Episode 199 – Rising Talent: Shaping the Future of Project Management

Original Air Date

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35 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 199 – Rising Talent: Shaping the Future of Project Management

About This Episode

Monique Sekhon

“I want to be part of that prevention or that change that happens at the upstream level, that makes life better for everyone.” Meet Monique Sekhon, PMI 2023 Future 50 honoree, and our second guest in our “Rising Talent” podcast series. She is a trailblazer making waves both professionally and within her community. In this episode, Monique shares project management insights and leadership lessons as she describes her project management journey, where she navigated the challenge of being a young PM in a unique leadership position. But Monique’s impact doesn’t stop at her job. As the youngest chapter president in PMI global history, with the PMI Vancouver Island Chapter, she embodies a passion for giving back to her community.

Monique’s PM journey began with her early exposure to project management through her mother’s pursuit of a PMP certification. Starting as a junior business analyst at the British Columbia Ministry of Health, Monique quickly rose to become a senior project management advisor at just 22 years old. Today, she manages over 45 concurrent complex data projects, demonstrating her exceptional leadership and expertise. Her role is to improve the state of administrative mental health and substance use data to increase efficiency in reporting and understanding client pathways. Monique explains her passion for public health and she highlights the relevance of good, clean data in driving policy changes. Tune in now to gain fresh perspectives and valuable insights from one of the industry’s brightest talents.

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Favorite Quotes from Episode

"…my job to work with people and talk to people and bring people together who are experts – because I’m definitely not the expert – bring those people together as a project manager into a room to say, okay, these are the priorities. This is our common goal.…. And this is what we’re trying to achieve. And then working with all of those people to determine, okay, how are we going to get there?"

Monique Sekhon

"if I can work with this data, I can produce information that will change policy, that will change thousands upon millions of lives… I want to be part of that prevention or that change that happens at the upstream level that makes life better for everyone."

Monique Sekhon

"But when you have project managers in an organization, everything’s running smoothly, and you can’t tell. When your organization doesn’t have project managers, you can really tell. So it’s kind of like we get taken for granted in a way because we’re kind of like the glue"

Monique Sekhon

The podcast by project managers for project managers. Shaping the future of project management is PMI 2023 Future 50 honoree, and our second guest in our “Rising Talent” podcast series, Monique Sekhon. She is a trailblazer making waves both professionally and within her community. As the youngest chapter president in PMI global history, she embodies a passion for giving back to her community. Join us to gain fresh perspectives and valuable insights from one of the industry’s brightest talents.

Table of Contents

01:56 … Meet Monique
04:09 … Path to Public Health
07:47 … Monique’s Current Position
10:28 … Most Effective Project Management Practices
14:36 … Collaboration with Stakeholders
19:33 … Kevin and Kyle
20:48 … Overcoming Attitudes and Challenges
24:36 … PMI Chapter Leadership
29:25 … Advice to Younger PMs
30:28 … Monique’s Nonprofit Care-2-Share
33:49 … Find Out More
34:50 … Closing

MONIQUE SEKHON: …my job to work with people and talk to people and bring people together who are experts – because I’m definitely not the expert – bring those people together as a project manager into a room to say, okay, these are the priorities.  This is our common goal.….  And this is what we’re trying to achieve.  And then working with all of those people to determine, okay, how are we going to get there? 

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m your host, Wendy Grounds.  And right here in the studio we’ve got the brains behind the show, Bill Yates. 

We take pride in showcasing the remarkable work of rising talent, adding a fresh perspective to the vibrant project management community.  This is the second and final in our current Rising Talent series.  We have an extraordinary guest.  This is a trailblazer making waves in both her professional and community spheres.  Do meet PMI 2023 Future 50 honoree Monique Sekhon.  She’s a dynamic professional with project management in her DNA, as she’s going to explain to us. 

