“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.
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.
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:
- We are Chaos Junkies
- We are Multilingual Communicators
- We are Loveable Hardasses
- We are Consummate Learners & Teachers
- 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.
At 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).