The Value of Membership through a Personal Journey

By Bob Heggie, PMI TORONTO Past President

When I was chapter president of the Southern Ontario Chapter of PMI I received an email from PMI Membership Services regarding feedback from the latest member satisfaction survey. The feedback was from a chapter member who was asked by Member Services why he had not sent back his survey form as yet; this was his answer, “I am still not sure what value I am getting by becoming a member! Can you explain please?

My first reaction upon receiving this email was to direct the member to our website and our calendar of events – our web-site explains all of the various benefits our members enjoy – but then I stopped myself. What is this person really asking? He has joined an association and yet he is confused about what the association does for him? Or maybe he finds no value in what our chapter provides to him as a member.  Thinking about these two questions led me to consider my own membership journey. Why do I find my PMI membership valuable?

Many years ago, when I worked as a portfolio manager for the City of Calgary I had a colleague, also a project manager, who was a member of PMI. I had never heard of PMI before, but after a bit of research I discovered that many of the methods and techniques he was talking about were familiar to me.  He was very proud of his association with PMI and even kept a framed copy of his membership certificate in his office.  He would often call attention to this certificate when one visited his cubical.

During meetings, my colleague would often lecture our executive clients, basically our boss, on the esoteric subjects contained in the PMBoK. As project managers, we were frequently asked to provide estimates as part of project planning; instead of just providing an estimate this guy used to talk about uncertainty and draw a diagram, the cone of uncertainty, as a way of explaining why he could not supply an accurate estimate.  After two or three meetings like this you can probably imagine what the reaction would be from our boss.  He told my colleague to stop drawing the diagram.

It seems that my colleague found a great deal of value in belonging to this club, namely PMI, that had access to all this esoteric knowledge that he could access. Not everyone gets this giddy over the PMBoK, but he obviously continued to pay his dues because he saw value in being a member of the association. This was 15 years ago back in 2002.

When I came to Toronto later that year I did find that employers were starting to ask for project managers who had earned the PMP. As it became more and more usual to be asked about the certification in an interview I realized that I should go get one. That’s when I found the Southern Ontario Chapter and joined PMI. The chapter had a PMP Prep course available for less than half the price of training companies and the tuition included PMI and Chapter membership, so it was an easy decision to join.

I joined PMI and the Southern Ontario Chapter in 2004, signed up for the PMP Prep course and took the exam later that year; I passed. Now that I had a PMP, I found out that in order to keep it I had to collect these things called Professional Development Units. Fortunately, the chapter offered numerous events throughout the year that granted these PDUs. So, I was all set.

So here I was in 2004, PMP in hand and ready to go to my next interview with the certification all the employers were asking for.  Value generated for me, but was there more? Turns out there was much more.

While participating in chapter meetings I discovered another valuable benefit of being a PMI chapter member, the opportunity to network with my peers.  Networking is a great way to advance your career through expanding your professional network.  You just never know who in the room has that once in a lifetime opportunity for you to find.  At one such meeting I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was an avid volunteer with the chapter, very experienced and respected in the field and very well connected. We exchanged cards and agreed to meet later that week for lunch and to chat about being a volunteer.  It turned out that the man I met was Michael Flint, Secretary Treasurer on the Board of Directors for PMI-SOC at the time and he was looking for good volunteers to organize celebrations for the upcoming 30th Anniversary of the Chapter.  In addition to signing on as a volunteer that day Michael also introduced me to his network of recruiters – which was a huge boost to my then job search.

That year I volunteered for the Event Committee for the 30th Anniversary of PMI Southern Ontario Chapter; in rapid succession I then volunteered for the Coordination Committee for ProjectWorld  2006, which involved PMI-SOC as well as the Durham Highlands, Lakeshore and Canada Technology Triangle Chapters.  After ProjectWorld I took on another important role in the Chapter, that of Newsletter Editor between 2006 and 2007 and in 2010 and I became the Project Manager for the 35th Anniversary Committee.