She joined the British Columbia Ministry of Health starting as a junior business analyst.  And here she played a pivotal role in the Health Data Platform project, which was a large-scale initiative to enhance the efficiency of health data access for researchers and academics.  She was promoted to senior project management advisor at the age of 22, and today she manages over 45 concurrent complex data projects.  Her impact extends beyond her job.  She’s a volunteer with PMI Vancouver Island Chapter.  And she’s currently the chapter president for the 23-24 chapter year.  She’s also the youngest chapter president in PMI global history.

BILL YATES:  That’s impressive.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Very much so.  So we’re excited to talk to Monique today.  Hi, Monique.  Welcome to Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Thank you for having me.  I’m so excited to be here.

Meet Monique

WENDY GROUNDS:  We are looking forward to digging into your story and just hearing a bit about your journey into project management.  So tell us a little bit about what influenced you early on in your career in project management.  How did it start for you?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, so it’s kind of an interesting story, and it’s a bit of a legacy story.  So when I was in high school, my mom was studying for the PMP.  So at our house, all over all the floors, every possible surface, there was a PMBOK and tons of material and all that good stuff.  My dad would sit with her and quiz her and ask her questions.  And then she would be like, “Monique, come and quiz me.  I need to prepare for this exam.”  And I think she did write it twice.  So as a result, it was like quite a significant portion of my high school life helping her with this.

And I just remember as she was going through, you know, studying and learning and hearing those words, okay, initiation and waterfall and all those, you know, terminologies.  And I’m somebody who has always been really active in school and sports and music and all that stuff.  I love doing projects.  I’m an ideas girl.  I’m a let’s man.  And so I really just realized that this is a structure to the work that I’m doing.  So I started to kind of look through her work and some of the templates she was using and that kind of thing.

And she came from a business analysis background. So I started to take some of her PM templates and co-opt them for my school purposes, you know, running fundraisers.  We had this great program at my high school called Cops for Cancer.  We raised like $100,000 towards cancer in our community.  And I used project management templates to help with planning that whole process.  And I really just found that it resonated with me so much.  I love efficiency, and I love being able to do a lot, but do it well.  So as a result, it piqued my interest.

And then without really, I guess, realizing it, I kind of went down a path that ended up being very project management-oriented, and people kind of put me in those roles because I was good at it.  I like to say, you know, it’s in my blood.  Like I just, I am a project manager through and through. 

Path to Public Health

BILL YATES:  That’s really cool.  I like your use of the word “legacy,” too.  You were a project management kid growing up.  It was natural for you and it happened to fit right along with how your brain’s wired.  That’s really cool. 

So what drew you to public health when you were approaching your career and thinking, okay, what industry do I want to get into?  What drew you to public health?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  So ever since I was a very small child, my parents really instilled in me the values of kind of being of service to others.  And it’s a big part of our culture.  So my heritage is from the North of India where our family is Punjabi by heritage.  And we have a huge culture around service.  So it was really natural for me to want to help others.  And I think, you know, many other children of immigrants may relate to this, but you kind of have three options when you’re growing up:  doctor, lawyer, engineer.

And so I kind of was like, okay, well, I guess doctor; right?  Like that’s my way to kind of give back and be of service to others.  I remember like one of my first forays into volunteering was actually like a BMX competition here in Victoria.  And I just had like a little volunteer shirt on, and I was handing out brochures or something about like the program.  And I just remember being, this is awesome.  I get to be part of something.  And then I started to volunteer kind of more locally with a lot of different organizations.  And then I was about, I was in middle school, so I would have been like 10 or 11 when I heard for the first time about this organization called ME2WE.  They have this thing called WE Day that they do every year. 

So it’s Craig and Marc Kielburger who started that organization.  And I remember them saying, you know, they had traveled somewhere, and they had seen for the first time kind of kids their own age and what they were going through in different countries.  And that really inspired them to want to help those children in whatever way they could.

For me, it was similar.  I traveled to India when I was about seven and a half.  And I just remember I had just arrived with my family, and we were in the car on this massive highway.  It must have been like a 10-lane highway.  In the middle there was like a divider.  And we were stopped because of course it’s India.  It was Bombay.  Tons of traffic. 

