How did I get here?
It’s a question that many project managers ask themselves. Most of us started in the field as practitioners and ended up in a position where we are not delivering the work, but making sure it’s delivered.
Think about it: What kid says, “I want to be a project manager when I grow up, Mommy!”? That’s right, none. I know I certainly never said that. But that’s okay! A lot of 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. I think that’s how I got here.
Where I came from
I’m not a typical project manager, I guess. But really, what is a typical project manager? I know a lot of folks in the business who think we all fit in to one mold, but I’d have to argue that point. (Buy me some drinks, get me started…it’s a challenge.) But, seriously, I think that I have a specific skill set involving organization and am an asset from a creative standpoint as well. See, I’m creative at heart: I spent the first years of my career in the interactive world at a “start-up dot com,” working as an editor/producer. I wrote content, edited photos and directed photo and video shoots (they even taught me Flash. EEK!). I was working in the field learning so much and loving life (life was my job back then).
Then, thanks to the dot-com crash, my company was sold into the abyss. To this day, I have no idea what happened to any of the content I created.
By the time I got back on my feet I found myself in the short-staffed higher education communications world. I was writing content for print and the web, but also managing my own portfolio of projects—making sure they came in on time and under budget. (DING! DING! DING! I said the magic PM words!)
I came to a point in my higher ed career where I got a taste of what it would be like to work for an agency. And that taste was scrumptious. I was managing a large project on the client of a small local agency when they approached me about joining their team. They saw my extreme attention to detail and my ability to unabashedly follow-up with people on deadlines and ask difficult questions. They liked my style, and I theirs. So I took the leap to the dark side and became an account director, but was really just a project manager without the tools. Imagine…they expected me to create project plans in Word. Eesh. But I wore many hats in that role: client liaison, internal traffic and production manager, sales dude, marketing writer, etc. It was a blast…until they cut me to part-time.
That’s when I was approached by a large interactive agency to be a project manager on a variety of projects with large teams in multiple disciplines. The traditional agency setting was a huge transition for me. I went from a team of 12 to an office of over 100. There were people working in disciplines that I had never had exposure to. It was exciting, and daunting. It took some time to adjust, but I learned so much. I like to think that I mastered the art of Excel for the sake of providing information that I never knew existed. I also taught myself how to balance friendships with coworkers and professional interactions with those coworkers. It’s never an easy position, but I like it.
The rest is history. I’ve since moved on to Happy Cog and am happy to work with a team of smart folks who just want to do what’s right on the interwebs…on time and on budget. They’ve inspired me to begin this blog. Lucky them.
Where I’m going.
I once had someone ask me what my plans were as a PM. My initial response was… ”to deliver good work.” What a BS answer. Anyone could say that. Really, I want to work collaboratively with my team. I want to feel some ownership over the client relationship and the mind share of work. After all, I devote a lot of time (and tons of stress) to the work, so I should feel like I am a part of it. I’m in that position at Happy Cog.
The funny thing is, I can finish a project and tell family and friends about a site that I worked on just launching, and they will never understand what I actually did on the project. It goes something like this:
“Did you write it?”
“No…I don’ do that anymore.”
“Oh, did you design it?”
“No, I never did that. I am a project manager. I managed the process to design and build it.”
“Couldn’t anyone do that?”
Seriously. It happens. It’s not particularly easy to quantify my work. And that’s okay. But people at least need to know what I do.
Project managers are often lumped in the “behind the scenes” aspect of project. It makes sense, but we need to be a part of the bigger strategic conversations. When I realized that I was being forced in to that group and felt like I was being chained to my desk, staring at excel, I rebelled! You know why? Because your PM should know what is happening on your projects all the time. If he or she doesn’t, then you’re going to have problems.
PMs are not robots. We’re not on your team to just take notes and make sure you’re recording your time properly. Yes, we do work in spreadsheets and follow-up on deadlines at a sometimes-annoying rate. We also have a community of really smart, organized men and women with a voice within the industry. And it seems as though no one is listening…yet.
And that is my goal: to make sure it’s known that the PM role is important on your team for several reasons.
I’ve said a lot already and I realize that none of it is focused. My goal for this blog is to break down the PM role and bring a more personal slant to a discipline that is typically perceived as mundane. I hope other project managers share stories and experiences, so that we can learn from one another and build a network within the industry. It’s about time that we get up from behind our laptops and talk to one another about what we do and why we do it. BRING IT!