Beginning a role in Project Management can be an eye-opening experience for the unprepared. Many show up for their first day underdressed and overstressed. Onboarding processes can be dated or non-existent for your new position, leaving you feeling ineffectual at the end of your first week. It is my goal for this guide to help make your transition into a Project Management role go as smoothly and productive as possible, turning you into a rock star team member from Day 1.
When moving into a new role, I find it best to focus on the absolute bare minimum of the position and organically grow into what is needed to get the job done. There’s no magic formula for onboarding as a Project Manager; Immediately diving into ongoing projects and team leadership can lead to costly mistakes and a stressful afternoon. Consider taking it S.L.O.W.
S – Simple – “Keep it simple, stupid.” Start with the absolute basics of first-day employment, regardless of the role: Bring your paperwork, a bagged lunch, and dress for success. Don’t expect to hop into complex spreadsheets or project development, even if you were hired as an emergency fill-in. Remember: Not a single person is expecting much productivity from you on your first couple of days. It is your only chance to make a great first impression on your coworkers though, so keep that in mind.
L – Learn – Learning is the most important part of the onboarding process and is perhaps what companies expect the most out of their new hires. In a Project Management position, there are all sorts of internal tools, processes, and ongoing projects you’ll need to wrap your head around. Learning the basics to get the job done will require much pulling and prodding from your colleagues.
Early on, ask vital questions and figure out the position’s expectations.
- How soon do they want you to run the daily standup?
- Who do I report to and who reports to me?
- How do I access the project database?
- Is there any suggested reading material, like company publications?
- Where’s the IT guru? (Important!)
- How do I contact said IT guru?
Gather all of this information and formulate yourself a learning agenda. Develop a 30 day (or longer, depending) set agenda for personal growth. Find the company processes and policies, research similar practices online, and commit them to heart. Find some blog posts and books, add them to your schedule, and set aside some time every morning for light reading.
At Frogslayer, every developer contributed a book to the ‘knowledge pile’ now sitting on my desk. I’m taking my time with these, going through my reading agenda. If your colleagues are not so eager to pass on their knowledge, casually prod them for their favorite book on the matter.
O – Organic – Let the specifics of the role come naturally to you. Don’t force your way into the role when you’re not ready. An easy way to lose credibility early on with the ones you manage is to wing your way through the company culture and communication style. Remember: Nobody is expecting you to charge head-on into projects without learning about your colleagues and their workflow. There’s subtle nuances within each organization that cannot be explained in words. These can only be learned over time through observation.
W – Workstation – Lastly, get comfortable! Make sure the tools available to you function and that you’re comfortable using them. Set up your screen real estate. Find an internet browser you’re most comfortable using, but also one that is compatible with the company’s internal tools. There are many, many productivity tools out there to utilize. Find out which ones will fit best with your company’s workflow and sign up. I currently use Trello to assist with project planning meetings and a minimalistic Windows 8 app for tracking my personal daily to-dos.
In a management position, it is also very important to make sure your office is inviting and open for others to communicate issues and bounce off ideas. Forbes has a great write-up for the new manager and why they’ll benefit from an ‘open door’ policy.
At Frogslayer, we approach software development a bit differently than other companies. We cater our processes to each client and work with them to craft quality software and next-level product experiences on-time and on-budget. Congratulations on your new role, and much luck to you if you’re thinking of moving into Project Management!
BlogSlayer is the official blog of FrogSlayer, a custom software product development shop in Bryan/College Station, Texas. Our specialty is getting your product to market in 90 days or less. If you would like a free consultation for your project or big idea, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.