Business leaders communicate with IT Project Managers quite often – every time they need to get a custom app, program, or other software. For clients, a Project Manager is the first person to reach out to discover how things with development are going. For a dev team, Project Managers are the one who helps find common ground between business requirements and tech capabilities. But who are Project Managers for Project Managers?
We decided to help you explore what’s hidden beyond the Project Manager’s role, who those people are, and how they experience this position. I got a chance to hold a fruitful 1-hour interview with Zoya Boyko, Project Manager at IDAP and Mentor in the IAMPM laboratory, to provide you with answers. Scroll down to discover peculiarities and see how this knowledge might make your software development process more efficient.
Mariia: Hi, Zoya! Thanks for joining this initiative to share your thoughts, impressions, and knowledge. So, let’s start our journey with the most general question you probably heard hundreds of times before. How did you choose project management?
Zoya: Hello! Thanks for inviting me. I’m glad to show readers a piece of the Project Management world. Well, let’s go back to the question. I’m a switcher, so me and project management is a big adventure.
Earlier, I had another job related to the travel industry. It seemed to be fun, but mostly I coped with routine work. So, once I decided it was not enough for me. I didn’t see further development opportunities there anymore. It was approximately six months before the pandemic crisis, so I quickly jumped into an IT carriage.
It was my friend’s idea. He suggested I try IT, so I decided, why not? Consequently, I completed two pieces of training, helping me to get basic tech knowledge for non-tech specialists in this field and become a Project Manager in theory.
Mariia: I know that switching to the IT industry is not a piece of cake. How was it in your case? Did you feel any real obstacles?
Zoya: I wouldn’t say it was arduous, but it wasn’t easy as well. Earlier, I worked with IT non-directly, mainly as a content writer helping friends with their startup. So, I understood the basics of the software development kitchen due to communicating with the right people.
Moreover, as I said, I completed a couple of training sessions before working as a Project Manager. Meanwhile, I guess the complexity of diving into details and processes mostly depends on the employer. Some companies can leave you alone with the requirement to set up all processes around. Others perform strict control over each of your movements.
To adapt to the IT reality simpler, businesses hiring non-tech Project Managers should just find a middle ground in communicating with them.
Mariia: Well, you have been working as a Project Manager for over 2.5 years. What do you like the most about this job? Why does it engage you?
Zoya: My passion is communication with people. Project management is precisely about it. For me, the entire Project Manager’s activity looks like an unstoppable process where you should overcome challenges, celebrate successes and learn lessons.
This job is an opportunity to discover more. I mean, it’s impossible not to develop yourself here from a professional and personal point of view since PMs should process an enormous flow of information and interact with a massive number of people around. Always.
“If I could describe project management, I would say that this is an active brainstorming with different people that inspires me. I should admit that sometimes I lack routine work. But if there is no driving buzz and fuss around, then what’s the point?”
Mariia: Sounds incredible! So, you’re a sort of Project Management evangelist as a see. I’m telling you this because I know you’re also a Mentor at the IAMPM, a Ukrainian laboratory of non-tech IT education. How did it happen to you?
Zoya: As you know, I completed training before starting Project Manager’s way and did it precisely in IAMPM. I managed to achieve great results there, and IAMPM folks invited me to join them to help others fall in love with Project Management. Moreover, the case is I am a teacher. I have a relevant education. So, for me, it was an excellent opportunity to share practical insights, meet new people, and develop my skills as a tutor.
Mariia: So, as a tutor and a practical PM, you know for sure how it is to juggle project management tasks. Сould you please advise on how Project Managers should choose between priority and high-priority tasks?
Zoya: Project Managers can overcome this perennial challenge owing to the core three factors: expertise, proper communication with clients, and usage of project management methods like Agile. And yes, you should continuously diversify everyday tasks and problems with prod (when the issue occurs in real time and users can see it). Let me explain in detail.
First, the ability to decouple more and fewer priority tasks comes with experience and a clear, calm mind. At some point, you start to feel what tasks are burning like hell and which ones can wait for a while.
It also depends on the clients because their requirements can be too dynamic. For instance, they ask you to design something in a month. You have a brainstorming session with a development team and start work on this request. In the middle of the process, the client says, “I want to get the new feature as well and want you to roll it out during the rest of the month I gave you previously.” So, proper communication here can be your magic wand helping split crucial and less critical tasks. Sometimes, you should just explain that something is impossible to perform during a timeframe or that the team simply has no work capabilities for it. Of course, you, as a Project Manager, should care about it in advance. It will help your clients and your team to be on the same page and work in health conditions.
