This year marks our 75th Anniversary. To celebrate, we’re publishing 75 stories about members of our community. Shawn Belling has been an instructor at the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development since 2001.
Shawn likes to remind his students that project management is often an accidental profession, which is how it started for him. Right out of college, Shawn was planning on becoming a teacher but began working professionally in sales. In 1993, he stepped into a technical writer position, which quickly turned into a project management role. Wanting to learn more about project management, Shawn discovered The Management Institute, which is now CPED.
“The Master’s Certificate in Project Management had not been created yet – it was simply a series of classes. I took Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Control and the project teams class with Jim Lewis. As I was taking classes, David Antonioni was forming a master’s certificate program, so in 1998 I graduated with my Master’s Certificate in Project Management in the very first cohort.”
Shawn spent the first ten years of his project management career learning as much about project management as he could while building a small custom project management office at J.J. Keller & Associates. He has since worked at Foremost Farms USA, Promega Corporation and CloudCraze, which is now part of Salesforce. In 2008, he earned a Master of Science in Project Management from UW – Platteville. Shawn is currently the chief information officer at Madison College, is an ad hoc professor at multiple universities, and is working on his doctorate in leadership. Shawn is also experienced with and very interested in Agile project management and hopes to work well past traditional retirement age teaching project management and related courses.
Shawn enjoys the traveling his career has included, especially international travel for teaching project management. When he’s not working, Shawn loves music, reading, and cooking. He is a retired triathlete but still enjoys running, biking, and swimming. Shawn also enjoys watching remodeling shows on TV because there’s so much project management content in those programs.
In 1998, David Antonioni asked Shawn to join an advisory board at CPED that was developing a new program called Managing Multiple Projects, and soon Shawn was teaching one day of the program. Teaching one day morphed into teaching two days, and by 2001, Shawn was a full fledge CPED instructor. After Managing Multiple Projects ended, Shawn worked with Scott Converse to create Agile Project Management: Techniques for Iterative Development in 2011, which he still teaches. Shawn’s CPED experience has come full-circle, and he appreciates that his instructor journey began and continues here.
“I am always thrilled to see David Antonioni. I ran into him in the hall here last year and it’s great to catch up and acknowledge how much I owe this program – David, Scott Converse, and all the colleagues we work with here. When I am here, I get to learn and teach, which is great. I was always passionate about teaching, education, and academia, and I’m proud to be a part of CPED – it will forever be where my adjunct career began.”
Shawn has many CPED memories, but his first-time instructing was a big one. When all flights were grounded after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, David Antonioni called on Shawn, who was still on the advisory board for Managing Multiple Projects, to help him out.
“David called me that afternoon and said ‘Shawn, all flights are grounded and the person who usually teaches Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Control can’t get here.’ I lived in Neenah, WI at the time so he knew I was local and asked if there was any chance I could teach even part of the program the next day. Going on with programs was a difficult decision for him to make. He considered canceling the class but knew he had a cohort of students who were already here and expecting to take the class. September 12, 2001 was the first time I taught in a classroom at the newly opened Fluno Center.”
Shawn also remembers getting a tour of the Fluno Center before it opened 20 years ago. He often tells this story in his project management classes.
“The Fluno Center was in the final stages of construction. A group of us were getting a tour and we went up to Smitty’s Study Pub on the eighth floor. If you are facing the bar, to the left of you is an alcove with a spectacular view of the state capital. Ted Beck, who was the dean at the time and was overseeing the construction, was told that alcove was going to be a closet but Ted said, ‘this is not going to be a closet, this is too beautiful of a view.’ So now it’s a part of the study pub. I got such a kick out of that and I always weave that story into my teaching because people don’t generally look at building and construction project management as open to Agile but in that case it was; there was an opportunity to make a change before something was completely finished.”
Since Shawn’s CPED journey began as a student, he tells students what his CPED experience was like here in the 1990’s and to remember how much times have changed.
“Right now, when you take one of our programs, you get your test on your phone. When I graduated, every instructor sent us a paper take home exam. We had to complete that exam and then put it into Federal Express back to each instructor who graded it and then they let the program director know if we passed or not.”
Shawn appreciates that his career has been full of opportunity, change, and lots of learning, and encourages all young professionals to go into their careers with an open mind.
“You will go through so many changes in your career. You might start in one career and purposefully change it. Early in my career, someone gave me advice to join a company and go into sales because I’d learn so much about that company by selling their products. This gave me the opportunity to figure out if there was something else I would rather do, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Figure out what you’re good at and take the next step. Go to college for something you’re interested in and don’t assume that the thing you go to college for is going to be the thing you do for the rest of your life.
“After you spend time in the workforce, if you begin to find that there’s something in there you become passionate about, take that into a place like CPED where you can learn more, explore, know it’s your thing, and then really go after it. Keep finding out what you’re passionate about and keep going after those passions. Go get your education and remember that education is a lifelong journey and you need to be learning new skills along the way.”