15/02/2016 by sunshine

A day in the life of a project manager



“This is great, we love it! We love your style. But can you try a thinner, black line. Make the picture a little lighter. No wait, a little darker. Lots more color… and maybe lose the texture. I think we should move the layout around a bit. And maybe if you could make the characters look more normal… localize it… but have them wear a tie instead, that would be great. It shouldn’t be too difficult, so we need it by the end of the day.”


I close my eyes, breathe deeply and count to 100 (this gives me time to look longingly out my window and down the concrete pavement from the 11th floor of Swiss Tower)…

Don’t get me wrong, my working day is not usually this crazy or funny. Oftentimes, it’s crazier and funnier. It’s filled with chaos and proposals and projects and noise and chocolates and coffee. And laughter. Tons and tons of laughter. Explaining the insanity that goes on in the agency is a daunting task. But I especially love this particular brand of crazy. As I am stickler for structure and my life is synonymous to lists, I’d share my thoughts going forward just like that.


1. The life of a project manager and more

What do I do, you ask? I’m a hybrid. No, not a vampire-werewolf hybrid (I wish). I am a Digital Project Manager / Client Engagement Manager / Account Manager / Breakfast Orderer / Happily Demented Person. And what do I do in a day? Well… I sometimes ask myself that question. I spend a lot of time tracking budgets and schedules, managing scope, creating project plans, meetings, writing proposals, contracts, talking and calming clients down, ordering breakfast (and food in general), managing a team to successful project completion in between laughing crying-and-some-combination-of-hysteria while downing 2 Nutella crepes and vanilla ice cream. In other words, I eat get stuff happen in the digital world.


2. You’re A-game requires focusing on quick wins

A typical day in the agency usually starts with someone screaming saying in a high pitched voice, “I want coffee!! Did you order breakfast?!”. After ordering breakfast and “how are you’s” and stories of “my dog peed all over my carpet this morning!”, we officially start another challenging and exciting day. I start by plowing through and answering the emails (in between mouthfuls of eggs benedict) which have somehow found their way to my inbox in between the time I left the office, had dinner, slept and woken up. I pick out the ones that are urgent and need response. Because, hey—you gotta focus on quick wins. Always quick wins first. I then check my diary to see if I had remaining items I did not get done yesterday (and perhaps the day before that) and then plan and organize the day. I quickly discuss and review with the team the creative and tech deliverables for the day, check if we are still on track or if there are other items that are not on schedule but need to be done.


3. A phone call a day keeps the doctor away

Now that I’ve gotten the day’s plan out of the way, I then go to the front lines of war client contact. It’s time to do calls, follow ups and get clarification on anything and everything that are better discussed over the phone than on email. Emails are a great invention, however, a phone call has an advantage in that it saves a lot of time and frustration over sending emails back and forth to clarify something. It is also more personal and the client feels they are better taken care of when you speak with them. Even though some clients can be a dream to work with while some can be a nightmare, my job is to keep all of them happy and feel loved. The fact that they all still have their necks attached to their body is proof of my capacity for love 😀


4. Don’t forget to eat

I’ve probably scheduled a meeting or two within the day, prior to which, a lot of preparation would have happened. It could be a meeting to present a proposal, negotiate costs, look over scope and specifications or it could be a weekly meeting to check on where we are with the project, problems, potential delays or go through iterations of a creative or feedback for a website. Because I handle multiple projects at the same time, reviewing for meetings is always important to avoid the “wait- which-project-are-we-talking-about” look.

Then it would be time for a well-deserved lunch break. Whether it’s a quick 15-minute break or an hour spent feeding the seagulls by the lake (sorry JLT), lunch is always a fun catch up with the pinkies. There’d be Dr. Karthik chillin’ like a villain on the bean bag, Pedram saying “Cool, cool, cool” a hundred times a day, Ana banana going, well, bananas, or Kristine’s loud, boisterous and infectious laugh. Lunch always serves as a reset from the morning’s busyness and to prep for an even more crazy afternoon.


5. The work piles up, there’s always more

After being absent from my inbox, it is now time to look through them again which have now amazingly doubled in figure. There would then be the meetings I prepared for in the morning, at the end of which, I would make sure that my notes are in order and everything that needs to be actioned on is communicated and documented to all involved parties. Or there would be brainstorming sessions to attend, proposals to write, crepes to order (have I mentioned we eat a lot in this agency), deliverables to send out to clients, jokes to loudly laugh at and the seemingly endless tasks that always seem to pop up out of nowhere.
The day usually ends with making sure the deliverables (I seem to be using deliverables a lot. Thesaurus fail) are done, making a few notes and planning for the next day.


6. The life of a project manager and more, served with crazy

You probably have noticed that there isn’t a lot of time for Facebook surfing and nail filing. There are always so many things going on in the life of a hybrid PM. Ensuring that a project is successfully delivered is a daunting task. And it doesn’t stop there. Project Managers own the project from inception to go live and beyond. As PM, you are the glue that holds the project together, the eye in the hurricane of chaos. You influence people, anticipate and resolve issues, see the big picture. You cast vision and lead the team by serving so that they can follow and be empowered to successfully deliver their best possible work. If you’re lucky enough, you get to be surrounded by fun, crazy and talented individuals who make every working day an exciting one. And despite the everyday project chaos and stress, the love for what I do doesn’t go away. And also the crazy. That doesn’t go away either.




About sunshine

Yes, Sunshine is her real passport name and is a shoe addict. But Shine is so much more than her Imeldific footwear collection. Graduated Cum Laude with a degree in BSc Information Technology and with her tiger-like prowess and determination, you can be sure she can achieve anything she puts her mind and heart into. When she wasn’t dancing, she used her strong will and iron fist to successfully have various projects move forward at warp speed for multinational organizations.


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Office 2203 Reef Tower
Cluster O, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
P.O. Box 28258, Dubai
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