On extroverts, to-do lists and Roman emperors. 6 things I’ve learned as a Junior Project Manager

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September 21st, 2022, posted in learning, our_people
by Andreea Z.

Being a Project Manager has a certain ring to it, and many people are starting to consider it a viable option for their careers. *this may or may not happen because it’s a high-paying job*

 

 

But is it really something anyone can do well with just some training and learning on their own? After three months as a Junior PM at UPDIVISION, I would most certainly say “No”.

I personally believe that the first three months at a job are the most important ones. During this time, you learn how the company that hired you works, connect with your colleagues, and most importantly, absorb as much information as possible.

And even though all of these went well, at some point I realized this job might come with some unexpected challenges. That’s one thing I learned at UPDIVISION. Curious about the rest of them?

 

1. Personality traits are as important as your skills and desire to learn.

Sure, every job has a set of skills you need to build, but I think you also need certain personality traits to make it work long-term as a PM. 

The most important one, in my opinion? Being an extrovert (or a really sociable introvert). As a Project Manager you interact with different kinds of people on a daily basis, from developers, designers and other PMs to clients and stakeholders. A big chunk of your schedule will be dedicated to planning and attending stakeholder meetings, sprint meetings, retrospectives, discussing updates with your team and, overall, keeping in touch while keeping everyone on the same page.  

 

2. Sometimes being a PM feels like being everyone’s psychologist.

At some point, every PM feels like they are juggling a million different balls and trying to keep everyone happy. And that doesn’t only mean keeping the project on track.

Some of the situations you might encounter include developers who don't get along, clients who either micromanage or don't answer their emails for weeks, last minute changes and the list can go on.  

Luckily, these are extremes which you don't usually deal with on a daily basis. Need I say that patience and the ability to actively listen are pretty mandatory skills for any person starting as a PM? 

 

 

3. Breaking large things into smaller chunks is the way to go.

Julius Caesar knew a thing or two about fighting wars and conquering territories. And even though today we are mostly battling with completing tasks and defeating bugs, Divide et Impera is still a viable strategy.

In the sprint planning meetings I had with the dev teams, one of the super important goals was to split every big task into smaller ones for better estimates, management and clarity. But I also learned that this is a good practice in my day-to-day work too.

The truth is, big tasks can feel overwhelming, and can even determine you to unconsciously procrastinate doing them until it’s too late. I found that it helped me to split them, and maybe also squeeze a 5-minute break between them.

 

 

This way, I felt like I always accomplished something without wasting too much time. 

 

4. Having a to-do list for (at least) the current day is a lifesaving habit.

Whether you’re managing multiple projects or not, unexpected situations are actually to be expected when you work as a PM. Often less pressing tasks tend to be left aside and sometimes even forgotten, if you don't write them down or put them in the backlog. 

My advice? Use whatever method you feel comfortable with to keep track of your daily activity, because the not-so-urgent things of today can easily become the most urgent matters of tomorrow. And the sad reality is that your memory will most likely let you down if you choose to depend on it 100% of the time. Mine did every time I swore I will remember something because it is important.

 

 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions - ignorance is not bliss.

In the beginning, at least, I had a lot of questions for the more experienced PMs, and some, if not most of them, seemed kind of stupid to me. Can you imagine that during my first days, I even questioned the necessity of asking questions?

 

 

Luckily, I realized that the first thing on my to-do list was undoubtedly to learn how to be a Project Manager, and not knowing stuff or making mistakes is part of the process. 

Repeat after me: I don’t suck, I’m just new at everything.

 

6. Take your time and learn as much as you can from every member of the team - it will be worth it in the long run

Every time I start something new I am aware that I will stumble upon situations I won’t know how to deal with. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Asking for help, even from other colleagues who are not theoretically there to train you is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. There will always be someone more experienced who can help you out.

 

 

On a final note, I would say that these three months at UPDIVISION taught me a lot, not only about project management but also about myself, challenges included.

 


About the author

Andreea Z.

I`m a Junior PM figuring out the ins and outs of software development and life (yes, I quote Dilbert a lot, what gave me away?). I have a background in data research, so I`m all about precision in numbers and language, as I also used to study Japanese. Now I`m looking to share my journey into Gantt charts, roadmaps, backlogs, sprint planning and more.

See more articles by Andreea Z.