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.
This is the third episode in our Behind the Screens series. Read below for some of the key learnings from this Tough Cookies episode, or if you want to listen to the whole podcast you can on Spotify, Apple podcasts or on our website here.
Our typical development process begins with a discovery session…
We basically come up with a recipe of everything that needs to be built. As a client described about a year ago, this session was not about just discussing the app, but it was taking features away from the app, and going back to the core. Understanding what would provide the most value for the business and for the users, and building that first. 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.
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. It’s going back to basics. Also this session allows us to be in the same room as the client and all the stakeholders. Most of the time, 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 team needs to be there. The same way that we do, we have Nic 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.
So it’s the 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, it’s quite important.
What are some essential skills a project manager might need here at CookiesHQ?
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 you need to understand UEX a little bit, because if the client wants something that doesn’t quite make sense then you should question it (nicely). And make sure that you bring a solution and not just question things for the sake of it. It’s all about more than writing code – we provide solutions to the client, and we are their technical team.
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 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. Also talking to the devs, sometimes you have to be quite strict with timings if you’ve got a demo coming up, then devs need to have all of the tasks done before the demo.
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 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 there’s quite a lot of things to manage and to juggle – 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.
We love the fact that working in an agency means our work varies from day-to-day. Do you think it’s the same for a project manager?
Yeah, i think it is. There’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 launch MVPs in ten to sixteen weeks, it’s quite intense, there’s a lot to build in these weeks – 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.”
I enjoy it as well, it means I don’t get bored, and actually I quite like the adrenaline that comes with it. 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.