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Project Management Institute Comes Home to Georgia Tech: A Talk with Founder Jim Snyder

Jim Snyder, founder, Project Management Institute

Jim Snyder, founder, Project Management Institute

The Project Management Institute (PMI), started in the late 1960’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with over 500,000 members in 208 countries, 300 chapters, and over 10,000 volunteers. Jim Snyder, one of its founding members, visited Scheller College of Business on September 10th  to discuss the history of the Project Management Institute, its half-century hallmark, and the Georgia Tech connection that helped form the international organization.

Over several meetings in Atlanta in the late 1960s, Snyder and his colleague, Dr. J. Gordon Davis, Georgia Tech, (Ph.D., IE, ’67), discussed the growing interest in project management. As a result of their meetings, PMI founders Snyder, Davis, Ned Engman, Susan Gallagher, and Eric Jenett held the first symposium for project managers in a small room in what is now known as the French Building. “We didn’t start out to create a profession,” said Snyder. “PMI really got started with the first symposium hosted by Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Engineering in 1969. Without the support of Georgia Tech, we would not have existed,” said Snyder.

The new team saw the need for professional schedulers to exchange ideas and support the growing field. The initial organization was called “American Planning and Scheduling,” but they soon realized their small group was about more than just scheduling. Interest from practitioners grew, and 78 people attended the next symposium with 23 people joining the organization for $15 per year. Within the next few years, the five original members convened in Pennsylvania and filed articles of incorporation along with a new organizational name, the Project Management Institute.

As Snyder recounts, the original organization was started above a meat market and across from a bar and their first IT department was a Selectric typewriter. They later moved to their permanent headquarters in  Newton Square, PA.

In the 50 years of its existence, the PMI has not only grown in membership but has also become the sole organization to offer Project Management certification. Individuals seeking to obtain the PMP certificate must pass a test that requires strict adherence to processes and practices found only in the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK, widely used among project management professionals as the main study tool needed to pass the the PMP.

“Take time to get the certificate. It will make a big difference in whether you get a job or not,” said Snyder, relating that employers are likely to flip through resumes until they see the PMP certification.

Snyder discussed the Institute’s Educational Foundation which is run by volunteers. It offers from $600,000 to $1m in scholarships a year and he encouraged the audience members to apply. Eligibility is open to anyone who is enrolled in a PM class through the PMI. “There are some wonderful opportunities to build relationships with people all over the world that will last your entire lifetime,” he said.

When asked what makes a good project manager, Snyder said it takes determination, honesty, the ability to communicate well and to push forward on what you believe is right. “No matter what you do, when you leave here and you go on whether it’s a future degree or a different profession, the rest of your life will be managing projects.”

 View the full video of his lecture on Scheller's YouTube channel.

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