Project management can be described in many ways. I most recently saw “Project management is easy, it’s like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire, you’re on fire, everything is on fire, and you’re in hell”. This can be so true, especially to a new PM getting their feet wet – something I learned in my first year as a project manager.
Fresh out of school, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I had everything I needed to be successful, or so I thought. My program focused largely on the principles of project management, business analysis, product ownership, and group/team organization. However, when it came to applying these principles, I soon realized…I had a lot to learn. My introduction to project management was nothing short of baptism by fire.
Project management can exist in many forms. It depends highly on the industry in which you work and the size of the company. Agile software methodology has been implemented in the world of digital product development for the widely documented benefits (just read the manifesto). SpireLean….is a mash-up of traditional kanban, lean software development, lean manufacturing, with a sprinkle of XP. We are able to deliver quickly, monitor our progress closely, and continually receive feedback from our clients. Like Toyota, Kaizen is in our DNA. We have a mandate to identify and eliminate waste, always seeking more efficient and economical ways to produce higher quality product, faster.
In my first year, I felt anxiety just looking at tickets moving (or not moving), juggling my new responsibilities (or not juggling well at all), and perhaps the most daunting…..providing a less than perfect status report. I quickly learned that custom software development is a game of balancing the familiar with the great, scary, mysterious, and wonderful unknown. We thrive in the unknown. Operating right on the edge of control is where we find greatness that never comes to light in familiar territory.
As a project manager at Spire today, I wear many hats. I get to utilize the various skills that I learned in college, applied in new ways with each and every project. Yes, I said it – I use the skills I learned in college! I’m also able to utilize the soft skills that I’ve developed through my time working on teams and fulfilling the role of a leader. Years later, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My position at this company allows me to fulfill a commitment I made to myself a long time ago, to be a life-long learner.
I spend my days learning alongside intelligent and creative people, pushing myself and others to continuously identify new solutions to the problems we encounter every day. I grow professionally and personally with each success and “failure” I experience. Operating out of my comfort zone has allowed me to apply the same model of efficiency to my personal life, eliminating waste in the form of habits, people, and negativity that cause inefficiency and hinder my rapid growth.
The journey to becoming a confident project manager was not easy, but thank goodness I didn’t quit in the early days when I questioned my capabilities. Pushing myself through something I wasn’t sure I could find success in illuminated my strength and ability to march into the unknown. To any young PMs experiencing the burn, don’t quit. We work on the front lines of this battle, protecting our teams as well as the interests and investments of our clients. All the while bearing the blame when projects don’t go as expected and receiving zero credit when things go swimmingly. That’s life in the PM jungle. And, believe it or not, it’s extremely rewarding.