So we’re kind of stopped there in the car.  And I just looked over to the divider, and there was a little girl who looked the same age as me.  She must have been about like seven or eight.  And in one hand she had a little boy who must have been, like, two, holding her hand.  They were all covered in like soot, and they were dirty, and they didn’t have shoes or anything on.  On her other arm, which was amputated, she had a sling with a baby in it.

And she just kind of looked in my eyes, and I looked in hers, and I was like, no way is this real life.  That girl is the same age as me.  How come, you know, I’m sitting here in a car, having traveled on a plane from Canada.  And, you know, if circumstances had been different, that could have easily been me.  So I just really felt, if I’m going to be here for however long I’m going to be here, I want to be of service.  So, I mean, health just was a natural fit.

What I really love is my journey kind of started out with that more clinical perspective of, okay, I guess my only option is doctor.  And when I got into university, I got into a program that was focused on more of the population or quantitative side of health; right?  So more data, really.  And I fell in love.  I was like, okay, if I can work with this data, I can produce information that will change policy, that will change thousands upon millions of lives as opposed to being a clinician and dealing with like my roster of patients on a regular basis.  I want to be part of that prevention or that change that happens at the upstream level that makes life better for everyone.

Monique’s Current Position

WENDY GROUNDS:  Won’t you tell us what your current role is, where you’re working right now?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, so my current role is I’m essentially a team lead or manager for, our area, our branch is mental health and substance use data priorities.  So it’s a bit of a mouthful.  We work in the community and cross-sector area, and I work for British Columbia’s Ministry of Health.  So we have a little bit of a different system here in Canada that mirrors kind of the UK system.  And so we have ministries.  I know it sounds very Harry Potter, but it’s not all magic.

Yeah, so at the Ministry of Health, we work with – in terms of data and health sector information analysis and reporting.  We work with administrative databases for the entire province.  So we have about in and around like five million people in our province.  So my current role is working on projects to essentially like harmonize and improve our mental health data.  And that starts with really like an understanding of what data we have in this province related to mental health and substance use.

And another piece of it is how do we define mental health and substance use?  It means very different things to different people.  It’s also a very political topic. In our province, we’ve had since I believe 2016 a public health emergency related to opioids.  Dr. Bonnie Henry, who during COVID became a very a public figure, she’s been working on this crisis for a number of yearsAnd so we work with her as well in my area to kind of identify what the priorities and needs are.  And what we need to be able to have in order to make those policy changes or address these issues is good, clean data.

When it comes to data, it’s very much like a garbage in/garbage out situation; right?  So the data needs to be comprehensive.  It needs to be inclusive.  It needs to be robust at the source.  And then at every checkpoint from there, if we want to use it for secondary use purposes, like research or analytics or surveillance or any of that stuff; right?  So it’s my job to work with people and talk to people and bring people together who are experts – because I’m definitely not the expert – bring those people together as a project manager into a room to say, okay, these are the priorities.  This is our common goal.

And that’s really important to me is always starting with our common goalAnd this is what we’re trying to achieve.  Then working with all of those people to determine, okay, how are we going to get there?  What is it going to cost?  Who needs to be involved?  What is the governance for this, and all of that good stuff.  So it’s a fairly new role, and it’s a fairly new area.  But it’s my dream to be working on this.  Really, it’s fascinating that it just kind of happened that way, that I would have this type of role.  But it really is kind of my dream role.

Most Effective Project Management Practices

BILL YATES:  That’s terrific.  When you said “good clean data,” that resonated with me.  Even the project management experiences I had with financial software for utilities, that was one of our biggest things was we need good clean data to feed into this model, or it’s worthless; right?  It’s not even worthless.  It’s misrepresenting.  Yeah, yeah.  With your work at the ministry, what project management philosophies or practices have you seen to be most effective?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  So what’s really interesting is that, when it comes to project management, I find project managers often, you know, when you have an organization – and someone said this actually at the Atlanta summit.  But when you have project managers in an organization, everything’s running smoothly, and you can’t tell.  When your organization doesn’t have project managers, you can really tell.  So it’s kind of like we get taken for granted in a way because we’re kind of like the glue or like in the body, the blood that kind of just like flows all the way through.  You know you need it, but you kind of take it for granted.

