053 – What if I told you that you were a PM all along?
This episode we talk with one of our amazing listeners, Josh Mildren, who shares his story about how he became a project manager – or rather, how he realized he was a project manager all along. Like a lot of our Happy Hour listeners, Josh was looking for new ways to address challenges his organization was struggling with, and found that a pragmatic approach using Project Management principles has a huge impact – so much so, that it propelled him to employee of the year! Congrats Josh!
Join us as Josh shares his journey – one that we think a lot of Happy Hour listeners can identify with! We’ll talk about how to recognize how and when to leverage Project Management disciplines in your job – and how to recognize if you are, actually, a Project Manager even if that’s not your official job title.
ABOUT OUR AMAZING GUEST JOSH MILDREN
Josh Mildren has been working in helpdesk services for 15 years and has been a Client Onboarding Engineer for the past 2 and half years with Dataprise out of Rockville MD. Josh has taken his experience with helpdesk support, client services and documentation to provide new client information and expectations of support services to his company, while setting up managed solutions and monitoring support services for their new clients. In order to ensure our clients have a smooth transition, Josh trains both his TEC staff and the client on submitting issues, reports and escalations and answer questions all while trying to meet Go-Live dates for support.
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Josh’s Story [3:55]
Josh moved to Maryland and immediately received a job as an onboarding engineer at Dataprise. After about 6 months, Josh felt like he didn’t know what he was doing, and found it difficult to organize all the documentation for every new and different client. He started to look into time and task management tools to help, when he came across our podcast at Project Management Happy Hour. He noticed after listening to our podcast about meetings (How to Run a Meeting- and not waste everyone’s time), and found that he was lacking an agenda for his meeting. When he started implementing this, he saw results immediately.
When he started asking Project Management questions, he started to get far greater clarity about what he needed to do and what was expected.
He started to listen to more of our podcasts, came into the office, and became extremely successful in his work in a matter of months. He found that the tools of project management he learned from our podcast enabled him to go from feeling like he didn’t know what he was doing, to becoming employee of the month months in a row, and excelling in his position.
In the last months, his company has relabeled his department as “Project Managers” rather than “Engineers,” the department has gone from 1 to 4 PMs, and his whole department continues to learn as they continue to Project Manage.
What is the most valuable business lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? [12:22]
Josh said one of the most difficult lessons he learned was learning how the definitions and terminology change in project management. Growing as a project manager meant changing some of his preconceived notions about what “complete” and “done” means in a project, and that these depend on internal departments, the expectations of clients, and more.
Another lesson he learned the hard way was to follow up. He learned that following up specifically with your team, and not only this, it’s the easiest way to have clients lose confidence. Being able to also redefine the definition of “following up” helped him to redefine and strengthen the relationships he had with clients and others within his company.
Red Pill or Blue Pill: Being a Project Manager all along [14:30]
A lot of times, a path to a career in Project Management isn’t a straight line. Listening to how other guests on our show came to become project management, often from completely different backgrounds or unintentionally, Josh was able to embrace Project Management as something that not only something that he had been doing all along, but something he was.
This change of mindset, from engineer to Project Management, enabled him to change how he was doing things, to change the process by which he managed.
Subject Expert to Project Management: Tools That Help [18:36]
Josh was first looking for tools to help him manage projects, he first searched for things that allowed him to manage his time and tasks better. Through this, he was able to use things like task based application to help organize and grow. From this, he used Project Lead Right, and from this, learned how to create a proper timeline, and understand how to provide clients with accurate information about the completion of projects.
Ultimately, these tools helped things to start to run smoother, and introduced him to looking into other resources and advise instrumental in his success. From Youtube to our own podcast, Josh used these pieces of advice to learn how to negotiate and talk to clients, how to have crucial conversations, and more.
What do you feel were the most important soft skills in your development as a Project Manager? [22:02]
Being able to delegate and assign tasks, even if they were tasks which he could technically do, was one of the most important soft skills Josh found became important as his role transitioned. Being able to communicate with the right people and the right teams for change, has been a struggle for Josh as well, but important to being a PM.
Management in Project Management [23:27]
Coming from an individual contributor to managing other individual contributor is a very important transition into PM. There are so many styles of management out there, and it can be scary to go from focusing only on your own work to actually being the authority figure driving that work.
Transition to Project Management: Closing in Project Management [26:20]
Having the understanding of all of these project management concepts and terminology helped Josh with meeting deliverables and communicating- but he still struggled with putting a project to an end and closing it. This is a stark difference between the perspective of engineering, which tends to hold onto relationships of partners, to the mindset of project managing, on effectively having a project finished both in the eyes of the client and the project team.
A key aspect of Project Management is establishing very strongly what success looks like to the client, and what the expected results are, and it’s one of the most challenging parts of the profession.
Transition to Project Management: Conversations [32:55]
Being able to have conversations with people high positions within his own and other organization was really tough for Josh at first. Having a plan and script really helped Josh to have smoother conversations, and this is a very valuable tool to use, whether you’re just starting to have these conversations and struggles, or are an experienced PM. Role play and talking things out with other people are other tools you can use to hone this conversational skill, which is something that is continually important to being a successful Project Manager.
Transition to Project Management: Conversations: Resources [35:47]
Josh finds podcasts to be #1 in his “Resource Arsenal”, and from this finds a group of like minded individual that helps him to workshop skills and develop ideas and skills.
Recap: from technical role to project manager [40:40]
-have a clear idea of terminology
-have a “there must be a better way” mentality
-going from an individual contributor to a leader
-having difficult crucial conversations
You might be in trouble if… [44:42]
-You think you’re escalating an issue but you’re actually assigning a task
-Spending 90% of your time looking for a magic solution
Principals for success [45:55]
- Use templates provided from your resources
- Free your mind- don’t overthink everything
Why you should go for the Project Management role [48:30]
Josh discusses how, given the opportunity, he wouldn’t go back to his previous role as an engineer. He suggests for people who are in his previous dilemma, or trying to decide between engineering or a more technical role and project management, to go for Project Management. It’s a role that’ll challenge you, but also take you so far in your career.
Good Tools [49:08]
Josh discusses how PM Happy Hour and Project Academy in PMI are tools that have helped him in his journey.