Starting a new Digital Project Manager job
Moving jobs is always a big life moment and PMs may need to let go of more processes, relationships and quirks than many roles. I moved from a waterfall, technical digital agency to an agile, creative agency this year and, while this may be a less dramatic switch than crossing the agency/client divide or web/software, the items below helped me to settle quickly and start building new relationships straight away…
Back to basics
No matter what the new role involves, the key characteristics that made you a good PM in your previous role will make you good one in this role too. Communication, people skills, organisation and decision making will be in demand from day 1 and will help you to make an positive impact while you learn the names and tea/coffee preferences of your new team.
All the small things
Your first few weeks in the job are unlikely to contain a huge go-live date or big pitch to make your mark with, but this is a great opportunity to take the time to get the small things right. The first time you need to reset a client’s expectations on an over-ambitious deadline or deal with a difference of opinion between developers will be great opportunities to show what kind of PM you’ll be once the going gets really tough. If all else fails – help someone out with admin!
Your knowledge still applies
Coming from a non-technical background, it took me a while (and lots of evening reading) to build up a working knowledge of the specific platforms and technologies my previous agency specialised in. Thankfully, this is largely transferrable! Different CMSs will have different layouts and terminology, but will essentially do the same things. The same key principles of the industry (be it test driven development or mobile-first design) are still valid. Carousels will still take ages to build.
…but don’t stop reading
However, this is a great opportunity to widen your knowledge on a lot of new technology and build your confidence about the things you already know. For me, the 3 months beforehand were dominated by interviews, research and planning for the new job, so it was a great way to get back into the technical side of things.
Listen to your new colleagues (and don’t be afraid to ask)
The best knowledge to tap into will inevitably be provided by your new fellow PMs, who’ve seen and done it all before with the clients and developments teams that you’re just getting to know. I was lucky enough to be invited to an advice session in my first week providing me with gems such as ‘what I wish I’d been told in my first week’, ‘the most important thing I’ve learnt so far’ and who to keep on the good side of in Finance. Even if a similar thing isn’t arranged formally, take your new colleagues to the pub for lunch.
Questions my colleagues answered for me:
- What key learnings did you take from your early days here?
- What was the most important thing we told you?
- If you had the opportunity to be a new starter again, what would you do differently?
- Thinking about your first project, what went well and what didn’t?
- What did we forget to tell you?
- Any other hints and tips.
Don’t be afraid to point out improvements…
You are in a great position to notice possible improvements and to see problems with a fresh perspective – don’t be afraid to suggest these rather than getting frustrated.
…but embrace change!
However, don’t just suggest something because ‘that’s how I used to do it’. A new job will (hopefully) only come around every few years and, in an industry that moves so fast, that’s very rare. Use the opportunity to learn new approaches and evaluate the advantages they bring – especially things like scheduling, planning, monitoring and the dozens of new software tools you’ll need to use.
You’ll rarely get a chance to be thrown into so many new ways of doing things – have fun and be confident!
Gavin is a digital project manager working for Code Computerlove in Manchester for clients including Amnesty International, Woodland Trust and Sue Ryder.
In his previous agency he also delivered projects for Macmillan Cancer Support, Goodyear, Investec, Siemens, Royal Caribbean and the British Dental Association.