Can we meet you?
I am Engr. Mrs. Rosemary Imhanwa, the current president of Project Management Institute, Nigeria Chapter, my discipline is chemical Engineering. After becoming a registered engineer, I got involved in construction projects, attended a couple of conferences both in Nigeria and internationally and my first exposure was my attending an international conference on project management where I interacted with a group of individuals that actually sparked my interest in project management. Because basically they were speaking English but they were talking project management terms, I got intrigued and decided to plug into the project management profession. This was fifteen years ago, from that time up until this moment I have seen myself evolve, become a better leader at managing people and projects. Currently I am the managing partner at Kedahan Services Limited. It is an engineering servicing company that manages projects, facilitates trainings and sets up project management office and it is actually a passion that I see myself still doing in the next ten years.
I am from Delta State, though I am married to an Edo Man, I live in Warri and Lagos, but grew up in Benin. After marriage, I moved to Warri but due to my managing of projects across the country I have to now shuttle between Warri, Port-Harcourt and Lagos. So chemical engineering still remains my discipline and to that effect I am still very vibrant in that regard because I am still the chairman of Edo-Delta chapter of the Nigerian society of chemical engineers. I graduated from the University of Benin for my first degree. After graduation I did a couple of certifications in project management as well as quality management and I am also a product of the Leadership Institute Master’s class from PMI in Pennsylvania, USA.
My first job was a site engineer in an engineering servicing company for shell Petroleum Development Company in Warri, my job was to oversee a project in portable water drilling in offshore locations, gradually I evolved into a supervisor and from supervisor I started managing projects for clients on behalf my employer back then.
I have gotten an award for being an indigenous engineer who presented at the first public lecture series at the Nigerian Society of engineers Warri branch. At some point I became the chairman of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, Warri branch and I got a couple of awards based on the initiatives I led in equipping the girl child, stirring the girl child education, as matter of fact currently, based on the role I played in those initiatives I am currently branded as one of the ambassadors for the South-South Women Engineers Role Models of Nigeria.
As a female what motivated you to study engineering?
I liked mathematics, physics and chemistry. Back then in school there were very few of us who were taken seriously, so most of the time even when we chose our courses, most of my friends were in another social sciences field and I had to struggle as a student to actually prove myself as an engineer. So after graduation, I took it upon myself as a personal challenge to succeed. The very first project that I worked on was an eye opener for me because, at the first stake holder engagement meeting when I was introduced as the project engineer, a couple of men got up and walked out from the room, as per- “who is this, who is she, what can she really do?” But instead of that demoralizing me I took it upon myself to prove a point. So based on what I had to go through in terms of actually balancing between my career as an engineer as well as my home front, I took it upon myself to always pick out girl children who are interested in sciences, encourage them and share my personal stories with them. Basically if I could struggle through the odds and achieve all I have up to this point, you can do it and it doesn’t just stop at your siblings, parents telling you that girls are better off doing things in the house or just beautifying a home as house wives, women can actually do much more, you can manage your home front and at the same time balance your career. It is possible.
How have you been able to succeed as an engineer, wife, mother and an entrepreneur?
A lot of support, I must say I am very lucky, I have got a very supportive husband and one of the things he promised my dad before he passed on was that he was going to let me be, he was going to encourage me because my dad knew who I was right from day one and I would say probably I got the inner motivation I needed based on that confidence that he had in me that I could achieve things. I would say that I was able to succeed this far because of the one hundred percent support I have from my husband.
How have you been able to cope and succeed in a male dominated environment?
Typically like what happens in most organizations, you start off as a training engineer and then you start evolving and then the more successful you become the more you become a threat especially to your male counterpart. So there is tendency that at some point, your male counterparts may team up against you and start setting triggers in place that will make you fail. The good thing was that when I discovered Project management and what leadership skill is all about, one thing I did which I still do is when I get into any environment, I am not quick to judge based on the first set of people that approach me or are friendly with me, I take my time and group my colleagues into two roles, there is the constructive role and the destructive role. So those who fall in the constructive role are people who will always encourage every decision, they are people that are open-minded to ideas that you would want to bring onboard, and then there are people that like to bring other people on board and at the same time I pay a lot of attention to those that fall into the destructive role because such people are the ones that can demoralize the team, they are the ones that can turn those in the constructive team role into being destructive so I pay a lot of attention to them, I find out what exactly appeals to them and I try my very best to meet them at that point and over the years I have seen that when you do that constantly not minding the utterances or the attitudes that they give you, such people end up turning to become constructive and even better off than the people you started off with. So it is a trick that I have been using over the years and will continue to use.
