Urban designer builds collaboration skills

A natural people person and mentor, Gloria Venczel is a graduate of SFU’s Urban Design Certificate and the principal of Cityscape Design Inc, a firm specializing in pedestrian-oriented urban design, streetscape design and sustainable cities planning. Since much of her work is time-sensitive and involves collaborating with various stakeholders, managing projects forms a key part of her day-to-day. What she didn’t realize was how foundational her people skills would be to the profession of project management.

Wanting to explore what formal project management training skills could add to her consulting practice, she returned to SFU and enrolled in the Project Management Certificate program in 2019 with some trepidation, bracing herself for what she thought would be a highly dry, technical program.

As she sat in her first class, she found that her worries about the program couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“My classes were all about relationships. As a consultant working with communities, my strength is in process, and I felt right at home,” Gloria says. “What the program did was create structure around things I was already doing.”

The progressive focus on relationships and collaboration was woven through every part of the program as tools to help create team-buy for a greater chance of success –in sharp contrast to the top-down approach she had observed to be so dominant in many sectors. Gloria also appreciated the emphasis on applied learning.

“The hands-on nature of the courses allowed you to gain theory and perspective before practicing it in groups, so you don’t lose the knowledge and actually apply it,” she explains.

Even as classes transitioned online because of COVID-19, Gloria continued to find great value in learning from the experiences of instructors and her peers. She walked away from the program with a new understanding of what it takes to be an effective project manager.

“Being a project manager is ultimately about how you bring out the best in people,” she says, “If we’re compassionate and are human beings first, our teams will respond so much more.”

By Bernice Puzon