The Life of a Project Manager
Projects is like the fling between your first love and the one you marry. Let me elaborate…
It all starts with PO being received. A PM then kicks into action to deliver a solution or consultancy (your first love). Following a project rollout (the fling) the project will typically be handed over to the Managed Services team who will provide ongoing support for the next 3-5 years (the one you marry – hopefully for more than 3-5 years). I may be stretching the metaphor slightly, but you get my drift.
I love my job, and I love being in Projects, here is some of the reasons that Projects are cool 😊
1. Variety is the spice of life
Every customer, problem, expectation, situation, solution is different within projects and it therefore never gets dull. Depending on the focus of a business or driver, you can tailor your projects, so your strengths can shine through. Personally, my anal nature loves paperwork as I like to work as transparently as possible. However, as my manager will testify to, I can’t use pivot tables to save my life but being in projects allows me to display information in any way that I find most productive. I may choose a pie chart or a basic RAG (red, amber, green) status instead.
It isn’t just project plans and spreadsheets all the time. I’ emotional and psychological teamwork which requires a well-rounded set of personality traits able to accommodate all states of mind. A previous colleague once told me that they had to counsel their customer at 10pm at night as they didn’t know where the migrations were up to and then started crying about his divorce! They never mentioned therapy sessions in the job description! All your colleagues are different too! As a PM, you must be flexible enough to endure the varying types of communication that people require in order to get your point or an important message across to them.
If all projects were the same, they wouldn’t be called projects – Projects, by definition, are unique otherwise they would be BAU! I do like to attend meetings and workshops knowing exactly what is needed to move the project forward but even someone experienced can’t predict everything. I had someone contract Malaria on one of my projects! Trust me, this was not a risk that I predicted, and it had a massive effect on timescales!! #deffonotmyfault
2. No project is perfect…..except mine, obvs!
Within Projects, there is always time to reflect, I do not do this naturally but with project management, you have to do it – it forces you to take an inward look at yourself and the team to see what can be improved next time. As a PM, it is part of the weekly conference call where we request all lessons learned for that week get called out so that they will not be forgotten about when closing the project. It also shows your customer that you are committed to success,
As a PM, you do have a set of rules and a professional code of conduct that I am passionate about maintaining. I always join calls early, arrive early for meetings and, most importantly, bring cakes. Part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is food, and sexism aside, most of the people in IT are men and they respond well to being fed!
3. Trust is reciprocal
You quickly become the pivot point of any engagement and you can make or break a relationship with a customer. In projects, trust is everything – you need to trust people to do their job, you need to trust people to not lie about deadlines, you need to trust people that the technical detail is correct. See! Lots of trust! The only way to become more trustworthy is to be honest about everything, if you aren’t 100% sure about something, don’t be backed into a corner and made to provide assurances. Stand your ground and explain why you are not 100% committing to something.
As part of this trust, you become trusted. You get trusted to manage your own time, trusted into delivering as best a service as you can do, trusted to escalate wherever you need to, trusted to deliver paperwork on time and professionally.
4. How is my favourite Consultant/Architect/Account Manager?
OK, so I know that I overuse this phrase a lot, normally when I want something, but PM’s have to know everyone. It is part of their job to resource and deliver a project in the best way that they can. It may cost you a bit of bribery in, chocolate or drinks, but relationships are key whether they be internal or with your customers.
Naturally, I am extremely introverted, which means that I prefer to think about a problem rather than discuss it to get to a conclusion. This personality trait doesn’t build relationships though. Until you know how someone ticks and what the learning style and natural traits are of your project team members, you need to let your guard down and tell people what you are thinking and how you have reached a conclusion. Most of our conversations are over the phone and you can’t sit in silence while you mull over a problem. Be honest and tell them that you need thinking time and this way the person will know that you don’t make snap decisions. Customers can’t read your body language over the phone and if/until you meet them in person, where your smile and open nature can shine through, you need to make sure that you are being obvious and deliberate about your actions.
The fact of the matter is, we spend a sh*t load of time with our colleagues and customers, and if we don’t have a good relationship with them, you won’t enjoy your work day – and who the hell wants to be unhappy at work?
5. Finally…….you gotta earn that green!!
Being in Projects opens a huge door in terms of pay, but the variety of projects is huge too! The opportunity for promotion and growth, especially in a career which has such transferable skills, has no limits. I used to work with the PM who was in charge of building Terminal 5 at Heathrow. That dude was on serious cash! God knows about the PM for HS2 or for building The Shard!
You have to work hard to remain employable, technical colleagues will be used to sitting exams to keep ahead of the technological curve, but so does everyone else within the company. It may be obvious to say, but Account Managers need to know their customers inside and out. But they also need to know about the Macro economy and the relevant news of the day which may affect their customers, or new laws that get made which will influence their client base.
I am one of the few PM’s both present and past, who has worked elsewhere as a Project Manager. Those born and bred with purple blood, genuinely don’t know how lucky they are to work here. All staff members know that they can pick up the phone to any Director at any time to talk to them and they will be listened to and helped.
We are light years ahead in terms of CSR and Mental Health awareness, and much more importantly…………….monthly free champagne, paid for Xmas and Summer parties, Medicash, Birthdays off and even time off if you want to volunteer – these are all staff perks that we should be very grateful for. (I went a bit preachy there didn’t I!)
If you’re a Project Manager and fancy a fling, take a look our a Project Manager opportunity here – you’ll get to enjoy all those perks and more!