Germán Gutiérrez-Pacheco, PMP®, has experienced the power of project management throughout his career as an IT systems engineer and manager. But it wasn’t until he took his 7-year-old granddaughter to a PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) session on project management and robotics that he saw, first-hand, how easily it could be absorbed by one so young.
“She learned enough of the basics in three or four hours to gain a clear understanding of what a project is. She talks about doing projects at school, and how she goes about them. She is happy to be able to organize her work. And me? It makes me feel very proud to hear her use that PM vocabulary. I can see the great value in teaching these skills even to small children.”
A faithful donor to PMIEF, Germán believes his funds are being amplified when funneled through PMIEF efforts. “I feel sure PMIEF invests my little contribution on programs impacting youth and needed communities in ways my limited skills do not allow me to do,” he says, adding that when many small contributions are added together, they can fund great efforts.”
Of his own professional development, Germán says, “I began managing projects at IBM where I was a systems engineer, and project management was still just an art. In 1974 we didn’t have a formal project management discipline. Of course we did have some project management courses at IBM, but those courses were really in communication, leadership – those things we now call ‘soft skills.’ But we didn’t really have courses on much of the hard skills that we know today. All of the processes had not yet been formalized.”
Germán, however, was equipped with a great educational foundation on which to build his career. Having earned a master’s degree in systems engineering from the National University of Colombia, a master’s of science in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s certificate in project management from the George Washington University, he then earned his Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification in 2005.
In the midst of it all he became one of six founding members of the PMI Bogotá, Colombia Chapter. “From those six people our numbers have swelled to about 1000 members. We were the first and only chapter in Colombia until about three years ago when we began supporting other regions’ efforts to open their own chapters. Now we have three chapters [one working towards chartering] – Bogotá, Antioquia, Pacifico, and Caribe – in Colombia, with a total membership of about 1,900 members which, of course, makes me very happy,” says Germán.
“When PMIEF was created I realized it was a beautiful opportunity to give back a little,” he adds, noting that he has donated his own time to translating a few chapters of a book on project management for children which is still a work in progress. Now that he has “retired” from his full-time career, Germán pursues his “passion,” teaching project management. He has been a systems engineering teacher, in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, at the National University of Colombia; project management teacher, in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, in the Escuela Colombiana de Ingeniería Julio Garavito; director of the Projects Unit of Escuela Colombiana de Ingeniería Julio Garavito; project management teacher at Universidad de la Sabana in the master's degree programs in engineering management and operations management, and in the graduate studies in logistics management program.
“I love teaching and I do it at universities because I don’t feel I have the skills to teach youths. But PMIEF does. It has a strong impact on youths,” says Germán with humility, adding that PMIEF provides both great education and opportunity, not only to youth but to their communities as well.
Now 76, this married father and grandfather is able to review the power of project management throughout his life. “I have used project management in everything I do in life,” says Germán. “There isn’t any area of life in which it is not applicable. It helps people to achieve success in so many ways.” He hopes other project management professionals will also consider becoming donors to help build the strength of PMIEF’s outreach. “I think it is our responsibility as project managers to share this information and give back to the world. It is the right thing to do.”