Interview with Debbie O’Bray, PMI Fellow, Former Chair of PMI Board of Directors


Interviewed by David L. Pells
Managing Editor, PM World Journal

Texas, USA



Debbie O’Bray, PMI Fellow


Debbie O’Bray, PMI Fellow, CIM (Hons), is a former Chair of the Board of the Project Management Institute (PMI ®), and a past Director of the PMI Educational Foundation Board of Directors. Debbie has enjoyed a diverse and distinguished career in project management that includes twenty one years in the telecommunication industry followed by ten years in project management consulting. During her consulting career, Debbie worked extensively in China, Mexico, and Europe with organizations in a variety of industries including banking and finance, new product development, mining, aerospace, and environmental engineering to improve their performance through better project management. Debbie is currently with Investors Group Financial Services, Inc., where she is responsible for the project management practice across an enterprise IS organization, which spans five companies in both Canada and Europe.

A passionate PMI volunteer since 1992, Debbie has served in many capacities at the local, national, and international levels. She is a founder of the PMI Manitoba Chapter and served on the chapter’s Board of Directors for five years, including three years as Chapter President. In 1992 she joined the PMI Standards Committee, serving as a core team member and key contributor to the development of the 1996 edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Debbie’s contribution to standards development was recognized with a PMI Presidential Citation in 1995.

At the international level, Debbie served on the PMI Board of Directors for a total of six years in positions of increasing responsibility. Prior to assuming the role of Board Chair in 2003, she held the positions of Secretary-Treasurer, Executive Committee Member, Vice Chair, and Chair of the Strategic Planning and Program Alignment Committee. In 2004, Debbie was named Chair of the PMI Ethics Standards Review and Ethics Standards Development Committees where she led a team of internationally respected professionals from twelve countries through the development of a new ethics code for the Institute. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which applies to approximately 300,000 professionals worldwide, came into effect on January 1, 2007. Debbie resides in Winnipeg, Canada.



PM World Journal (PMWJ):        How did you first get interested in “project management”, and when did it happen?

Debbie O’Bray (O’Bray):  Project management is often described as an accidental profession and that was certainly my experience. I was introduced to project management twenty five years ago while working at a large telecommunications firm. There were a handful of project management practitioners scattered across the company, but overall, the organization wasn’t well informed about project management. Recognizing that much of the company’s work was project based, the executive team engaged a consultant to introduce them to the fundamentals. They liked what they saw and committed to developing project management as a competency across the organization. I don’t know why they chose me to spearhead this effort, but it proved to be my calling so I am truly grateful that they did.

PMWJ:         Over your 30+ year career, what has been your most memorable project? Why, and what role did you play?

O’Bray:        I struggle to select just one project, but when I think back on the projects that were most memorable for me, there is a common theme – they all had a significant   “organizational change” component. Whether it’s a corporate merger, or the introduction of new systems and processes that fundamentally change the way people work, I am fascinated by the people side of project management. As challenging as it is to integrate organizations, or implement state of the art technology for your workforce – helping people to embrace change is even harder. For me, it is the most rewarding aspect of a project. I have been involved in organizational change projects as a team member, a Project Manager, an Executive Sponsor, and as a stakeholder who was impacted by the change. I find the experience invigorating regardless of the hat that I am wearing.

PMWJ:         How did you get involved with the Project Management Institute?

O’Bray:        While attending a PMI conference I learned about the newly formed PMI Standards Committee; a group of project management practitioners from a broad range of industries that was tasked with developing a standard for project management. The mandate of the committee was to produce a document that was applicable to most projects, most of the time. “That sounds interesting,” I thought to myself. As luck would have it, there was a vacancy on the team and I fit the industry and demographic profile they were looking for. I seized the opportunity; contributed to the best of my ability and learned as much as I could. The product that the team produced ultimately became known as the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. I had never been part of such a seasoned and passionate team before. I was hooked – and so began my career as a PMI volunteer.

PMWJ:         What were some of the most memorable activities or events from your days leading the PMI Manitoba Chapter?


To read entire interview (click here)