A look back in time reveals an unnoticed pattern.

September 3, 2013

For years I thought I was working on technologies and product development. But recently I have looked back on my career only to realize that I may not be what I thought I was. In some form or another, I have always been a project manager.

I have been managing projects since before I graduated from college. Granted, many of the first projects were small in size, but they usually included managing budgets, schedules, resources, objectives and restrictions. As any Resident Assistant, Student Government leader can tell you, managing student projects or activities reveals to the organizer a lot about themselves to themselves. In my case it just didn’t sink in right away.

Sometimes I was leading the project, other times I managed only a portion of the project. In almost every project I was involved with, I would be the “go to” guy. This is not because I know everything there is to know (because I don’t), but rather I seem to know how to fill in the gaps. I know how take steps to get a project to completion. One of my clients likes to refer to me as the GSD guy (Get S#^% Done). Up to this point I have been fortunate enough to be able to exercise one of two options to maintain that title. One: find the appropriate person or company to perform the task, or two: teach myself the required skills to complete the task myself. This in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing. The better approach, is to have plan in place prior to reaching the requirement of getting the task finished.

As the people around me are already aware, I am not an emotionally charged person. I am not always very vocal. I tend to take in the situation and conditions before I begin to make decisions and take action. This trait seems to lead itself well to managing a project, where a number of issues could derail success. Having a plan, as well as alternative solutions, allows for quick reaction to changing situations. I had always considered this trait to be the most important for my designs and product development. But now I realize that it is even more critical for project management. Where I am not the sole developer, where teams of experts have to be brought into the project with aligned goals and time lines, this trait has proven the most useful. Where this trait is not very useful is during interviews and self-marketing. But that topic is for another post.

What is the punch line?
Not so much a punch line as it is a moral to the story. I suggest that from time to time, reflect back on your past experiences and how you handled stressful situations. You may find a common thread in all of your actions, roles, natural responses to reveal a side of you hidden from yourself. As someone close to me has recently discovered a natural talent to do business analysis, and market research, a hidden talent can be hard to recognize.