What I expected the DPM Summit would be like:
What the DPM Summit was actually like:
Halfway through the first day, we had already downed 75 gallons of coffee. This is not an exaggeration.
Whether I was listening to a keynote speaker, completely engaged with a panel, participating in exercises in a regional breakout session, swapping digital PM stories over lunch, chatting about the latest methodologies between sessions, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking over and over again: “We are experiencing the same challenges, same victories, same processes, passions, growing pains...across the globe! I need more of this.”
While Project Management is such a widespread role with innumerable interpretations of responsibilities and processes, Project Management in the Digital industry is still very much in its infancy. Similar to the industry itself, Digital Project Management is an ever-evolving career path for the not-so-faint-of-heart...and only for those who can keep up with the latest buzz words (did someone say “agile”?)
While there were so many passionate, inspiring, and experienced Digital Project Managers (or individuals who had grown from a Digital Project Management role), I’ll do my best to -- as eloquently as I’m able -- summarize some of the key takeaways from the summit.
But I Wanted a Unicorn: The Art of Managing Expectations
While Irish Titan has more than doubled in size since I started here in March of 2014, I have seen significant evolution of our documentation. Since the majority of Irish Titan’s clients have custom ecommerce websites, it’s inevitable our documentation has its fair share of technical requirements.
As Irish Titan continues to grow, our clients grow as well. With growing clients come larger website builds. With larger website builds come more complicated customizations. With more complicated customizations come more technical requirements and, well...you get the picture.
Suzanna had one slide in particular that was really a sight for sore eyes:
Suzanna went on to explain that, as a Digital PM, while you don’t have to be a technical mastermind, you must:
Be willing to understand what you’re talking about.
Work with the capabilities you do have.
Gather requirements early.
So...if you’re gathering requirements early enough, there is enough time to ask the team questions (with your excellent Digital PM communication skills) to better understand the context of the requirements so you can deliver said requirements to the client and -- even better -- speak to those requirements!
Being proactive, willing and communicative can go far.
The PM Career Path
Facilitated by Meghan McInerny
While I was far too engaged in the PM Career Path panel to take many notes…
I did jot down one new term (for me) in particular: Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome, simply put, is pretending to be confident.
This was brought up in light of discussion around the Digital Project Management career path and how -- even if we act like we know exactly what we’re doing at all times (and that we may or may not have a project plan for any given thing at all times) -- we are all very much learning, and we can very much learn from one another along the way.
One of the panelists, Dave Prior, said it well: “The people who think they know everything are the dangerous ones.”
It’s All About the Little Things
While Sam Barnes focused on “The Little Things”, I feel like I shouldn’t overengineer the summary of his talk. So I’m going to give you a bulleted list of my takeaways from him.
- Much of our stress comes from our trying to retain the to do list in our heads and trying to remember what’s next; make a list and get $&@# done.
- Always be present on comms; get back to people in a timely manner.
- Real expertise is making progress in an imperfect environment.
- Professional doesn’t mean dull.
Level Up; Project Management as Leadership Role
Meghan explains that Project Management, in and of itself, is a leadership role.
While a majority of the resources on a project are responsible of their respective deliverables (e.g. sitemap, wireframes, designs, content, annotations, technical requirements, code, etc.), the PM’s role on that team is to manage all of those moving pieces and lead the team, as a whole, across the finish line.
Meghan defines Leaders & Managers as follows:
- Leaders inspire people to move toward a vision.
- Managers make sure we all get there.
She goes on to give the frequent real world example of this in the everyday life of a Digital Project Manager...
“I can’t write the code, but I’ll order you pizza.”
Putting People Back Into Projects
Rob Harr spoke straight to my Digital PM heart when he spoke on addressing the elephant in the room - bad news.
Rob bluntly explains that not talking about something simply gives it more power.
He says, “The best way to make sure your project does not hit budget, timeline and scope is to not talk about it. We can take the mystery out of things by talking about them a lot.”
Rob provides that CLIENT HAPPINESS happens when there is a small delta between project expectations and project reality.
Herding Cats: Positive and Effective Communication Within Chaos
Sharon Steed gave an incredibly inspiring talk at the very end of the DPM Summit, and she focused on empathy.
She explained two main components of why to choose empathy:
- Improved communication (if we’re communicating from a place of empathy, we’re connecting more.)
- Optimized collaboration (because everybody feels like they are going to have a voice.)
Though simple, her message was solid: Communication at its core is an act of great empathy.
You have to approach situations with two big things in order to be empathetic:
- Approach everyone with patience.
- Communicate with respect.
Above all else, I took away a sense of camaraderie and a much larger network of fellow project managers in the digital industry from this Digital Project Management Summit. While it’s so easy to get caught up in our own organizations or companies, our projects and our processes, our teams and our protocols...it’s invaluable to take a step back and reach out to those in your network, in your city, or across the ocean! After all, the digital industry makes it easy enough to do such a thing these days.
Find your people, always be willing to reevaluate your process, and never stop learning and growing.