Job Title: Technical Project Manager
Years at WebDevStudios: Almost 2
I get asked a lot from my friends and family, “What do you do for your job?” Even though I know exactly what I do, each time I explain it, I seem to have a slightly different version of what I say. Most people can relate to common careers if you break things down for them; so, that’s what I try to do.
If you’re building a house or working on a remodel, more than likely you use a general contractor or foreman. They work with the client on the specifics of what the project will include, what the budget is, how it should look, and what the results need to be.
That’s a very simple way to explain what I do as a Technical Project Manager at Maintainn, the WordPress maintenance and support arm of WebDevStudios (WDS). We handle maintenance, hosting, custom development, and website services.
Primarily, I help clients with getting the requirements of what they want to do, get an estimate and have it approved, manage the work with the help from our team to get the job done, review and confirm it’s correct, and have the client sign off on it. However, there’s more to it than that.
Working at Maintainn
I joined the family at Maintainn in January 2020, right before all of the craziness started to ramp up with COVID. I came from a previous position where I was also managing websites using HubSpot and WordPress. The idea of applying at WDS started to form after I had the pleasure of hanging out with Brad Williams, WDS Co-Founder and CEO, at a GoDaddy after-party during WordCamp US 2019.
I already knew of WDS due to their reputation and several friends that had worked there. It was encouraging to have their support and feel confident in my experience to apply for a Technical Project Management role. After two interviews, I had an offer, and I took it. It was the best decision I made.
I cannot express how happy I am that I get to work from home for such an incredible group of talented people. It’s a smaller, more intimate group of people, working closely together every day to accomplish things for our clients.
There are pros and cons when working on smaller teams as a Technical Project Manager. I try to be aware and help out where I can, but sometimes it can be hard.
- Get to know your team members really well
- Don’t feel like you’re lost in the crowd at your job
- Know how to interact and handle each other quicker
- Allows for more input and decision making
- Can be more agile and responsive when help is needed
- Increased communication, more transparency
- Internal changes can me made quicker without higher-up dependencies
- You work with the same people every day, less variety on projects
- Higher chance of conflict if issues arise
- Not as much backup of someone is out sick or on vacation
- Typically there are more clients assigned per team member
- Increased communication, more transparency
- Not as many resources when troubleshooting or figuring something out
These are just a few examples of things that I have personally experienced from being on larger and smaller teams. You might have a different experience altogether. Regardless of how big or small your team is, the main goal should be to help each other when possible. Then, everyone succeeds.
Now, this is something that I am still working on daily—being a servant leader. To me, being a servant leader is the act of serving others around you before yourself, looking for ways to help them out of selfless intentions. Someone who demonstrates this well at our company is Jim Byrom, our Director of Client Services, who also happens to be my direct boss.
Jim has a natural ability in his communication and actions that portray everything that makes a servant leader. One of the things I first noticed about Jim after I was hired was his intention on caring for his team. He practices what he teaches us, and that’s why I respect him so much. He goes above and beyond to ensure that our safety, mental health, and families come before any work related items.
For myself, it’s something I struggle with. Being a Technical Project Manager, you are in charge of leading your clients, your team on a project, leading the budget, leading the organization, leading the details and requirements, leading communication, and leading the quality of the work and outcome. Phew, that’s a lot of stuff!
Being driven by process, my personality sometimes can get in the way and desire to be in control too much. This prevents my ability to serve my team well because I am so focused on what is and isn’t happening instead of coming up with solutions and ways to help solve problems. I’m constantly having to give myself grace and even own up to when I have messed up towards my team to apologize.
For anyone that is in a project management position, remember to take care of others around you first, because if your team isn’t taken care of then they won’t be able to help take care of you when you need it. We’re all in this together!
Website Project Management
One of the services that we provide at Maintainn is website design. Our team works with you to determine what your vision and needs are, then creates a plan that aligns with your budget and timeline.
Recently, I’ve started to be part of the sales process at the beginning of a project. This helps me understand and identify areas that can be discussed from a technical and process standpoint with the client and allows for a more detailed scope of work.
I touch almost every aspect of a new website project, from beginning to end, and even after. At any given time I’m managing between four to six projects, taking up the majority of my day. I enjoy seeing a project come together and the efforts of our team and ultimately hearing a client is happy, that’s when it’s all worth it.
One thing that I have learned from all of the projects that I have worked on is that relationships can be king. You can have all of the processes and tools in the world to help you, but if the client relationship is strained, that completely impacts how a project can change from amazing to a nightmare.
I’m learning this more and more as I communicate and interact with more clients who all have different personalities, each one working completely opposite from one another. Now, one could argue that some clients are just “like that,” and that’s true. But my point is to not force the client mentally into some type of box. Rather, look for ways you can be flexible, provide options to help them move forward, even if you’re not able to solve it.
I can remember when I learned a powerful way to handle scope creep during a specific project a few years back and still use it to this day. It was one of those projects that never ended. The client had a chain of businesses throughout several states and the website was pretty interactive and very complex. It seemed like every week a new request would come in wanting to enhance or change design or functionality.
I had read an article on how to say no to a client but in a different way. Instead of telling a client no, tell them that it can be done but it will require x, y, and z.
Whether it’s a change request or an impact to the schedule or launch, put the ball in their court and work with them to accomplish what they are wanting to do. The client is looking for your help. You’re the expert in their eyes. This small tweak of how I started to handle responding to clients changed how my relationship and projects went moving forward.
What I’ve Learned
I want to close by sharing some of the things I have learned over the years from the humble beginnings of being a Support Engineer, to managing clients, and working with teams as a Technical Project Manager at Maintainn.
- Put others first, if you can. It will come back around ten times.
- Be flexible with your team and most of the time there is a reason why something is happening.
- Surround yourself with good people. You can always work together on processes and internal policies, but you cannot teach someone how to be a good team member.
- Give clients the benefit of the doubt, even if you don’t want to. Be understanding and work toward solving the problem as best as possible.
- Practice patience. Don’t kill yourself to try and get to every last reply in the day. It can wait until tomorrow. (This one still gets me at times.)
1 thought on “Day in the Life of a Technical Project Manager”
Great article Alex! Handling scope creep can be tricky with some clients. A similar method is to ask “If this…, then what gets cut?” Controlling resources is extremely important and letting a client know you’re working with fixed resources is a simple way to keep scope creep from happening.
Similar to the faster, cheaper, better triangle, there is the project management triangle. Budget, time, and scope. When one changes, so must the other two to maintain balance.