Episode #9 - We're on the lookout for a new Project Manager

Behind the Screens #3: How we manage a flexible project scope on a fixed budget

CookiesHQ are looking for a new Project Manager, so this week Nic and Nat sit down to talk through how we approach new projects and what skills a person might need for the role – offering an insight to the inner workings here at Cookies.

From initial chats over coffee to a successful product launch and all the stages in-between, they chat through the CookiesHQ project management and client on-boarding process. They speak about the importance of communicating with clients in an openly and honestly, the value placed on truly understanding a business’ objectives, and how we cope with any technical hiccups along the way (we’re looking at you, Google!).

They explain how chemistry is key when starting a new project as once we start building we’ll be in near constant communication with a client, so there needs to be a strong relationship in place. The ability to communicate confidently and effectively in a fast-paced environment is vital for such a central role.

We believe the variety in our day-to-day work is what makes working at an agency so exciting, but it does mean a project manager will need to be able to keep an eye on multiple projects simultaneously – wearing many different hats. Or, as Nat puts it, any potential Cookie will need to be comfortable with ‘organised chaos’.

If you’re interested in joining us and would like to find out more about our Project Manager or Developer roles, you can get in touch with Nathalie directly at nathalie@cookieshq.co.uk.

This is the third in a series of Behind the Screens episodes in which Nic and Nathalie will reflect on everything going on at CookiesHQ and look ahead to what’s on the horizon.

Join the conversation on the CookiesHQ Twitter. Head over to LinkedIn to find out more on Nic and Nat.

Read the transcript

Nic:
Hello, and welcome to the Tough Cookies Podcast. This is our third episode of our Behind the Screens series where Nathalie and I speak about what’s going on in Cookies. I’m obviously today with Nat, how are you?

Nathalie:
Hello. I’m okay thank you.

Nic:
How was your week?

Nathalie:
Good, it was quite productive, and quite busy as well. So this week our middle child is going back to school so we’ve had a bit of more time, and a few … well, a couple of people have gone back to work from the office, which is a bit strange, but you know, they’re keeping two meters apart. We’ve also made a bit more of an effort to onboard Emily properly into our team, it’s quite strange to onboard someone in this time, because we can’t obviously be in the same room together, so all of the coffee chat is non-existent.

Nic:
So for those who don’t know, Emily is the new Cookie who’s joined us probably two weeks ago … three weeks ago by now? Two weeks.

Nathalie:
No I don’t … yeah I don’t think it was that much.

Nic:
Two weeks ago, yes, and she’s going to be in charge of like marketing with us, so talking about Cookies, organising talks and conferences and events and all that, which … she’s joined us during the lockdown, which means that she’s been on-boarded with the team completely remotely, and I have to say, we’re not the best on-boarding people, let’s face it.

Nathalie:
No we’re not, and the thing is she doesn’t work on a project with other people, obviously she does the marketing and she’s in contact with a bit of everyone, but not a team in particular. So this week … we do a team retro every-other-week on the Friday, this week we’ve repurposed that team retro to get to know each other a bit more, where you know, we’d ask the same question to everyone about you know, who they are, what they do, without using any technical words, which can be quite tricky when you’re a developer, and just … yeah, just a few questions to get to know each other a bit better, which I thought was quite good actually, and-

Nic:
I did enjoy that time.

Nathalie:
Yeah, it was very nice.

Nic:
Yeah, it was really cool. My week was productive as well, I think. Still writing some of those technical scope documents, one I’m having a bit more trouble with, and then the others it’s … I hope we’re going to work with these projects, it’s quite an interesting project, quite fun as well, and completely in sync with like the whole, “Let’s do things remotely,” and, “Let’s do things over the wire,” so yeah, I hope we’re going to be able to work with this one. Another thing that has happened for me this week is that I’ve been preparing my talk for South West Ruby, so I’m going to do a talk about how we manage the explosion of traffic on Good Sixty, which we’ve been working with for like four years now, and as soon as lockdown was announced and shelves were depleting in normal stores, Good Sixty traffic went up the roof basically, and with that, all the operations and all the things that you can imagine on their web app that we’ve been supporting since then.

