A career in project management is a rewarding and challenging one. It’s an exciting career and a growing market within the world.
Project Management is something that is required within multiple industries from engineering through to the digital agency, while not everyone can be a good project manager, many roles within project management will suit the majority of people.
What is a project manager?
A project manager is someone who liaises between the client and the work-force, communicating between both parties and seeing a project through from start to finish. They are responsible for the day-to-day management of the projects that they run, managing the scope, schedule, budget, quality and resources.
What skills and traits do I need?
Most skills someone would have to be a great project manager are transferable, so it’s something that even if you aren’t looking for a career in project management, you should look to gain and have, as it will allow you to become indispensable within your place of work.
Someone interested in becoming a project manager should;
- Have a keen eye for detail – part of being a PM means that you are the eyes of the client within your organisation, you always need to have them in mind when you are looking and managing the work that is coming out of this studio, and this means having a keen eye for detail – looking for potential changes or errors within the work that the client would spot and let you know about.
- Be organised – it’s so important to be organised as a project manager, you manage multiple projects with multiple deadlines and if you aren’t then you can easily lose track of everything! I’m the messiest person at home, and my desk isn’t much better to go by in the office, but I know where all my projects are if someone asks and I can give people updates when they ask for one without fail.
- Being flexible and a team player – It’s so important to work with a team, and be flexible to your work schedule, you might have 1001 things to do, but if a team member needs something from you to allow them to carry on with their work then you need to try and find a way to make that happen as it could cause a delay with the project and then this has a knock-on effect to the overall invoices for the month. Be the person that people ask for and turn to for help and assistance.
- Being calm under pressure – easier said than done, but you need to try and remain calm at all times, there is a popular term called ‘swanning’ and this is essentially looking calm and composed on the surface, but paddling like mad below the water. You have to perfect your poker face, and seem like you are calm all the time, as this will radiate to the rest of the team and they know that they’ve got this!
- Being proactive – sometimes when you get busy, being proactive is difficult, but we try and plan projects in as much detail as possible passing on information to the client as we can to prompt them for the biggest cause for project delays – content. Trying to stay ahead of the curve, is important across all your projects, so you always have to try and be a step ahead of everyone.
- Focused on the end goal – each project that you manage will have an end goal, whether this be the sign-off for a new brand or the launch of a new website, the goal is the most important thing within a project and it’s your responsibility to make sure that the team are all moving in the same direction towards that end goal.
- Always learning – each project presents its own set of challenges, the benefit of this is that you are always learning and evolving the way that you manage projects getting better and better over time. After doing this for the last 6 or 7 years I’ve learnt something new on every project I’ve managed about how to do something differently next time or to implement a new stage or process within all projects across the studio, and you must have this mindset too.
- Create connections – creating connections between the team and your client is vital to being a good project manager, you have to be a people person and be able to communicate with a whole host of people. You have to be the one to deliver good and bad news to clients and team members, so knowing how to speak to them is key. You are the glue that keeps the project together and you also need to work with the team to get the best out of every member to achieve the common goal at the end.
- Offer your expert opinion – after being involved with multiple projects across different sectors and industries, you will find that you pick up ideas and thoughts about what could work for other projects across the board. It’s important that you learn to voice your thoughts and opinions when working with the team but also important to remember that the team you work with will be putting their expert opinions into the work they do as well.
- Be enthusiastic and keen – no matter the project and no matter the client you need to be as enthusiastic for each project as you are the last, and you need to try and keep up this enthusiasm through the course of the project too, people can smell it when you start to lose interest in a project, and it’s important to keep this enthusiasm for the team as well.
Why become a project manager?
As a career path, project management is exciting, varied and rewarding. It doesn’t come without its challenges, but you will learn something every day you are a project manager, which allows you to hone and grow your skills in the industry.
Being a project manager allows you to develop many transferable skills, which you can move onto put into most job roles, but there is always an end goal and a reward of accomplishment at the end of it.
What jobs are available for me?
There is a multitude of jobs available within the world of project management, it depends on the industry that you want to work in, but in essence, they all include the same core basics for the job roles available.
For this blog, I’m writing about the roles within the world of a digital agency, and giving you some top tips on how you can progress to the next level within your company;
- Project Management Apprentice
- Project Coordinator
- Project Manager
- Senior Project Manager
- Head of Project Management / Operations Manager
- Director of Projects
How do I become a project manager?
There are many routes into becoming a project manager, there are loads of entry-level jobs around like project coordinators or apprenticeships to help kick start your career as a PM.
Starting off as an apprentice project manager will allow you to start your career within the industry, getting paid while you learn to do the job, you’ll be expected to do college work and courses throughout your time with the company, with the hope that after you’ve completed the apprenticeship you are hired with that company as a full-time employee, you’ll have gained a heap of real work experience in the process and already know your stuff!
You could also go to university and do a project management degree, this would teach you the theory behind all the different project management techniques, and give you a solid and round knowledge of what project management is, and how to manage projects in a textbook approach. Off the back of graduating you would look to get a job as a project coordinator or project manager within a company and continue to learn in the real world.
You could do some professional project management qualifications too, there are loads out there such as Prince2 or APM Project Management Fundamentals, these all teach you the theory and the basics of what project management is about and the methodologies allowing you to go and get the job that you want.
For me, I started as a Marketing exec within a company and was tasked with building that company’s new website. I hired a digital agency to work with and managed the project from the client-side, learning as I went and fell in love with it. So I moved to become an account manager, and then project manager and have developed my skills from there. I’ve not had any formal training, but have a flair and skill for the role, and I love what I do, so there is the luck of the draw route in too!
After working as a PM in various capacities over the last 7 years, here are my top tips for those of you reading this thinking that you want to become a project manager;
- Take the rough with the smooth, some projects fly through while others don’t and there are constant roadblocks – always focus on the positives of your job as a whole and try and not focus on the few frustrating projects.
- If you make a mistake (because we are all human) make sure you hold your hands up. This is so important and just learn your lesson for the next project you run.
- Every project and client is different, you’ll need to adapt and change your PM skills to suit the needs of that project and client to get the best results.
- Always stick to the process, the process was created for a reason, try and stick the process and guide others into sticking to the process too. It works and will help you deliver successful projects constantly.
- Learn when to say no, being a project manager means people always assume your a yes person, it’s important to learn when to say no to both clients and team members.
- Look out for scope creep, clients love to pop in a few extra bits within the design and development stages, it’s your job to be on top of this and recognise when it’s creeping outside of the work that was approved and quoted for. You’ll need to raise this with the Account Manager / Director and allow them to speak to the client to resolve the scope creep.
- Learn and thrive with every project you work on, and every person you work with. The team here at Fifteen are the best I’ve ever worked with, and I learn from the team constantly.
At Fifteen we are lucky to have an incredible project management team. From full website builds to stationery requests and digital copywriting to website optimisation we offer a complete marketing solution all under one roof. Contact us now to find out how we can help you with your next campaign.