Project Management with the Ball State Digital Corps

Project management is far more than, well, managing projects. While keeping deadlines straight and ensuring that the team is working on task is important, the larger role that a project manager plays in an office is one of utmost importance. Without an effective project manager, teams can sometimes forget about their role on a project, as they are likely engaged with many others throughout the semester. A great project manager is able to lead a team to finish a project, but also to ensure that the project is finished with ferocity and passion. At the Digital Corps, the Project Management Team is dedicated to doing just that.

Ashley Mullen and Connor Sanburn of the Project Management Team work closely with the Assistant Director, Charity Coffman, to complete client tasks on time. This comes through in the creation of project scope documents, the running of meetings, the reviewing of project content, and more. As project managers they’re responsible for helping other student employees work effectively with one another. However, their responsibilities go far beyond just timelines and meeting notes.

Connor Sanburn explains that a project manager is responsible for a lot. It’s “not just managing tasks and deadlines, but also about managing people. You realize you have to work with people’s schedules, skill sets, or work ethics to help get a deadline completed or a project done.” While Digital Corps Project Managers regularly check Basecamp, our office-wide task management tool, and utilize communication tools like Slack to ensure that all tasks are properly assigned and getting done on time, this is not the only thing that project managers do. “In project management you don’t just look at the little tasks, you are looking at the big picture,” says Connor.

Project Management also provides the opportunity to learn many important skill sets, such as strong communication skills. “One of the biggest things we stress is communicating with us,” says Ashley. “It has helped me talk to people, especially people that I am overseeing. It has helped me understand good and bad practices… complications can arise during video projects because things are not communicated clearly.” During video projects, one misstep in communication can cause huge problems. It’s imperative that employees with the Digital Corps are in constant communication with project managers to avoid any confusion on project tasks and deadlines.

Ashley and Connor both agree that working as a Digital Corps Project Manager has provided them with plenty of new opportunities and outlooks for their future careers. “I come from a very video-heavy background,” said Ashley. “ With that in mind, I really like that project management has helped me to understand how to communicate with people above and below me. It has helped me be a big- and small-picture person, which all helps to make a great video producer, which is what I want to do.”

According to the Project Management Institute, the job outlook for project managers is growing rapidly, however the talent gap is also increasing, which leads to a disparity between the demand of project managers and the supply of qualified employees.

“It [project management] gave me the skills to be successful in any kind of job or career field…” said Connor. “So many jobs and employers are looking for people who know how to manage and work with people.”

Eli Schapker poses with Charlie Cardinal while she worked with the Digital Corps.

By 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles. Students who work as project managers with the Digital Corps oftentimes go on to work as project managers in the workforce. A recent alumna of Ball State University and the Digital Corps, Eli Schapker (‘19), is currently a Project Manager at Kronos in Indianapolis. Kronos is a workforce management company that creates software solutions for companies to use with human capital management and timekeeping.

As a Project Manager with Kronos, Eli is a liaison between the client team and the project team. Once a project is assigned, she becomes the project owner and is responsible for the project and its outcomes. Some of her tasks include learning details about the client, making a project timeline, and keeping track of the project’s budget. One project that she is currently working on is for a healthcare system in North Dakota.

“I think the most valuable thing that I got from working at the Digital Corps is how to have a productive conversation with someone who has a very different communication style and whose work I do not understand,” said Eli. “I never imagined I would be working at a software company (because I have no technical background), but I learned how to have conversations with technical people to get the information I need.”

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