Every now and then I come across an inspirational woman, and I feel compelled to dig deeper into her world. I met Maryah roughly six months ago on a zoom call and was immediately impressed with her elocution. She spoke with so much confidence and poise and I became really curious to learn more about her. We had the chance to work together for a short while and in that time, she demonstrated amazing leadership and communication skills. I learned more about her career as a woman in project management and I.T. Read her interview below! 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Mariah Sullivan Sanders

I’m a country girl at heart (born in Mississippi), with a city girl lifestyle (raised in Orlando, FL). I’m 26 years old and I’m the oldest child of 3. I was raised in a single parent home and was taught the importance of drive and determination.

Since I was a child, I always knew I wanted to go to college. I’m probably one of the few people in the world that loves studying and learning lol. I worked hard most of my life trying to not only get into college, but to go for free! And by the grace of God, I did it!

In 2014, I was named the Boys & Girls Club National Youth of the Year. I was awarded a scholarship to college and given the opportunity to travel the country and advocate on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club.

I met with Former President Barack Obama, collaborated with NBA legend LeBron James, and even met with club alumni like Denzel Washington. I’m a first-generation college graduate from the University of South Florida where I obtained my B.S. in Information Studies with a concentration in Information Technology. I initially majored in biomedical sciences, but after an internship in the IT department, I knew I wanted to change over to IT.

In 2019, I married my high school sweetheart, Kyle. We don’t have any kids yet because we are still building our future and working towards our dreams. But we both desire to have a big family someday.

What do you do for a living?

I’m currently a Project Manager for a fintech company called FIS. I work remotely, but I do have the option to go into the office if I’d like. I recently started this job and I’m still in training.

But my daily responsibilities will include scheduling and hosting meetings, updating project documents (like project plans, schedules, etc), being the liaison for our clients, working with tech analysts to ensure deliverables are on schedule, and other similar tasks. Our team has about 10-15 people and we are all project managers.

How’d you get into project management?

I was introduced to the IT field as an intern in 2017. I was so pleased to learn that there were roles in IT that didn’t involve development, so I started doing research. After learning about the project management path, I began to express my interest to anyone who would listen (including my boss). At the time I was a User Acceptance Tester, but my boss was very supportive of my career and gave me opportunities to shadow him as a project manager.

I was later promoted to a Systems Analyst title after graduating college which allowed me to continue testing, but also gain project management-related experience. I’d lead calls with clients, monitor and update project documents and train end users on the systems we implemented.

In 2021, I made a lateral transition (no salary increase) from the IT department to the Project Management Office in order to gain even more project management experience. I was given the title “Project Coordinator” and my responsibilities were high level and not project specific. I’d put together monthly one pagers with project summaries for the executive team and train project managers on Smartsheet (a project management platform).

“I wasn’t a project manager by title, but I was the project manager by responsibility for three major projects. “

I gained so much experience in months and began to receive recognition. During this time, I knew I could really pursue project management as a career.

Unfortunately, due to financial issues, my company at the time could not give me the project manager title. So, I began to send my resume to companies and apply to other positions just to get my feet wet. Fortunately for me, I received an opportunity to interview for a Project Manager position that did not require a PMP certification. I applied and was able to negotiate for $20k more than I was making at the time.

What advice would you give someone looking to pivot into project management?

Black Woman Information Technology

I would encourage you to expand your knowledge of project management through certifications. If you do not have the time and resources to do so (understandably), find other ways to gain experience.

You could do this by developing skills that can be transferred to a project management career. Learning PM software, organization skills, communication skills, collaboration, analytical skills, etc. are great skills to get you started.

What do you do outside of your full time job?

My passion is wardrobe styling. I own a personal styling company called “The Maryah Effect” and I help people feel like the best version of themselves through clothing.

I’m also a minister and young adult leader in my church. My faith has played a huge role in the decisions I’ve made in my life. I try to be a light in the world every day and I believe this has helped me succeed in my career.

How do you manage work/life balance?

 I’m a true project manager at heart, so, scheduling, organizing, and prioritizing is what helps me to manage work/life balance. I always start with a high-level schedule of what my week looks like and depending on priority I devote a certain level of time and effort to my tasks.

For example: This week I may have a really big project that’s due, so I’m prioritizing that project and may even work late a few nights. But next week, I may feel as though my marriage needs more attention and take Friday off to spend time with my husband. It’s all about balance and prioritization.

Where can readers find you?

If you’re looking to keep up with my career, you can find me on LinkedIn (Maryah Sullivan). Interested in keeping up with my lifestyle? Follow me on Instagram @maryahsullivansanders. If you’re interested in my personal styling business, you can find me @themaryaheffect.

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