Welcome to the second installment of our PMO Spotlight blog series, wherein we delve into our customer’s PMO to uncover the personal histories and unique viewpoints behind the customer use case. Our second contributor is Scott Yannich of PennyMac, we hope you enjoy the insights and experience he shares with us here.
SVP, Enterprise Operations at PennyMac
Please tell us about yourself, your education and background?
Well, I have lived in Southern California most of my life and attended college at the University of California Santa Barbara. While there I majored in Mechanical Engineering and after school, I held several different positions. The first few years I held various roles in the engineering and real estate industries, but ultimately found my true passion for work in my career in Project Management.
So, my first PM position was with The Bank of America over 11 year ago. Over that span, I’ve held multiple roles in the project and change management space. I started out as a process designer and change analyst then graduated to a Project Manager role, which then led to a senior project manager role where I began leading entire project organizations. I have led PMOs at Bank of America, Farmers Insurance and now with PennyMac where I am the SVP of Enterprise Services.
Although I’ve worked for multiple companies and industries the past 11 years, the one constant for me has always been Project Management.
What about Business Operations and Project Management most appeals to you?
Well I mentioned my background in engineering earlier and I think that really ties everything else in my career together. The part of engineering that I love is the aspect of building, growing and seeing a system function. Mechanical engineering is all about how parts operate, how they can be made more efficient, and how they function as an organized mechanism. Even back in college I knew that I didn’t want to calculate the flow of water for the rest of my life. I enjoyed the building part of mechanical engineering, but at the same time I liked challenge and dynamics of the business world.
So, as you can imagine, business operations deal with people, their various personalities and different ways of working, which adds a whole other layer of complexity to building a product. What I found in Project Management was a nice blend between the building and constructing of products and systems, combined with the challenge of making a business more efficient.
How does a Mechanical Engineer’s perspective help shape your approach to PPM and Change Management?
I think it’s very important in both PPM and in engineering, to have a strong foundation. You need to have an analytical and strategic mindset with the end goal in mind in order to ensure that what you’re building is functional for the masses or the end user.
A methodical approach is necessary for a mechanical engineer, thinking about each step and each part as it relates to the whole. And that mindset is equally important for a Project Manager or PMO Lead when thinking about their entire portfolio of projects, and how each project fits into the whole, or how does each step in a project contribute to the end goal.
How long has your organization been using Clarizen and how does it fit into PennyMac’s bigger vision for Business Process Re-engineering (BPR)?
We purchased Clarizen back in 2018 and what Clarizen has given us is the opportunity to view our organization at a higher level, a viewpoint of the entire portfolio. The features and functions of Clarizen tie together different project tools like MS Project, Google Docs & Sheets, excel spreadsheets, email and other functions which were disparate before. Once we were able to cut through the noise and see what the bigger picture looked like, then we could start to focus on even bigger items like business process reengineering or the prioritization of work.
Do you have a favorite Clarizen feature? What makes it your favorite?
My favorite feature out of the whole Clarizen system is not really even a feature, so much as it’s a visualization of work. What we call the “Base View” for our users is where we can host everything regarding any given project; the property card, workplan, roadmap view, resource list, risks & issues, document repository and more. Clarizen allows individuals and teams to design their own Base Views, which are tailored to their specific needs. It brings all the different modules together onto one simple screen which anyone can edit or change at any time as priorities shift or new projects come into play.
I like that it’s efficient, I don’t need to go to 7 different places and have 10 extra button clicks, everything is front and center when I log on. But besides that, I also like that it is a dynamic layout and changes over time, it’s adaptable. In a way it’s representative of the entire Clarizen product and the value it brings PennyMac, it’s a flexible system that allows us to be more adaptable.
What do you like about working at PennyMac?
People have asked me, “Why do you like PennyMac?” and I typically respond that I enjoy how we are a growing company. 10 years ago, we started with less than 100 people, and now we well beyond that number. When you grow at a rapid rate, you are obviously doing good work and putting out quality products & services, but you are also often building your organization through projects.
PennyMac continues to have that evolution mindset and growth-mode so that we can continue to remain competitive in a highly contested marketplace. I love being at a company which is project focused and project driven, and it’s great that this is the way we stay ahead of our competition.
Do you see any challenges which are unique to the Financial Services Industry when it comes to PPM?
The Agile delivery method & mindset originated in the software development space, but it has been embraced by many different companies across multiple markets.
The challenge our industry faces is how best to incorporate the Agile delivery method & mindset while staying compliant and consistent in our project delivery. The world today demands that companies change at the speed and fluidity of Netflix or Facebook for example, but those markets are not as heavily regulated. So, for us we need to find a balance between staying dynamic and relevant, but also continue to be reliable and do right by our customers.
Can you share an example of a specific project which stands out from the rest?
Just recently we introduced the ability for our customers to pay their mortgage via debit card.
This project was all about digital payment transactions which was a bit of a departure from your typical mortgage process project. It was exciting and interesting to be exposed to a new subject matter. To see the trends in consumer behavior, the reasons for those trends and the motivations behind it. One of the joys of my job is having the opportunity to witness new products and services that benefit our customers and it was really neat to see those first few debit transactions come in and process successfully.
What advice do you have for your PMO peers are looking to replicate your success?
I would say they should embrace both the concepts of traditional project management and the new concepts of Agile management and delivery. Find that happy marriage between the two. I am a real believer that there is no single best way to do everything. You need to be willing to look at each situation in detail, make decisions based on what you find and determine what fits best in that given scenario. It’s a mindset which you need to adopt and that requires constant attention. To simplify it, my best advice is be comfortable operating in the Gray and never stop being learning, changing and adapting.
What advice do you have for a young professional who is looking to build their career in Project Management?
There’s no substitute for hard work. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill so while it’s important to constantly learn, grow, and absorb as much as one can don’t shy away from the hard work. When you consider all the elements involved in running a successful project, products, people, companies, tools, etc… digging in and teaching yourself each day is the best way to be successful.