I think organizations ebb and flow when it comes to that.  And from my perspective, obviously the templates, any templates I can get my hands on are so useful.  There has to be like a single source of truth.  There have to be standards to be able to communicate effectively.  Everyone has to understand what they’re looking at when it comes to documentation.  And so that’s something that I really love to use from a project management perspective.

Then communication is probably the biggest, the single biggest aspect of project management that is critical.  And in my area with health and with topics that are very highly political and with different priorities, I mean, in health, what isn’t a priority?  Like what isn’t a fire that needs to be put out?  And so having that kind of like patience through communication and change management as it applies to the project process, those are kind of the critical tools or the tool sets that I know I need to bring every single meeting I’m in and every single conversation I’m having.  You know, whatever I’m trying to relate to my leadership is always that communication and change management.

And that’s why I come back to that common goal piece. You know, I took my DASM recently through the Disciplined Agile Scrum Master, and there’s a lot of components to that learning that have really helped me, as well, because it allows you to bring together all of these lean and project management and Agile, kind of pick and choose what is going to work for your organizational context.  Like in my organization, Agile kind of lives in its own world, and we don’t always use it.  It’s not always practical with the way things are set up for us.

But there’s a lot about Agile that I like, and there’s a lot about Agile that I like that specifically challenges government and bureaucracy because it moves quickly, right, as opposed to your traditional, waterfall project management style.  So, I kind of take like little hybrids and mishmash things together.  And DASM has taught me that there’s ways to do that effectively.  Again, the key is how are you communicating it, and how are you generating that buy-in through your communication and through preparing people through change management.  So it’s a little bit of everything.

And I love that PMI has kind of taken a bit of a pivot towards a bit more holistic of a perspective towards project management and understanding that, as new project managers, the world changes every six months.  So there’s so much that we need to be on top of, and there are so many different expectations, and some of the traditional approaches are super necessary.  And then sometimes you have to change it up and do what works for you while still working within this standard.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that makes complete sense.  And it lines right up with the research that I keep reading and even the project managers that we come across.  PMI is calling it a hybrid.  It’s a mix; right?  It’s not pure waterfall or predictive. And it’s not pure Agile or adaptive.  It’s I need the compliance.  I need, you know, I need to abide by the regulations and compliance because this is healthcare.  So there are some aspects of waterfall that have to be used.  But I need the flexibility.  I need some of these great practices from Agile, too.  So that completely makes sense.

Collaboration with Stakeholders

WENDY GROUNDS:  Monique, won’t you tell us a little bit about who are your major stakeholders on your projects, and what are your collaboration lessons learned that you’ve gained from your projects?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  So, yeah.  One interesting thing is, so the term “stakeholders” in BC right now is something that’s a big topic of discussion because of course we live in a colonial context.  So we have kind of moved towards adopting the term, like, “interested parties,” or in some cases “shareholders.”  I mean, “shareholders” isn’t always the most accurate term because it already has a context.  But “interested parties” is kind of the direction that we’ve been going in because of the term “stakeholder” having a very colonial kind of background.  And as you know, younger folks and being kind of more aware of reconciliation in our country and how important it is, we have to be really conscious of some of the language that we use.  Which is really interesting when we talk about standards; right?  Because it’s like, that’s what it says on all the documentation.

And in Canada, all of my documentation working at the ministry says, you know, His Majesty, the King of England and Wales.  So it’s like very interesting to be in that context.  Yeah, so we’ve started to use the term “interested parties,” and that’s something that’s becoming more and more familiar to folks

 But in terms of who, so I get to be in this very unique place where it’s kind of everyone.  And so what I mean by that is, in the data world, you’re dealing with a lot of very technical folks.  So we deal obviously with contractors who represent organizations, like it could be CGI or Deloitte or any of those kind of major contractors or even more local ones in our community who support us from the very technical perspective that we pay to produce these different data products or whatever it might be.

