5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Project Management

I started at EMC around six months ago as part of the Marketing Development Program (MDP), just a month after graduating from Colby College. With no business background to speak of (save a few economics classes) I jumped headfirst into the world of project management at EMC. Here’s what I wish I had known when I started---though I certainly have a lot more to learn.

It’s the People, Stupid

When I first started, I went after the tasks at hand, attempting to check off as many boxes as possible by myself. Soon, however, I had to ask others to contribute or answer certain questions, and I ran into a huge wall gathering contributions and responses. Project managing, in the end, has little to do with tasks and everything to do with the people in charge of completing them. I couldn't figure out why people wouldn't bend over backwards to do what I wanted and to help me achieve my goals. Operative words: me, I, my, mine. I didn't realize that in order to move things along, I needed to show others what was in it for them,  making their lives as easy as possible, not mine. Once I clarified the objectives of the project and how it would help them or their team, collaboration truly began.

Money, Money, Money

We all know money makes the world go 'round, but I had no idea how budgeting worked (having barely ever had to balance my own budget, but that’s a different post-collegiate learning experience). There are so many systems, acronyms, and details to remember. Without the purse strings, there’s no project. Whether you are raising the POs or not, I would strongly recommend staring the beast down in the face--Aprimo, Propel, SRM form, POs, SOWs, budget spreadsheets, etc.—because at the end of the quarter, you’ll be the one breathing easy instead of running around like a madwoman.

Organize. Everything.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I got a few months in was to organize my inbox. Now I work smarter and better. I’ve separated my inbox into sub folders by project, plus one for development, and a “shout-outs” folder. That one is my favorite. When the going gets tough I can read through all the love and support from a job well done. I still keep about 20 emails in my inbox---anything waiting for a response or that hasn’t been resolved---and that way I can find anything I need right away or remember to follow up. Then, when I do move something from my inbox into those folders, I can breathe a sigh of relief, since I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Find Your Yoda

As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

And in order to do, you must learn! It took me a while to realize I couldn't always do everything myself. It also took me a while to realize it didn't make me weak or stupid to ask for help—the opposite! Projects move more smoothly when I know what I’m doing (fancy that!). Find your Yoda to show you the path, whether that’s budget systems, Excel VLOOKUPs, or project management in general. Chances are, there are people on your team that can show you a thing or two. I’ve met so many talented and intelligent people here at EMC. And so many have taken time out to teach me what they know. All I had to do was ask.

Pause and Reflect

I tend to whirlwind around my life from one thing to another. I like to move fast and get things done quickly. It’s how I survived juggling coursework, varsity athletics, and other extracurricular activities at Colby. Unfortunately, this tends to bite me in the butt when it comes to project management. It took a long time to learn (and I’m still learning on this one) how to pause and reflect. As you might imagine, my first projects had their fair share of road bumps---but going over what to do better next time—and then documenting it with your project team--- was a valuable exercise that I would recommend to anyone at any level of experience. Not only did I learn about what I didn't know, but I learned how I had grown, and how my team perceived the process of the project as well.

And so, I challenge all of you to do the same: pause and reflect!

Comment below with things you wish you had known at the start of your tenure---I could certainly use some more advice!

This post was originally featured on the Program & Project Management group on Inside EMC, EMC's internal collaboration platform.