28 June at 07:00AM
Member of the Month: Samara Gravesande
As the second largest chapter, PMI Toronto has many events, programs, and offers to share with members and non-members. A large part of our communication is through our newsletter, the Weekly Scope. You may be a subscriber to our Weekly Scope—if not, sign up—where we share news about the Chapter, but did you know that for more than a year the Weekly Scope has been managed by one volunteer? This month our Member of the Month is Samara Gravesande, who is the Communications Portfolio’s Newsletter Lead and has predominantly written and released the Weekly Scope for the Chapter.
Since I started writing this monthly feature in July 2021, I've had the pleasure of meeting many volunteers and members who have contributed to the Chapter’s success. Now I’m beyond honoured to feature my co-volunteer and friend, Samara Gravesande, who has been a dedicated Chapter member and volunteer for over two years. She is vastly talented and knowledgeable, she’s an incredible writer, a great communicator, and her work ethic is remarkable. So much goes on behind the scenes at the Chapter to deliver high-quality content for our members and it's because of volunteers like Samara our Chapter has been so successful. Join me in congratulating Samara on the well-deserved—and overdue—recognition as PMIT’s Member of the Month.
Samara's Journey from School, Career, & Beyond
Samara is one of the busiest people I know, taking on many different roles and she never complains but rather enjoys every moment and every role she takes on. Samara is currently a Senior Project Analyst working on outpatient care strategy for a major Toronto Healthcare institute. In her day-to-day she works on projects that will improve outpatient care experiences and outcomes for patients and hospital care teams. In addition to her full-time role she works part-time—for close to two decades—in healthcare administration at a world-class pediatric care facility.
Back in 2021 Samara wrote an article—Acknowledging and Supporting the Black Experience: Black History Month Panel Recap—covering a Chapter event which showcased another talent: storytelling. She explains, “I have always had a passion for a good story in all its forms. I am an avid reader and I’m usually up-to-date on the newest shows and movies.” One of Samara’s greatest strengths is being a great communicator. She explains:
A seasoned communicator, I remember crafting my own stories from a young age – fantastic tales of far away worlds and experiences that seemed far too majestic for my few lived years. I believe that words have tremendous impact and influence and I find beauty in the poetry and imagery of it all. In my free time I enjoy soaking up vitamin D and breathing in the fresh air of the outdoors. I relish new experiences, art, travel, meaningful conversation, and connection. Show me your heart and we’ll get along just fine. I wear mine on my sleeve (cliché as that sounds). I’m deeply analytical…probably to a fault…but that’s probably what makes me a good PM. I ask all the questions and make all the contingency plans—A, B, C, D, Y and Z. I’m trying to be more blue sky though and jump into the things that cause me a bit of trepidation. Current mantra:
There’s growth in the discomfort and learning in the failure.
Currently Samara is working on obtaining her Master of Education at the University of Toronto where she also completed her BA. She has post-graduate certificates in public relations, project management, and agile project management. She has worked in communications, event planning, and education for a health charity for five years before transitioning to a role in Medical Education. This new role just furthered her growing passion for fostering higher education opportunities for marginalized communities.
Even with all her work, school, and PMIT contributions, Samara still finds time to volunteer with a non-profit called, Aspire to Be. This non-profit uplifts Black students and positions them to follow their dreams professionally and personally. Once she completed her PMP and with the onset of the pandemic, she worked on the vaccine roll-out across Toronto, which led into her current project management role.
What are some of the lessons Samara has learned through all her professional endeavors?
The importance of a solid team that is invested and who gets it. The project team is the foundation of any project and the team dynamic will make or break project success. A committed and connected team will band together during challenging times and the strengths of each individual will help to greatly enhance the team output. As a type A personality and a perfectionist I was very used to doing everything myself, but when I began managing larger projects, I learned very quickly the importance of delegation and learning the strengths and interests of my teammates, as well as what motivates them. Doing it all is an easy recipe for burnout and for failure. Supporting yourself with the right team members who care about the success of the project, who can excel in a defined role, and who you genuinely enjoy working with is the key to success! (You don’t have to be besties, but you should be able to work together cordially and professionally). It’s also important that you work and play together—don’t just meet the deadlines, but also celebrate the milestones and enjoy the road trip along the way.
A Passion for Volunteering
While completing her project management certificate at U of T some of the instructors spoke about PMI Toronto. Once Samara achieved her PMP, she joined the Chapter. PMI Toronto was a great was to connect with other PM professionals, build her professional network, and take advantage of the benefits membership brings. Samara has been able to develop her PM skills while earning PDUs to maintain certification.
