by Nortal cloud team, January 19, 2021
To kick-off our employee spotlight series for 2021, we are featuring Cory Sandahl, one of our recently onboarded Technical Project Managers (TPM). Read about his experience at Nortal as a TPM below.
“My path to be a TPM started as a software engineer. I started to advance my leadership skills through development projects and then I was promoted to a director. I got burnt out with management, so I grew into the business side and became a program manager. From there, I became a product manager. In this role, I missed getting my hands on technology. I wanted a role that bridged the gap between the business and technical aspect of my job, so I did some research, and being a TPM was a nice blend of those roles. My management roles in the past had me wearing multiple hats, so I’ve had a fair amount of experience with both the technical and management aspects of being a TPM.”
“I met with Krister Lukka, VP of Delivery at Nortal, two years ago when they were just creating the TPM role in the US, so I would have been the first or second TPM hired at Nortal US. It turned out the timing wasn’t right. I had a friend that worked at Nortal and she said great things about it, so it was always top of mind for a possible move. It didn’t work out the first time, but I kept in touch with Maria Nikoletich, a Senior Technical Recruiter at Nortal. We would get together for coffee when I was in between jobs or thinking of leaving. Then the stars aligned in terms of level and what they were looking for. The TPM role at Nortal was less project management and more program management. Now I have a blend of the three things I love in my role; hands on technical tasks as well as program and project management.”
What is your favorite part of your current project?
“My favorite part of my current project is that it has the potential to have a global impact for our client. We are starting small with a prototype so it is exciting to have influence at the very beginning of the process. I’m also impressed with the caliber of people I get to work with on the project. There are many technical challenges to embrace, so that’s my second most favorite thing.”
Which traits do you think are the most important for success as a TPM?
“You have to have great communication skills and you have to be sufficiently technical. If you are going to have technical skills in your job description then you should be able to contribute where you need to. For example, I take part in code reviews where it’s appropriate and I also represent technical expertise as a proxy for my team. The third skill is the ability to work with nebulous guidance and help the team understand what needs to be done without a lot of hand holding. As the TPM, you are the one creating the roadmaps so you need to be able to create the view of the project against which your team can execute.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding?
“I would say the biggest challenge is the large client ecosystem. It’s complicated even for some of the most senior people on the team. The client has created a lot of great self-service tools but there isn’t always the best documentation to provide guidance. For example, getting approval can take longer than the task itself since getting access to tools is out of your control.
As far as the most rewarding aspect, I enjoy working with smart, engaging, and competent people that get stuff done. Employees that have a bias towards action are people that I enjoy working with. Being on a technical team and working with the developers is rewarding to me because I get to contribute to the technical aspect of the project when needed.”
What are you most excited about for 2021 in terms of projects?
“I touched on this earlier, but I think I am most excited about the global impact potential that this project has for our client. Where our team can go and the potential to expand our footprint is what excites me. It feels like coming into a start-up from the ground floor.”
What remote management tips can you give our audience?
“I have a few different strategies that I use. One of them is to follow the sun when you are working on a distributed team so that you can hand-off work to the awake team. Another tactic is to give specific types of work to the remote team while blending all people on the team as if everyone is remote. Having dedicated virtual rooms with video feeds on can also give a sense of availability to your employees.
However, there is no one size fits all strategy for each team. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches because one thing might not work for everyone. Giving your employees the opportunity for feedback until you find what is right for that team is really important.”