Vikki Kapoor, PMP, PgMP and the PMI Melbourne, Australia Chapter
Number of Hours Pledged: 132
SDGs Supported: #4 Quality Education, #17 Partnerships for the Goals
Summary: After changing careers from engineering to project management, Vikki Kapoor, PMP, PgMP, PMO manager at Ericsson, realized that his new skills delivered a powerful advantage across disciplines. And that inspired an aha moment: “I thought, ‘Why not get students to learn project management, so they can apply the principles to learning, planning assignments, and for day-to-day life?’ Why not start them early?”
The timing worked out well: It was 2014, and Kapoor was a member of the PMI Melbourne, Australia Chapter, which was seeking new initiatives to support. So Kapoor and a group of volunteers pitched the Project Management for Life (PM4L) initiative. Their aim? Give presentations at public schools to teach students about project management—and pledge their volunteer hours through PMI Hours for Impact to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
To build some momentum, the team began their presentations at a local university—even though their strategy entailed a younger audience.
“We knew younger students would benefit from learning project management skills. Students aged 14 and 15 were mature enough and would start to be assigned group projects,” Kapoor says.
Eventually, they found a willing partner in Kapoor’s son’s private school.
“My son said to me, ‘Please don’t embarrass me,’” Kapoor adds, laughing. But there was no need for the warning—the program went off without a hitch.
Making Project Management Accessible
Getting kids excited to learn about project management wasn’t an easy task.
But Kapoor credits the PMI Educational Foundation with supplying materials that helped the team develop its curriculum to target different age groups.
“We knew we’d have to be innovative to engage students and get them involved,” he says.
One strategy that worked was playing games. For example, PM4L volunteers asked students to build a tower out of popsicle sticks, paper cups and tape. “We handed out materials and let the students go,” Kapoor says. “We watched how they worked. They did no planning. There was no teamwork and they just jumped right in.”
Then volunteers asked students to reflect on their first attempt and review their approach to show the value of project management. “We introduced the concepts of the importance of understanding what you’re building, how you’re going to build it, who will be doing the building and how to work as a team,” he says. “Then they had to do it again, putting the ideas in place.”
To increase engagement, PM4L team members also used incentives such as raffle tickets. The more questions a student asked, the more opportunities they had to get a ticket for a prize, like a gift card to a local shop or Amazon.
The PM4L team could see changes in how the students worked during the sessions. But they also wanted to find out how students applied the project management skills they learned elsewhere.
“Before we’d begin a workshop, we asked teachers to share their key challenges,” Kapoor says. “They said, students were late in submitting projects, didn’t understand what they were doing and there was a lack of teamwork.” After students had been part of the program, however, those teachers told PM4L leaders that “students were more mature in their submissions. They were preparing a WBS and risk management spreadsheet to submit along with projects,” Kapoor says.
At the end of the school year, members of the PM4L group attended a project showcase. “At the student booths, it was pleasing to see that they had their WBS and risk charts as part of their presentation,” Kapoor says. “Teachers like these tools because they make it easier to evaluate projects, and for students, it makes things easier to organize.”
As a bonus, Kapoor says he sees how his son is applying project management concepts at home—like when he and his friends were planning an end-of-school trip. “They organized a meetup and created a PowerPoint: where’s the venue, who’s bringing what, how would they book travel, who’s going to stay with who? I was impressed that the kids planned that way. I wouldn’t have done it at their age.”
A Wider Reach
Though PM4L has already introduced its programming at five schools, Kapoor and his team are eager to expand. “Our ambition is to do outreach and workshops with Indigenous students and those in low-economic areas.”
There are some challenges, he admits, citing the need for more PM4L volunteers as well as funds for transportation to the schools, many of which are in remote locations. The program is also seeking more volunteers from secondary schools and universities—and collecting teaching materials and input on what those institutions see as must-have skills for their students. “We really want to make an impact on our next generation’s education for the betterment of their future,” Kapoor says.
Working with fellow passionate volunteers to give back to the community is integral to Kapoor’s core values—as well as PMI’s, he says. “I could not have done this without the support of our PMI chapters. I needed like-minded people to work together as a team. People who want to do this with all of their heart and give something back to the next generation.”