Nic:
So it’s a talk that … almost like in retrospect talks about what we’ve done to help Good Sixty manage the traffic, and also what maybe could have we done better at certain times, like four years ago when we did a feature and how impacted today when the traffic went … I think I was looking at the numbers and traffic went up 3000%.

Nathalie:
Yeah it is quite crazy, and you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but no one could have predicted lockdown or that increase of traffic overnight. I think the whole point is you know … actually, that said, I mean it was crazy but it wasn’t that bad, and actually the site didn’t crash or anything, we’ve had a few issues as you know, you would expect with such a big traffic increase, but it wasn’t anything that bad, it actually … it was you know, quite resistant and it was just-

Nic:
It was pretty good, no I think it worked-

Nathalie:
It performed quite well.

Nic:
It worked pretty good, but I think it’s all those things that as a developer, when you do, you think that your traffic will grow gradually and you … even if you do something that is probably not like the most optimised way or you don’t recognise that it’s not the most developed way today, you would typically catch it before you have that massive increase.

Nathalie:
Yeah, before you get to thousands and thousands.

Nic:
Exactly, the traffic increase on the regular basis, where here everything went exponential, and just for the story, like probably two month before the lockdown we released a complete new revamp of the whole search and everything, which was quite a big deal, so yeah, it was an interesting … it’s an interesting talk to prepare, that’s for sure.

Nic:
Another thing is that … so we are looking for a new project manager to join us, we’re also looking for a couple of more people like front-end, back-end developers, but I think we went through … we went to like reflection on ourselves and how we manage projects so we can make sure that we find our next project manager that is in line with how we work, and I think it led to like interesting chats between us, between like other project managers in the team, what makes us special, what does … like what is in line with other agencies, what do we do differently, so I’m quite excited to see like, who’s going to join us next, like what are we going to have.

Nathalie:
Well the thing is it’s a funny thing, because you don’t … we haven’t really followed a way, obviously you read things and you know how other people do things, and you know, you try and then you fail and you try something else, and you keep it, but I guess we’re not a textbook agency in that sense, and we don’t follow a particular process, but I think we hadn’t realised until quite recently, so obviously when we were quite young as an agency, we were recruiting junior people, as you do because you’ve got a limited budget, and then we would train them the way we do things, so obviously they were just learning the way we were doing things and just doing it the same way, up until quite recently, probably a few years ago, when we started on-boarding more senior people who were coming to us with some experience, and you know, knowledge of different processes and bringing new things to the table, which is always interesting but also questioning the way we were doing things.

Nathalie:
So yeah, and I think at that point we’ve realised actually maybe we were not doing the … we were not managing the projects same way as other agencies, and when I was thinking about it, I think it just comes to basically nine years ago when you were freelancing, so the way you were managing your clients when you were freelancing, you would understand the requirements first, that was one of the main things, understand what they wanted from a tech-perspective, but also from a business perspective what they were trying to achieve, and how you could help them get their business off the ground and up and running.

Nathalie:
You would talk to them constantly when you were freelancing, it’s not like you had a brief and then you went off to work for a few weeks and then came back to them, no, you were basically in constant communication, and remember you’re talking on the phone to them, you know, at least every day to make sure that what you were building was the right thing, and that they knew exactly what you were doing, and the last thing is you also made the point of not just providing hours of code, but basically the value and the consultancy that went with it, and these three elements we’ve kept, because it was working, because it’s the way we enjoy doing the projects, and we enjoy working with people, but obviously the projects have grown, the team has grown, we work with bigger clients and bigger projects, and we’ve tried to keep it there, but I think we haven’t realised until quite recently that they were really at the core of everything that we do in terms of project management.

