The Insider highlights men and women who offer tips and information on their given field.

This week we highlight Astrid Olsen, IT Project Manager at Expeditors International a global shipping company.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND WHAT DOES A ‘DAY-IN-THE-LIFE’ LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I am an IT Project Manager for a software development team at Expeditors, a global shipping company. We develop our own systems, and my team’s application specifically supports our warehouse distribution business. I don’t personally write code, but I make sure we work on the right priorities, stay on schedule, communicate with other teams within the company, and respond to crisis well.

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK AND WHY IS IT MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

My position makes me a leader on my team, but a humble one.  I’m not naturally drawn to the spotlight, and when I am in it, I like to know everything perfectly.  However, I don’t have a tech background at all, I am often the only woman in the room, and several coworkers have children older than me. Yet I am still expected to lead.

I’ve learned to be comfortable saying “I don’t understand; can you explain this to me,” take in the information people give me, and then make what I believe to be the right decision for everyone. 

Being a project manager stretches my brain in ways I’d never imagined, and it’s the satisfaction of always growing, personally and professionally, that keeps me coming back.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH YOUNG PROFESSIONALS KNEW BEFORE ENTERING THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD?  

Take the opportunities in front of you.

I think too many people get hung up on getting “The Job” or taking “The Path” they want and get stuck in limbo forever.  I’ve had far more success being open to whatever was in front of me at the time and trying different roles and industries. I networked through a friend to get my current role, and when she first described it, I thought it sounded so boring! However, I stayed open and went through the interview process. As it turned out, Expeditors has been a great place to break into Project Management and grow my skill set.  These days, in addition to my regular job, I also volunteer for side projects in other departments to make sure I keep that momentum going.

ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH SOMEONE WHO IS HOPING TO WORK IN YOUR INDUSTRY OR ROLE?

Project Management is a solid career path with plenty of opportunities.  While you can get into it on your own, I HIGHLY recommend UW’s Certificate of Project Management. It’s a 6-9 month part time program and can be completed while working full time.  It is the best money I’ve ever spent and the best education I’ve ever received (including my undergrad degree from a pricey university). The program gave me the tools to get out of a job I didn’t enjoy and into a career I love.

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