Interview with Cornelius Fichtner

Filed under Interviews | Posted by PMStudent
Cornelius Fichtner

Cornelius Fichtner

Cornelius Fichtner worked as a Project Manager in his native Switzerland, in Germany and in the USA for the last 16 years. He received his PMP credential in April 2004. He has led projects for a management consulting company, a national retailer, an internet startup company and for for one of the oldest financial service providers in the USA. His passions are project management methodologies and PMOs.

In addition to hosting The Project Management PrepCast?, he is an instructor for the PMP Workshop and the 2007 Chair of his local PMI chapter. He currently lives in Silverado, California, USA with his wife and their two computers.

joshnankivelJosh: ?How did you get your start in project management?

Cornelius FichtnerCornelius: ?That was a little bit by coincidence. I started out my career as a COBOL software developer. After having worked as a junior developer for 3 years in Switzerland I joined a group called Up with People ( They are an international educational organization with a twist. We performed a musical show about 3 times per week and traveled from town to town, living with host families and learning more of the “softer” skills in life.

After my one year of travel with the group I returned home and went back into programming. But I shortly realized that I was missing my work with people. So I decided to change my career and began to study what was then known as “organizational planner” but it’s simply project management by a different name. I got a diploma from the Swiss Federal Government as an organizational planner and over the course of 15 years managed more and more projects.

joshnankivelJosh: ?Who do you look up to and have learned a lot from in relation to project management?

Cornelius FichtnerCornelius: ?There really isn’t one single person who should get all the credit. Every one of my bosses deserves some part of it: Andre Bourquin offered me my first job as a junior PM and I learned many of the basics from him. Max Wunderlin helped me to get to understand company politics and how to sail these trecherous waters. Didier Wetzel opened my eyes to project management methodologies and PMOs. And lastly Kristine Munson, PMP started my career in PMI and supported me throughout the six years that we worked together professionally and in our local PMI chapter.

joshnankivelJosh: ? Does the PMP certification help people get PM jobs?

Cornelius FichtnerCornelius: ?The PMP exam is the must have certifications for project managers in the USA and many other parts of the world. If you are looking through current job openings you will see that the PMP is a requirement in most descriptions. If you don’t have it, HR will not pass your resume on to the hiring managers. Having the PMP certification means that you are at a certain “technical” level of project management, for instance: you understand the basic PM mechanisms, you know what a WBS is, you understand the importance of communications, and you will speak the same PM language as the other project managers in a company. It doesn’t say anything about how good you really are as a PM but it levels the playing field because you have proven that you understand the basics.

joshnankivelJosh: ?What about the CAPM certification for entry-level PM jobs?

Cornelius FichtnerCornelius: ?The CAPM is a non-renewable certificate. You can take the exam, be CAPM certified but once the certificate “ends” you cannot renew it. From here you must go on to become a PMP. Seen under this light the CAPM certificate is definitely a way for a junior PM to show to her/his supervisors that this is the career which they have chosen. By taking the time to pass the exam you show your interest and your focus. There are currently (2009/07/12) 1,039 job openings for PMP certified project managers on the job portal, but just 42 for CAPM. Hence the CAPM has little effect in finding a job but it will have a great effect in regards to your ability to show what your stated career goal is.