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Featured Member - Zach Laws

Featured Member

By: Katie Dietz


{Katie} Please tell us your personal project management story.

{Zach} "I had a unique start - my project management story began in Melbourne, Australia, where I worked as a Project Manager in Danfoss' Electronic and Controls Division managing a national network of sub-contractors. Our team focused on improving energy efficiency in existing supermarkets across Australia by retrofitting existing mechanical plants with more efficient electronic control technology in HVAC, refrigeration, and lighting applications. My wife and I [originally from Iowa] eventually moved back to central Iowa to be closer to family. I found a job with Mechdyne Corporation in Marshalltown and my wife returned to work at Dupont Pioneer in Johnston, where she had worked prior to us moving overseas. Ironically, my second project while working for Mechdyne Corporation, was with a University in Sunshine Coast, Australia. Much to my surprise, I found myself on a plane back to Australia 6 months after having moved back to Iowa. What a small world!"

{Katie} Tell us about project management in your current role.

{Zach} "I've been with Mechdyne for a little more than 4 years now. Every day is different – which keeps things interesting. I work with a range of clients in various industries across the globe, which you'd never expect from a company based in Marshalltown, Iowa! The vast array of clients we serve locally, nationally, and globally is continuously expanding. I've recently started focusing on local market expansion around the greater Des Moines area with conference room automation projects. Mechdyne got its start in complex, immersive virtual reality systems and has since branched into other areas of Audio-Visual markets, IT Services, and Software Development. I just recently wrapped up a four-year project for a new oil platform being constructed and commissioned for service in the Gulf of Mexico. Did I mention every day is different?!"

{Katie} How have you been involved with the chapter over the years?

{Zach} "I joined as a member about two years ago and regularly attend the monthly PMI meetings. PDD was a really great experience last year. The keynote [Colin Ellis] was from Australia, so we had a lot to chat about after his presentation. It turned out that the small suburb of Melbourne where he lived in was a frequent dinner spot for my wife and I. Again, small world!"

{Katie} What is one thing you're excited about in the field of project management?

{Zach} "What excites me about project management is the fact that it's applicable across so many different industries. There are opportunities to grow no matter what your ambitions are. Your experience in the profession can be a spring board to a higher-level management position, or you can easily spend your entire professional life in project management and have a rewarding career. The skills you gain in project management are so versatile. I have personally been able to apply all of the knowledge and skills I have gained across two entirely different industries. Although I went to school for mechanical engineering, I started in project management right out of college and I have no regrets. Project Management was absolutely the right choice!"

{Katie} Can you share 3 random facts about you?


1."Love DIY – my wife and I really enjoy doing home renovation projects."

2."I can ride a unicycle – maybe I should have joined the circus?!"

3."I'm an adrenaline junkie. I've gone skydiving in Iowa, bungee jumping in New Zealand, and shark cage diving in South Africa. There's a lot more on my bucket list I'd like to check off!"

{Katie} What is your greatest project accomplishment to-date?

{Zach} "While I was working for Danfoss Australia, the cost of refrigerant increased by something like 300% due to environmental tariffs. As a result, the need to prevent large-scale refrigerant leaks in supermarkets grew considerably; almost overnight. Our account manager introduced a new technology to the marketplace that hadn't made its way to Australia, but was widely accepted in the States. Technological change is often accompanied with opposition, and this was no exception. The technology we introduced was heavily scrutinized by the end users and technicians that were in charge of on-site maintenance and support post-installation. We encountered overwhelming resistance from the start. Not convinced it was working properly, we observed technicians disabling the technology almost immediately after it was installed. With much patience and perseverance, we returned to each job site whenever a major leak occurred to demonstrate the functionality of the system. We spent a great deal of time on-site at the technicians' beckoning call, day or night, accompanied with a mobile leak detection unit to pinpoint the source of the leaks. After the better part of a year had past, we found our champions. We identified a small group of traveling technicians who were tasked with chasing large leaks in supermarkets across the country. We targeted this group as the primary focus of our efforts. After we had them onboard with the technology, word began to spread. Eventually, the on-site technician's confidence in the technology began to increase based on word of mouth. The result – a project that was nearly terminated completely began to be praised for it's overwhelming success. Each of the traveling technicians would go on to carry their own personal mobile leak detection unit. Not only was it a rewarding project, but it had a direct impact on preserving the environment. Certainly, one of the greatest accomplishments I've had the pleasure of being a part of.

{Katie} Do you have the PMP certification? If so, advice for anyone studying or thinking about taking it?

{Zach} "I do have the PMP certification. The best advice I can provide - take a bootcamp!"

{Katie} Tell us the first thoughts that come to mind when I say the following words:

{Katie} Project Sponsor

{Zach} "Manage expectations!"

{Katie} Waterfall

{Zach} "Sequential"

{Katie} Agile

{Zach} "Iterative"

{Katie} Scope creep

{Zach} "Inevitable"

{Katie} Change

{Zach} "Good!"

{Katie} When you tell someone you are a Project Manager, how do you explain your role or duties?

{Zach} "I usually tell them that I work with all the smart people, serving as the link between the client and the engineers. Always give credit to your team – as PM's we're just here to help make things happen!"


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