Through a Slack discussion with Speak's project management team, we explored how they keep projects moving, what they wish you knew before every project you start, and of course a few of Devon's dad jokes.
Here's today's starting lineup:
Jessica: Hi y’all, thanks for joining to discuss all things project management. Before we get started, I’d love to know how each of you found yourself in project management.
Andrea: Hi! Well, after I graduated college last May, I felt a bit lost tbh. I studied Finance but wasn’t sure I wanted to follow that career path, so I decided to try something else and found Project Management. I did my research and found a Youtuber who is a digital project manager at one of the Big Four. She made it look fun and I thought my attention to detail and organization skills could be a good match! And then I found Speak and applied but was 100% positive I wasn’t going to get a job, but somehow I did? haha
Jessica: I love that! Is it what you expected Andrea?
Andrea: Even better than what I expected!
Devon: My background is in video production and after a few years runnin-n-gunnin behind the camera, I wanted to take a different route and do more producing. I did that for a while at a local production company and that role eventually turned into a project management role. Seeking a new challenge I thought “ok, where can I plug in my skillset of managing folks and projects with some fresh puzzles?” Speak just spoke to me. *insert dad joke giggle*
Jessica: It sounds like it's a role that people with a variety of different backgrounds can succeed at, but the skill set needed is the same across the board. Sarah and Andrea, be honest. Does Devon make under or over 10 dad jokes a day?
Sarah: waaay over. I started off as an Account Manager at a previous digital marketing agency. I was very green — fresh out of college and didn't know a thing about the technical side of websites. I had "Web Design for Dummies" on my desk to help ramp up my knowledge as I was hungry to learn more about the industry. After 2 years, I was able to feel confident in the business and was excited at the potential opportunities to grow in an Agency setting. A lot of Project Management skills were used in my AM role, and I knew it was a great direction for me!
Devon: I feel a tacked — I guess that's why I stick around...
Jessica: I think I just set myself up for Devon to see how many dad jokes he can get in during this chat...
Also love the Web Design for Dummies book on the desk, Sarah. So how would you describe what you do to someone with zero knowledge of the digital world (aka my nana)?
Sarah: I usually explain that I manage a team of designers and developers to create a website (or app) from start to finish! Luckily most people, including nana's, know what a website or app is these days.
Jessica: That's true, Nana uses her Facebook app to type in all caps, so she'd connect with that description.
Sarah: IT'S A THING
Jessica: I know it's obviously more complicated than that. Now to people who have some idea of what happens inside an agency, give us the rundown of what you do as a project manager.
Devon: In short, a GOOD project manager makes updates….a BAD project manager makes up dates.
Andrea: What they said!
At the moment, my day looks like reaching out to clients to schedule meetings, requesting resources, checking in with Sarah and Devon to see what they need, creating tasks...and trying to be kind when Devon makes a dad joke.
Devon: Jokes aside, we are the gatekeepers — our job is to protect our team of designers and developers from the outside world. In tandem with our Brand Strategists, we work as liaisons between clients and our teams to make sure tasks are being completed, deadlines are being met and budgets don’t go over. We work (to the best of our abilities) to set our teams up for success. What our developers and designers do is TOUGH work and we are there for moral support.
Sarah: What he said
Jessica: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about your role? Maybe the biggest challenge as well?
Devon: Good question.
Sarah: For me, it's the constant shifts that we need to plan for. Every project is going to have that shift- no matter how good of a Project Manager you are. And you have to be prepared to problem-solve it. It's a constant process- especially looking at our production schedule as a whole. It won't just shift one project- it might shift multiple. We have to constantly be looking from a 1000-foot-view to problem solve and communicate those shifts.
Andrea: Hmm one misconception I personally had is that I thought a typical day in this role was more structured/monotonous. But I’ve found that your days vary depending on what the projects need.
