Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Arrives

For improving how banks operate, from Nigeria to Canada

Taiwo Abraham thinks he and his fellow “change-friendly” millennials have an edge in today’s fast-shifting business environment. “We haven’t seen much of a stable world anyway,” he says, so “we are already curious, and we explore ways of advancing a so-called new technology. … We have shortened the change cycle of everything, and that process continues.”

Abraham’s embrace of change has taken him far. While at iCentra Consulting in Nigeria, he helped launch an enterprise project management office (PMO) at the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016, working to standardize project management across 29 departments and 36 branches of bank operations. The ROI was swift, boosting the bank’s project delivery capabilities while yielding significant savings. He and the iCentra team gave the bank’s myriad stakeholders ownership of the project. “The team simply anchored the client to universally proven good practices, while giving them the freedom to flex the framework to fit the bank’s enterprise environment.”

The experience lit a match. In December 2016, Abraham moved to the United States to pursue his MBA. The program didn’t require a thesis—but he did one anyway, “so I could delve into some of the burning questions I had.” The resulting research paper on PMO implementation and longevity won him the 2018 PMIEF James R. Snyder International Student Paper of the Year Award. 

Big initiatives keep coming his way. His first project at Horizant was spearheading a multimillion-U.S.-dollar facilities management IT implementation for Ontario Power Generation. Last year, he led a proof-of-concept initiative for Canadian banking giant Desjardins that grew into one of Horizant’s largest multiyear revenue projects ever.

Upon moving to Canada, the 2019 PMI  Young Professional Award winner teamed up with a friend to found Helping Other People Succeed, a mentoring platform that allows people to share their professional network, visibility and expertise. Behind the scenes, he’s also part of the review team for A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 7th Edition.

“The evolution we see around us promises us one thing: The cycle of change will continue,” Abraham says. That prospect inspires him. “Continuous adaptation to the new norm, grounded in scientific findings and the pulse of the community, helps ensure today’s project manager has a secured place within the construct of organizations,” he says.

Q&A: Taiwo Abraham on situational awareness, the internet and collaboration 

What project most influenced you personally?

The internet is perhaps the single making of man that forever changes everything we knew before it. I mean everything. I have a lot of admiration for what Google has done with organizing the world’s information. But bringing the world’s content together is one thing; making it accessible is another.

On a personal note, the internet is the reason I’ve experienced the world in the ways I have. I’ve visited 20 countries and across all the continents, but I have lived in many more countries and places through the internet. In 2013, I took part in an experimental project that assembled a team of about 180 people from about 80 countries. I was the only Nigerian. During that period, I literally lived in about eight countries as I worked in a micro team comprised of individuals from those eight countries. I finally visited New York City for the first time in February 2020, but nothing felt new. The internet enriched our lives in a somewhat equitable manner.

What’s the most influential project you’ve worked on?

Just for the sheer number of people who use it and the ripple impact of those people on the rest of the world, the update of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 7th Edition should be my most influential project in recent time. It feels like a huge responsibility and an opportunity to influence the project management profession at its very core.

What’s one way managing projects will have changed by 2030?

The realities of COVID-19 should have humbled us enough to not attempt predicting how anything will be a year from now, not to mention a decade. But since we are humans and perhaps the most stubborn of the creatures we know, we can still try some predictions. 
By 2030, machine learning, robots, automation, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, internet of things and 5G technology would all have matured enough to replace many things we know today. The value of humans on projects will gradually become tilted to social and emotional intelligence, situational awareness and anything leadership related.

What’s your mantra for leading projects?

Collaboration for value delivery over contractual dos and don’ts. As the role of project manager is shifting from just output delivery to include value delivery, our responsibility is becoming harder and harder to contain in the details of most standard contracts today.

What famous or historic person would you like to have on your project team?

I choose U.S. President Barack Obama for his well-rounded leadership skills. He is audacious, authentic and humble enough to not take himself too seriously. While he’s pursuing something one will consider very ambitious, he remains in touch with the human side of things. Dealing with the U.S. Congress, Supreme Court, the executive cabinets, Medicare, etc. by day and being a kind dad and husband by night is not something you can fake for eight years. His ability to thrive in extremely opposite situations without losing his candor, his ability to wrap worrisome information with messages that inspire, his ability to bring a terribly diverse stakeholder group to support a common cause are some of the reasons I desire him the most on my team.