PMI-OC The Early Days

The Orange County Chapter of the PMI began as a result of a task that Kathy Sharman was assigned while working in the IT Systems Division of Pacific Mutual Insurance in late 1987 and early 1988. Kathy was tasked to set up a Program Management Office. A friend of Kathy knew of this assignment, when a UCI instructor mentioned the Project Management Institute, and passed it on to Kathy.

Kathy found the idea interesting and convinced a number of co-workers, including Julie Wilson and Frank Reynolds, to accompany her to the LA Chapter monthly meeting where they were struck by the ironic contradictions. Immediately upon entry to the meeting place they were literally confronted by the male engineer dominated smoke filled room. This was to be the first in challenges that faced the group. That first meeting was an eye opener as they quickly recognized both the value and challenge that faced them in the following months. What they encountered was a very old school tradition that project management applied only to the hard engineering, manufacturing and construction arena. While the group continued to make the trek to the LA chapter meeting and tried to foster change from within, they encountered a great deal of skepticism and a general lack of vision and understanding how the discipline was transportable to IT systems and the insurance industry that they represented. Convinced of the value and tired of the drive the idea of a new chapter local and more convenient location to them in Orange County was incubating.

The core group quickly began developing the idea for a new chapter and linked up with John Bing as a founding Trustee. John helped a great deal as he identified and helped contact a list of 40 people that became the initial membership. Once the formal petition to PMI was submitted in early 1988 Frank Jeness (CH2Mhill, Seattle) as the Region PMI Vice President, became the second advisor. Frank’s initial meeting with Kathy Sharman, in early 1988, once again illustrated the challenge to be faced. Frank and PMI Headquarters were very skeptical that Orange County had the right type of industry and enough interest to support a chapter without negatively impacting the LA chapter.

This skepticism was the final catalyst that drove Kathy and eventually the founding members. The group bonded and developed a vision for their chapter to provide more diversity and balance in membership, disciplines, industries and opportunities. Armed with a new vision, passionate members and corporate sponsors, in Pacific Mutual and Welcome Software, they began what was to become a successful campaign.

Truly the keys to the success were the willing and hard working volunteers such as Mila Goldman (1st Treasurer), Bill Coughlin (Newsletter editor and publisher), Quentin Fleming (promoter extraordinary), and the youngest participant 16 year old Keith Reynolds (who went on to become chapter VP Communications and VP Programs). These volunteers made it happen and the chapter was up and running in record time. PMI officially recognized the chapter in 1989 and Orange County went on to be recognized as the Chapter of the Year in its first year of existence.

Over the years the OC Chapter has seen tremendous growth, change and success. The most notable are demonstrated by the current diversity and balance that can be found in the chapter, and the success of some of our founding members such as Julie Wilson who went on to be both a Regional and International VP within PMI. Other founding members were instrumental in the founding of other chapters such as Denver and the IT Special Interest Group.

The success of the Chapter can easily be attributed to the vision and motivation of Kathy Sharman; the organization and drive of Julie Wilson; the discipline and standards of John Bing and Frank Reynolds; and the overall diversity and hard work by those 40 founding members.