Devon: I think the misconception and biggest challenge are the same — the misconception is that the Project Manager has all of the answers. The biggest challenge being - attempting to have all of the answers. It’s such a juggling act between internal facing and external facing clients to strive to have all of the answers and solutions but at the end of the day, it’s the team as a whole that brings all of the perspectives and solutions together. We are merely a piece of the whole.
Jessica: Sounds like you all are the ultimate jugglers, cheerleaders, and really whatever else is needed to get something across the finish line. With all of that said, what’s your favorite part?
Andrea: The awesome team I get to work with!! I definitely wouldn't enjoy my role as much if Sarah and Devon weren’t as cool as they are.
Jessica: The ultimate perk of Speak = the people, for sure.
Devon: That feeling of being in the air traffic control tower is pretty invigorating — the combination of multiple plans coming together, in sync coupled with the fear of all of them crashing into each other is intense. Don’t get me wrong it’s very stressful and somedays…well… but as my wife says “no risk, no reward." When we get a site launched and see and hear the excitement from clients - all of the past stresses, frustrations, etc. go out the door. It’s the sun peeking through after the storm and that's the most exciting part.
Sarah: Hmm. I think I have several. 1. I love our team. To work so closely every day with literal creative geniuses and coding experts, and innovative strategists - I feel lucky to soak in that knowledge from them. It is amazing to watch our team brainstorm and collaborate on a project - there is so much expertise shared between everyone. 2. I love the finished project. Every project is a journey. I love to see the end results and reflect on how we got there. It is amazing to see everything come together in the end.
Jessica: Definitely a team of creative geniuses and experts. If there is one thing you’d want current and future partners of Speak to know, what would it be?
Devon: I mean…I guess the team is ok… Ha. The team here is amazing. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE on the Speak team has your back, no matter what and that is a hard thing to find.
Andrea: Absolutely. I've only been a part of the team for 2ish months but have found that to be so true!
Sarah: We take the word "partners" very seriously. We are on your team. We are cheering for you. Consider us to be a part of your team! We have your back and we want nothing but success for you. We are honored that you picked us and take that very seriously.
Devon: Definitely agree with Sarah — that comes back to another misconception that potential clients may have: that we are just a vendor. Far from it, when we start a project with you, you best believe you are now part of the family and we will be there through thick and thin even after the project is completed. Nothing good comes out of “just getting the job done”, you have to have the full commitment and you definitely get that here.
Andrea: Boom! Love that.
Jessica: Hopefully they are reading this, words of wisdom all around! We’ll end on a funny (I hope) question, Devon you mentioned your wife earlier. Do you all have loved ones comment on your project management prowess outside of work?
Sarah: HAH! Well- we recently bought a house and it required some renovations. We are very much a DIY family - but my husband tends to take his sweet time. Let's just say, I have given him a timeline and schedule to stick to
Devon: Oh boy…my wife is the ultimate project manager; coming from agency life herself and being a mother to our two children. haha. She is my best critic and definitely points out when my OCD and demand for excellence/perfection comes out; especially with house projects. That being said, she’s always my cheerleader and pushes me to be better in my role here at Speak.
Jessica: So you just bring the dad jokes?
Devon: Oh it’s been asked of me more than once from her if I actually get work done due to my excessive dad jokes.
Jessica: Gotta keep things fun!
Andrea: I think my family appreciates my willingness to start my own personal projects; the good thing is that I can push the deadline if my priorities change so it takes the pressure off haha
Devon: But that comes back to the age-old question… how many project managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb. The fact is, that's a trick question. None of them can actually do it…but they sure can account for what percentage is complete.
Jessica: Haha that's a good one! Thanks for joining the chat y'all! It was fun to get a peek behind the curtain at what you do. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we couldn't do it without you
Andrea: Thank you, Jessica! This was fun!
Sarah: Thank you!
When you work with Speak, you get an expert in every seat, including project management expert. Whether it's a website redesign or video work, our project managers will ensure your project is handled with care and excellence. Ready to get started? We thought so.
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