Nathalie:
So yeah, I think it’s coming from there, but I guess if we really want to explain the way we manage projects, maybe we need to go to the start of when the relationship actually starts with a client, which obviously would be the first few phone calls and everything, and then that discovery session, which is really the first step.

Nic:
Yeah. So those … the going back of the essence of the nine years, it is probably true. That’s how I’ve always enjoyed working with someone, and I’ve never worked in an agency so I don’t know how other agencies do it, and-

Nathalie:
Me neither, and I think that’s the whole point – it’s like I saw you do it in that way and you enjoyed it so I sort of took it on as well, and I was never trained properly as a project manager and then we sort of learned on the job, both of us together.

Nic:
But what we know is how to build product, and I think that’s the key here, is like we’re not building just classic websites, we’re building products, and if you think about it, we’re just trying to recreate what you would find in normal startup team, but just having a client or a partner joining us within the team and we are working together on the product, so I think that’s what I was trying to recreate, and that’s what we’re always trying to recreate within the teams and the project managers that have done well with us, which is it’s not us and the client against, or it’s not us and the client giving us something and then we implement it, it’s like we work together for the benefit of the product.

Nic:
But if we want to take how it works from a chronological point of view, when somebody … typically a project starts from us, like how we gather the requirements of a project, we typically start a conversation with a client, at that moment it’s like it’s just somebody calling us and saying, “Hey, I’m looking to build a new product, I’ve heard you guys could be a good fit. Let’s have a chat.” And we typically have anything between one to four coffees, basically, chats over a span of like a few weeks or a month, and here typically it’s like somebody with an idea, a bit of like … some market research, and they are trying to get something off the ground, and it’s that dance here where everybody is trying to see if there is a chemistry, if there is a fit between the two humans around the table basically, more than anything else.

Nic:
But at that moment there’s also something very important that starts which is we start to gather like, what is in the head of our future partner, our future client. We start to talk about a product, we start to talk about aspirations, do they have an exit strategy, where do they see themselves within the next three years, how do they see the product evolving, are they realistic with expectations or are they expecting that as soon as they launch they’re going to have 3000 people knocking at the door?

Nathalie:
It’s more common than you’d think.

Nic:
Yeah, so we see if we are a good fit, and all that is in just good favour, we just like have coffees and talk about product, and talk about startup life, and we’ve introduced something in the process, probably like, I know know, four, five years ago now, something that we internally call discovery sessions, where if we find that there is some chemistry, if we find the product is something that we thing we will like and enjoy working on, we will take these people to a discovery session, so typically discovery sessions are about … like they run about a day, we can make a whole episode about them, but they run for about a day, we take between three and four senior members from the team, and we literally take apart the whole product, every single feature, no stone left unturned, and together we will bring back … we will tear everything apart and bring back what looks like an MVP.

Nic:
So we’re going to leave some features outside for a future phase, we will put some features that’s nice to have if we’ve got time, and then we will get back to the core of what is the essential offering that these clients wants to do in their product, and that’s the discovery session in a one-minute description. Once we have done this discovery session, we then have spent like a whole 24 hours with that person, we spend another like five, ten days writing technical specs for that person, and we now know exactly what we have to build, and I think that’s the core essential of where for us the project starts, because from there we now have a list of epics, a list of features, and we know where things are going in terms of the product, basically.

Nathalie:
Yeah, we basically have a recipe of everything that needs to be built, and I think a client described about a year ago or something, that this session was not about just discussing the app, but it was taking features away from the app, and going back to the core, and understanding what would provide them the most value for the business and for the users, and building that first, and then once you’ve got that core, then you can iterate and build on it, but I think the whole point is to build something small.

Nathalie:
We’ve always believed in building something small that you could build onto rather than starting with something that’s massive, where you’re going to spend a lot of money when you don’t even know if it’s got legs yet, because it’s not out on the market. So yeah, it’s going back to basics, and also this session allows us to be in the same room as the client and all the stakeholders actually, because most of the time, you know, the previous conversations are one-on-ones between you and the client, or the main contact, but when we do that session they will bring whoever in their company or in their team needs to be there, the same way that we would do, where you know, we have you as the CTO, and then usually myself as a product owner, Gemma as a PM with experience, if we need a designer or front-end developer, or anyone else, then we’ll bring them in.