How and when did you become a member of PMI?
I became a member of PMI in 2007, then I was based in Warri, I became a member of PMI when I was preparing to get certified as a Project Management Professional.
What are the requirements of being a member?
Very simple as long as you have a flair for projects or you are interested in contributing your quota or you want to go professionally in project management all you need to do is to create a profile for yourself on www.pmi.org with your school background and how long you have participated in projects, then you pay the membership fees, then you become a member. But if you want to go further to advance your career, you can then decide to say you want to get certified in project management then there are a couple of certifications depending on the one that appeals to you, you pick them one after the other and you prepare intensively, take the exams then get certified.
What are some of the benefits of being a member of PMI?
For me, I will say that I have benefited greatly. There are a lot of leadership opportunities that are available to you, when you become a member of PMI because currently the PMI Nigeria Chapter operates a branch and outreach structure. The branches are basically East, West and North branch so in each of these branches you then have outreaches which are city based. So for instance in the west branch, you have the Lagos Island and Lagos mainland. In the East branch you have the Port-Harcourt, Warri and Benin outreach and then in the North branch, you have the Abuja outreach and we are seriously working hard at setting up the Kaduna outreach. We ought to have really set it up, if not for the ongoing crisis which has made us to pull back a little bit, but that notwithstanding we have gotten as lot of requests from people who are interested in it. So based on the structure that is on ground being a member, you can decide to say that you want to volunteer, take up certain roles in each outreach and come together, form a team, come together, work with the existing team in delivering initiatives for each year. So in PMI, we have yearly initiatives and these initiatives are like mini projects so based on the location where you are, the initiative that applies to that outreach, you as a member can actually volunteer and a lot of people over time are really excited at this because it gives them the opportunity to put into practice what they have read in project management and because we are PMI, for every project we initiate, we pass through the typical five phases of a project. We must initiate, plan, execute, monitor and control and then close out. So by doing that, you are actually growing yourself. Aside from that we also have the opportunities of attending PMI global events where you interact with other fellow project managers in the world, a lot of job opportunities also have come up from such events. For me, my first project outside the country was at an event I attended, then I had not grown so far in PMI Nigeria Chapter but I attended it, I got involved with a group of people who were interested in launching a project and it turns out that they were looking for someone who was either based in Nigeria or Ghana or somewhere in between and that person just happened to be me, I got into the project and it was my first participation outside not just Nigeria but Niger-Delta. There are a lots, aside from the fact that you learn, you get monthly publications from PMI global, you also get monthly publications from the PMI Nigeria Chapter and then of course, if you are attending any PMI event as a member, it is highly discounted and then if you plan on purchasing any project management book it is highly discounted as well.
How has PMI helped to promote managers and project management profession in Nigeria?
Good question because in the past, attendance at our national conferences was very low, because in terms of awareness, people still saw PMI as just an international brand that should remain so, but what we have done in terms of deploying the initiatives so far is actually meeting some of the needs of the industry and organizations. So we now see interest from different sectors, I mean if you have paid attention to some of the participants of this year’s conference, you will see that even doctors are now interested in project management. So based on the initiatives we have launched so far, are in reaching out to all sectors, Project Management is not just for engineers or technical people. Anybody who is involved in project can actually get involved with PMI.
Planning and hosting PMI Nigeria annual chapter conference 2018, what were some of the challenges encountered?
I will say our biggest challenge was the venue. It turns out that the period of November and December is peak period and you have lots of events, meetings, seminar etc. our choice location, unfortunately was not available. I must tell you that we had to turn a lot of people away today who walked in unregistered. In the past, you could just walk in today and still pay, register and attend but we had to turn such people away so we could cater for those who we have planned for. So venue was a major constraint for us and I will say another major constraint is still on awareness, collaboration, sponsorship from organizations and individuals. What we have managed to do as at today is – we have struck something in the minds of attendees who are representatives of organizations and for 2019, we are going to do a lot more in terms of reaching out to these organizations, so we are not just going to seek for sponsorship, but we are going to use a different approach on what how can we support day to day operations in different sectors, and in return, they collaborate with us in deploying our initiatives as well as our conferences.
