Running Your First Digital Project

New to digital project management? Well, so am I!

This past fall, I joined Viget as their first Digital Project Manager (DPM) Apprentice. During that 10-week crash course in project management, I had the opportunity to manage my first project.

Throughout the apprenticeship, I shadowed Senior Project Manager, Amanda, learning the ins and outs of her projects. Then, after about a month of shadowing Amanda’s projects, I took on my first project to oversee from start to finish.

Speaking with Amanda and Sam (completely nervous) pre-Apprenticeship

I learned a lot from this experience, particularly as someone new to a digital agency and project management. If you are in a similar boat as I and are starting off with your career in project management, I have a few takeaway lessons from that first project to share.

1. Figure out what works for you (and your project)...

Training in your agency’s process and tools is incredibly important. But, there will definitely come a time when one of those tools simply doesn’t work for you. The purpose of these tools and processes is to make the project run smoother for you and your team. If one of these things is failing you, ask your fellow project managers how they have tackled the problem in the past. Or, go with your organizational gut and try something new. For me, it was learning that interacting with Waffle boards stresses me out. Now, I rock Github Issues with Waffle on the side.

2. ...and stick with that.

Once you have found your organizational groove, stay there! Make good habits now because your second, third, and fourth projects are right around the corner. Your future self will thank you for all of that work you put in during your first project tweaking templates and organizing files when you can duplicate that process in future projects. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should be averse to a process change in the future -- change is good, but you have to start somewhere!

3. Don't be afraid to lean on your team.

On your first project, your team will likely be your best source of information and learning. And they won’t only be great about teaching you about UX or code, they also will be able to help you with finding the right project process. Remember: your team has been on more projects at your agency than you -- and they have experienced what works and what doesn’t. Have these kinds of conversations with your team at the onset of the project by asking questions like:

“I was thinking about implementing [x] process, in your experience, has [x] worked well in the past?”

“What kind of relationship do you expect with a PM throughout a project? What can I do to make this project run smoother for you?”

4. And lastly, share your experience.

Your perspective as a new project manager is something to be taken advantage of while your first experiences are still fresh. Having trouble grasping a process or see a clearer way to get something done? Share that experience back with your peers and ask about how they have dealt with that challenge in the past. Not only does this clarify the training process with your peers, but it could also help the next person who comes on board next. As the newest addition to a team you’re uniquely suited to shed light from which a new hire can benefit. Don’t let that fresh perspective go to waste!

After the end of my apprenticeship, I joined Viget as a full-time project manager. Building upon the foundation laid during my apprenticeship, I was able to manage those second, third, and fourth projects that were just around the corner.

Becca manages digital projects from our Falls Church, VA, HQ for clients such as Khan Academy and the Lupus Foundation of America.

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