Nathalie:
So it’s sort of sitting down together, it’s usually anything between five and eight people in the same room, and you can feel if the conversation’s going well, or if it’s actually not going to go the right way, and if we won’t be able to work together. So I think in terms of chemistry again, it’s quite important.

Nic:
I think that’s I mean, the whole thing, is why we enjoy so much working and doing the work we do is because we have all those gates at some point that allows us to ensure that there is a chemistry between everybody working on the same projects, like not just our team, but also our clients. It’s for me, so important, we stay with them for the next three to five years of their business life, we’re going to be in touch like … for the next two, three month we’re probably going to be in touch like a few times a week-

Nathalie:
Almost every day.

Nic:
Almost every day, and then following that we’re probably going to be in touch at least once or twice a month, so it is important to have that chemistry. Without this chemistry there is nothing, there’s no trust, there’s no good work, there is no … there’s just a paycheque at the end, and yeah, that’s-

Nathalie:
That’s not really what we’re looking for.

Nic:
No.

Nathalie:
It’s just … you know, we want to find lovely clients and lovely projects to work on. It’s very cheesy but you know, it’s what gets you going when you run an agency I guess, your aim is to enjoy what you’re doing, and if you don’t enjoy the people, you know, if you don’t enjoy doing work with these people, then you know, it’s lost. It’s a battle lost, so that’s what we’re looking for.

Nic:
So when we start this discovery session, and again, we’re probably going to do a whole episode about like what’s going on in the discovery session, but when we enter this discovery session, and most importantly when we exit those discovery sessions, we’ve always explained to the stakeholders that attend the session, having … it’s called the quality triangle, or the project management triangle, so you know, it’s that typical example of a triangle where at the top you have the budget, one side you have the scope or the features, and the other side you have the time, and it’s like you can give me one, you can change the other two kind of thing, or give me two, you can change the other one, and I can do something fast, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money in order to do it well.

Nic:
So in order to approach our projects, and we run our project in something that we internally call the pragmatic launch, so we launch any product … we believe that we can launch any project in like anything between ten to sixteen weeks. We enter those discovery sessions and we enter … after we enter the project, with the idea of, “We’re going to fix the cost, we’re going to fix the time,” because the time defines the cost and vice versa, and the remaining question is what do we fit in between those two?

Nic:
And when we do our technical delivery document or technical scope, we always keep that in mind. Like the client has a budget, it’s not an open buffet, it’s not like we need to maximise the budget, it’s more like there is a budget here in order to do a piece of work, which is launching a new business, but this is not the end. Like this is not the final work.

Nathalie:
It’s just the start actually. It’s just the MVP, it’s the start of something, and they have a limited budget, they’re startups, they’re not existing companies with already sales and profits and everything, they’re just starting, so they do have a limited budget that we need to respect.

Nic:
And therefore we have them, as you said, reducing the amount of features and try to get to the core, and try to do the features that will explain and get to the ground of like what is the product that they are … that they’re building, but one thing that always amazes me is how we manage to retain that budget, and retain that … we somehow, I don’t know how we do it, but we manage to make it work.

Nathalie:
Well yes we do. I think it’s a lot due to experience, to be honest. I mean we’ve been building these kind of products for nine years and I mean for you even more than that because you were doing the same thing when you were freelancing, so it’s been over ten years, over twelve years you, and when you build an MVP a lot of … not a lot, but you know … yeah, a lot of features are always the same and you’ll always need user management, you’ll always need people to be able to log in and sign up, you very often need a payment platform, there’s memberships, I mean all of these things are things that we’ve done over, over, and over again.