And then within my area we have a ton of really incredible, super smart analysts.  So they’re government staff, but they – some of these people have PhDs, or they were doctors in their home countries.  They’re experts.  And so they are generally the people that produce like our dashboards and our reports and use this data and understand this data because health administrative data is so unique.  We have a public healthcare system.  So our doctors bill the ministry to get paid; right?  Like that’s how it works.  Our administrative data is mostly oriented towards billing.  It’s mostly meant to be like a financial record.

But someone at some point realized that this could be used to actually pull information together.  And so we have databases that are financial and some that aren’t.  So the ones obviously that are financial, a lot cleaner and nicer.  And the ones that aren’t, it’s like, if you’re a physician or an allied healthcare provider, and you’re on the ground with your patients or your clients, and you’re trying to give them the best quality of care that you can, it’s not really going to be your priority to go to the computer and code things and make sure that everything’s perfect for Monique at the ministry for some secondary purpose. There’s an understanding there from the clinical perspective, as well.

So we have this technical piece, we have our analysts who are experts on the data, and then we have that clinical setting where we work in some cases directly with physicians or healthcare providers to provide their context of what it looks like boots on the ground. 

So a lot of the time my job is bringing those regions’ representatives together to have conversations about their data and what’s available.  And that can be very challenging because each region has like a different size of their population, diverse populations.

Like in Vancouver Coastal, you’re going to have, first of all, a massive population, and you’re going to have like a huge diversity of people because there are a lot of newcomers to Canada in that population.  And then you have Northern Health, and most likely you’re going to have a lot less people, probably a lot more indigenous communities.  And you have challenges like geography.  Like there’s a woman who’s about to give birth, and the closest hospital to her is 13 hours away.  How are we going to get her to where she needs to go?  And then we have Island Health where, we’re an island, so there’s all sorts of different challenges like how are we going to ensure that people have access to what they need to have access to? 

So generating that buy-in can be, or even finding consensus on certain issues can be really, really challenging.  And I’m empathetic to the fact that they have completely different needs and populations.  But I think what works best is coming back to that common goal.  It’s something that I’ve kind of implemented now into the beginning of all of my meetings is a slide to just be, okay, I’m centering us all back to why we’re here.  Like what is our big why? 

So that as we have these conversations for the next hour, hour and a half, two hours, you know, if at any point we’re frustrated with each other, we disagree with each other, we don’t like what the other person is saying, or we don’t care what the other person is saying because it doesn’t apply to our context, we come back to that common goal and remember that like, we’re here to serve the people of British Columbia.  We’re here to serve all those who, you know, live, work, and play on these lands.  We all want that.

BILL YATES:  That’s your North Star, yeah.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, very good advice. 

Kevin and Kyle

KYLE CROWE: Good quality doesn’t happen by chance; it’s the product of deliberate objectives, and skillful planning. In project management, quality management processes aim to fulfill project requirements and satisfy customer needs.

KEVIN RONEY: When initiating a new project, a Quality Management Plan serves as a guiding document for project managers and teams to carry out our quality management and assurance measures. Incorporated within the overall project plan, the quality management plan defines the specific activities to be undertaken throughout the project’s lifecycle to achieve its quality objectives.

KYLE CROWE: Bob Mahler offers a step by step course in creating a Quality Management Plan. This Velociteach course covers all components of the plan as well as supporting documents like the Process Improvement Plan and the Quality Metrics. Content is provided to guide you through our discussion of each area of the plan and various types of waste. If you are struggling with quality management, take this course and bring immediate value to your current projects.

