The Real PM-ProStory as told by the Founder, Tim Dalhouse
PM-ProLearn Founder, Tim Dalhouse at his home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
So, there I was in 2011…two years after retiring from the Marine Corps still wondering what to do with myself for my next civilian career. I had spent 24 years active duty in my beloved Corps, reached the rank of E9/Master Gunnery Sergeant, served in a senior billet at Headquarters, Marine Corps (HQMC), and achieved an MBA degree all before taking off my warrior suit. But, from 2009 to 2011, I still floundered around trying to find a civilian job that paid me a decent living, gave me enough excitement and purpose to get out of bed in the morning, and had some sort of future growth potential.
Then, I received an email from a friend who said a company called CGI Federal was looking for a retired Staff Non-Commissioned Officer who knew the Marine Corps’ Total Force Retention System (TFRS) to work on a software upgrade contract they were doing for the HQMC. Well, I was that guy, so I applied and got hired. Two weeks into the new job, my boss found out I also had been a Marine Recruiter for three years and they really needed help on a different contract that CGI had developing the Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System (MCRISS), so I was moved to be the site team leader at Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC) working back with Marines at Quantico, but this time wearing a fancy suit and tie to work every day instead of cammies.
Not long after that, during a routine performance review, my boss at CGI said that I should get the PMP certification so they could put me into the Project Manager career track. I didn’t even know what PMP stood for at the time, but I researched it and found out the company had a study group going for the Project Management Professional exam and I joined the group. Two weeks later, on December 11, 2011, I took the PMP exam and passed. I showed the proof to my boss and said when do I get my own project? He was good to his word and a few weeks later I was the PM of a software development project having no development experience at all – the PMP credential opened that door. I went on to manage a successful project for CGI, and I found that the PM role was a great fit for my organized military mind-set, allowed me to lead a team, and paid really well. I was a happy camper.
But, in mid 2012, I learned that I had to find a new role as the company started seeing a downturn in new project contracts. I applied for several new PM jobs and was called up by the Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation for an interview. I thought I must just be the token disabled Veteran they needed to interview for a quota but was surprised to learn that they chose me for the job! It turned out that my PMP credential, and how I was able to clearly articulate my project management experience and skills on the resume due to my PMP training, got me hired even though I didn’t know anything about vet medicine, pharmaceuticals, or government regulatory science. I quickly had to learn all about those areas and went on to have a three-year successful time there as a PM managing a portfolio of drug approval projects across ten pharmaceutical companies.
Our second PM-ProLearn Class taught at Quantico for HQMC personnel
While at the FDA, I picked up a side-gig teaching PMP courses and basic PM classes for a community college and a university continuing education department. I really enjoyed that and was able to help a lot of students achieve their goal of becoming a PMP. I also started teaching for several other companies as a contract trainer and developed my stride of teaching five-day PMP classes and making good side-money doing it. Also, I was getting a lot of questions from military friends wondering how in the world I got into this great PM career encompassing software development and government regulatory science when I didn’t have a background in either area. I started mentoring Military & Veterans in how they could follow the same path I accidentally stumbled upon, and it became a passion of mine to help them achieve a great transition from active duty to a civilian PM career. I found a business partner and started a small training company doing just that.
In 2015, I decided to leave the FDA and go full time with our new business venture and that worked for a while until my partner decided he didn’t like the direction we were headed. He hired an attorney to break up the company and I again found myself needing to find a new PM job. I put out the resumes and was hired by Accenture Federal Services, again working back in software, but this time it was remediating (fixing & updating) mobile applications for the Department of Veterans Health Administration. This was a really cool environment where I was the PM for several projects with multiple Scrum teams which was completely new to me. The company sent me to in-house training to learn Agile and Scrum, and it was great to add that skill to my tool pouch.
Tim teaching Earned Value Management in 2017
Only four months later in 2016, a recruiter from another company, Regent Education, offered me a job at the much smaller company with a $10K pay bump, four-mile commute, and beer in the break room fridge. Needless to say, I took the job! In this new role, I was managing multiple projects to implement Regent’s proprietary student aid management software at several universities. While it was a great job, I still had the desire to help other Veterans get into this awesome field of project management, so I worked nights and weekends to build out a business plan, curriculum, learning management system, and website for PM-ProLearn. On January 1, 2017, I turned on the website and started marketing efforts to find my first class while I was still working full-time for Regent.
I was soon contacted by some former PMP students of mine asking if I could come teach a class at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, VA for their team. My wife, Alicia, helped me get the students enrolled, ordered and delivered the textbooks, and set up the onsite classroom. Five days later we had our first PM-ProLearn class complete and around 20 graduates! At that point, we saw the future ability to scale this same model into a working business. We soon brought on a commissioned salesman, Josh Atkinson (also a Marine), who was able to generate enough business that it became necessary for me to decide to quit my PM job at Regent and go full-time with PM-ProLearn. Right after Thanksgiving in 2017, I received my last W2 paycheck from Regent and December 2017 was my first month running PM-ProLearn full-time. I've not worked for anyone else since then.
From left to right: Josh Atkinson, Ian Fisher, Tim Dalhouse, & Alicia Dalhouse at Partners' Strategy planning meeting in Frederick, MD, May, 2022
Fast forward to the current month of September 2022, and I’m now the CEO of a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) S-corporation called PM-ProSolutions, Inc. doing business as (DBA) PM-ProLearn. I have two business partners, Josh Atkinson & Ian Fisher (also a Marine) who function as the Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively. We have a total of 27 team members working remotely from 13 states, the United Kingdom & Switzerland. We are organized into six departments, each with a full-time manager. We routinely train 200-300 students per month in PMP, PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), and Lean/Six Sigma Green Belt on a global scale with onsite, virtual, and self-paced training. We are an Authorized Training Partner (ATP) of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the U.S. Military is our main clientele. We combine military leadership, resiliency and teamwork with vast corporate experience using proven project management methods, processes, and best practice, to empower organizations with high-performing project teams. The result is improved Military readiness across all branches of the Department of Defense, and incredible career opportunities for our graduates as they transition to lucrative civilian PM careers.
I love what I do.