you started your career?
There is so much. I didn’t know much about project management when I started my career. Clients would ask me questions like “You are going present us with an execution plan, right?” I would respond, and then I’d figure how to do it later that evening.
This was before the internet, so I would call a friend or family member from the hotel for advice, or even the airplane telephone later that day.
I wish I had recognized project management as a profession and found someone who could mentor me.
Do you have a favorite project, past or present?
My favorite project memory is from 1995. My company was hired in 1995 by a small manufacturing company that made irrigation supplies and equipment.
We implemented all modules of ERP, including Financial, Distribution, Sales, and Manufacturing. This was for a company that used almost every type of manufacturing process, from repetitive to process-to-order to process-to-process.
The variety was amazing, and I was really challenged as a project leader due to the complexity of the project as well as the team-client dynamics.
Why does this one hold a special place within your memories?
One thing I will always remember fondly is my main client sponsor, CFO. He was an amazing person. He was a great person who asked me questions without judgment and helped me navigate the learning curve and rapid growth required to be a successful businessman.
A great sponsor can make all the difference! What do you love most about your current job?
I enjoy the “meta” part of my job. I am the CEO at a software company that allows for more collaboration and productivity in teams. These are the same things that my team and me are always working on. I love the process of growth. I believe that starting your own business is a great idea.

Monica Borrell: Inspiring Women to Project Management
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