Authors: Eric Jelenje, PMP and Christopher Ziemba, PMP

Eric Jelenje     Christopher Ziemba

Volunteering is at the very core of the PMI Switzerland Chapter’s work and service to the Swiss project manager community. From producing the monthly Newsletter to coordinating events and keeping the Chapter website up-to-date, volunteers do it all.

We recently caught up with two volunteers, who have made significant contributions to our chapter, to learn more about their experiences and to get their thoughts on the upcoming Project Management Conference. Sangamitra Prayaga is an active member of the Zürich Events Team, and Leandro Benda is an active member in the Events Team for the French/speaking part of Switzerland. We posed each of them the same few questions and received some rather exciting answers in return.


Question 1: Please tell us about yourself.

Mitra: I am known as Mitra (short name). I have 14+ years of experience in IT and project management in diverse industries, including telecommunications, networking, and banking. Currently I am working at Credit Suisse as a Scrum Master and SME in Payments. What I am most proud of myself for is that I am a lifelong learner and passionate about new technologies, such as machine learning and AI. I have lived in 15+ houses, in 10+ cities, in 5+ countries, but I can still produce the kindergarten certificate of my daughter. Project management experience really helps!

Leandro: My name is Leandro Benda and I am 33 years old. I am Swiss with Italian origins and live in Bulle (FR). As a job, I am responsible for purchasing and IT in the Swiss subsidiary of Mapei, a multinational company that makes chemical products for construction and industry. I have been working there for 5 years.


Question 2: What are your roles and responsibilities as a PMI Switzerland Chapter Volunteer? What is a typical day like?

Mitra: I have been organizing and participating in PMI events since 2008 as part of our Zurich Events Management Team. Even after a hectic day at work, it can be relaxing for me to help planning for the next event or looking up great speakers for the future. Our team meets once every 6 weeks and we discuss activities and action items for upcoming events. Once a year, we meet up at a cool location over a nice dinner and build an event roadmap for the year. 

Leandro: In my typical day, I take part in calls where we decide together with the team on the operations to be carried out, which can include preparing Powerpoint presentations and writing articles for the Chapter Newsletter. Occasionally, I am also assigned lead responsibilities, which involves overseeing and coordinating the entire organization of an event.


Question 3: How did you get into volunteering for the PMI Switzerland Chapter?

Mitra: I was working in the US and had to move with my young daughters when my husband got a job in Zurich. My first few years were spent looking after them until they could go to school and learning German, but I did later become interested in getting back to work. My husband sent me a link for a volunteer opportunity at PMI and I jumped at the chance. I began supporting development on the PMI website, attending PMI events and getting to know wonderful people, like Martin Härri. My network grew and my new PMI friends became my references. This helped me land my job at CS. 

Leandro: I did a continuing course in project management at a local institution and PMI Switzerland were offering coaching for the PMP. I took it in 2020 and liked the concept. I then visited the chapter website, saw they were looking for volunteers, applied and here I am!


Question 4: Against the backdrop of COVID-19, the last two years have presented both challenges and opportunities in the project management field. How has your work as a Volunteer evolved?

Mitra: Work must go on. Every risk has a potential for opportunity. We turned towards organizing online events and made them free to the community. We could not do our yearly roadmap onsite, but did it online instead. We overcame many technological challenges thanks to great teamwork.

Leandro: Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed things. Before the pandemic, the Chapter held several face-to-face events but that changed once restrictions were placed on public gatherings. This saw us focus more on organizing online events such as Open Spaces for the Swiss project management community. For me, the experience of learning how to organize virtual events has been very valuable.


Question 5: The Chapter is hosting the 11th Project Management Conference in Zurich on the 21st of September, 2022 titled “Innovation in Project Management-Shaping The Future of Projects”. What are you most looking forward to?

Mitra: I really am looking forward to everything - meeting people, getting energized, networking, discussing and hearing great topics, I can’t wait.

Leandro: I look forward to learning more about the latest innovations in project management and meeting experts in the field to enrich my knowledge.


Question 6: There are those that have not yet considered volunteering for the Chapter or are deciding if it is for them. What would you tell them?

Mitra: Don’t wait for a minute, if it was not for this action I had taken to join PMI as a volunteer back in 2007, I may not be where I am today. I have learnt a lot and project management has become my greatest passion in both my personal and professional lives. 

Leandro: It is a fantastic experience, both from a professional and human point of view. We have the opportunity to work with very knowledgeable and approachable people.


Question 7: Do you indulge in any pastimes/guilty pleasures/hobbies in your free time?

Mitra: I love walking in this beautiful country of Switzerland, teaching Hindi, learning Sanskrit, coaching youngsters in computer programming and project management. Most important for me is spending time with my daughters and dog.

Leandro: In my spare time, I often do sports like running, trail running, soccer and fitness. Concerning running, I am a member of the Sporting Athletisme Bulle Team. Running, Running and… Running :-)  always higher, always further! My favorite race is the Sierre-Zinal trail which is technical, requires good endurance management and offers beautiful landscapes with a great atmosphere. I'm also a big fan of Italian soccer and I sometimes go to see matches.


Question 8: And lastly, Waterfall or Agile?

Mitra: I have been an Agile practitioner for the last couple of years and I am quite an Agile enthusiast. Before that, I worked more with Waterfall, yet with an Agile mindset.

Leandro: I prefer Waterfall project management because I think that this method allows us to anticipate in an often optimal way the unforeseen.


We would like to thank Mitra and Leandro very much for their volunteer efforts for our PMI Switzerland chapter and for sharing these personal insights with us today.