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Spencer Palmer, Chicago NBMBAA President: How to Make Strategic Connections

Making the right business connections is vital.

Spencer Palmer is president of the Chicago Chapter of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), one of the most influential organizations for executives of color. In his day job, Palmer is a Senior Consultant, ITE (Information Technology Engineer) Project Management, for Nationwide Insurance.

Palmer says professional organizations provide the gateway to professional relationships that matter, and making relevant connections require networking time.

“Relationships build over time, and it takes time to establish a relationship with someone,” Palmer tells rolling out. “Networking isn’t just you handing someone your card and the next day he’s got a job for you; it takes time to develop that relationship.”

Spencer Palmer

Here, Palmer discusses why organizations are vital to your success, and how to select the best organization for you.

Why did you enter the field of project management? How did you prepare?
I decided to go into project management because I really wanted to learn. I have my PMP which is a certification through PMI, PMI is the Project Management Institute, and PMP is project management professional that certifies that I understand the theory of project management and projects … project managers are able to manage projects according to nine knowledge areas and five processes.

Basically it’s standardizing the way that project managers manage projects. You can take this discipline of being a project manager and take it across any industry, and we should do things the same way, manage projects in the same fashion.

What is your typical day like as president of the Chicago chapter of NBMBAA?

It’s another full-time job. … The National Black MBA Association has been around for 41 years, so there are some standards that have been set. We’re trying to maintain them, even though the landscape has changed, which has made it a little more difficult for us from a funding perspective, with the economy. Each one of the chapters is their own 501(c)(3), which is important so we’re responsible for our own operating funds, and so we need to generate revenue to keep our doors open.

What are you doing to attract new members?

We’re looking at strategic partnerships with corporations and we’re really looking at things that our members are looking for. In surveys, they told us they were looking for job opportunities; they were looking for working opportunities with executives. So, we’re aligning ourselves with those things that our members are looking for.

What organization has helped you professionally as a project manager?
Being involved in the Project Management Institute has helped me professionally, it has helped me to develop the skills that companies are looking for and also for me to be successful on my day job.

What kinds of organizations should black executives consider after obtaining an MBA?

That’s a very important question and it really starts before you get your degree. Of course, the National Black MBA Association Inc. and in particular the Chicago chapter. The NBMBAA … is the premier organization for individuals with advanced degrees such as MBAs.

It is also important for individuals to think strategically about what organization can help them with breaking through the barrier and establish connections in the area or function that they are looking to get involved in. For instance, if someone was in IT and they were looking to transition into the HR field, a great organization for this individual to look into would be NAAAHR. Opportunities create themselves over time so positioning yourself within the field that you are looking to enter would be a good move.

All professional organizations are not created equal, so how do you determine if an organization is a good fit before joining it?

Look at the makeup of the organization. How long has it been around? What is the mission of the organization and can you commit yourself to being a part of that mission? Look at the members of that organization, what are they doing?

One of the true measures should be how much the organization aligns with your overall objectives.

If it’s for networking and socializing, then you should measure against how well this organization stands up to that. Truly, from what I can tell with being involved with organizations, it’s truly just like the saying goes, “you only get out of something, what you put in it.”

20 Organizations for Black Executives
American Council on Education, Office of Minorities in Higher Education
Provides aid to minority administrators in institutions of higher education.

American League of Financial Institutions (ALFI)
Savings and loans institutions to promote home ownership.

Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE)
For men and women on staffs or boards of corporate and foundation grant-making organizations.

Executive Leadership Council
Composed of top Black executives from Fortune 100 companies.

Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
A charitable group that provides educational, cultural, civic, and social programs for minority youth.

Links, Inc.
This organization promotes educational, civic, and cultural activities to enrich the lives of its members and of the world community.

National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME)
To promote the advancement of engineers of color.

National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE)
Composed of Black teachers, administrators, policymakers, and support personnel.

National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees (NAPFE)
Composed of federal and postal employees,

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC)
for women interested in servicing the Black community at large through civic and social-based programs.

National Association of Investment Companies
An association set up to aid private equity firms that invest in an ethnically diverse marketplace.

National Black MBA Association
Association of Black executives.
National Association of Black Females in Music and Entertainment

National Association of Black Journalists
An organization for Blacks in all areas of media.
National Sales Network
An association of African American sales and sales management professionals.

National Society of Black Engineers:
Goal is to promote Black engineers.

National Urban League, Inc.
Since 1910, the League has worked to eradicate racial discrimination and promote racial equality.

One Hundred Black Men
Established to promote the overall quality of life for African Americans.

Operation PUSH (Rainbow PUSH Coalition)
A human rights organization.