DeVon Hankins has done it all. A former military servicewoman, a Senior Policy Advisor to Government, and a CEO in the private sector. Underlying all of it, she said, has been project management.
Starting out life on a farm in Missouri, DeVon obtained her bachelor’s degree while at the same time joining the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) - a military training program for university students.
DeVon noticed that between her studies in business and her training in ROTC, there were overlaps that set her up for her career in project management.
“The business and the military training, believe it or not, really blended well because they were both about project management,” DeVon said.
“When I reflect and look back, I think I was just naturally drawn to understanding the power of project management.”
DeVon ended up serving 15 years in the Missouri National Guard Army and Individual Ready Reserves, as both enlisted personnel and a commissioned officer. Her work as a military police officer, involved the mobilization and deployment of military equipment and supporting command operations for planning and execution of envoys. Her military service helped to establish the frameworks that she would be drawing on for the rest of her career.
“It taught me a lot,” DeVon remarked, “It taught me truly about budget, scope and time – that is the essence of mobilizing military personnel and equipment.”
“This methodology just kept repeating itself not only through my military career but also my civilian career.”
During her final semester of graduate school, DeVon received the opportunity to work for the US Department of Agriculture. “I was fortunate enough to get a chance to negotiate trade on behalf of US farmers, which took me many places,” she said.
Eventually DeVon took a position with the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy where she was instrumental in leading the research marketing effort that helped to reestablish Kentucky’s wine industry. Her skills were highly sought after and she quickly worked her way up to senior positions in the sector.
She then transitioned into local government in Louisville, working in leading roles in policy and strategic planning for the city.
“I believe that I was very successful because of that understanding of project management,” DeVon said. “In that role, I was responsible for establishing and institutionalizing Louisville Metro Government’s strategic governance framework. That meant that I was accountable for the entire project life cycle; from directing the development, implementation, and monitoring of Louisville Metro Government’s six-year strategic plan to guiding the strategic plan development for its twenty-six agencies.”
“I projectized most of the work I did, whether it was writing policy, writing law for the state of Kentucky as a legislative drafter, or working in Louisville for the past mayor in setting strategy for the city. It was all undergirded by the construct of project management.”
DeVon later moved into the private sector, leading strategic planning and operational development with companies and organizations while also offering executive coaching services to senior-level professionals.
Benefits of CPI Certification
It wasn’t until later in her career that DeVon obtained certification in project management through the Centre for Project Innovation. She highlights CPI’s recognition of past experience as especially valuable to her.
“What I so appreciate about the certification process with CPI is that it acknowledged the hands-on experience that I had,” DeVon emphasized.
“At that point, I had 25 plus years of project management experience, it was never officially called that, but I was always using the methodologies that surround project management.”
DeVon enjoyed going deep into the various aspects of project management and being able to correlate the concepts with her real-world experience.
“I did the online course and it was slow going for me simply because I was absorbing all the historical knowledge about project management and where it came from – lo and behold, the military – so that was fun,” she recalls.
“It was interesting when I looked at the stakeholder analysis. I had already experienced in reality the application of doing a good stakeholder analysis or not doing a good stakeholder analysis.”
“So the academic component of project management, I could validate that. It came full circle for me as I went through the certification process with CPI.”
Project Management Certification as a Bridge for Veterans
Drawing from her experience leading in both the military and civilian worlds, DeVon believes that "project management is the absolute bridge" for transitioning veterans.
“Military developed leadership, it's a win. It's an absolute win,” DeVon explains. “People are accountable. They understand they're responsible for things. They're going to show up. They're going to stay until it gets done. These are things that are not always common in the civilian world."