Life as a Technical Project Manager

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

In this context, we caught up with Liam Nutting, Technical Project Manager at Dyson 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 as a Technical Project Manager involve?

Liam: I work closely with a range of people who are working toward product launches, managing the flow of work between technical and non-technical teams. Broadly my responsibilities sit within three buckets:

  1. Project planning
  2. Risk and mitigation management
  3. Process development and improvement

ADLIB: What has been your career highlight so far?

Liam: I am a big advocate of helping people grow and develop, so for me, it is seeing someone who I have worked with gain new skills and experience new opportunities. Many people see personal development as this big beast of a challenge, but often it’s just little adjustments and changes that can have a big impact.

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

Liam: While I would say my days are not usually the same, there is a degree of similarity across them. I will often have morning calls with teams in different time zones and gather updates from others. Mid-morning is frequently when a lot of the day’s challenges appear and then the afternoon is often about impact analysis and figuring out which of these new challenges need more focus. A lot of my day is spent away from my desk moving between teams. I’m a big fan of not hiding behind an email and going to speak to someone instead – especially if they don’t sit that far away!

On a good day, when no pressing issues appear, I will switch my focus and catch up on less urgent items as well as look forwards and begin to pre-empt upcoming issues, putting actions in place to stop them from occurring or reducing their impact.

ADLIB: What do you like most about your role?

Liam: As I work across so many teams and at different levels of project maturity no two days (or hours) seem to be the same. Being able to hop between conversations and solve the problems that are appearing is something I really enjoy, combined with being part of shaping how future innovations will launch, meaning there are always opportunities for me to grow and develop.

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

Liam: As a project manager everyone approaches and delivers differently; we all have our own style, techniques and personality traits that will influence how we approach a situation. Looking back on some of the more challenging situations I’ve faced as a project manager three themes rise to the surface.

  1. Get uncomfortable. Tackle a problem head-on, don’t get stuck in the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset and be honest when you don’t know – its not a sign of weakness… Being uncomfortable mostly means you are experiencing something you’re not that good at or haven’t faced before, therefore each time you do it you develop as a person.
  2. Don’t be the expert in the room. Arguably not a skill but more of a self-awareness piece… I am always making a conscious effort to not cross that line and tread on people’s toes. It’s about mutual respect and humility. The teams I work with have the experts in and my role is to bring the right people together, focusing them on the right topic at the right time to keep the project going – don’t let your ego get in the way of a project by thinking you can do someone else’s job.
  3. Adapt how you communicate. I work with such a wide array of people; some are detailed researchers, some are brand new marketing execs and you have everyone in the middle. Being able to adjust and tailor your message so it lands is so important. Everyone communicates in different ways, so for those people you work with closely and regularly, I would recommend you try and learn how they like to be worked with. A little bit of upfront effort will benefit you massively later on.

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

Liam: Take the time to learn from others. See what their strengths and weaknesses are and use that knowledge to help develop yourself. If someone is particularly good at something, try to analyse what makes them good at it and attempt to replicate it. Equally, you can learn just as much from someone who is not good at something by understanding why it is a weakness for them. Once you’ve picked up on something, you can make small incremental changes to the way you work, but make sure you reflect on how these changes are received by others.

Thanks so much for sharing!

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