Rooting for the Underdog
In the world of web projects, content, design, and development often get all the glory. These efforts are visibly evident in the final product, but would the product even exist without effective project management?
“It can be a thankless job,” says Mackenzie Reynolds, project manager with Digital Wave. “People are focused on the work, but there’s this whole realm of project management that can make or break everything.”
Of all the services Digital Wave offers, project management is the one that’s consistent throughout everything that we do. From small tweaks to huge redesigns, PMs drive our work to ensure it’s on time, on budget, and above expectations. Despite the lack of thanks at times, Mackenzie has found some satisfaction in completing these tasks during her eight years with Digital Wave.
“I’m a problem solver,” she says. “I like being able to cross things off of to-do lists. You can do that with project management.”
One thing on her to-do list recently included attending the 10th Annual Digital PM Summit. “This was my first virtual conference, and I had no idea what to expect. Everything was so well-executed, and it was interesting and validating to hear from other peers in the field.”
Key Digital PM Summit Takeaways
Mackenzie summarized her most valuable learnings from the summit into four key takeaways:
1. Communicate effectively
One of Mackenzie’s favorite presentations was by Allie Thorpe, a digital project manager and website building professional currently working with DevCollaborative. Allie discussed adapting Dr. Gary Chapman’s five love languages in a professional setting to foster effective communication with internal and external teams. Prior to the session, participants took a love language quiz to identify their communication style. During the session, they reflected on how their preferences could impact their approach to professional communication and discussed specific tactics that they could implement in the workplace.
“People are more receptive if you can determine their preferred, safe-for-work love language,” Mackenzie says. “This got all of us thinking about different methods of effective communication, including positive affirmations, quality time (in person or virtually), acts of service (e.g., protecting people’s time, assisting with tasks, helping prioritize work), and recognition.”
2. Communicate efficiently
Keynote speaker and YouTube Creator Stuart Taylor (check out, “Why the World Needs Project Managers“) managed to compare project management to creating YouTube channel content. One of his main points stressed defining a clear goal for everything that you communicate, including starting emails with a summary to set expectations (e.g., “In this email, you will learn…”) and always having a clear agenda and script for every meeting. Timed agendas, he said, are especially key to keep things on track and be respectful of everyone’s time.
3. Protect yourself from burnout
BRIO Head of Project Management Lara Diorio addressed a topic near and dear to every PM’s heart: burnout. A good PM strives to protect their team from burnout, but they can lose sight of their own wellbeing in the process. Lara provided some practical tips and advice for PMs to set boundaries and manage client expectations.
“As problem solvers and often fixers, project managers have a tendency to want to take things on ourselves,” Mackenzie says. “I myself feel the need to respond to clients right away, regardless of what time I may send an email back. This session reminded me that I can draft an email at night and send it in the morning to show clients that yes, I’m on it, but I’m not going to set a precedent of communicating outside of business hours.”
4. Keep improving
In addition to efficient communications, keynote Stuart Taylor recommended utilizing continuous evaluation to keep improving throughout the project. Instead of only conducting a project post-mortem and applying lessons to the next project in the queue, project teams can review performance and make adjustments as they’re doing the work. PMs can help initiate ways to track and judge personal performance against project goals and needs. And of course, improving your skills via classes, training, conferences, and summits can help everyone gain perspective and implement new strategies and tools for improvement.
Making Connections and Sharing the Experience
“In addition to the presentations and sessions, getting to know your peers and forming connections was a big part of the summit,” Mackenzie says.
To help initiate conversation, the summit featured 1:1 workshops where participants paired off and practiced communication exercises. Instead of leaving attendees to partner up in the chaotic world of group chats, the hosts set up separate rooms with random partners and prompts to keep the activities going. During the social events, organizers created small rooms by topic (personal and professional) so people could network and/or enjoy more casual discussions.
“I was so impressed with how organized and personable it felt,” Mackenzie says. “It was really reaffirming to hear what other people are doing outside of Digital Wave. I’m glad I could have this experience and share what I learned with everyone.”
And for that, Mackenzie, we thank you.