Following the 35th Anniversary, Michael and I met over lunch to discuss another important initiative that he had been planning for some time.  He took out some papers and showed me the mind-map of a plan to create a new Board Level portfolio for the Chapter called Marketing and Communications.  This was a service that was desperately needed at the time since we had a number of challenges coordinating all of the chapter marketing and getting it released in a timely fashion.  Michael became the Board Sponsor for this new committee and I became the Vice President.  After this meeting we decided to call the new group simply Communications and set about to form a team, set our goals and develop the operational processes for this new portfolio.  Notable projects that came out of this portfolio were: The Weekly Scope, a new website launch in 2011, and our social media and LinkedIn Discussion Groups.

In 2012, I was elected to the Board of Directors for our Chapter and became the Board Sponsor for Communications and Marketing and for the next few years built a great team while improving our chapter marketing and communications.  In 2015, I was appointed by the Board to the role of Chapter President and I lead the chapter through some tough and trying times.  Our membership was down and our revenues were depressed, nevertheless I led our volunteer team through this difficult time and found a way to keep the chapter true to its mission in providing the members with the best professional development opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and leadership development while promoting the project management profession.  That year was the first year that PMI-SOC participated in the annual Toronto Dragon Boat Festival held at Centre Island Park in June.  In October of 2015, our chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary while I was President.  By the end of the 2016 fiscal year in June 2016, our chapter finances were much better and the membership had started to grow again.  I felt good about what our team was able to accomplish during my leadership and I felt a great sense of accomplishment that in some way I helped create a better membership experience for our members.  I found this experience extremely valuable to me personally.

As a volunteer leader for the chapter, I have participated in many activities that I would not normally have had the opportunity to enjoy in my professional career.  I had the honour of traveling to leadership conferences on behalf of the chapter to coordinate and network with other chapter leaders across the world.  As chapter president in November of 2015 I had the privilege of accepting the Chapter Award for Member Service on behalf of PMI-SOC.  Later that same year, as president and master of ceremonies for our Chapter’s 40th Anniversary celebration gala, I had the great pleasure to bestow the Colin J. Morris Award to a long serving and dedicated volunteer who was retiring from the chapter Board.  For those of you unfamiliar with this award, it is not given annually, and it is given only to a chapter volunteer who has truly gone above and beyond in their service to the chapter and our members.  This award had only been previously bestowed three times in the history of the chapter, and that year we honoured Michael Flint, the volunteer who had inspired me 10 years before to get involved.  As significant as that award was to Michael, I felt that, in a way, I had come full-circle. As I look back on it now it strikes me how significant that evening was to me in my member journey.

In May of 2016, I lost my bid for a third term on the chapter board. Regardless, the Board voted to keep me engaged as a non-voting board member in the role of Senior Vice President and immediate Past-President of the chapter.  As the SVP, I am honoured to serve the chapter and deliver valuable opportunities to the membership.  Earlier this fiscal year, we held the 2016 Professional Development Symposium which I chaired and we had the great privilege of having PMI Fellow R. Max Wideman join us for an excellent panel discussion on the future of project management.  Later this year, on April 20th we will host another panel and this time it will involve one of PMI’s 5 original Founders, James R. Snyder.  We are looking forward to hosting Jim and having him with us in Toronto.  Registration for Toronto Dragon Boat is starting soon and this will be the third year that our chapter has supported a team.  Let’s all get out to Centre Island in June 2017 and support our Dragon Boat team; it would be fantastic to have nearly 5,000 voices all cheering our team on to victory.

Now, what about member benefits – I could mention some other benefits of membership such as getting a break on your home and auto insurance, discount health club memberships and so forth, but you can find this information on our chapter website.  What I have related to you are those things that are most important to me as a member – the opportunity to serve others and to give back to our community.

The value to members is expressed by our volunteers that put on our events, who publish our newsletters, who take photos at our events, who man our registration booths.  And if you do not volunteer, as a member you benefit from our events in the learning and networking opportunities, our website and our other chapter publications.

What is the value I now see in my membership?  Our chapter has recently changed its name to PMI TORONTO; Toronto is internationally recognized and this attracts attention to our chapter.  Our chapter has recently grown its membership to over 4,900 members.  This year, 2017 marks our 42nd year and I want to see PMI TORONTO Chapter go on for another 42 years.  I want to ensure that this chapter is around for the next generation of project managers when they need it – just like it was there for me when I needed it.

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