New Country, New Career: How Elmira Khismedenova Became an Accomplished Project Manager


In 2014, an international job assignment brought Kazakhstan native Elmira Khismedenova to Texas. For the next three years, she worked as a project portfolio analyst in the Houston area — eventually being promoted to business planning analyst, then cybersecurity program coordinator with the multinational energy corporation Chevron.

In 2017, Elmira decided to officially make Houston her new long-term home. The first order of business? Enhancing her project management skills so she could continue excelling in her U.S. tech career. 

Even with over ten years of experience, Elmira knew there was still room for improvement. After taking some time off from work at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw that technology moves fast and evolves constantly — and she decided to start job hunting again. She thought What’s the demand in project management now? Which tools are professionals using today? Ultimately, this sense of curiosity led her to enroll in Rice University Technology Project Management Boot Camp

Adjusting to virtual learning

Before enrolling in the boot camp, Elmira had extensive knowledge and experience working with international operations, project management, and project integration. But there was one area she was unfamiliar with: virtual learning.

“Prior to the program, I had always worked or taken classes face-to-face,” she said. “The first two weeks of virtual learning were difficult, and I had a hard time adjusting.” With the help of her instructors, however, Elmira eventually fell into the groove of virtual learning.

Looking back, Elmira is especially grateful for the boot camp’s highly collaborative and interactive learning environment. Each day, she communicated with her classmates over Slack whenever she had questions or was unsure about a specific topic. She also worked with her classmates to finish several projects throughout the course of the boot camp, actively practicing and building on the skills they were learning. “While we all came from different professional backgrounds and had unique skills, we were able to work together towards one common goal,” Elmira said. 

For one class project, Elmira and her team opened a fictional bakery and had to decide where the location would be, what products they would offer, and how they would price their goods. For another project, Elmira and her team chose to open Dog Daycare. They learned how to analyze data, market demand, customer relationships, and economic rules and regulations. 

“The projects helped me grow my skills in areas I wasn’t strong in,” Elmira said. “It was fun working with my team. We learned a lot about technology and each other.” Today, Elmira still communicates with her classmates to share achievements, successes, and job opportunities within the industry. 

Making her family proud 

When Elmira joined the boot camp, she wanted to learn new skills and advance in her career. More importantly, she was determined to make her children proud and prove that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. “I wanted my kids to see that education is important,” she said. “I wanted to set an example and show them that no matter your age and what you have going on in life, you can always learn new things.” 

Reflecting on her experience, Elmira is incredibly happy to have enrolled in the tech boot camp. With encouragement from her colleagues and family, she accepted a position as a project manager at IBM/Shell, where she now devises, develops, and disseminates comprehensive project management tools and practices with stakeholders. 

So, what advice does Elmira have for people considering enrolling in a similar boot camp? In short: do it. “I strongly recommend this experience for emerging professionals,” said Elmira. “Finding a job is one thing. But finding a career you love is another. The boot camp helped me do that.”

Interested in kickstarting an exciting new career in tech? Explore Rice University Boot Camps and start working toward a fulfilling professional future today.


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