Invoking a mentor, memory spells, and ancestral experience are the rituals of a novice project manager.

Invoking a mentor, memory spells, and ancestral experience are the rituals of a novice project manager.

As a girl who (survived) got into a real IT company, hit the jackpot and learned to cope with tasks by trial and error.

Hello everyone, my name is Maria Vysotenko. I work as a project administrator, that is, a junior manager at the KODE IT company. During the twelve months in office, I had time to put my hand to six projects. I closed two of them on my own: there were no other managers on the project besides me.

Now, when I come to a new team or project, I freely imagine myself and my area of ​​responsibility and repeat the mantra: “I’m not a wizard, I’m still learning.” But this is not always the case.

My journey at KODE is a series of stages: puppyish enthusiasm (“I work in a real IT company”), cooling off from reality, a surge in productivity and suddenly for myself… a breakdown. Senior colleagues helped to find a solution and a way out.

I wanted to do everything “well” at once (I wonder who would evaluate me according to this criterion): help the team, learn to design APIs and test by replacing values. It was an interesting time.

My calming collection of a beginner (wizard) RM consisted of the following ingredients↓

Remember the instructions of the distribution hat

The programmer programs, the tester tests, the manager writes “When will you do it?”. Gradually, each PM comes to a sacred understanding of his position. Our job is to understand the short-term and long-term goals of the project and help the team achieve them. Our main strength is to look several steps ahead.

I realized that something was wrong when I named one of my tasks at a project manager meeting as “Finding solutions for the development of one-click authorization through Google”, while the managerial task – preparation of the sprint report – was not done. As a result, the “authorization” was transferred to the project analyst, as a technical specialist (surprisingly) the developer remained, and I breathed a sigh of relief and went to write the report. By the way, the first report on the project turned out to be a very simple table: a list of features closed in two weeks and the number of hours spent. And that was enough.

Now, when I feel anxiety and panic at the start of a project, I first go back to the origins. I close the main tasks that only the project manager can do. I no longer jump over my head – I just do good. When it is very difficult, I do normally.

Do not drink reversal potion

It is always a great idea to learn from senior colleagues, but you should not strive to become them. At first, I tried to repeat everything according to my mentor on the project, down to the tone-of-voice in the correspondence.

With experience, individual chips are added to the basic tasks: finding an approach to the team, reading the code, helping the analyst in collecting system requirements, or hypnotizing colleagues to lure the developer to join the project. Everyone feels individuality in their work.

A side effect of the reversible potion is addiction, loss of self, inability to exist without an example in front of you. Do we need it?

Press Record to save in the whirlpool of memory

A project manager’s to-do list includes preserving context and agreements. At KODE, I honed the skill of capturing decisions in writing, because this is a visual context for the team and the customer.

The requirements for the project are more often drawn up on videos — we twist ideas on them, at the moment the development team informs us of the technical limitations of a certain business vision. The team is full of technical terms, the customer, inspired by the design and the distant deadline, offers many ideas, the screens with the design, mind maps, tables change during the broadcast – even the skill of fast typing does not help me to record everything.

In order not to lose context, I record video calls. To do this, I use Zoom’s built-in call recording feature, the Vimeo or Movavi plugin. It’s obvious, but still — I test the applications before every important call.

For the rest of your life, you will remember your first love and the same silent recording where you discussed the system requirements for a new feature.

NB: I choose Vimeo’s recording devices correctly – sometimes the microphone does not record. Movavi records the entire screen, since this is a desktop program – I pay attention so that the excess does not get on the recording (Telegram with correspondence is not on the topic). You don’t want to blush when the customer or the team asks to show the record.

Before the start of the recording, I must inform all participants of the meeting. During the entire time of work, I was never refused.

Use “Truth Serum”

At one of the days, I admitted that I did not understand the dependencies between roles during development and what conditions should be specified in the AppStore settings in order to publish an application for iOS — and it became easier to communicate with the team. The manager becomes more predictable for the team — it is easier to work with someone whose actions are clear.

Then I realized that all our teams are balanced: June the manager is matched by experienced specialists from other areas, who will give timely feedback and get you back on the right track. Also, an invisible figure is a mentor on the project or, above all, a mentor in the company. They can be approached for general questions and, when pressed, for work-related concerns.

Summon the Patronus, that is, the mentor

My Patronus is in the form of a project portfolio manager – this is my mentor. In the company, he monitors several projects at once, and as a mentor he answers technical questions and shows how to work more efficiently.

At the very beginning of my journey, the mentor also held daily meetings with me to learn about my condition and help prioritize tasks. Such meetings helped a lot to adapt.

I summoned the Patronus when there was a flood, and the chosen solutions did not work. A mentor board can save time and therefore money for a project. However, in this case, it is necessary to filter the question – the answer can be found in Google, the company’s knowledge base. Or already inside you.

When there is no flywheel of time

I consider this conclusion the most important for me. I couldn’t leave work “on time” and manage my tasks during the working day, because I didn’t set priorities correctly.

Now, at the beginning of the day, I spend a few minutes making a plan for the day. I group tasks by project and priority: is there a deadline, how does it affect the project. I distribute them so that part of the day is occupied only with tasks related to a certain project – there is no context switching.

For this, I keep a notebook at hand, I write down tasks that are in progress. At the same time, you need to stay in touch, so I decompose the tasks into smaller ones, 1-2 hours each. I warn the team in advance that I may have a long answer for the next hour.

I have projects that need my attention the most, such as a new project coming in. There are projects under support, where we completed the tasks, passed the project, but remained in it as experts. There I calmly write “I will answer during the day” and come back when it is calmer.

How to become a faculty head

Our company has a grading system with clear requirements for each level, so I understand what to strive for. In my department, this system is represented by 42 criteria!

I evaluated the criteria that I need to tighten, chose the educational materials. The ICE prioritization method helps me to understand the order of topics – management experience comes in handy.

ICE is an acronym consisting of the words Impact, Confidence, Ease. Each criterion is rated from 1 to 10, then they are multiplied. The higher the score, the higher the priority.

I adapted the ICE method to myself: I multiplied the indicators of “personal interest”, “applicability to the project now” and “relevance for future work”. The top topics were: “How to give feedback”, “Configuring managerial tools”, “How to conduct negotiations”. I am studying them now. In the future, I will take Change Management and “Conflict Management”.

Don’t trust brainstorming, ask for feedback

People do notice our mistakes and weaknesses. It can be depressing. Strength gives the idea that it works in the other direction too! As soon as a specialist begins to grow, it is noticeable to others.

The conclusion I made: it is important to give yourself time to immerse yourself in the process and understand the rules of the game. Every day, in small steps, I did better than it was yesterday. Without rushing, at your own pace, with an understanding of why this is for me, why this is for the project.

Gradually repeating these points, the mentor’s advice helped me reach a new level of mental peace, grade and self-confidence.

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