Recently Project Managers from Agiliway participated in the IT Breakfast organized by Chernivtsi IT Cluster. We talked to Alina Slavska, one of the PMs who were presenting at the event, and asked her to share her journey in the software development industry and how she handles stressful situations and scope creep.
Alina, tell us please how and why did you decide to become a PM?
My journey in the IT world started 5 years ago. I started as Lead Generation, however, I realized that this was not actually what I wanted to do. And when I got the opportunity to work as an assistant to a company’s leading Project Manager, I immediately switched. We had plenty of interesting projects in various domains utilizing a large scope of technologies. That’s when I saw that Project Management is something I’d like to pursue. And 5 years later here I am.
When did you join Agiliway? What impacted your decisions to become part of the team?
I have been working with Agiliway for 1 year now. The company was looking for a replacement for a Project Manager who had two smaller projects at the time. Yet, when one of them started growing fast, Agiliway decided to have separate managers. And that’s when I got on board.
My decision to join the company was almost immediate as I loved the interviewing process. I felt that Agiliway shares the same values I do. I love the equality policy and friendly atmosphere. It’s very comfortable to talk to people here and the attention and attitude you get from the senior staff are great. Moreover, the way that processes and communication are built here is something that attracts me.
Of course, I had certain anxiety when accepting the offer as I had to relocate to Lviv from Uzhhorod in the middle of a pandemic.
What makes a good Project Manager?
Having a clear understanding of how to build processes on the project is, in my opinion, one of the most crucial elements of successful Projects Management. It looks very easy when you read about that, however, putting that into practice is a lot more complicated and complex. Thus, one of the key elements that are a sign of a good PM is great organization skills. I believe that it is even not a skill but more of a personal trait. If you are an organized person, then you are most definitely organized in all aspects of your life.
Secondly, time management is inextricably linked to the successful Project Management process. I try to make a schedule for my meetings for a week. And I always make sure I have space for meetings when someone needs to talk to me urgently. This way I don’t have much stress, because I know when and how to arrange that. Planning is something I widely use in my private life as well. It’s just when you have at least a rough idea of how your day is going to look like, then it will be way easier and smooth.
And last but not least is the ability to cope with stress. Sometimes, things may not go as planned and it is important to handle the situation in the best way possible, so it doesn’t have much effect on a project and a team.
How do you choose developers/team members for a project? What skills and qualities do they need to possess?
I’m not talking about the tech aspect, as this is by default a must-have. I like people in my team to be sociable, easy-going, and speak their minds. I had a case in my career when a person worked in a team for three months and never said something was wrong. And then, out of a sudden, comes up and starts pouring with negative thoughts on how bad everything is.
I wouldn’t also want to deal with arrogance in my team. When a person says that they’ll do everything by themselves and so on, that is the red flag for me. That often means that person will have a hard time cooperating with other team members.
At IT Breakfast you talked about scope creep on the projects. Could you tell few words about that?
Having scope creep is always challenging. It usually appears during the development process when unpredictable things occur. For example, when adding new features, the system disrupts, and more and more issues arise. It’s like a snowball. And you should make prompt decisions and fix those issues until they put you behind the schedule.
How do you analyze and manage risks?
The easiest risks to cope with are the ones you’ve experienced before. So, when you have a project with similar features, you know what to expect, what may go wrong, and how to handle that. When it’s something new, of course, analyzing possible risks gets more complicated. Yet, with a good team and proper communication things get solved and become another experience.
Risks vary, maybe rather small but have a strong impact on the system we develop, on our clients, and their customers. For example, the change of priorities can be quite risky in the long run. When a team spends a month developing a feature, and the client contacts and says they’ve changed their mind regarding the priority of this feature, that certainly has an impact on the team and their mood. You, as a PM, should know how to fix this and encourage the team to continue.
When talking about more significant risks, I shall mention information security. At least, this is something that is viewed as the major when it comes to developing software that keeps a lot of personal information. In my case, this is a medical project, hence, we have access to the medical data of the patients. So, this is our utmost priority to make sure no leak is possible.
More risks appear when it’s decided to introduce a feature or design change, do additional refactoring, or change data models, for example. In my case, wrong data migration can cause a lot of problems for end-users, such as incorrect programs for recovery. Having such an experience (not in production), future processes have been planned in such a way to properly migrate all the data, and test that migration without disrupting the system’s operations.
What shall be done to avoid mistakes when managing a project?
First of all, proper estimation is one of the keys to successful Project Management. When you know there is enough time for analysis, development, testing, etc. the process is most likely to run smoothly. Of course, there may be complications. But a PM can see them before it goes to the point of no return.
Secondly, communication with the team and the client. When the communication process is established in such a way that when you come to the meeting and you know what to deliver to the team or the client, this comprises a large part of the project’s success.
And, finally, focusing on the solutions to the problems rather than stressing out about them. Once you are a PM, you shall be resilient, supportive to the team, and open to talk whenever there is something to discuss.