Professional Belonging

Professional Belonging


– Murali Santhanam, PMP

When King Leonids assembled his army of 300 to stop an invasion by Xerxes, he is joined by a larger army of Arcadians. The Arcadians boast that they have brought in a larger army than King Leonids. King Leonids then shows that his army of 300 Professional Warriors mean more than the Arcadian Army of Teachers, Farmers and Artisans. When push comes to shove, the power and credibility that a Profession adds to you as a person is what makes the difference.

Everyone reaches a point in their career where they have to make a choice of their profession and I am no exception. I’ve made several changes in my profession. I started as a Banker, working as an officer in a Public Sector Bank. I was one of the handful few who were selected in the Bank to implement an IT footprint and in course of time was entrusted with the responsibility of implementing a Retail Banking frontend that would touch millions of customers through 26000+ employees. This made me an IT Designer and Architect while still working in a Bank.

After joining IBM, I was given the choice of pursuing a technical career or a career of managing projects. I chose the later as I realized that the Project managers delivered greater value to the organization and the customer by leveraging combined values of all other professions. That is when I came across the PMP Certification from PMI and I loved the concepts. After getting certified as part of the first team of seven from IBM India, we realized that what we had was a shining light that must be spread.

A person belongs to a profession, when he/she feels proud of being part of it and is willing to stretch themselves to strengthen the community. No profession can grow without “Giving Back”. No profession can grow on the strength of a few good professionals. The “Giving Back” journey for me has been very exciting as it gives me the immense satisfaction of having accomplished something in life. What I’ll remember for the rest of my life are from the experiences of seeing people completing their certification, of assembling teams for imparting knowledge through training and mentoring, and of making people proud to share their knowledge and experience with others. In the process, I have won many friends who treat me as equals irrespective of their position in their career.

Professional image

Giving back does not stop with your organization and becoming a member of the local chapter helps in expanding your horizon beyond these borders. I joined the PMI Bangalore India Chapter when it came into existence in 1998 and have remained its member ever since. I have watched the chapter grow from 7 members to the 2800+ members, from no programs and sparse board meetings to weekly public programs, and from using a shared space to using a fully staffed office. Such a growth can only happen with voluntary hours being spent by dedicated professionals. I am fortunate to have been part of many programs of the chapter and even had the privilege  to lead the chapter for a couple of years.

One might wonder what does this “Giving Back” give me? The Profession gives you an identity. You are no more a general artisan who has landed in the battle field by chance. You are a professional Project Manager who can be entrusted with challenging projects. Professional learning does not stop by adding the PMP credential to your name. As you begin to network, listen, and share knowledge, you will notice that you are also growing to become a Hercules Project Manager. What would have taken you many years to develop on your own, you learn quickly by being involved with similar project management professionals from various domains. PMI’s Project Management model talks of many other complimentary skills, like Leadership and Strategic skills, which make you a better Project Manager enabling you to apply the project management processes in much larger and more complex projects. Volunteering gives you all these without the constraints of the professional organization you are working in and is worth all the time that you spend in giving back. In volunteering you work as an equal, respected for your personal capabilities and contributions that leave you proud and confident. I have watched volunteers of PMI Bangalore India grow from strength to strength, first as doers, then managers and then finally as leaders of various chapter initiatives that have created phenomenal impact.

If you have not experienced volunteering, consider this an invitation to explore these opportunities and discover yourself in the process. You will be surprised at the person emerging after the exercise and may not believe that it is really you! You have not just helped yourself, but in the process made several other professionals better at what they do. The project management community is only as strong as its weakest link. Every effort of giving back helps to strengthen those links.

But what you must do first is to start, even if you have to start small.