A Day In the life of a Project Manager
January 9th, 2017
7.00 AM – Rise and Shine
My mind wanders restlessly in bed, just about when it is time to wake up. The internal body clock is still alert, now trained by years and years of early mornings.
I was never a morning person, but being a project manager requires you to adapt. My morning not only needs to be sunny and crisp, it needs to be alive and focused – it needs to be such that it gets me through the day without me dropping dead on my desk or something.
Today’s a Monday, which means it’s doubly challenging for me. I need my regular dose of coffee with a tiny spot of milk and a single sugar cube (my sweet tooth will never die) as my smartphone immediately buzzes to life with a thousand reminders.
Call Mr Murdock. Send a reply to the designer instructing him to use certain elements in order to change the UI in a certain way. Go through the minutes of Saturday’s scrum in order to get up to speed with this refreshing Monday. Need to outline the prototype for those clients from the UK by EOD tonight. Need to tell the developer about designing certain landing pages with the appropriate content – in accordance with the DailyUp people who caught up with us on Thursday.
This is just the first batch of emails that I need to deal with – my inbox is bursting with other tasks too, despite my efficient categorization.
People would normally think I’m a loner, but that’s not really true. I just like my peace and quiet when I’m in the house because otherwise, I’m constantly in the state of communication – be it on the phone, the laptop or facing yet another client behind a glass panelled wall. I have a dedicated team to take care of whenever a project and a client is allotted to me and make sure they are functioning smoothly.
Today, I had to urgently take a call while I was brushing my teeth – but since the client took their time out to call me at the end of their day, I have to sacrifice the little dental care. This client is particularly important – their prototyping stage is nearing, and a sprint meeting needs to be organized today itself. The guidelines for the prototype need to be given by the client and properly understood – so I cannot ignore this call. There are many calls like this, but you just learn to take it in stride.
1.00 PM – Spare Prep Time
Lunch time is nearing. I pick out my hastily packed lunch and hurry to where my team is eating in the cafeteria. I don’t like talking about work during lunch, but a few things simply have to be squeezed in time-slots when there is no time otherwise! There’s too much multi-tasking – and my team has a few new employees who need a little bit of handholding and checking. The team and its well-being is of paramount importance.
They say men cannot multi-task, but a project manager HAS TO, regardless of their gender – men, women, it’s a tough job all the same.
A project manager’s mind is focused on multiple things which need stringent organization in the head, and other media.
I also have many other skills to hone as a project manager. They day won’t simply be me working by my lonesome – it’ll be a sequence of meetings and calls where I have to be very tactical with my communication. A project manager is necessarily a people’s person – managing people, relating to people, negotiating with people and trying to maintain an overall maximum gain for everyone involved in the project are all crucial parts of my job.
This is why lunch timings, scrums, organized phone calls and conferences keep me on my toes because these are the avenues through the day where I can be sorely tested.
3.00 PM - Hitches
The daily scrum just ended. I feel like we’re lagging behind on too many things as regards this client, but I don’t have time to vent or be frustrated. I’ve collated and taken my share of the notes in order to improve next time, but the troubleshooting process needs to be much easier, much smoother.
Two of my clients and their schedules seem to be clashing – I earned a reprimand today for not appropriately micromanaging their time-slots and getting the two teams working full-tilt. But I think it’s all part of the learning process, and I will handle things better the next time around.
4.00 PM – Client Calls
After having focused a lot on the team and their subsequent tasks, I turn my attention to the clients – their calls, their queries, their needs. I have client calls from 4-6.30 almost every day, where I try and bring them up to speed with their respective projects.
The art of handling clients can be yet another ordeal. In a field where technology is such a huge component, the project manager needs to be technically very sound. This is not simply to appear knowledgeable, but to also distil complex concepts to the client and other prospective consumers in a simple manner.
Clients necessarily have a lot of questions and different propositions when it comes to their product and the vision they have for it. Sometimes, they think you can achieve anything technologically. Making them understand why not, and making them accept an alternative way of doing things is a part of my tasking.
Getting client feedback is especially important for a project manager like me – I need all their inputs in order to make sure everything is on track and people aren’t simply sitting idle because of no further instructions.
In that vein, I can say that the central task of a project manager is plain and simple: Co-ordination. The project manager is the lynchpin of the whole machine – he/she balances the needs of the client on one hand, trying to keep them happy, and makes sure that his/her team are functioning according to schedule, and making sure that deliver effectively when the time comes.
While manipulation may be a hard word, sometimes, a project manager can be manipulative – unrealistic demands can hence be averted, and your team can be spurred to greater lengths. Establishing a good working relationship with everyone is a project manager’s necessity.
6.30 PM – Ends and Beginnings
Lastly, I come back to my team again, checking on their progress for the day. I need to make sure that team is also on-board with the entire project and its guideposts daily – making sure that work is done according to expectations. Managing work in a way that time is optimized, and no workers sit idle can be quite hard especially when expertise may not be freely available.
Here, I see that the project manager is also the leader for a team, while also being responsible for a lot of doubt-clarification when it comes to his/her team members asking questions, since they hold me to a standard. Today, I also had to fulfil the role of a tester for this particular app – since we had no tester available, and had to verify the functionality of this marketplace app myself.
Why do I go to these lengths? Well, with everything that I’ve been saying, I guess it’s no surprise when I declare that the responsibility of the project also falls on myself. I have to answer to the clients in case delivery is not done on time and I also have to answer to my superiors if things don’t go according to plan. The status and delivery of the project are my troubles to bare, and there is only so much that I can blame on other things.
As I gather my belongings and get ready to leave, I realise that there’s a lot of homework to be done if I need to prepare for tomorrow. I shrug anyway, since I didn’t expect there to be a lot of time for myself, but I guess I can always think of the weekend as a prospective zone to relax. Till then, it is time to grind it out!
- Client document outlines the project.
- Statement of Work – singing the contract.
- Project handed to a manager.
- Manager does a feasibility analysis, functionalities evaluated.
- Document a more detailed analysis, SRS document is more detailed (software requirements and specifications)
- All the stakeholders refer to the SRS for whatever needs to be built.
- Transferred to the designer, 2-3 days of work given. Screen planning and everything locked in.
- Project manager creates blueprint – breaks down major tasks into modular ones, consisting of 4 hours of effort.
- Maintaining flow and planning the sprint – what is expected in what time.
- Sprints are 1.5-2 weeks long, after which an update is sent to the client.
- Testing occurs after feedback from client.