In the first part of our series where we show you what it takes to become a particular role/ job in London’s Marketing, Advertising and Digital Agencies, Charles Day talks to us about how to become a Digital Project Manager. If you want to find out how to be a project manager or progress your career read on. If you want to share your story in the same way let us know…
Charles Day is a Freelance Digital Project Manager.
“I have been an ‘X’ level Digital Project Manager (PM) on and off for about 10 years, where ‘X’ has stood for Mid-weight and Senior. Eventually it will mean Super-Senior or Old-Senior or something! Having said that, I don’t think I was ever a Junior Project Manager. As far as I can see there is no standard route into digital project management and there doesn’t seem to be a specific course or prior career path that will lead you to being a PM. I can, however, tell you how I did it and you can draw your own conclusions.
Stage 1 – Train as a database designer/ analyst.
Overall, my career can be summarised as an evolution based on ‘solutions to make my life easier’. I started as a graduate in telesales for a medical Business to Business (B2B) publishing company. Four hundred companies on my potential client list, eighty calls a day, two publications a year. I soon realised that the paper based system of storing contacts and leads could be managed more easily as a database so I left that job and re-trained as a database designer/analyst.
This led to work in the public sector where my job was to manually submit queries to an Oracle database on behalf of the managers in the organisation. A typical request would be “How many female students under 18 years old are studying in the first year of the Child care course?”. Running these queries manually by writing SQL was time consuming and frankly rather dull so I built a web interface to simplify the process. Eventually this went into the intranet for the managers to submit their own queries with some drop down boxes. In a way I’d made myself redundant!
Stage 2 – Become a full time web scripter
Within 6 months I stopped being a database analyst at all and became a full time web scripter, which was a bit like being a programmer but not quite as technical. That’s when I moved to my first agency. It wasn’t really an agency though, it was a software training company that also did Mac technical support and built a few websites on the side. I was the only web scripter and when more staff were recruited I became the leader of a small team of developers.
Stage 3 – Lead teams and become a project manager
With that experience under my belt it wasn’t long before I moved to a dedicated web design agency and became a Project Manager and stopped being in charge of the scripting team and started being responsible for the whole project. At the time it seemed like a subtle change.
My day to day activities were basically the same but I was dealing with a more diverse range of skills. Not just the developers but also the designers, copywriters and technical architects. I was also expected to work with an Account Manager.
Stage 4 – Join a ‘proper’ agency
Then the dotcom crash came along and I spent some time in the wilderness, exploring other opportunities, trying other jobs and waiting for the industry to recover. When it did recover, I went back into a role as a PM at a Direct Mail agency which was growing its digital offering. This was my first job in a “proper” agencyand was a real eye-opener. They had briefs, creative directors, a traffic department, QA, Gantt charts and timesheets, to name just a few of the things that were to become the central pillars of my working life.
Up to this point it had all been rather ad hoc. No one really understood what the web agency was supposed to be and it took the dotcom crash and eventual recovery for established agencies to start applying their tried and tested business practices to the work. Digital (or new media as it was called then) isn’t the same as above the line or print or DM but it is still a creative process and a lot of the ways of managing a creative business are applicable regardless of the medium. Up to this point I had been learning how to build the early basic web stuff; now I was learning how to work in a creative agency.”
This was Charles Day’s experience of how he became a Digital Project Manager. If you would like to share your experience in the same way we would love to feature it on our blog. Please contact Annika@wearesource.co.uk or tweet us @wearesource.
If you would like a job as a Digital Project Manager search our latest vacancies or would like to find out how to further your career please contact Emma Hunt; Consultant, Digital Project Management; email@example.com.