The role of a project manager is complex: we manage timelines for tasks, maintain budget of the engagement and assess potential risks, all while creating human-centered relationships with both our internal team and clients.
To most people, this looks like checking off to-dos, poring over spreadsheets and bugging people a lot to make sure deliverables are turned in on time. But being a project manager is much more than just managing clients and tasks.
So, what makes a great project manager?
A great project manager manages the little details with a focus on the big picture. We should be thinking strategically about our clients, their goals and their challenges instead of saying yes to every request that comes our way.
This means that a great project manager knows when and how to tell a client no.
Brendan is 16. He lives in a major US city. He’s thinking about girls and college. He watches football and soccer. He plays video games. He’d rather text than talk on the phone. He’s also exposed to about 5 million ads per year, which he completely ignores. He has a laptop, iPad, smart phone, smart watch, and an Xbox. He’s always connected to more than one device. He’s part of Generation Z. He’s optimistic, and the future is an ever-expanding place that he wants to explore.
He consumes most of his “TV” content across his many devices. He’s never clicked a display ad. He reluctantly has a Facebook profile, but lives on Snapchat, Instagram, and apps that connect to the things he values. He doesn’t trust advertisers or brands.
Instead, he trusts his friends. He doesn’t understand when his experiences aren’t personalized and he’s disappointed when thinking of the lack of offline and online convergence. He expects instant everything, a connected everything.
Way back in 1999, during a strange time of disposable cameras and cargo khaki pants, psychological horror film The Blair Witch Project made its mark on the American film industry. Not only did this little indie film popularize the found-footage film technique and go on to become one of the most profitable films in cinematic history (it grossed 4,000 times its production budget), but The Blair Witch Project also became a game-changer in movie marketing. Its promotional campaign was the first to leverage digital as its primary marketing platform, an incredulous feat when you take into account the internet was still relatively new to the public at the time.
Fast-forward to modern-day movie marketing, and studios continue to leverage the digital resources available to them in their marketing efforts. From Deadpool (2016) and its hilarious use of Tinder and obscene, custom emojis to Carrie (2013) and its now-viral Telekinetic Coffee Shop prank (racking up 66+ million views on YouTube), current movie marketing efforts are slowly but surely entering the digital landscape.
After a few false starts, virtual reality is here in a big way and it is making tidal waves through the entire tech industry. All the major players — Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft — have entire groups dedicated to artificial reality. Outside of the big players there are over 200 other companies, such as Meta and Lytro, working furiously on hardware and content for this new platform.
Long gone are the days of the headache-inducing Nintendo Virtual Boy from the 90s. Today we have VR headsets powered by smartphones — from the super-cheap, DIY Google Cardboard versions to heavy hitters like the Oculus Rift, which connects to a desktop PC.
A project manager’s world can often feel like a mile-wide, inch-deep lake of responsibility. Even one day of juggling multiple projects, diverse clientele and a wide array of internal teams can leave you clinging to your project flow spreadsheet like the life raft it is.
The problem is, our job isn’t just about checking off to-do lists and managing calendars, and when we cling to those processes a little too closely, we can get distracted from real success. Nebo strives to be human-centered in all we do, but in a PM’s world of spreadsheets, calendars and project plans, the struggle to achieve that is real.
So how do we stay human-centered in a career where success is largely measured by deadlines and profitability?