PMI Western Michigan Chapter members receive the bi-monthly newsletter publication, On Target, via email.  This publication contains information about upcoming chapter and national events, as well as feature articles about practical project management contributed by local chapter members, PMP certified members, or reprinted publications published by PMI.

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Previously released newsletters are available in the Archives.

September 2014  


Welcome to fall with WMPMI!

In this issue, WMPMI sat down with Kathy Ober, PMP, of Amway, to hear more about how she uses project management each day. We also caught up with Olivia Jelenek, a participant in THE Project 2014 to chat about her career since the competition. In case you couldn't make it, we recapped the featured and bonus presentations from the September 8, 2014, WMPMI Chapter Dinner Meeting. Lastly, if you're looking to get involved in October, take a look at our Calendar of Events for opportunities to interact with the PM community.


Introductions: Project Management Professionals

Are you looking for project management (PM) inspiration? Have you ever wondered how your WMPMI colleagues approach their work or what types of project management challenges they face? Have you stared at the business card of the person sitting next to you at the last WMPMI dinner and been curious about what their job is really like? Do you want to connect PM faces with PM names? Would you like to learn more about the heart of WMPMI, our members, and get to know what folks are doing in our profession … right here in Michigan?

If so, you’re in the right place! This month, we’re starting a new column to introduce you to other PM professionals in the WMPMI chapter.

WMPMI had the opportunity to sit down with Kathleen (Kathy) Ober, PMP. Kathy recently accepted a new position in Business Growth and Development with Amway Corporation, so we were very excited to learn more about her new role and the many ways she uses her project and program management skills each day. Kathleen is a Program Manager for the recently formed Americas Strategic Program Management Office (PMO) in Growth and Business Development where she enthusiastically leads programs to strategically align business practices across the Americas Region (e.g., North and South America). Kathy is also responsible for establishing, testing, and implementing standard process methodologies for program management and local product sourcing. She enjoys researching PMO best practices both within and outside Amway, and looks forward to delivering process standards that will provide an outstanding experience for her stakeholders while achieving management’s goal of creating a center of program management excellence to serve the region.

To that end, Kathy is thrilled to be partnering with Amway’s Global Program Management Office and Amway Europe to establish business program management best practices and share them with other Amway PMO’s across the globe. She’s also excited about joining the local PMO Community of Practice (CoP) in Western Michigan. This community includes nearly 100 PMOs with leaders that meet monthly to discuss different challenges their PMOs are facing and brainstorm possible solutions. Kathy said, “Kudos to Ted Kallman of the WMPMI Chapter for forming this local interest group (LIG) last summer and creating this awesome communication channel for PMOs in West Michigan.” She looks forward to connecting with PMO CoP members in October.

Kathy appreciates the opportunity to work on strategic programs as they are challenging, unique, and highly visible. These programs often include ambiguity and higher risk, but the reward of sharpening your skills with a wide array of new challenges, and working with such talented and diverse people, is worth the extra effort. Kathy shared that her teams have autonomy to establish lead measures that will drive the desired strategic outcome, which she knows empowers the teams and promotes innovation. “The teams I’ve worked with so far are amazing,” said Kathy. “It’s a real pleasure to work with talent so focused and dedicated to success,” she added.

Kathy shared that her professional goal has always been to “make a measurable difference” in all that she does. In her new role at Amway, every program is driven by strategy, supported by analytics and market research, and has specific performance metrics to achieve. She looks forward to seeing the results of her initial programs in Americas Strategic PMO portfolio, but not for the reasons you might think.

Amway is committed to helping people all over the world build better lives through their business opportunity, therefore, everything Amway does is laser-focused on ways to better meet the needs of their independent business owners to help them grow their businesses faster and achieve sustainable success. When the programs Amway launches are successful, the Amway Independent Business Owners benefit directly. “Their success is our success, and that’s what Amway is all about,” said Kathy. What better way is there to make a difference than to help others be successful? This is why she loves working for Amway.

Kathy’s been involved with WMPMI since 2000. She became a Project Management Professional (PMP) in 2003. She’s served the chapter in numerous roles as volunteer, Vice President (VP) of Education, VP of Administration, and President (2006 – 2008).  

 “I can’t say enough about volunteering with WMPMI and the value of the relationships I have built over the years in this chapter. Learning how others were working through their projects and implementing change was so valuable, and in several cases directly applicable to projects I needed help with. My years working on the board provided leadership skills that I use daily, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the relationships I have built in WMPMI have had a big impact on my career progression,” she relayed.

Chat with Kathleen at our next WMPMI dinner or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Are you doing amazing things in project management? Do you know a PM who would be a great candidate for a future column? Tell us about it! Email your ideas, submissions, or nominations to Monica Stout at


THE Project Participants: Where Are They Now?

As we gear up for THE Project 2015, we were wondering how the lives of our collegiate competition participants last year have changed. This month, we caught up with Olivia Jelenek. Olivia was a member of the winning Grand Valley State University (GVSU) team in THE Project 2014.

For Olivia, her involvement with THE Project started a year ago when she was pursuing her Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Grand Rapids at GVSU. She was attending a school function when she ran into WMPMI Director of Creative Education, Benjamin Todd. He was the first person to tell her about THE Project. Given her background, Olivia thought the project management discipline would be great to gain experience in, so she joined one of GVSU’s two teams competing in THE Project.

