Amy Ashton

Shahina and Amy talk: Lessons from 2015

Shahina PatelI’m talking to Amy Ashton, Head of Operations at NeoMam Studios in Manchester. We talked about Amy’s experiences of last year’s DPM:UK15 conference and workshop, the nDPM Meetup, being a project manager and what’s great about our PM community.


You can share experiences, have relationships with your peers in the industry and learn from each other.

“I’ve stepped into this responsibility over the past few years without what I’d call a PM background. When I first joined NeoMam there was no PM function and things were a bit chaotic – so this has been a new challenge. The conference was really useful and particularly the workshop; just being able to chat to people was great! The Meetup group really helps with that too – to know that you can share experiences, have relationships with your peers in the industry and learn from each other.

DPM:UK15 was really inspiring for me because I’d never really met anyone in a similar role to me. I remember coming back, buzzing from the experience and excited about introducing all the great things that I wanted to try at NeoMam. I really did feel like I took a lot of knowledge away – some ideas felt new to me at the time and some I kind of knew – but it wasn’t until I got back to work and was considering some of our challenges from a different point of view that I realised just how much I’d learned and how worthwhile those two days were.

A snapshot of Meri Williams’ talk: Stealing PM lessons from artificial intelligence

A snapshot of Meri Williams’ talk: Stealing PM lessons from artificial intelligence

I was actually quite nervous before heading to the workshop because I thought – “These people are going to know so much about project management and I’m going to find out I’ve done it all wrong!” – but when I got there, just being able to talk to other project managers made me realise everyone does something different and there is no ‘right’ way of doing it. There were lots of people asking questions and there was a lot of openness and willingness to share which I think is really characteristic of our DPM community.

There was so much that was useful and lots of things I hadn’t thought about too. For example, Brett talked about client management, pointing out that you as a project manager don’t have to fix and solve everything for everyone all the time. A big part of the job is to facilitate problem solving; to say “Okay we’re all here, let’s talk about the issue, let’s find a solution.” A project manager is there to ask questions and to make sure there’s no ‘us vs. them’ feeling. I definitely took that on board and learned to consider my responsibility as a facilitator.

One of the most useful discussions in the workshop was about tools and how other project managers use them. I went with the impression that I was using lots of different tools and software and there must be one magic tool – instead I learned there still isn’t one thing for everything but I did come away with some inspiration to try new software. One of our biggest challenges was scheduling, because no-one really knew how long it took anyone else to do anything! We’ve since implemented Teamwork and Float – it’s working well and really helping with transparency and accountability.

coffee cups with printed quotes

Wise words for project managers, from authors of days gone, on paper coffee cups courtesy of workshop sponsor Harvest.

Going into 2016, I am really looking forward to the conference at the end of the month and being able to follow up all that discussion with the nDPM Meetup group. In this industry we can’t stand still and have to keep trying new things, recognise when something isn’t working and do something about it! That’s why I think the Meetup group works – we’re able to continually share ideas and that helps us stay ahead of the curve.

My ideal Meetup session would be borrowed from The Art of New Business, who do a ‘war stories’ thing – you have business owners saying the worst thing that happened to them. Adopting that idea could be really empowering for us as project managers; it would help you know you’re not on our own making really awful mistakes, like a client who left you because of project management, or having a project that went completely upside-down. It would be really good to hear people’s experiences and how they came out of it. It’s a cliché but you do learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes! I think by contributing – by reflecting on your own experiences to talk to others about it – you can learn that you shouldn’t have to hide from those mistakes, that you can survive them and you can let them empower you instead.”

Shahina PatelWho is Shahina?

Shahina has her fingers in all the pies. She’s a digital project manager who is learning to code, is trying to know everything there is to know about good UX-led design, loves Lean Agile, but hasn’t got round to working Photoshop very well yet. She also really likes talking to other PMs and is an organiser of Northern Digital Project Managers with Matt Thornhill.


Amy AshtonWho is Amy?

Amy introduced the project management function into NeoMam when she started there three years ago – these days, she continues to make sure things are running smoothly and like all good PMs, she’s ensuring that their processes evolve as the business develops. Like a great PM, she shares her experiences too.


Who are NeoMam?

NeoMam (short for NeoMammalian) is an influencer marketing agency working for their clients to earn them greater exposure. Their ultimate aim is to get pick up in mainstream media for their clients through great content. Their portfolio of work really is quite lovely. Check out their Twitter feed – it’s a curated collection of all things visual.