And last but not least – project management methodologies. For instance, I’m working with Agile. So, together with a dev team, we divide the scope of tasks and work with a normal workload. The only exception is an issue on prod. If something is wrong with the production, you should drop everything and solve problems immediately.
Mariia: We know why communication is important for Project Manager. Specialists here should be client- and business-oriented to create excellent customer experience and help achieve better development results. So, what are effective ways for Project Managers to communicate with clients?
Zoya: Ha, it’s a tricky question since I have more than three tips in such a case. But to be straight to the point, I would advise:
- Treat each client as a person. You should understand that the client is an individual with their vision, values, etc. So Project Managers should sometimes be psychologists here to speak with clients in their language, dive into their problems, and so on.
“From the very beginning, all customers are snowflakes. And the Project Manager’s job is to melt them down using the right methods that suit each client individually.”
- Apply your expertise. Don’t be afraid to suggest to clients another action plan or vision. You’re professional in this field, while a client often lacks relevant background. Therefore, clients hire you and your team to get extensive knowledge and involve experts who cope with development daily.
- Clarify when you need it. Clients can provide superficial tech requirements or new ideas, but you must know what they mean by asking about something. Stop thinking that asking for clarification makes you less experienced in the client’s eyes. It makes you even more attentive to business purposes and your team since developers should implement everything a customer asks about.
Mariia: So, I understand that a Project Manager is a person who participates everywhere and runs everything: planning, communication, and sometimes working on mistakes. It requires a lot of energy, I should admit. So, I want to discover more about a day in the life of a Project Manager. What does it look like for you?
Zoya: Unsurprisingly, a Project Manager’s business day is not about the work from 9 am to 6 pm. We’re like doctors or prosecutors – when something needs our attention, we’re on it.
But first things first. My business day starts with checking mail and other communication channels and responding to emails from clients and team members. In other words, I look at what exciting things happened while I was sleeping.
Then I make some notes and preparations for calls with clients. My allies in this process are Jira and Google Spreadsheets since they help track each task’s performance and status. Then, I can work with a design team, manage tasks, cut tickets, etc. The whole day is about brainstorming and communicating – a continuous rush hour.
Before ending work, I usually make plans for tomorrow. I write a sort of checklist. Since Project Managers work with a vast amount of information, it’s crucial to have a notebook and a pen at hand to write down any input. Otherwise, the memory will delete it.
“The golden rule: 10% of each working day Project Managers should spend on themselves. It’s just to relax, drink a cup of coffee or read something fascinating. Because 24/7 work makes people go crazy, you know. So, this gap helps to calm down, and it’s even handy to have it. In case of some emergency, Project Managers can use it to solve an issue.”
Mariia: And let’s finalize our fruitful conversation with the project management tips for beginners. Now, the world faces a global shift since many people want to change their lives and try something new. Some of them opt for Project Management. So, what will you advise them?
Make a final decision on whether or not to be a Project Manager. It’s possible to do this only when you communicate with people who passed this way. For some reason, beginners have pink dreams thinking that Project Management is just about having fun. Of course, it is. But there’s also another side: pitfalls, burnout, crucial ability to withstand pressure, and stressful conditions. Beginners should be confident that their desire to become a Project Manager is more significant than their desire to stay in a comfort zone. They should be communicative enough, vice enough, strong, and confident enough because this is what the Project Manager needs to succeed.
Get ready for difficulties. There is no such job that would be easy, especially from the very beginning. You must be prepared that you will have to study a lot and fail a lot. Your head may simply burst from the excess information in the first few weeks. It will pass, but you should understand that such a beginning is inevitable.
Be patient and unbreakable. Beginners should understand that Project Management is about working with people. Sometimes, development team members or clients just have a bad mood, you know, the morning was terrible or something else. You shouldn’t think that their personal issues are your fault. In case of misunderstanding, your task is just to avoid conflicts and put yourself in your colleague’s or client’s shoes.
Be a team player. Remember that the Project Manager should be client-oriented? That’s right, but your team is first anyway. You’ll have too many clients to communicate with, but the team will most likely stay the same. Try to find a common language with your developers. Protect your developers, and take care of them. Be not just a link between the dev team and the customer, but be a common sense person who corrects and translates the client’s wishes. Be a single unit with your team. Your approach, in this case, will definitely affect project success.
For Project Managers their job is challenging and exciting simultaneously. Their desire and engagement in this activity help businesses build efficient communication during the project to work for promising results. If you want to empower your app development with high-quality interactions and well-designed Project Management processes – contact the IDAP sales team. Let’s achieve your strategic goals together!