How about reaching out to government?
Yes as I speak with you, we are kicking off a lot of engagement with the public sector. Our outreach lead in Abuja has launched a couple of meetings with ministries and other government parastatals. The idea is for them to see the value of PMI collaborating with each ministry. So what we will be doing then is we will be providing the tools and resources they need to actually upgrade their existing processes into best practices.
How do you choose your speakers for the annual conference?
We made it public. Everything we do, we organize it like a project, so we initiated it, we sent out call for paper and of course we have a conference team in place, there were people dedicated to receive the profile and abstract from speakers from different sectors, reviewing and then getting the feedbacks to the board, which then accepted and chose the speakers and here we are today.
What is the significance of the theme “innovate, motivate and integrate” to PMI Nigeria?
Innovation is what Nigeria is hanging on to right now, we have a lot of peculiar issues compare to other neighboring countries but what is sustaining us right now is innovations. So we are there to say, let us start thinking, brainstorming on new ideas what can we really do, that a ship is sinking does not mean that everybody should abandon it, what can we do to is to sustain the ship to float for some years before we write it off completely, we are not going to write off Nigeria as a country but then in terms of innovation, we decided that to get a team of speakers together, and talk about how we can stimulate and brainstorm on ideas and then for the motivation aspect we know that every average project manager from time to time, no matter how successful they are, they need that element of motivation to sustain them, so like a speaker here today rightly mentioned when you network with people, you get motivated to say, “ I met with my fellow colleagues in the profession and I am motivated to take what I learnt back to my organization” but again what can sustain it is in you. All these principles of Project Management and Technology will only remain theory if we do not integrate them into our day to day lives.
After 13years, would you say that the aims of PMI which includes promoting and raising awareness of the profession of project management to youth, schools, universities, organization and government?
I will say that in thirteen years time, we would have taken a giant leap if we continue at this pace. Maybe even after my tenure, if the person who takes over from me continues at the pace we are going, in terms of engaging organizations, individuals and providing support to meet their needs, in thirteen years we would have leaped into what you now see in developed countries where everybody generally accept project management best practices and is willing to implement those best practices in their day to day operations.
How long is your tenure as president?
I have been president for two years; I am technically able to do two terms, a term of two years, and two terms
Tell us more about the generation Z-future PMs, fountain heights school presentation?
One of our initiatives is in collaboration with what we call the Project Management Educational Foundation is to reach out to school children and imbibe the project management best practice into what they are doing. So the idea is to get them to start thinking Projects and Project Management. So the PMI Nigeria Chapter in collaboration with PMIEF Liaison, picked out some selected schools taught the students the principles of project management and then asked them to come up with a project that they will be willing to implement, so the students worked together with the PMIEF liaison for the PMI Nigeria chapter. So what we did was we provided some element of supervision in their day to day challenges, helped them actually to see how they could bring in the project management terminology into a simple project as equipping library.
On the Best practices and Standards in Nigeria, has PMI been able to integrate this?
We are still in the process, if you recall, there is an act, the charted project management institute of Nigeria is an act that is backing project managers in Nigeria and one good thing is, the the institute have acknowledged the fact that PMI is a global institute that oversees best practices and they consider us their affiliate which is a good thing which means that they recognize that PMI is a brand that they need to work with in terms of deploying the structure of whatever they want to roll out.
After the success of the annual chapter conference what next?
Lots of collaborations and engagements, especially with the government and private organizations.
What is your advice to young girls, who see their gender as a limitation to achieving success?
My advice would be let nothing on earth stop you. For every stumbling block, look for the opportunities that exist in that stumbling block. If you dwell on the problem, you never rise above it. But if for each problem that comes, you look for solutions, hidden opportunities in that problem, you will be able to come out of it quicker.
Are there limitations to being a girl child?
No limitations whatsoever, as a matter of fact, in my final trimester in one of my pregnancies, I was still able to go to site. So if I could do that, there is nothing that can stop you.
Who is your greatest motivator?
Oprah Winifred, she is someone I look up to in terms of her successes and how she was able to strive and make a mark being a black woman back then in the sixties and seventies where it was majorly dominated by whites and males.