The Veterans PMP Program at PMI Chicagoland (Updated)


In 2015, I volunteered for the Veterans PMP program at the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI).  Run in conjunction with Black Diamond Charities, it is a program that helps veterans or those who are active duty military personnel who are thinking of pursuing a career in project management.   Last year on Veterans Day I wrote about the program, but because yesterday we started our 4th version of the program, I wanted to update the post with some of the new features that we added.

The Veterans PMP program actually started out at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and there were members of PMI Chicagoland who were veterans themselves and thought, “hey, we’re one of the largest chapters of PMI in the world; we could reach a lot of veterans if we ran the program in the Chicagoland area!”   And that’s what happened:   Aisleigh McGann, the VP of Community Outreach, was approached by several veterans, some of whom had connections with Black Diamond Charities, and a pilot program was run in the fall of 2014.

Black Diamond Charities (referred hereafter as BDC) goes to where active duty military or veterans are likely to be in the Chicagoland area, such as the Great Lakes Naval Station or the U.S. Army Reserve Training Center, and recruits those who might be interested in the program.   Once they express interest and are enrolled in the next group of candidates for the program, BDC coordinates with the PMI Chicagoland director of the program, Antoine Taylor.

The Veterans PMP program consists of the following three phases:

  1. PMP Instruction (5 weeks)
  2. PMP mentoring (2 weeks)
  3. PMP study group (12 weeks)

This is the fourth round of the program and we got 20 people enrolled in the program.

PMP Instruction

This phase gives 35 hours of general instruction in project management, and is given by a team of about half a dozen instructors, including myself.     Besides the instruction, the participants are split up into four teams of 5 people each and given the assignment of creating an idea for a project, and not only doing all of the project documents (such as the project management plan), but doing a presentation to the group on the final day of class explaining the project and showing those documents to the project sponsors.    It not only gives them the theoretical foundation through the classroom instruction, but also gives them a hands-on example of what doing a real project is like.

Some of the topics are not from the PMBOK, but are related to the subject of how a military person can interact with civilians on the same team with the knowledge that the civilians don’t have a military background and therefore may not have the same values.  “Why don’t they just do what I tell them to do, like we had to do all the time in the military”?

The final day of the workshop is presentation day, when the groups present their projects to actual senior-level executives who come in to observe the presentations and ask the kind of questions they would ask in their companies.   This is a level of realism which we think adds to the depth of the participants’ experience.    We heard the last class refer to this as this week as “Shark Tank” week, but everybody ends up coming out a winner from our program!

PMP Mentoring

We had a mentoring session in the past where we brought in people to talk on various topics that would be of interest to people pursuing a career in project management.   This part that focuses not on technical knowledge, but on practical knowledge on how to pursue a particular job or how to upgrade one’s own current position.   This year we’re turning it up a notch:  we borrowed a page from the general Mentoring Program at PMI Chicagoland and this time we have 10 chapter volunteers so far to act as volunteers to be one-on-one mentors with the people in the program.   We are looking for more volunteers, but the ones we have so far are really committed to getting to know the members of the class, and to see what resources the chapter can bring to bear into helping them get to where they want to go.

PMP Study Group

For those that are serious about going on to take the exam, I ran a PMP Study Group last summer which covered one chapter of the PMBOK Guide every week.    This not only presents the material in detail, as opposed to the high-level introduction that was done in the PMP Instruction phase.    This time around, besides myself, we have two additional volunteers who specialize in instruction of the PMP material, so we’ll definitely be able to get this done.   We will make sure that everyone in that group who wants to pursue a PMP will make it to the finish line.

Last year we ran two programs, but word is spreading about our program in the military communities in the state of Illinois, and if it continues in popularity, I would love to see our chapter put on three programs, or even run two programs simultaneously.

Conclusion

We’re not just doing this Veterans PMP program out of charity towards veterans who are both deserving and underserved; we’re doing it because of the conviction we have that the business community in Chicagoland needs managers who are also leaders.   Fortunately, I am the Director of Executive Outreach for the PMI Chicagoland chapter this year, and it is my mission to help companies to see that the veterans coming out of the military as a tremendous potential asset to them!

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