How did you get into technical project management?
“I was a competent Engineer working on different applications and a lot of scripting. I worked on an account across multiple countries and management liked my work. They had an issue come up where four Project Managers left so they used me as an interim Project Manager with the intention that if I was comfortable with that role then I would become a permanent Technical Project Manager (TPM). My first engagement was with the IT team to document and prioritize what all their problems were. I read through all the high-level solution documentation, identified the immediate issues, then cross-referenced with IT management. Leadership wanted me to provide guidance on how to move past blockers. After shrinking the list of problems by 60%, I was able to grow revenue. Then after about a month and a half of being in the role, they promoted me to a permanent position.”
What were the first technologies that you worked with when you got into the technology industry?
“One of the first technologies I worked with was UNIX scripting and AIX. I used to build and develop solutions to use UNIX servers as point-to-point routers. The others were IP networking and Cisco technologies which I got certified in.”
What is your favorite part of your day on your current project?
“My brain is optimized in the morning, so I love my daily standups at 9am where I get to know the progress or blockers of the team. It sets the tone of the day and puts me in a problem solving mindset. I look at this meeting time as a skill because you communicate about what you accomplished yesterday and what the challenges are. This then helps me plan ahead because if there is a problem we continue to encounter, I can start to identify the root cause.”
Which technologies are your favorite to work with?
“Amazon Web Services (AWS) microservices are one of my favorite technologies to work with. The most important thing about them is that they help you think about the building blocks of your project. This gives you a framework to build different end-to-end applications. Another reason I like microservices is because certain aspects of them are reusable in different applications.
Additionally, I enjoy working with Kubernetes because you can do anything with it. For instance, you can easily port different applications and the management of these applications is quite easy to push through the CI/CD pipeline.”
Which traits do you think are the most important for success in technical project management? What about consulting?
“As a TPM, the first thing that is important is to have a good enough breadth of understanding of the solution your team is delivering. You may not have as much depth as the developers, but you need to have enough knowledge to engage with the team so you can unblock challenges and set the direction when they need to solve problems.
Another important trait for a TPM is effective communication. You have to effectively tailor your communication to what is relevant for each audience to meet their needs. For example the customer, the internal sales team, and your developer team all need different information pertinent to the project.
The last is the ability to get the best work out of the team and make them feel good about their deliverables. Effective team building allows you to set them up for success. One way to do this is build the right culture through open communication. Give your team continuous feedback and the freedom to ask “stupid questions” so you can point them in the right direction. Not clarifying questions only leads to confusion.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding?
“The most challenging aspect of being a Technical Project Manager is dealing with clients who are not knowledgeable but keep insisting on having things go their way. It’s frustrating at times and I’ve had that experience where they don’t have enough depth and they want to prescribe the route to getting the desired outcome. The preference is to engage with them so they articulate the desired end goals, while the team proposes workable technology alternatives to achieve these.
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of a finished user story. You feel good because your team has worked together and collaborated in overcoming challenges. In addition to that, exceeding project expectations set by the customer is very fulfilling.”
What does an ideal project look like for you?
“An ideal project has a customer with at least the following two traits. One is that they are generally clear about what they want. The second is being open to ideas from a consulting firm that shape the roadmap towards fulfilling what they want. In that same realm, it’s important clients offer suggestions as the project develops so we can adjust our strategy to meet requirements down the pipeline.
In terms of team structure, I am a big advocate for collaborative individual contributors. Projects need people who will do well in a group and that value the quality of their deliverables. Individuals should also seek help when they need it to continue their hard work. Overall, I would prefer a strong and balanced team to super competent, lone stars.”
What’s your favorite Nortal memory?
“One of my favorite memories is what made me join Nortal. I went to the office building for the first time and I met Malia Jorgensen, Director of Talent Acquisition, and got to play with her dog. It was very warm and welcoming. The team members in the office then invited me to the kitchen for a drink. Maria Nikoletich, Senior Technical Recruiter, also mentioned how much she loved the PNW that day and it was a good feeling discussing that. I noticed that overall people at Nortal want me to do well.
I’ve really enjoyed all the different virtual classes we’ve done since the pandemic started. The most interesting one was a tea tasting since I am an avid tea drinker. Getting to know the different teas was really wonderful.”
What are some successful strategies you are using to manage your team while we have been in this remote working environment?
“The first strategy I have used for success is moving my 1:1 meetings to every week. I then set up some kind of informal lunch call for the team to chat about anything. For example, I got to know that one of my team members practices martial arts. This initiative helps everyone get to know eachother better and bond outside of work.
Lastly, using the call feature on Slack instead of just sending a message has enabled me to give constant feedback to my team and clarify any missing information.”