All Posts in conferences

March 4, 2017 - No Comments!

Introducing Ground Control Conference: April 21, 2017 – London

I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that I've been working with the fine team at White October Events to produce a brand new conference for people who lead digital projects. Ground Control Conference will take place on April 21, 2017 in my favorite city in the world, London. And, we'll host a set of pre-conference workshops (mine included) on April 20.

The back story

I'm American, so you might be wondering how I got involved in this event. Well, my friends Holly Davis and Stephen Thomas worked at the agency White October, whose sister company is White October Events. In 2015 I presented a workshop at The Big DO in Oxford and got to meet some of the White October Events team. Over the course of a year or so, we had some conversations about how an event in London would be great for the DPM community. We even thought about maybe partnering and bringing the Digital PM Summit to the UK. Though, that never panned out.

After a lot of deliberation, White October Events decided to proceed and add a new conference for DPMs to their roster. They asked me to partner with them to help create this brand new event. I was thrilled by the opportunity (still am)!

I really like their approach to creating and programming events. Essentially, WOE partner with industry leaders like Meri Williams to create new events that are dedicated to a specific audience. This appeals to me, because it brings both a seasoned, professional event organizer and industry professional to the table to name the event, define its strategy, create the program, and select the speakers. I think that makes for a well-run and crafted event schedule and experience! It certainly has made for a special experience for me thus far, and we have not even hosted the event yet.

The name

Anyone who works in marketing knows that naming a thing like a product or an event can be difficult. We brainstormed many ideas and tried to come up with a name that was fine and implied project management, rather than beating you over the head with the name of the audience. After all, project management skills apply to people in many different roles, and we'll always include talks on a variety of management-related topics.

Coincidentally, I worked with a team to name another event a few years back. In that exercise, I came up with a bunch of names that I loved, but really just didn't fit within the larger brand. One of the names that I've always wanted to use for something DPM-related was Ground Control. It may make you think of aviation, space travel, or even David Bowie. But it also might invoke the idea that there is someone "on the ground" communicating with people in the air, coordinating movement, activity, and landings. Sound a bit like DPM to me.

Clearly I like the name. What do you think?

The programming

I've had the opportunity to meet with Ruth Yarnit of WOE in person a couple of times to discuss the event. A highlight of my last trip to London was meeting Ruth at the Tate Modern to discuss our event schedule. After we established the types of sessions we wanted to include, Ruth, Jo Lankester, and I worked together to release a call for papers and recruited what we think will be the best suited speakers for our very first event together. And, I have to say: selecting those speakers was difficult! We had a number of qualified submissions. But the process WOE apply is methodical, considered, and very fair. I really enjoyed it and feel great about the final speaker roster and corresponding topics.

The return on using such a great process of selection is a conference schedule that is equal parts informative, interactive, serious, and fun, and of course filled with brilliant speakers. We've got an amazing lineup of speakers, which includes friends I've known for years, and speakers I'm really eager to meet. It's going to be a great day.

Join me?

If you'd have told me ten years ago that part of my future career would be as a community organizer, or even organizing and curating conferences, I would have laughed. Sure, I have always enjoyed the conference setting, but I'm a DPM. That said, I like meeting new people and learning about better or different ways of working. I've always believed that conferences are valuable events for those who are both new to the industry or veterans. After all, there is always something new to learn, people to meet (or catch up with), and exchanges that inspire your work. Even as a person who attends a lot of conferences, I feel as though I have the opportunity to learn something new each time I attend, whether that be through listening to a talk or speaking with a colleague. That allows me to be a stronger consultant and help teams and companies identify and resolve challenges.

Needless to say, I am truly looking forward to Ground Control! And I have to admit: I'm a lucky guy. I get to speak and learn about and the work that I truly love doing, and I get to organize events that bring like-minded people together. And, in doing so, I strengthen my own expertise and broaden my contacts. You can do the exact same thing next month! I hope you'll join me in London April 20-21, and say hello.

Thank you to my new friends at White October Events for involving me in this event. You've made my year.

February 1, 2016 - 3 comments

Principles for Digital Project Management

“How did I get here?”

It’s a question many project managers ask themselves. Most of us fell into this. One job led to another, then maybe we realized that we were good at organizing rather than designing or coding. The term the industry uses is “accidental project manager,” but that sounds a tad too aimless to me. You see, we may have fallen into this, but it sure as hell was no accident. We’re here because we’re needed.

Personally, I never planned to be here. But I’m sure happy I made it. At different points in my life, I thought I was going to be a doctor. Or maybe an editor. Because those are related in some way, right? Wrong. I had no real direction until I got into digital. But that’s okay! A lot of digital project managers end up in the field because they had to gain some real experience in a professional setting to realize the fact that they were meant to be project managers.

So we’re here. But where are we going?

