jackiefendrick | ROBRADY design

Inside ROBRADY: An Interview With Jackie Fendrick

Explain what you do as Project Management Planner.
The role of program management planner is new to the studio. I expect my job description to be a living document and ever evolving. In general, I am responsible for coordinating the evaluation and prioritization of the master studio project plan as part of the studio’s Program Management Office or PMO. At this time, I maintain a master schedule for all projects in the studio, making this data available to the operations team at all times. I also track and report on project budgets, including detailed profit & loss reviews. I am also available to support the PMO with supplier issues, forecasting, risk management and production build issues including shipping & logistics.

Talk about how your personal philosophy/way of doing it "makes life/job easier" for internal departments and external clients.
I’ve held titles like program manager, master scheduler and technical administrator, but the simplest way to sum up what I have built my professional foundation on is to say that I am ‘support staff’ for engineering and/or operations groups. My portfolio of skills has evolved over many years in engineering and production environments, but the details of how I provide support to an engineer, a manager or a client are not nearly as important as the culture or spirit of that support. Let me try to explain that:

I think everyone would agree that their work environment is more enjoyable when they are working with people who like, even love what they do. To that end, I think one of the most controllable sources of job satisfaction is feeling like you spent the bulk of your day working on your core duties. If you are a design engineer and you just spent 32% of your week creating schedules, reports or budgets instead of engineering or designing something, what is your job satisfaction level and what is your perception of your own effectiveness? It sounds really simple, but I think scope creep affects people’s sense of control over their daily activities and careers which negatively impacts their overall job satisfaction.

I have noticed over the years that an organization’s willingness to ‘unburden’ their engineers, managers, etc., is something that can ebb and flow with time, economy, corporate culture and other factors. I began my last career endeavor before ROBRADY with the clear corporate goal of removing all non-value added tasks from our engineering team. I took over configuration management, bill of material creation, part sourcing, even minor drawing revisions! Anything to keep the design engineering resources focused on design engineering. To keep this particular ebb and flow story short, I left that company six plus years later with the engineers eventually taking back all those tasks due to economic and cultural changes within the company. I hear stories from that place now of mandatory 60 hour work weeks, excessive turnover and low morale and just shake my head.

I feel so fortunate to work for a company that recognizes the value of having ‘support staff’ like myself. To me the gains are obvious. A dedicated resource who can own scheduling, reporting, even cost accounting. In my case, you also get someone with years of experience embedded in engineering teams, accustomed to their particular needs & nuances.

I am someone that will cover all those bullet points on the job description like schedules, budgets and reports but there will always be 20 more bullets that never get put to paper because of my inherent flexibility. The only constant in life is change so flexibility is the key to the kingdom for me.

Speak about challenges/patterns that you have experienced and how your expertise begins to address those issues.
This one is going to be a little harder to tackle…at the core of my flexibility is the heart of a diplomat but despite my best pragmatic intentions, my observations may enflame a few folks so forgive me.

I have worked in the hydraulic, electronic and automotive industries. With nearly 18 years of experience, I have observed the relationship between engineering and sales and how that relationship continually fails to thrive. I am being kind in my description of course. I’ve seen everything from strained silence to open hostility and spittle on the board room table but I’ve never seen the two groups really click and I can’t say why in any definitive way. Logic says those groups are united in purpose, to sell, design & produce a successful product to grow the business….so what’s the rub?

Somewhere in the details of accomplishing that success is where the contention lies. Engineers want more time in the schedule to do their homework and design work while sales types (and the customers) want shorter lead times. Engineers want more input into the quoting process, but finding the time & discipline for that activity isn’t easy for either group. Those are just a couple of friction points that I have observed at all my stops along the way.

My hope is that as I begin to review projects in depth for profit and loss, the metrics that are revealed will help us work through some of those areas of contention. Honestly taking the time for ‘lessons learned’ will show us projects that could have been quoted more comprehensively, projects that could have been engineered more efficiently and projects that should garner lots of high fives when they come in under budget. I think if the team reviews the data with open minds and diplomatic hearts, we will achieve more control over that success rate mix.

About Jackie
I consider myself a nearly native Floridian, living in the Tampa Bay area since I was 3 yrs old. I live with my son on 5 acres in a custom home that his father and I built 10 years ago. I love the open, rural environment and can’t imagine ever living in a deed restricted neighborhood. I enjoy antiquing and junking on the weekends and my house is filled with everything from a collection of oil cans to old bird cages. The older and rustier, the better.

Free time is precious, so when I’m not working on the ‘ranch’ or at ROBRADY, you will find me Lego engineering with my son, spending time outdoors and squeezing in some quality time with my significant other.

Fun fact: I spent an extra semester in college to study both post-modern and African-American literature. My favorite authors from that genre are William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut and Zora Neale Hurston. I just read that James Franco is directing, producing and acting in a film based on William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’…I can’t wait to see it.