My First Project Management Role – Being a young and agile PM
17 September 2020
Posted by: Kirsty Thomas
This blog post is about my experience as a young project manager in my first project management role. I want to share what I've learnt so far and how being agile qualified can help young people in today’s working world.
How was this role different to previous roles I've had:
I was a project manager for McCann Healthcare for three months. Unfortunately, the role came to an end sooner than expected due to responsibilities brought on by the pandemic, but during this time I learnt a lot about being a first-time project manager.
This role was very different to previous ones I’ve had as a coordinator as it meant transitioning from assisting with tasks to owning end-to-end projects and being accountable for others. Being the project manager, I had to be responsible for deadlines and resolve any issues that my team faced. I had to use skills that I hadn’t fully used before like negotiation, budgeting and risk management to ensure that projects could run seamlessly. However, having had coordination roles previously, I was also able to bring my organisational and planning skills to the role, which made it much easier!
Successes I met during my agile project management role:
A great success I noticed during my agile project management role was that my confidence hugely increased when facilitating meetings and collaborating effectively.
My new project team were all based from home which meant that I couldn’t introduce myself in person and had to get to know everyone virtually. As a PM, building rapport is vital to project success because your team need to trust you and your delivery timings.
During your agile training, you are consistently encouraged to focus on collaboration and utilise communication tools effectively. So rather than relying on formal emails, I focussed most of my communications via instant messaging platforms such as Teams and Zoom where my colleagues and I could see and get to know each other. Doing daily stand ups and utilising instant messaging meant that we could all check in on project progress consistently and update clients in real time to implement any requested changes quickly.
Hosting virtual meetings significantly boosted my day-to-day confidence. Facilitating meetings with a team who are much older that you have just met can feel a bit daunting, but being able to share knowledge, talk and get to know people in the environments that they felt most comfortable has even enhanced communications in my personal life and helped me to become more clear and assertive.
Obstacles I met during my agile project management role:
Obstacles I faced in my project management role were mainly caused by a change of sector. Project management is a hugely transferrable skill and can be integrated into almost every working sector, however getting to grips with some of the practices in marketing was quite tough. Previously, I was working for a compliance team at a traditional medical company where projects were very similar and focussed on legal documentation and event logistics. I moved to a marketing agency where the pace was much faster and there were a variety of different stakeholders from different companies.
This meant that you had to learn each client, each audience and deal with many variables per project. On top of this, agency practices are quite different to standard company procedures so I also had to adapt to new admin needs, such as meticulously timing actions for timesheets and billing to clients.
Industry versatility is a fantastic bonus to being a PM but definitely ensure that you’re choosing the sector which is right for you so you’ll be willing to learn and grow within it. As with all career-related experiences, working is not just about getting the job done, it’s also about challenging and becoming the best version yourself which can be sub-optimal if you’re not on board with the environment!
Age made an impact on my role as most PMs tend to be older. I came across staff members in the workplace who are not used to being led and guided by younger team members. Being a younger manager means that you need to be open to learning but also quite firm in your decisions so you’re less prone to being undermined.
However, most difficult situations due to age are incredibly infrequent and these moments can happen unconsciously. If it does happen, best practice is to be firm, polite and professional when you bring up moments that have made you feel uncomfortable.
Thoughts on having a younger generation of agile PMS:
It would be brilliant to see more young agile project managers in the workplace. I genuinely believe that young people are innately more agile as we deal with fast news, fast results, and fast responses. Younger generations are growing up in the fastest and most ever-changing world to date. This is even being amplified by our entertainment channels via social media and the internet. Consistent connectivity to the wider world, each other and rapid access to news has created a group who are change-positive, adaptable, solution-orientated and savvy communicators – which is what the agile mindset and principles are all about!
Kirsty Thomas - GlaxoSmithKline
I am an APM qualified project manager and have worked with brands such as Stella Artois, GSK, McCann Health Marketing and The Times. A fun fact about me is that I once had four different hair colours within a month – blue, red, white and black!