KEVIN RONEY: This course is actually part of a 5-course bundle, The Project Planning Series, which guides you through developing the five major components of the Project Plan. It covers Scope Management, Schedule Management, Quality Management, Communications & Stakeholder Management, and Risk Management. Check out our PDU Passport, our all-access pass to every Velociteach InSite PDU course.

Overcoming Attitudes and Challenges

WENDY GROUNDS:  Monique, you were promoted to a senior project management advisor position when you were just 22, and you had to oversee many different complex data enhancement projects.  That is quite an amazing accomplishment.  So congratulations on what you have accomplished.


WENDY GROUNDS:  What were the challenges that you had to navigate in that position as such a young woman?  Did you have any dismissive attitudes?  And what sort of obstacles did you have to jump through?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  So, you know when I listen to Pierre Bradley talk about what it really means to be a project leader, I would say that I identify a lot more with being a project leader because leadership and service and servant leadership is, like, really, really important to me.

But a lot of the time, the types of things you do as a project manager can sometimes come across to certain folks as very administrative; right?  A lot of the things you’re doing from a project management perspective are very administrative tasks.  You get the comments of like, oh, the secretary or you know, like people expecting you to take their personal notes for them. 

And part of it is also the intergenerational.  And this is something I speak about very openly, and I’m very aware of, given my cultural context, as well.  Like generations are really, really important; and elders are really, really important.  And in the workplace that plays out very differently; right?  So you have, you know, me, who was 22 at the time, and then you have my director, who was in his late 60s, close to retirement.  So his grandchildren were my age.  And then you have everyone in between, like you have people’s moms and dads, and people’s kids are your age.  It’s an interesting balance in that intergenerational collaboration perspective because – and to be a racialized woman, I mean, just quite frankly, it’s a unique experience, as well.  And comments all the time about different little things.

But in this team that I went into, it was mostly a woman team.  I was coming from a team that was mostly kind of more skewed towards men because it was a lot more of a technical space, just by nature of how things were at that time.  Now things are a little bit more equal, I would say.  But, yeah, it just felt very welcoming.

And then I did work with, you know, some of those people that were closer to retirement, and they definitely had a perspective of who I was and what I was there to do.  They also had a preconceived notion about project management as a discipline.  And I think if that’s not how your mind is inclined to work, and you’re somebody who is an expert or a SME, and you’re really focused on what your task is, it’s hard to maybe appreciate what your PM does for you.  And so in some ways I was constantly managing up.   You have to constantly remind yourself that this is really good experience, and dealing with these disparate opinions or, you know, some of these comments.

And realistically, I think one nice thing about me as a person is like a lot of that stuff, to be honest, went right over my head.  I mean, look.  Even in high school, I’m sure people used to say mean stuff to me, but it would truly just go over my head.  So in that way, I was lucky to be kind of aloof about those things.  But it was challenging, but I really enjoy my work.  Like I really love being able to do all I can do to make things efficient and to collaborate with my teams. 

And I think just keeping yourself busy and constantly, I mean, not that I should have to constantly prove myself.  But yeah, in a way, constantly proving that I can handle things and deal with things effectively and be like a positive energy.  So it’s like, you know, you’re there with people eight hours a day, sometimes more.  The majority of your life is at work.  You can look at that in a good way, and you can look at that in a bad way.  And I choose to look at it in a good way.  And like, how can I make the people around me feel as comfortable and happy as possible if we’re going to be spending, you know, most of our time together.

BILL YATES:  That sounds like a healthy team leader there.  That’s terrific, yeah.  Great advice.

PMI Chapter Leadership

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another thing that you do in your very busy life is you’re engaged in volunteer work with PMI Vancouver Island chapter.  You are the current president.  So tell us how you got involved there.  What was your motivation to be involved in PMI?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  I mean, again, I’ll use the term “legacy”. My mom was a chapter leader for a number of years, and I grew up around the chapter leaders.  They’re some of my mom’s best friends.  And she at one point was also president. 