Nathalie:
So we know how long they take to build now, and then you have … so that’s where we can estimate quite accurately how long it’s going to take, and therefore how much it’s going to cost. The unknown then is the core of the app, or the specificity of each project, and that’s where there’s more risk, that’s where there’s more unknown, but the way we do it is we do some research, obviously we can’t uncover everything, but we are quite open with the clients, and we will say, “You know what? This piece of work, we’ve never done it before.” It doesn’t mean that we can’t do it, we obviously can, I mean you can … I’ve learnt you can build almost anything, but it just means that it’s a bit more risky, and therefore maybe we’ll be like, “It might take between, I don’t know, two and four weeks, but we don’t really know.”

Nathalie:
So the whole point is being flexible with them. As long as you’re open from the start, and honest with them, we will prepare to spend four weeks, and if we spend two then that’s great, then we’ve got two more weeks to either cut the budget, or add more things at the end. So it’s all about being flexible and making sure that whatever you do, the client is aware and you don’t leave them in the dark, because I think that’s the worst thing you can do. They need to know what’s happening, and even if you’re going over estimations, they also need to know, you can’t hide from them, and I mean because we’re so keen on talking to them so often, there’s nowhere to hide, they know exactly what you’re doing. I mean they have access to our project management tools, they have access to a staging server, they can see really quickly if you’re not doing what you say your doing.

Nathalie:
And there’s no point. What would be the point? You know you … if you’ve got into a pickle, and you need to find the solution, then that’s fine, you’ll find it, and then it’s about compromise, but it works both ways, it’s not just for us. It also works with them, you know, they’d do some research and then they find out actually that particular feature they didn’t think would be important for MVP actually is crucial and they really, really need it, and you know what? It’s going to add four or five days on top of the rest, well we’re open to having it, actually doing it, but they understand that there’s a compromise to be made and actually maybe something else will go, or we may go over at the end.

Nathalie:
So it really works both ways, and as long as you’ve got this understanding, then I think that’s what makes it work.

Nic:
I think we never had a client that was not understanding of that somehow, like-

Nathalie:
I think because we explain the process from the start, and they probably wouldn’t sign up with us if that was the case, because we make it clear that we need someone … we want to work with someone who’s able to make compromise and who will … who understands that you know, there is always unknown and risk in what we do, you don’t know everything from the start, but they don’t know everything from the start, I mean they’re running a startup, so it’s … you know, you’re both entrepreneurs somehow and yeah, that’s where the understanding comes from.

Nic:
One this that is always amazing is we like to joke when people seem to have very fixed mindset on how they want things, and how they want things to look, and how they want things to behave, and all that, like don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge at some point, but don’t forget that your mind will change as soon as you’re going to see that thing on a screen, and as soon as you are going to start to interact with your app, whether that’s on your phone, whether that’s on your laptop, desktop, tablet, whatever, your mind will change.

Nathalie:
Yeah and we know that, and that’s experience, again. I mean we’ve seen it time and time again, where you know, seeing a design … a flat design, it’s one thing, starting to interact with your own app is a totally different thing, but because we know that, we allow some time for these little changes that will come when you start using the app, and that’s why it’s not a problem, is because we’ve foreseen that that was going to happen, and therefore we’ve … and it’s usually little things, it’s usually a bit of front-end, a bit of design, it’s not big things, but obviously you need to allow time for it to change.

Nic:
Yeah, again it’s that flexibility again. I think the most, how do you say? Expensive? The most crazy example of flexibility that we had recently, and it’s not even recently, I think it’s of the whole history of Cookies, was the one with Stornaway so that was a few … that was what? We-

Nathalie:
The end of last year.

Nic:
The end of last year, so we’ve been working with that startup, a Bristol startup called Stornaway, they do interactive videos, and it turns out when doing interactive videos, there are multiple elements to it, one thing is delivering the video through the wires so people can consume the video, but what is most important is the whole logic that goes behind making the actually story flows and where do you go from A to B to C, and you do your map.

