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Article  |  Project Management

100 Days as a Digital Project Manager at an Agency

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100 Days as a Digital Project Manager at an Agency

A trickle of traffic starts to pass the many windows, Portland is waking up and going about its business, I’m sipping the first morning coffee and enjoying the quiet moment before my mind turns to today’s tasks. It’s been a big adventure and now seems like a good time reflect on my first 100 days as a project manager at Planet Argon.

In a while, the door will give a flurry of beeps and there’ll be a whir of ticking keyboards as the tools of development crank up for the day. Just now though let’s share a few minutes of what it’s been like to ramp up in this project management role.

Messaging like a teenager

Digital Project Management moves at a quick pace - because development moves fast. Clients making design changes or project decisions has an immediate impact on the work being performed in real time and needs to be adjusted for. Keeping in constant contact through the day means always having Slack on at least in the background, and an eye on Jira for new tickets and email alerts popping up.

I have to be on top of communication constantly during working hours at a different level than my previous experiences.

Work is billed by the minute and big development changes happen in hours, not weeks. Large chunks of work can be wasted if the change is not relayed in time, and that costs both the client and the agency. In my first weeks, being connected all the time left me ready to sleep at the end of the day and feeling allergic to any form of electronic communications!

The experience of communications going astray once or twice leading to disappointing developers was enough to get my mind sharpened on communications, as did a few slip ups with my wording of things.

Adjusting my vernacular so that I can be sure I’m understood is still a work in progress – my ‘Irishisms’ are hard to let go of! Almost as challenging as teaching people how to pronounce my name (P.S. It’s ‘Shiv-awwwwn’). These are both a work in progress for the next 100 days.

The clock is ticking

Being accountable for 40 hours of work every week has been really effective for me - theory has it that it takes 21 days to form a habit. It definitely took that long (and maybe more) for me to get a handle of tracking every task in Harvest. While the importance of tracking my time made sense, I couldn’t seem to remember to actually do it.

My previous roles involved longer work weeks, but they were not necessarily as productive. After the initial weeks of floundering and having to be asked to update my timesheets a couple of times, I went about adjusting my mindset to this new way of working.

I start my day early so I can prepare, adjust, and prioritize tasks that need to be done that day before the development work kicks off. For example, I review the retainer and project budgets to make sure the requested work can be done in that time period. This means the critical tasks get done even if the day takes me to and fro. At least a quick review of each account means I can update the team at daily standup with anything they need to be aware of.

Fitting my tasks into time blocks and prioritizing them helps me to fit them in between status calls and the various interruptions that need to happen to keep things moving. Of course, I don’t always get it right, but for the most part, I get the important tasks done first thing. This means I get to go home on time almost every day.

Failing fast and getting back up again

Ok, ok, it’s been a lot of fun, with ‘Taco Tuesday’, ‘Dogs and Bagels Day’, sample parties with products from some of our wonderful clients and really exciting projects to work on. But it’s also been a learning curve. I’ve made silly mistakes and rookie mistakes and bigger mistakes – I’ve mixed up client emails and forgotten to update forecasts and locked myself out of the office.

One of the greatest things about my first 100 days has been the opportunity to fail fast, scratch my proverbial knees, and get back up again. To be allowed the freedom to make a mess of things with a guiding hand back on track, and a pat on the back when they’ve been resolved has helped me break the habit of a lifetime – fear of failure.

It’s seriously rewarding to see applications go from a brief conversation with a client to being available for people to use – right from an idea or a problem, through design, and out into the world. My favorite part of being a Project Manager is seeing people get what they needed, the developers getting good work to do, the client getting good results, and Planet Argon growing its capabilities and as a team.

Finding time to see the wood from the trees

When I started on this adventure I had big ideas about where I thought the team needed to develop. There have been weeks when I’ve had time to start these plans and put some things into motion, but other times getting my inbox dealt with seemed like a big achievement. I expect that this will often be the case.

Burrowing out time to make small adjustments to how we do things is still an integral part of the role – zooming out at some part of the week and seeing the wood from the trees even when it’s all hands to the well. Delighting our clients, building our partnerships wider and deeper, building our business, and remaining customer-centric takes collaboration, patience, and time.

As my role has become more comfortable to me and the team has become acclimated to my presence, I’m becoming more and more involved in the methods and models of the business. This is a really exciting phase – I can’t wait for the next 100 days!

And now, the door is dinging open and the team is streaming in for the day - there’ll be more coffees poured, daily stand up, chuckles, and stories shared. It’s day 101.

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