The LeanAgile Meetup and the Society of PM Professionals

Published June 1, 2017 by Scott Hirsch

My first blog post on the project management community got some great feedback, and I’ve found people have used it as a reference point to either expand their PM community horizons beyond their usual crew, or as a starting point for new Vancouverites. Granted, there were a handful of different groups that I didn’t touch upon – so be ready for a version 2.0 in the future!

This time, I’ll be doing a deep dive into the two groups (covering two very different project management approaches) which provide a more workshop oriented approach when it comes to their events in order to help people select the best fit for their professional needs. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Jemi Schwingenschloegl from the LeanAgile Meetup, and Robert Schulz, from the Vancouver Society of PM Professionals here in Vancouver about where they came from, why their groups exist, and what someone can expect from attending one of their workshops.


Jemi, Manager of Agile Program Management at Hootsuite, took over the LeanAgile group about a year ago, and ran about 10 workshops in 2016 at venues provided by companies like Unbounce and Hootsuite. The overarching theme with these events is that their takeaways are practical – attendees come away with tangible tools and techniques to reframe the project challenges they might be having, and grow their skills with others facing similar hurdles. The organization team has now expanded to include 4 people from companies across Vancouver.

So who’s it for? LeanAgile is for software development professionals who are producing products in a lean or agile environment, and want to be involved with a community who can help solve problems and improve their skills in this space. Who isn’t it for? If you’re looking for a purely theoretical discussion or lecture to lean back and collect PDUs in, or rack up a stack of business cards, this probably isn’t the best fit for you. It’s geared towards learning about and applying agile concepts collaboratively with like-minded professionals.

LeanAgile YVR

From what I could see, Jemi and her team have done an excellent job in realizing their vision. The event I attended was a workshop around 4 quadrant problem solving – there were about 40 people in attendance, and after a brief introduction to the concept by Jemi, we went off into our groups for the evening to solve a challenge a member of our group was having with their project using the methodology.

Unlike the larger meetups I’ve attended, I came away with something to immediately share with my team given its workshop-style format. Not to get too deep in the weeds, but at the time, my company was running scrum with an incomplete team, and the customer voice was pretty strong when it came to requirements. One of the takeaways was the idea of bringing in a guest scrummaster for our retrospective. Helga, an experienced agile coach who I met at the meetup, was happy to offer her services - she whipped our team into shape the following weekend during our retro, and we’ve seen some major benefits in our processes and ceremonies as a result.

As an attendee you can expect a supportive environment, an experienced crowd, and you’ll likely be uploading photos of your notes and takeaways to your team’s Slack (or whatever IM system your company uses). Plus, although it’s not geared for networking en-masse, I find that Jemi and her team have managed to create a tight-knit community environment which fosters deeper relationships with folks who you can grow with as a professional.

As these meetups continue, expect to see more great workshops and a handful of panels with seasoned experts. Check out their meetup page for what’s next!

Vancouver Society of PM Professionals

In an equally enjoyable conversation, I spoke to Robert, registrar and past president of the Society of PM Professionals, with a background managing technology programs in forestry as an independent consultant. Like many folks, Robert was introduced to the Society through Walter Wawruck’s PMP training course, and used the Society as a low-cost, high-value way of maintaining his PDUs and building relationships with other like-minded project professionals.

The Society was started back in 2000 by Walter Wawruck as an alternative to the PDU events which the local chapter of Project Management Institute provided, geared specifically at PMPs. The Society is non-commercial (no sponsorship) and focuses on practitioners, with a further focus on those in the PMP realm. To become a member of the Society, individuals must be PMP certified, though anyone in the project management space is welcome to attend the Society’s events.

The thing that struck Robert about the Society’s events were the “hands-on workshops”, which can comprise up to half of the full-day seminars, supported by volunteers from the project management community. Again, not a place where you can just sit back and listen - you’ll be doing hands-on work, and trying out your skills in a safe environment with other project pros. Seminars are limited to 50 participants.

The Society has been around for a long time, and while the core elements of their constitution and vision won’t be changing, the content of the workshops they provide to the project community is ever-evolving. With the advent of super cost-efficient online PDU programs, and more of the project management community coming from agile and software environments, the Society has made some great adjustments to their programming to appeal to the needs of a changing market.

In true project manager fashion, their events are almost entirely planned out for the year, and include a variety of exciting workshops and panels such as the “Agile vs. Project Management” (Waterfall) event, which got some great reviews. Check their remaining events for 2017 out here, and be sure to register to their mailing list if you’re interested!

Closing comments

There’s no shortage of events going on that could benefit project professionals in this city, and it’s really about finding the right fit for where you are in your career and what you’re looking to get from one of these events. If hands-on workshops are your thing, both of these groups might offer something great for you.

Is there a great project management event out there that I’m missing out on? Any questions? Just let me know or ask!