I’m Tony Zink… Project Management author and trainer. I show people how to use tools and techniques to run more successful projects.
I’m going to be honest with you.
This is probably the most honest professional bio that you’ve ever seen.
I always beat the “transparency” drum (I HATE business buzzwords, by the way…), but like most other people, I’ve always tried to craft resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and personal bios to make me look like a superhero… even though I’m not. I’m pretty damned far from it, to be completely honest.
If someone tries to tell you that they’re super-successful and they’ve never failed at anything, then they’re feeding you a line of bullshit. Everyone fails. Everyone. If you’ve never failed at anything, then you’ve never taken any chances… and that means that you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of success and happiness in life.
I’ve failed several times, and will continue to fail.
When I was a junior in high school, I had a car, but I was still a young driver so my parents still wanted me to ride the bus to school. Riding the bus was for nerds, though, so I hid behind the garage every morning until my parents both left for work, then I jumped into my car (a blue Chevette!) and raced off to school… usually only making it with minutes to spare. One chilly morning in November, though, I hit an icy patch of road and wrecked my car. I did a nosedive into the ditch and went end-over-end… and I was lucky to walk away with only a scratch and a sore neck the next day.
I took a chance, and I crashed. I went on to wreck my next car (also a Chevette!)… and a few others after that one… for a total of 5 so far. At least I was able to keep the greasy side down after the first one…
I’ve been divorced twice, and about a year ago I was fired from a sales job. I had done sales-related tasks before, but I had never officially held a sales position and I had never been responsible for generating a certain amount of sales revenue in a month, quarter, or year. Never the less I gave it a try, and although I felt that was making progress, it wasn’t enough to meet the minimum requirements of my employer, so they “canned” me. Lesson learned.
I’ll be the first person in a long line of people who would say that I’m far from perfect.
I have flaws.
I love being up early, but I hate getting up early. I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, but once I’m up and showered, I’m ready to go.
I’m easily distracted… which means that I can’t even listen to music while I work unless it’s some sort of instrumental with no lyrics… because I find myself getting distracted by listening to the lyrics.
I have a hard time focusing on some things (like reading)… and when I get interrupted by someone when I’m trying really hard to focus on it… especially if it’s difficult for me… then I get frustrated with them. (Sorry, Tracy! (For those of you who don’t know… that’s my wife.))
I procrastinate when (a) I have something to do that I really don’t want to do, or (b) I would much rather be doing something else.
I’m often late for things in my personal life (fortunately not so much in my professional life) because I try to squeeze too much in before I need to leave for an appointment or meetup of some sort… or because I’m “on a roll” and don’t want to stop what I’m doing… or because I’m stuck trying to figure something out, and I feel like I’ll “get it” if I only take a few more minutes… (which can easily turn into hours).
Despite all of these flaws, though… and a lot more… I’ve still accomplished quite a bit so far in my life. I’ve spoken at conferences, I’ve written books, and I’ve built some pretty cool things.
I love building things.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed doing 2 things:
- Taking things apart to understand how they worked.
- Building things.
As a kid, I took apart my toys to understand how they worked (although sometimes they never worked the same again)… and later I graduated to radios and other electronics, and eventually cars. My dad has always worked on cars, so he taught me how to fix my cars when something went wrong… and how rebuild them when I decided to wreck them.
I was also pretty hardcore into Legos and Erector sets as a kid, and later I would help my dad build things like furniture… and even garages and other buildings… but as I got a bit older I fell in love with a different kind of “building” things… with computers.
Thanks to my parents — who didn’t have a lot when I was growing up — I was one of the first kids around to have a computer. It wasn’t fancy; it was a TRS-80 that I would connect to the TV, and I would sit on the living room floor for HOURS and HOURS learning how to build computer programs. I was never really into playing computer games… but I loved writing BASIC programs to do computations, draw shapes on the screen, and even play sounds and simple animations.
I somewhat regret studying engineering in college, rather than computer science (in my infinite wisdom, I thought that Electrical Engineering offered a more of a future than computers), but I eventually did find my way back into the world of IT and business applications when I later started working in Project Management.
My career in Project Management.
I started my career in Project Management the way most Project Managers do… by just showing up at work, doing an above-average job, and showing some initiative.
When I first started managing projects, I was an engineer working in a glass manufacturing facility. My expertise was in automation systems; in fact, they hired me because I had a lot of experience working with industrial robotics, and they had plans to install a bunch of robotic equipment, so I was going to be their “robot guy”. In the meantime, though, they started asking me to manage a few other projects around the facility. An equipment rebuild here, an upgrade there… only I didn’t have a clue how to run a project.
I fumbled my way through these projects, and I eventually got them done, but I certainly didn’t know what I was doing. I was flying completely by the seat of my pants.
I soon realized, though, that this wasn’t going to work long-term. My projects were taking too long, and they were costing too much money, and in general the whole process was dis-organized. So I started by creating task lists and issues lists in Excel to get better organized, I later taught myself how to use Microsoft Access to create a database for all of the lists that I was managing, and eventually I got my hands on a copy of Microsoft Project. I had seen Project Managers use it in the past to create Gantt Charts and knew that it was the next step for me, so I started teaching myself how to use it. Like most people who are lucky enough to get their hands on a copy… I was self-taught. No books, no training classes… I just fumbled my way through it and eventually figured it out.
My next series of jobs took me away from practicing engineering… and allowed me to focus exclusively on practicing Project Management and using various Project Management software tools to make it easier to organize and track everything for a project. As time went on and I had the opportunity to work with some truly great Project Managers, I learned that managing a project wasn’t just about creating a Gantt Chart… it was about so much more than that. It’s about leading a team of talented people — as efficiently as possible — through the process of BUILDING SOMETHING for your customer. And we have some amazing software tools available to us that can help us to collect, organize, share, and automate many of the boring administrative tasks that need to be done on a daily basis.
Over these past several years of working in Project Management, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some great projects… building cars, ships, airplanes, buildings, manufacturing processes, and computer systems… and I’ve had the opportunity to speak about what I’ve learned at conferences… and write about what I’ve learned in books.
I like to think of my career in Project Management as a career in BUILDING THINGS… and showing other people how to build things, too… using the most efficient and effective ways possible.
It’s a shame that so many projects blow their timelines and their budgets when we have so much knowledge and so many great tools available to us.
I’ve certainly stumbled and failed several times along the way, but I’ve found that one of the things that I’m really good at is finding and using software tools to collect, organize, and share information… and to automate mundane and repetitive tasks so that I can spend my time doing other things that matter… and building great things. I also enjoy teaching other people about the tools and techniques that I’ve discovered over the past 20+ years of managing projects. Why should other people struggle repeatedly with the same problems that I’ve solved?
I think that if more people had the right knowledge and the right tools, then we could make a lot more progress as a society. People should have access to fast, clean transportation, we should live in a world powered by clean and inexpensive energy, and everyone should have access to healthcare, knowledge, and the things that make them happy.
…And running GREAT PROJECTS can make all of those things a reality. Every single project — whether it’s large or small — represents progress that we’re delivering to our society. I personally like the idea that I’m helping… in some small way… to contribute to that.