Life as a Senior Digital Project Manager

Have you ever wondered what life as a Digital Project Manager is really like here in Bristol? What does it take to become a PM and to stay top of the game?

In this context, we caught up with Rob Matthews, Development Director (previously Senior Digital Project Manager) at Create Health to give you a little more insight – if you are considering a career within Tech or are planning on adding an expert to your team – you can find some first-hand perception right here.

ADLIB: In approx. 30 words what does your role involve?

Rob Matthews: Getting products and services out the door and used by real people. Making sense of a diverse team and different and personalities. Getting shit done.

ADLIB: What has been your career highlight so far?

Rob Matthews: Early in my career somehow managing to launch an application used by half the schools in England. A highlight in that it worked out well in the end. A lowlight in that launch day could have gone better if the application had 3 months longer to bake, and therefore launched in a fashion that was not ideal. A lot of late nights and learnings on that project.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what is a typical day like for you? (…if there is such thing)

Rob Matthews: Get in, check emails and slack to make sure nothing is on fire, with the team to check everything is moving along nicely, and unblock where appropriate. Review budget burndowns, cards left in Trello, review against plans. Then likely a client call, a meeting, maybe reviewing work so far. Inevitably being the calm one keeping everything ticking over and looking to the future. Every day will be different in some respects, which is why it’s difficult to get bored as long as there are projects running.

ADLIB: What do you like most about your role?

Rob Matthews: The opportunity to work across many different clients, teams, projects. I’ve worked on projects and brands in my career that from the outside should be really intimidating, but as time has gone on I’ve come to realise that it’s a job that if you like working with many people to solve problems then you’re probably in a good place. It’s good to talk, to sort problems, all together as a team.

ADLIB: What do you see as the top 3 skills it takes to become a Digital Project Manager?

Rob Matthews: While you can learn planning, processes, technical knowledge etc, my view is it’s all about attitude and having honesty, compassion and bravery.

You need to be honest with your team, your clients, the wider community. Honesty builds transparency, which a lack of will kill your projects. Being the one to ask the difficult question, to point out a flaw, to get real.

Compassion – you need to be able to work with a team effectively, and also be compassionate to the end-user, and use that as a guiding light to what you help prioritise and deliver. Without this, you’ll end up with a burned-out team, a poor client relationship or an unhappy user.

Bravery – because it’s pretty scary when things are not going according to plan, but you have to grit your teeth and own the problem because often no one else will do it for you. It’s not a job you can hide from.

ADLIB: What top tip would you give someone to ensure that their skills and knowledge as a PM remain top-notch?

Rob Matthews: If you are ever working somewhere that you’ve stopped learning new things or become complacent then consider moving on. While you can do courses, read blogs, attend meetups (all of which are valuable), PM skills are mainly built with experience. If you’re doing the same cookie-cutter projects over and over, it’s time to consider your options.

Thanks for sharing, Rob!

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