She was interested in volunteering with the Communications portfolio because of her background in communication and marketing. She saw this as an “opportunity to keep my communication skills fresh and contribute to the PM community in a way that was meaningful to me.” Samara has also participated in the Career Accelerator Program as a mentee. The program and her mentor gave her the confidence to begin applying for project management roles for the first time. She explains, “it was those inspiring and motivating mentor-mentee conversations that spurred me to apply to the position that I have now.”
In her current volunteer role—Newsletter Lead with the Communications portfolio—she manages all eNewsletter communications sent by PMI Toronto including the Weekly Scope and any email communications to share upcoming events and membership benefits. The Weekly Scope has about 13,000 subscribers and is the main communication driver for the Chapter each week. Working alongside the rest of the Communications team she writes the copy and adds the graphics to keep our community apprised of exciting events and development opportunities curated by the Chapter. She explains, “it’s incredibly rewarding to be part of a member-driven organization that genuinely caters to the needs and interests of the professionals that it serves. As a story enthusiast, I take pride in sharing the enriching stories of PMI Toronto.”
Achieving her PMP has given Samara several career opportunities. She was able to apply for PM roles and landed her current role even without ever having a project management job before. She explains: “My PMP certification showed that I had the skills and knowledge to lead a project and a team to success. It also demonstrated my commitment and how serious I am about building a career in project management.”
In Samara’s Own Words
Samara is a thinker, storyteller, and experiencer. She supports, collaborates, and communicates with her team members. She has already achieved great successes and has more to come I’m sure. So how does Samara define success:
When I think of personal success I think of self-actualization—realizing the goals and hopes that you have for yourself, self-fulfillment, and ultimately happiness. To me, I also think that success can be a moving target because as I excel, I am always looking for another goal and my next achievement. I’m big on personal growth and development and I don’t think that’s something that should every stop. What I don’t believe in is comparison so I think that it’s very important that your personal idea of success is self-defined. You definitely need to sit with yourself and do the hard, individual work to find out what makes you intrinsically happy (none of that superficial money, glitz, and material things). What fills your cup emotionally? Psychologically? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want to be able to do? How do you want to give back? What do you want to achieve? The answer to those questions is what success is to you and your success does not need to look like anyone else’s or meet anyone else’s standards. Obviously, project success is a little different, but it’s the same idea of meeting your goals. The main difference with a project is that those goals may be dictated to you by outside forces (a sponsor, the end user, the market or the environment you are operating within).
Given that she’s already achieved success and has proven how valuable a PMP can be to your career journey, she imparts this advice to others considering a career in project management:
Go for it! It’s certainly not an easy career, but what career is. You will enjoy the work as long as you enjoy planning and that feeling of accomplishment you get when you complete or achieve something. However, you also have to be flexible and agile and open to pivoting on a dime if necessary, and able to prioritize and balance stress and competing priorities. Project management can be extremely rewarding because you have the opportunity to make a real and meaningful difference for communities and end users. You also have the opportunity to engage with a myriad of different stakeholders and team members, which is an opportunity to exercise your listening, communication and team-building skills. If you’re considering a career in project management, I would suggest you build your network and familiarize yourself with the profession by joining your local PMI chapter. If you can, volunteer in a project management role so you can experience it for yourself before diving in. Speak to other project managers and find out how project management operates in your chosen industry. Ask your contacts what they love about their job and what they could do without, and compare those to your own interests, strengths and weaknesses.
More About Samara
Favourite Quote: “I could write it better than you ever felt it.” – Fall Out Boy
Work Passions: At work, I’m passionate about growth and development and making a difference. As much as I want to enrich myself, I also want to ensure that the work I am doing is having a positive impact and that I’m positioned in a way to have a positive influence on others. I hope to one day be in a role where I can inspire, motivate and hold the door open for others with similar interests, passions and career trajectories.
> Reading / Writing
> Food (specifically pasta)
> Staying active
> Community development
> Working with marginalized communities
Favourite PMIT moment so far: My favourite PMIT moments have been all the times that I have been able to spend getting to know my fellow Communication Team members. I joined this team during the pandemic and it’s never easy getting to know new people via a computer screen, but it did not take a lot of work with this team. I have truly enjoyed collaborating with and learning from this wonderful group of talented, kind and passionate individuals. Our team meetings always feel like catching up with old friends. I have truly enjoyed and learned so much from my time with PMIT.
Congratulations once again Samara on being such an incredible example to your fellow team members and volunteers. It's evident that your drive for success is derived from your compassion, dedication, and work ethic. No doubt you will continue to do great things!