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My First Project Manager Job

I know people see the word Project Manager and get excited but I honestly didn’t know what that was until one of my tech friends brought it up to me earlier this year.

For those that do not know, a Project Manager is equivalent to a Movie Director. The director takes the script and creates this vision for how it will look on film. The director is also responsible for managing all different aspects of the film like making sure the actors and crew are doing what they need to do to execute the vision. And that last sentence is EXACTLY what a project manager does — make sure everyone is doing what they need to do to execute the vision.

Now that we got that out the way. Let’s talk about how I got my first project manager job. So you guys know that I have been a teacher for the last 5 years and I have an interest in a variety of things — web design, social media, vlogging, blogging, and the like. Well, one of my dearest friends has been pushing me to get more involved in tech because in her exact words “that’s where the money at.” She works in Cybersecurity making well into six figures and just completed her first semester as a Cybersecurity professor at a community college in South Florida. So yes, she is DEFINITELY where the money at.

She started telling me that with my experience and skills, I could probably get into the tech field as a project manager. She started to give me some insight on what the different project managers she has been able to work with have done and then encouraged me to do some research. And I did just that.

So I revamped my resume to make it more “tech-friendly” by using industry language and highlighting all the things I don’t share within my usual teacher resume. That consisted of me going on LinkedIn and looking up people who are currently working as project managers and working in the tech field to see what they are doing so I can pull from there. Funny enough, I did all that and still didn’t apply for any project manager jobs.

Until May 2021. One of the assistant principals at the school I was working at sent out a mass email with a job opening for this STEM program based in California. The position that was being promoted was for a summer “Entrepreneurship” instructor. I figured, since I was currently teaching Economics and introducing my students to entrepreneurship, this could be the perfect transition out of the classroom as I figure out the next moves in my life.

So I re-edited my resume to make it more “Educator” focused and I applied for the position. When I finished applying, I looked to see what other openings they had and one of them was for a Project Manager. I read the job description and was like, I can actually do this. So I applied with my “Project Manager” resume and received an email THE SAME DAY to schedule an interview. Like, how the position I applied to second hit me up first lol. 

I interviewed with one of the sweetest people ever and was invited to attend a group interview. Please note, all of these interviews AND the position is remote/virtual. I joined the group interview and it was like speed dating. We were asked questions individually and in groups and then we were broken up into breakout rooms to work together and then come back to the main room to present. It was just happening so fast and within a second, it was over.

A week after the interview, I received this email.

I was bummed out because I felt like it would have been a great stepping stone into the industry while still being in education. Now that I was officially done teaching, I told myself that I am going to remove distractions from my life so I can focus on my entrepreneurship journey and figure out how to bring in some money. So I removed myself from social media, put my energy into moving into my new home, and then took it one day at a time.

Then three weeks later, I got an email. 

Yall, I started dancing, screaming, and was in utter shock. I felt like I was told I won a Grammy. What really had me shook was the pay. We were set to get paid weekly and one week’s paycheck would be equivalent to almost two of my teaching paychecks and I got paid twice a month. If you’re a numbers person, I would be getting paid $2k a week ($8k/month) and my teacher salary was $1,700 every two weeks ($3,400/month). I don’t know how much you guys are getting paid but this was LOVELY to me. Like, I was about to get paid more to do less. I think I could live like this.

Anyways, I accepted the offer and the complete contract was for 6 weeks. The first week was staff training. The second week was intern training. The remaining four weeks were the actual project my team of interns had to tackle. In short, we were tasked with creating data visualization boards for a biotech company. In training, we learned about Miro (a digital collaboration platform) and Figma (a collaborative interface design tool). However, when it was time to build the data visualization boards, we realized we would need to use a different design tool so that was another hurdle we had to tackle but we did the damn thing.

I’m not going to lie to you and make it seem like this experience was a breeze. I was overwhelmed starting day one. Everything was moving so fast. There was language being used that I did not understand. And then there was a curriculum — The Design Sprint — that I needed to learn because that was the process my team had to use to execute this project. It just felt like so much was being thrown at me and I just needed to figure it out on my own. I felt like quitting WEEK ONE!! And if you know anything about me, I will leave a job if it is not what I thought it was going to be. 

But I pushed through and I am happy I did. All I remember is my supervisor — the person who sent me those emails — telling me “just breathe and create the experience you feel your interns need to be successful”. Once she said that a lightbulb clicked and I went into my groove. I started creating daily and weekly schedules that outlined everything our team needed for success. All i’s were dotted and all t’s were crossed. So much so, take a look at my performance evaluation.

My supervisor told me that she has never given anyone a perfect score on an evaluation. She told me her management team was not sure if I would do well in this type of project manager position because my teaching background may push me to teach the interns instead of coach the interns. I’m happy to say I exceeded their expectations and I am happy my supervisor took that risk in bringing me on board. 

If there is any advice I can give to someone interested in getting in project manager, I would say this:

  • Ask questions for clarity and repeat what was clarified
    • Seems like a lot but that helps you make sure you understand what is asked of you 
  • Organize the calendar/schedule
    • There are so many moving parts in working on a project and schedule management is essential so everyone can be on the same page
  • Be Flexible
    • Things happen and you need to adjust accordingly
  • Cover Your Ass in emails
    • Emails are receipts and if it wasn’t in an email, the transaction/interaction never happened
  • Take notes in meeting (and record them if you can)
    • We’re human! We forget even when we know. 

And that ladies and gentlemen, was my first project manager job experience. I still plan to do more project manager contracts. I have been actively looking for them but no luck – yet. If you’re a project manager, how has your experience been? 

Until Next Time,

LOLA THE MANAGER

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