Nic:
And when we were doing that discovery session we were both in agreement that in order to launch the MVP faster, just to get that first beta version, we would get, during the phase one because video producers tend to use either Dropbox or Google Drive, and they’re more than happy to use Google Drive, at least from their initial market research and client base, we would basically use Google Drive as a store engine for the videos and at the time Google Drive has this undocumented feature which we found, that would allow us to … I think it was like from a file path or whatever, we would be able to have a streamable file from a video, basically.

Nic:
So cutting at least three weeks of work of building a whole video uploader, transcoder job and all these kind of things that goes with whatever happens when you’re pushing upload a video, and you have to deliver that video through the internet, and so everybody was happy, we had a working … like we had a demo before we even worked on the product, we just had like a quick demo to make sure that everything was working as we would, everything was lovely, probably three months after that demo … so we’re three month in the project and we finally get to the point where we have to do the video linking and we will start to serve the video on the product, and Google decided to remover the undocumented feature.

Nic:
Nothing we can say to them obviously because we’re not documented so I guess it was not officially supported, and yeah, that feature wasn’t there anymore, and very quickly we had to build a whole transcoding service, thank you Amazon for being so amazing for that, but yes, we had to do a whole shebang that was way more complex than just let’s go and use Google Drive, but things like that happen. I mean that was the worst, but-

Nathalie:
They do, I mean this was quite an exceptional, but again, I mean we had no choice, it was completely out of our hands, and I think the client understood that, and they knew that it wasn’t anything we’d done wrong, it was just the way it was, so they fully supported us and actually were really understanding and you know, it caused a delay in their project, only by sort of three weeks, but it’s still a delay and I think it’s important, more than budget we also try to respect timings, because we’re only part of the team, we’re doing the build, but they have other people around them, they have marketing, they have PR, they have you know, a lot of other teams to manage, so it’s important for us to respect that and actually be, again, in agreement with them that we will deliver when we say we will, because it’s an important part, and they obviously can’t launch an app without the product being ready to be used.

Nic:
One thing, so again, probably something that was took over when I was a freelancer, I can remember in the early days of Cookies using that as a line when somebody would come and see us and sit down with us, I was saying … and it’s still somehow true, I was saying we’re never late, like we’ll never be late. It doesn’t mean that if we said we’re going to launch on Monday the 16th it’s like it’s ready on Monday the 16th, but it’s around there. Like I don’t think we’ve ever had massive delays on a project, that was not somehow agreed or understood or kind of like expected by the clients, I don’t think.

Nathalie:
No, and not to the point … I mean you can expect … when you work, you know, three, four months with someone, you can expect a week at the end where you know, a few little things need to be changed and finished, and it’s completely normal now. We would never be late three months on a three month project, I think it’s just … there’s an amount of time that you’re allowed to use at the end, and again, it’s not just about budget with them, it’s about timings, but that’s why we also meed to understand their business and what they’re doing, because you know, if our … on the paper the project is supposed to be delivered on Monday the 16th, then we’ll tell them, “Please don’t do a big PR portion the Tuesday, can you wait a week or two just to make sure that you know, we have time to test everything properly and make sure it is completely ready.”

Nathalie:
Because the last thing we want is for them to do a PR portion, for their whole app to crash, and again, that’s why communication is so important between everyone in the team. We all one team, we’re not just little … we’re not people working independently, we’re all working together to get that project out, and a good quality product that will work.

Nic:
But that’s where … going back to the ideal PM that maybe is listening to us right now, but that is one of the core essentials of … core responsibility of, for us, the project manager, or that hybrid between project manager and product owner basically, whatever term you want to use, it’s that communication with the clients. We have open communication, so yes, the client will talk to the devs in regular intervals, they will have access to the devs and base camps and all that, but the person who owns almost the relationship, and the person who acts as Cookies is the project manager, it’s the person who will listen to what the client is saying, will try to make a guess about like what needs to be built, go back to the devs, present the problem, not … like the client may have one or two preferred solutions, but first and foremost present the problem and let’s see what solution we can come up with and what recommendation we will go with, and that’s the core essential role for us of the project manager.