So I joined on to the board as the PMI education fund liaison because the person who was holding that portfolio at the time said, you know, “We need, like, people who are closer to the people that we’re trying to serve.  You are super involved with volunteer organizations.”  We were giving out scholarships to high school age folks at that time, so “You can speak to those folks within their context.”  And I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great”.

And then it was COVID after that; right?  So then I took a bit of time and just focused on work and my health.  And then I moved to Switzerland for a little while to finish up my master’s degree.  I have a master’s in health administration.  So I did my final research placement in Switzerland.

I was living there, and I got a phone call from the president at the time.  And she said, “Hey, Monique, is there any chance that you would be interested in coming on as president-elect?  And I was like, “Yeah, why not?  President-elect sounds kind of fancy.”

And so I came onboard from Switzerland.  So I was waking up at like 3:00 a.m. Swiss Central Time to attend board meetings from across the world.  I’d be like half asleep, and like, “I can’t go on camera.  I’m in bed, and I have class in not many hours.”  And so it was commitment.  It was commitment and dedication.  Because like most chapters, we did suffer during COVID in terms of keeping that momentum.

I came back to Canada, and pretty much within like a couple of weeks of coming back to Canada, it was the Vegas conference, the 2022 Global Summit.  So we went to Vegas, and I think that might’ve been Pierre’s first year as CEO.  And I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with him.  And he was like, “You know, you’re one of our youngest chapter leaders that we’ve ever had.  So what are your ideas on what we should be focusing on as an organization?”

And to have the CEO of a global, massive nonprofit be so comfortable around you and willing to single you out and ask for your opinion as a young person and what you think and who you think needs to be at the table, I can’t possibly be more grateful.  Like what a blessing.  And he was at that time so new and had so many like great new ideas.  And we’re seeing that now.  We’re seeing all this like generative AI, and we’re seeing PM Next and all these great new initiatives that are coming through in the project management world.  And kind of more of this focus on this new era of project leaders and what that means and what the world looks like in this new context post‑COVID.

And I just felt so blessed to be able to have a direct line to that person, and then the whole team.  This is not a community of people who half-ass anything.  This is a community of people who give their 110% every day.  I don’t think you’ll find a project manager who is lackadaisical about their work.  And so that generated an interest for me in staying on as president.

And then we did a massive board reorganization.  Our chapter has existed since I was born, and it had always been one way that entire time.  And so we decided that we need a change.  And we did a massive board reorganization, which requires coordinating with not only PMI Global, but also coordinating with our local Societies Act and making sure that we’re in compliance with two different kind of governance structures.  So that was a huge undertaking, and we went down to like maybe less than 10 volunteers running like our entire organization, and we’re now back up to 20. 

So I’m really, really proud of what we did with the reorg and proud, I think, in many ways that there are so many people that want to give back and being able to generate that buzz again and being able to bring that energy that this organization needed to come into this new era.

BILL YATES:  That’s great.  I had a similar experience with PMI Global where things got really small.  I was on an advisory group representing North America, and we had members from, you know, from all the continents.  And as we got together and just shared some of our struggles, some of the things that went well on projects and some of the things that were difficult, these were all kind of – internationally we had so much diversity, yet there was a common thread of project management and the need to expand and constantly be learning, be a lifelong learner.  So, yeah, I had a similar experience.  That’s great.

Advice to Younger PMs

WENDY GROUNDS:  What advice would you give to young professionals entering the field of project management?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, I think one of the major things I would say is just be willing to reach out.  Don’t be afraid or think somebody’s going to come to you.  They’re not.  You have to be willing to reach out and find the project managers in your organization or in your branch division, wherever you are, because most likely those people are going to be the people who will – like I have for, you know, this past hour – talk your ear off about what’s available, and how you can get there, and what you can do, and projects that they might think, you know, you could join in on, and your interests and all that kind of thing.

I think if you find the PMs, you’re going to be able to find a community that welcomes you in and really wants to give you opportunities and wants to support your learning.  So never, never, never let your age or your, level of expertise, or where you are, who you are, never let that stop you or scare you from reaching out and asking for what you want.

