How James Snyder, PMI Founder Influenced My Project Management Career

The PMI family and the entire project management community were shocked by the passing of James Snyder, affectionately known as Jim, the last of the founders of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

For me, his loss felt surreal, as my professional journey wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Jim. I first met him at the PMI Global Congress (now PMI Global Summit) in New Orleans in 2013, a moment that remains vivid in my memory.

As the pioneer CEO and one of the few remaining founding members of the Project Management Institute (PMI) since its inception in 1969, Jim’s guidance and steadfast dedication had propelled PMI to its preeminent status as the foremost global entity for project management practitioners.

Throughout the span of 55 years, his guidance, strategic acumen, and innovative initiatives drove PMI to continually evolve, cementing its position as the foremost authority in project management worldwide. His efforts facilitated the empowerment and professional development of countless project management experts across diverse sectors and nations.

Eight years before meeting Jim, 2005 to be precise when I freshly returned to Nigeria after training as a network engineer at the United Kingdom Telecoms Academy, I received an invitation to work with the new management team at MTEL (the organization where I had previously worked as an intern five years prior). Though initially focused on telecom engineering, I transitioned into project management upon joining the Project Implementation Unit of the GSM Operations Department. It was a field I knew little about initially but soon embraced, seeking out formal training and certifications to deepen my expertise.

In 2006, my organization sent me to the United Arab Emirate for my first formal project management training, which proved to be enlightening. Still hungry for further knowledge in this newfound passion, I pursued another self-funded training and certification program in the United Kingdom, earning the Prince2 Certification. Upon returning to Nigeria, I became the sole certified project practitioner within my organization, granting me access to pivotal decision-making rooms where strategies and key projects were discussed.

However, I noticed a common misconception wherever I was identified as a project manager: it was perceived merely as a position, not a profession. This realization spurred me to take action, leading me to conceive the idea of organizing Nigeria’s first-ever national project management conference.

In late 2007, I, along with my elder brother Ibraheem and other like-minded individuals, began laying the groundwork for this groundbreaking event. My motivation reached new heights when I joined the local chapter of PMI in Nigeria, then known as PMI Lagos. Despite the logistical challenges of commuting from Abuja to Lagos by air for monthly chapter meetings, I persisted. During one of these trips, I pitched my conference idea to the Chapter President, Deji Ishmael, who wholeheartedly supported it.

In 2009, Nigeria witnessed the inaugural National Project Management Conference tagged ProMaCon 2009, aimed at institutionalizing project management best practices in Nigeria and across Africa. The event garnered significant attention and endorsement from the private sector and government, with the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua inaugurating it and the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole, serving as Chairman.

This initiative, sustained over a decade, undoubtedly laid the groundwork for advancing project management practices in Nigeria and Africa. In recognition of the contributions, I was honored with the PMI Nigeria Excellence Award for the “Most Outstanding Contribution to Project Management” in 2010. Subsequently, I later served as the Vice President, Outreach of PMI Nigeria Chapter from 2011 to 2012. Serving at the Project Management Institute (PMI) was a privilege and an experience that shaped me as a leader.

In 2013, after concluding the 5th annual ProMaCon conference in Lagos, Deji Ishmael, now a friend and mentor, urged me to attend the PMI Global Congress. His encouragement was so steadfast that he even secured a flight ticket for me, after I intimated him of my registration for the conference. This marked my first experience at such a global platform, where I had the privilege of meeting the legendary James “Jim” Snyder, the very humble founder of the Project Management Institute. It was akin to a budding artiste meeting Quincy Jones.

Attending the PMI Global Congress in 2013 was a transformative experience, particularly the opportunity to meet global thought leaders in the industry but the conversation with Jim Snyder shifted my perspective about leadership. His humble demeanor and invaluable insights left a lasting impression on me. I also had the privilege of sharing my experiences with him and learning from his vast expertise, fueling my determination to contribute further to the field. I left feeling inspired to double my efforts and assist more individuals and organizations in their quest for development.

I not only had the opportunity to interact with James Snyder in a professional context, but I also formed a connection with his family through his daughter, Lynda. Through Lynda, I gained insight into Jim’s life as a loving husband, father and grandfather. Lynda and I kept in touch and I would occasionally inquire about his well-being. Therefore, upon hearing the news of his passing, I reached out to Lynda to convey my deepest condolences to her and the family

Jim Snyder leaves behind a remarkable legacy, one that continues to inspire. As my friend Lynda aptly said, it is now our responsibility to “Carry It On” and honor his memory by advancing the principles he championed.

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