Nathalie:
No, so there’s a … we are a small team, and I guess again, it comes back to you managing your projects at the start, and then me jumping onboard but doing all of these roles, and then you know, Gemma and Emilie have done the same … we all do the same way that we’re … you know, project management the same way, as you said, it’s not just managing the team of developers, and making sure that the cards are done every day, it’s also understanding the requirements, sometimes yes, you need to understand UEX a little bit, because you know, if the client wants something that doesn’t quite make sense then yeah, you should question it nicely, and you know, make sure that you bring a solution and not just question things for the sake of it, but it is all about … more that writing code, we provide solutions to the client, and we are their technical team, as in they shouldn’t have to bring us all of the solutions.

Nathalie:
They come to us with a problem, and then we’ll work out a solution internally, and then we will go back to them and say, “Look, we think you should do it that way. Does that work for your users? Does that work for your business? If it doesn’t, then we can revise and we can review and make another plan.” And then again, it’s making sure that the project manager can have different hats and is comfortable talking to a client, because there’s nowhere to hide, and if something’s not working, well, it’s not working, that’s just the way it is, but also talking to the devs and make sure that you know, they … sometimes you have to be quite strict with timings again, you know, if you’ve got a demo coming up, then devs need to have all of the tasks done before the demo.

Nathalie:
So there’s quite a lot of elements to manage at the same time, and then obviously you need to make sure that, you know, the app works properly and everyone is aware of what’s working, and also you need to report to usually me or you to make sure … because we will keep an eye on the overall timing of the projects, even if we’re not involved on a day-to-day basis. So yeah, there’s quite a lot of things to manage and to juggle, so I guess yeah, our ideal candidate would not be phased with a lot of things to manage at the same time, and days that can be sometimes quite hectic, but again, it’s not always the case, it’s … you’ll have days or weeks when there’s a big project going on, and therefore it’s all efforts on that one, and a little bit on the others, and then sometimes it’s more sort of a lot of little projects here and there, a bit of maintenance, and a bit of you know, people coming back for a couple of iterations, but not many of them.

Nathalie:
So it’s quite varied, you’ll never have a dull day in Cookies.

Nic:
The thing is we … so when you’re a developer, so now I’m putting my tech hat on, you almost have to choose, and sometimes you even have like a normal path to take when … during your development journey, but you almost have to choose at some point, do you want to work in an agency or do you want to work on a product? And it’s … even if like you’re using … even let’s say that the product or your agency are using the same technology, they’re using the same code practice, they’re using everything the same, it’s not the same work.

Nic:
Working on a product, working on the same product for six, eight, twelve months in, thinking about the overall big picture of one product, it’s a completely different mindset than working in an agency where you are going to be working on let’s say four to six products a year, probably. You’re going to be touching, yeah, four to six good bases, you’re going to be working with different contacts between products, you’re going to be working with different partners, different clients, different-

Nathalie:
Potentially different technologies as well.

Nic:
Potentially different technologies, and I want to think, and I think it is a thing, like at some point developers have to make a choice, and the good developers will make a choice, do they want to go with a product, do they want to go with an agency, there’s no right or wrong answer on that one, it’s just about where do you feel you enjoy your work the most? I personally know that I think I would struggle … I would do well doing like a short-term work on a product-based kind of job, but I would struggle to work for three years on the same product. I think I would, I never really did it, but I think I would.

Nic:
I do enjoy the variety that an agency can provide, I do enjoy the … sometimes, the fast-paced element of an agency, like that some people can struggle with it, but it’s something that I do enjoy, I think it brings the best out of me sometimes, it kind of like give me a kick in the butt, and I do enjoy that kind of variety that comes with the work. Do you think it’s the same for project managers?