Monique’s Nonprofit Care-2-Share

WENDY GROUNDS:  Monique, won’t you tell us also a little bit about your nonprofit that you started?  It’s called Care-2‑Share.

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, so kind of related to the work that I’m doing right now, which is wonderful, around mental health and substance use.  When I was in undergrad, so back in 2016, I started an organization called Care-2-Share for mental health and substance use awareness.  There’s so many services out there, and so many people who want to help.  There’s a lot of stigma, obviously, there still is around mental health and substance use.  And a lot of people didn’t really know what it was or like how to help somebody who is going through something like this.

So I started Care-2-Share as an opportunity for services, like service providers to come together with the population that they’re trying to serve in a space and say, this is how we want to help you, and this is who we’re helping right now, and this is what we do.  And, you know, we’re here for you.  And it was really surprising, actually, to see how many services we had in our community, and how many people didn’t know about them.  They were there, and they were like, no one comes to us.  We want to help people, and no one’s coming to us.  And there are people who are like, we need your help.  So that connection and communication piece is really what drove me to start Care-2-Share.

And where it’s gone since then, we’ve had, like, so many fundraisers raising money for various different mental health-related causes.  Most recently, we actually held last year in June or July, we held like a massive premiere for the “Barbie” movie in Vancouver.  And we raised about, like, $10,000 towards eating disorder awareness because of course Barbie in the past has been kind of like a challenging controversial figure around eating disorders.  So we partnered with the Looking Glass Foundation in BC and raised a bunch of money towards that cause. 

I think mental health more than ever, it has a light on it, and people are aware of it.  And it’s something we can talk about openly.  We can say “I’m having a challenging time.”  And as it relates to project management in our work, we need to be able to say, like, hey, I’m having an off day, and I’m not quite 100% capacity.

I mean, me personally, I was in a car accident last year that really impacted me, and I was off work for a couple of months, and I had quite a severe concussion, and I’m still recovering from that.  So, you know, you need to be able to have spaces where you can have that awareness and openness about your mental health and be willing to talk about it and bring people together.  And that’s really what Care-2-Share kind of started from.  And I’m really proud because I was able to take this organization to the World Health Organization and represent Canada through Care-2-Share and talk about the Canadian context around mental health and substance use at that world stage at their mental health forum.  I think when I was like 20, yeah, I must have been 21 or 22 when I was in that space with those people.

And the interesting piece around mental health and substance use is probably two of the kind of major challenges are sustainable funding and stigma.  Those are two of the global, you know, major challenges.  So whether you’re in Lagos, or you’re in Saudi, or you’re in Italy, or you’re in Canada, those two issues are going to be the same no matter where you are.  And so that kind of connects us all towards these are the things we want to fix.  And so, yeah, it drives me.  It drives me, and it is my – it’s my baby.  It’s my passion.  And I through these two communities have found what it means to be Monique.

Find Out More

WENDY GROUNDS:  Love that.  Monique, if our listeners want to get in touch with you, or if they want to find out more about Care-2-Share, where should they go?

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, so if you want to get in touch with me, you can definitely hit me up on LinkedIn.  That’s probably the easiest place to find me and chat with me.  I’m pretty active on there.  And then to learn more about Care-2-Share, Instagram is pretty poppin’.  So that’s where I would go.  So it’s @caretwoshare.  And you can find us there.  And we also have a website, but that that’s all linked through the Instagram, as well.

BILL YATES:  Monique, this has been such a fun conversation.  You are inspiring.  That’s all there is to it.  You’ve overcome so many obstacles in your career already.  And you’re really an inspiration for those of us who are maybe deeper into our career, or maybe those who are just starting out.  There are lessons to be learned from it.  So thank you for your heart for project management, and thank you for your heart for giving back to the community.  We really appreciate it.  Thank you for your time today.

MONIQUE SEKHON:  Yeah, and thank you both so much for giving me this opportunity to share my passions.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us today.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  You’ve also earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go back to Velociteach.com.  Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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