Overall, Olivia relayed that her team with five other GVSU students worked really well together and that everyone on the team learned so much about project management. All of her teammates were new to the concepts of project management, so they were nervous, but each made a commitment to work hard and come together to succeed. During the competition, her team met every Saturday morning to work on deliverables and learn all the ins and outs of project management.

She said her team’s biggest challenge was getting an idea of where to start with such a big project that had so many possible directions to explore. “The Mentors were instrumental in helping us break it all down into smaller chunks so we could work through everything step-by-step,” she shared. Olivia also attributed much of her team’s success to the use of many, many sticky notes. She really enjoyed the experience and everyone’s contributions. “Getting to see it all come full-circle at the end of the competition was really great, not to mention taking home the first place trophy!” she said.

After the competition, Olivia updated her résumé with the experience she gained through the competition and the added bonus of being a part of a winning team. She attended a Career Fair on campus at GVSU and met a recruiter for IBM. The recruiter was impressed with her grasp on project management principles and scheduled her for an interview. In the interview, Olivia was asked questions about her knowledge of the Project Management Institute (PMI), Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and more. Through her work on THE Project, she was able show off all she had learned during the competition. Olivia definitely impressed them because she was hired in as a Project Manager for IBM in Dallas, Texas, with only a few other individuals.

Fast forward to the present … Olivia has been with IBM for roughly a month and is just finishing her initial training. She is going to be working as a Project Manager on AT&T’s Strategic Account, where she’ll be putting in place the applications for the strategy roadmaps the company will implement through 2020.

Olivia shared that she has a lot of work to do in Dallas, but once she gets some time under her belt she could see herself moving back up to Michigan and working as a Project Manager for one of the companies in our area. If she does, she wants to help with THE Project because it was one of the most difficult, engaging, and rewarding experiences in her college career.


In Case You Missed It: Dinner Meeting Featured Presentation

Mark Layton of Platinum Edge was the featured presenter at the WMPMI Chapter Dinner Meeting on September 8. His presentation, Racing in Reverse, relayed the quantitative relationship between overtime, defects, and project slippage. If you missed our meeting, a copy of his very interesting and informative presentation is located here.

Mark shared a reality that many PMs face each day – we work a lot of overtime. Despite this, we’re not more effective. Mark shared many facts and figures regarding overtime, sleep deprivation, and the ensuing mistakes. He shared the relationship between all three. Finding out that eliminating overtime reduces defects by roughly 93 percent was eye opening to attendees.

Additionally, Mark pointed out that there is a cultural value system in which loyalty and grit are proven through personal sacrifice, that our compensation structures reward working longer, not smarter, and that there is a disconnect between introducing defects and identifying defects (e.g., workers can get false credit for creating trash).

One way to close the gap between defect introduction and defect identification is by employing agile methodologies. Mark also relayed that you can accelerate projects by working on the right thing (features that are used frequently), reducing wasted time through less interruptions, less thrashing, more effective communication, and less ineffective meetings.

You can learn more about Platinum Edge here or brush up on agile or scrum by reading Mark’s books, Agile Project Management for Dummies and Scrum for Dummies.


In Case You Missed It: Dinner Meeting Bonus Presentation

Jill Arehart from TEKsystems joined us for the September 8, 2014 WMPMI Chapter Dinner Meeting. TEKsystems, a subsidiary of Allegis Group, provides IT staffing solutions, IT services, and talent management insights. Deploying over 80,000 professionals annually, TEKsystems helps companies achieve quantifiable outcomes.

During her presentation, Jill shared the state of Project Management (PM) in West Michigan. Notably, she relayed that the majority of job postings in IT PM fall in the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas. She noted that there is a distinct crossover from business to IT in the market and that companies are willing to pay a premium for scarce skillsets. Despite this, salaries in the West Michigan area are not keeping pace with the national market. That said, national salaries can be hard to compare to our area because they do not account for cost of living adjustments, so it is difficult to draw a clear comparison between the two.

So, where do companies find top talent? Jill let us know that job seekers use the following resources:

  • Job boards (96%)
  • Professional networks (84%)
  • Their employer’s sites and career pages (83%)
  • Staffing firms (80%)
  • Social networks (79%)
  • Referrals (74%)

How do you differentiate yourself from your competition? Jill’s advice was to have great references. As a talent management professional, Jill said that applicants these days are thoroughly screened. This includes understanding a person’s references, both peer and supervisor. She recommended asking your network to endorse or recommend you on your LinkedIn profile. Jill also encouraged the audience to practice their personal elevator speech, listen and ask questions, clearly tell your story, and dress like a professional when interviewing.

If you want to learn more about TEKsystems, you can visit their website or connect with Jill on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Calendar of Events

  • October 6, 2014: PDU Opportunity!

    Cindy Lewis, Director of Public Relations for WMPMI, is speaking at the Michigan Capital Area PMI chapter's Professional Development Day. She is speaking on the topic of What's New in Microsoft Project 2013 and is a recipient of the Most Valuable Professional award in MS Project two years running.

YouTube video:


  • October 13, 2014: WMPMI Dinner Meeting, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Holiday Inn Express / Crossroads (Grand Rapids) Fetzer Center (Kalamazoo)



Volunteer Opportunities











If you have a relationship with a College Dean in the Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Marketing, Please let us know.

If you have relationships with people in Talent Acquisition / HR, we'd like to talk with you about bringing awareness of an opportunity to interview excellent talent represented by collegiate team members in THE Project 2015.