Nathalie:
Yeah, it probably is. It’s different types of personality, and some people will be happy managing a lot of things at the same time, and others would rather focus on one big project and be able to go more in depth and actually spend more time on that one project. Because we have … if you mentioned this, pragmatic launch framework before, because we launch MVPs in ten to sixteen weeks, it’s quite intense, there’s a lot to build in these weeks, because we go from zero to a fully functioning product, ready to be put in front of paying customers, so it is intense, and it’s not for everyone, but it’s not always that intense, I think it takes a type of person to be comfortable with, “You know what? I’m going to have a crazy week, and then next week it will be a bit slower, a bit easier.”

Nathalie:
I enjoy it as well, it means I don’t get bored, and actually I quite like the adrenaline that comes with, you know … it’s not a rush, because everything is organised, and again, when you’re a PM you need to be organised, you need to be able to handle tasks, and I can’t see … I mean the project manager brings the organisation in the chaos, and I quite like organising multiple things at once, and that … I think that element brings me peace, and the fact that there is actually no proper chaos is because it’s all … it’s organised chaos.

Nathalie:
And if everything is thought well, and everything is done well, and everything is communicated the right way to all the stakeholders, then there’s no reason why there should be panic. There’s no panic, there’s just a lot of work to get done and to get through, but that said, we don’t work evenings or weekends, and we still manage to deliver things on time. So there is a system in it and there is a process that works. You need also to have faith in the process.

Nic:
And I think that’s what we’re working on at documenting right now, is the idea of like we are recognising now that there is somehow structure in what we do, which we probably didn’t recognise before. I really want to bring this idea of like a playbook at some point on how we do things so maybe other agencies can benefit from it, and like take one or two things that we do and do it in their own teams. So for the last words, I mean if somebody’s listening to us and they’re thinking about joining us at Cookies, what do you think are the three main qualities that this person needs to have?

Nathalie:
First I think they do need to know about software development, even if it’s not in-depth, but someone who understands how software is built in the simplest way I think is essential for us. The second one would be someone who is organised and not phased with apparent chaos, because it’s not chaos. No, someone who can organise things and actually keep track of a lot of different tasks at the same time, and it does take a certain personality to do that, not everyone is comfortable doing it, and the third one, a team player in all the sense, as in team … as in internal team in Cookies, because obviously this person will be in touch with everyone in the company, but also a team player for the client, because the client needs to feel like this project manager is on their team, on their side, and helping them, and making sure that … yeah, the work for them and they work with them on building the best product that we can. So yeah, a team player I think in all the sense of the word.

Nic:
So we’re going to have a job offer, I think, a job advert available on the website probably this week.

Nathalie:
Yeah, that’s the plan.

Nic:
So when the podcast goes out it will probably be there, or at least in the next few days it will be on www.cookieshq.co.uk but you can also contact Nathalie directly, so that’s nathalie@cookieshq.co.uk if you think that you want to learn more, basically.

Nathalie:
Yeah, I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s interested, a bit more in details if you’ve got any questions about what we’ve been talking about tonight or things we forgot to mention or anything else, yeah, feel free to contact us and yeah, I’d really like to talk to potential candidates.

Nic:
So what’s on for you this week then?

Nathalie:
This week recruitment, surprise, so obviously recruitment takes actually quite a long time, so because we’re looking for at least three people, so project manager obviously, but as well back-end developer, front-end developer, so recruitment is my priority right now. What about you?

Nic:
I’m finishing … I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m finishing these two massive technical documents that I’ve started probably two weeks ago now, it took slightly longer than expected because the kids need looking after yeah, it took more time with the kids being around in this whole lockdown, but somehow getting there. Once these are out of the way, I think it’ll be a lot of PR reviews from the team and trying to help like one project that is in its last sprint which should be launched within the next-

Nathalie:
Two weeks.

Nic:
Two weeks I think, unofficially. I think they’re going to go for a big launch during the summer, but I’m quite excited about this one as well.

Nathalie:
Yeah, it’s a great one.

Nic:
Right, well look, we’re going to be back next week with new and more fun adventures. I hope you all have a good week, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Nathalie:
Bye.

Nic:
Bye.

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