We’ve established the fact that our teams need us. We stress over the details, large and small. We make connections, facilitate discussions, and always hope for the best. Some of us are good, some are bad. It’s the same with any profession. But for some reason, our colleagues get stuck on the bad ones and drag us good DPMs down. We’ve got to change that—and we will. In fact, we’re chipping away at making a name for this role. We’ve even started to talk about it. In fact, we’re five years into this whole “DPM community” thing. What do we have to show for it? Well, let me tell you:

  • A growing community of like-minded people who are eager to talk about the things that matter to them (just search #dpm #dpm2015 #dpmuk #pmot and other Twitter hashtags to find a couple of the conversations.
  • A growing network of blogs written by the brightest people in the field. Check out the musings of Carson Pierce, Natalie Semczuk, Holly Davis, and more.
  • Dozens of meet ups. They’re popping up in cities everywhere! DC, Phoenix, Manchester, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Minneapolis…the list goes on and on. If there isn’t one in your city, make it happen.
  • Conferences: The Digital PM Summit started it all and inspired other events like DPM:UK, and a couple of others you might see pop up this year. That’s an exciting hint, huh?
  • Support from others within our industry. Before, we were invited to their design and UX events. Now they’re invited to ours.

That’s a pretty great start, but it’s not enough. If we want to be better—do better—we have to make some changes. And it’s not just about connecting with one another and talking about what we do. It’s about filling a gap.

What’s missing?

Well, folks, we’re missing  one critical thing. A thread to tie us together and make us stronger professionally: Standards. You see, we’re all operating on different planes as digital project managers. We’re approaching the job with differences in experience, practice, and attitude. This is to be expected in some ways, but if we want to strengthen the perceptions of the role and genuinely solidify this community, we have to show a unified front of what it means to be a digital PM.

I’m not suggesting that we all operate using a set of the same templates. In fact, that would be horrible. I’m suggesting that we all operate under the same principles. Think of it as a manifesto for how we, as DPMs, present ourselves to the world.

Army of Awesome Slide

Check out the slides from my presentation. These include the first five principles.

I unveiled the first five of those principles at my DPM:UK keynote on January 28. These principles are short statements that describe who we are as DPMs. Within each principle are some core working functions. For example, we are consummate learners and teachers. Every day in our jobs, we are almost forced to keep up with new technologies, processes, and practices. We learn as much about those things so that we can support our teams and projects to create amazing products. At the same time, we take every opportunity to teach our clients and colleagues about what we’ve learned. This isn’t something I’m making up—this is what we do. I expanded more in the presentation, of course, but that should illustrate the idea for you. And just in case you don't want to check out the slides, here are the first five:

  1. We are Chaos Junkies
  2. We are Multilingual Communicators
  3. We are Loveable Hardasses
  4. We are Consummate Learners & Teachers
  5. We are Pathfinders

Check out the slides to see some supporting content. And, soon, I'll link to the video of the talk, because the fine folks at Manchester Digital recorded all of the sessions.


Be Heard.

2016-01-28 17.26.56At the end of the session, I asked the audience to share what they thought would be good additions to the principles.  The response was great and varied. I saw everything from "We Are Always On" to "We Are the Glue" and many others. This input is very valuable to me. See, I don’t think this is just up to me. I can’t (and shouldn’t) dictate a bunch of principles and expect you to adopt them. So let’s do this together.  If you want to impact this change for our community, for our work, take part.

All you have to do is fill in the blank:

WE ARE _________.

Tweet your answer with the hashtag #weareDPM and share it with the community. From there, I’ll build these principles and share them with the community. This could come in the form of a document, book chapter, blog post, etc. Whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome—because of you.


The first version of this article was posted to Every Day DPM on January 28, 2016 (the day I gave the talk).

September 21, 2015 - No Comments!

O Canada! Attend the Vancouver Every Day DPM Workshop

Have you heard about the Vancouver Every Day DPM Workshop?

About 10 months ago, Rachel Gertz and I were planning our new, daily blog Every Day DPM. When it launched I think we both hoped it would become a little more than just a blog. Maybe it could become a platform for more collaboration. After all, we're sharing content to the community. Sure, we pop our own content in there all the time, but the general idea is to share the great content and knowledge that's out there with the growing digital project community.

So we thought, how can we continue to share content but in a more meaningful way? And the light bulb went off.

We need to bring digital PM events to Canada (and other places too)! There's a growing local community there and Rachel is doing a lot of work to champion that, but there haven't been any workshop or conferences. I'm excited to be a part of the first one.

I'll be leaving Philly for a journey to Vancouver this coming November, and I'd like you to join us. We're not just hosting a one day workshop, though. We're offering a one day consultation with a team or organization to help them sort out their DPM challenges. If you're interested in that, we'd love to talk. Get in touch.

I hope to do more fun work with Rachel. Want to be a part of it or stay updated on what we're doing? Sign up for our email list.

And, of course. Huge thanks to our sponsors, who are truly helping us to make this happen: Harvest, TeamGantt, and Mobify.