An interview with a project manager

Lucy Fish graduated from Bournemouth University in 2006 with a BA (Hons) in Interactive Media Production. When she secured her first job as a content manager for a graphics company she discovered her passion for management.

What path did you take to become a project manager?I started at a company called Graphico as a contract Content Manager for three months to help localise a site into Arabic. While working there, the Project Manager of the site I was working on walked out. I then worked closely with the Account Director to deliver the project, as there wasn’t time to get another PM in.

While being a Content Manager I worked with the whole team, creative, technical, QA and learnt a lot. As my contract was coming to an end, I started looking for a new job, I got offered one in Bristol and accepted. Then, the Account Director at Graphico offered me a job as permanent Junior Account Executive, which I accepted as I liked the company and the team.

After working as JAE for three months, I then said I wanted to change to Junior Project Manager, so they changed my job title and I became a PM. It went on from there and in six months I was working on projects worth half a million, well above the weight of a junior.

What are the best and worst things about your job?The best thing is, I guess being able to work with lots of different skill sets and learning the industry by doing little bits of everything. While working with creative and technical teams you learn things from them without really knowing it.

There are lots of negative things about being a PM to be honest. It’s stressful and very hard work. If a project goes wrong, it is usually the PM who is blamed. PMs have to have thick skins, you get on people’s nerves and when a tech or creative hates working on the project, you usually hear about it. PMs are always the people in the office who are criticised off the most. ‘PM-ing’ is not for the faint hearted but this is based on working on big corporation projects with big budgets and big risks. Some projects are fun to work on, which changes the whole mood of the team.

What is a typical day in the life of a project manager?Get to work, wait for the resources to come in and brief or chase them. Receive calls from the client with feedback, sign off on work. Write scopes of work, pull budgets and timelines together. Lead creative, tech and team meetings. Meet with clients, get briefs, present our work. Constant e-mail writing.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?Keeping calm under pressure and dealing with problems quickly. Trying not to take your work home with you and worry.

How do you keep up to date with the industry?I guess just by doing my work and at the company we have meetings, presentations about what’s new and people send around emails with news. I generally don’t have time to seek info about the industry; it is generally organic learning from others.

What’s the best advice you can give to people wanting a career in project management?Get as much experience as you can. Make tea if you need to, as experience really matters. It’s scary stuff to begin with and the fear never really goes away but at least you know how to prepare for it.