Once 6 weeks in, each cohort at the data school had to work on a weekly client project along side their training. The idea is to help data schoolers get a sneak peek inside the life of a consultant and prepare them for the upcoming challenges. Each week, one of the data schooler act as a project manager and the rest of his cohort works as consultant on the project.
Project starts with a Monday kick-off call (or a prior Friday call between client, Andy and project manager only) in which client briefs the cohort with all necessary information such as, what are their requirements, information on the data, etc.. The team can ask whatever question they have for client. Team then has 16 – 20 hours to work on their analysis and have to present their dashboards to the client on Friday afternoon. While team is working on analysing the data, it is the responsibility of the project manager to remove all the hurdles and provide all the necessary help to his colleagues.
Last week, it was DS 25’s turn to work on their first weekly client project, which was an internal project. I was given the opportunity to be the project manager on this project. With no prior experience, I had no idea what to expect from the week. I was little scared but had to keep myself calm and composed for the sake of my cohort. I went into the project at the beginning of the week not knowing what to expect, but came out with a lot more experience. I am here to share my experience and the things I learned.
Know your responsibilities:
It is quite self-explanatory that being a manager you are expected to lead the meetings, ask for follow-up from team members and handover all the deliverables to the client at the end of project. However, what you won’t be expecting is that you will have to become the trouble-shooter for the team.
Before the project even began, I was told by Andy that it is my responsibility to remove any trouble my team is facing. At that time I didn’t think much of it. But as the week proceeded, I realized how overwhelming this can be. Whether it is tech related or data related, your team will come to you. You need to be available. Remember, it’s fine if you don’t know what you should do. Don’t freak out, just ask your colleague for some time. Use that time to look for a solution. Ask for help if necessary. In data school, anyone will be more than happy to help you. Either ask on Convo or just go to anyone available in person.
While you are working with your team, you are also expected to prepare a presentation, create a tableau dashboard template and communicate regularly with your team as well as client. So keep some time in your schedule for your work.
Planning is essential
Post kick-off meeting, Me and my team walked through the data and client’s requirements. We discussed about what could be produced form the available resources. Everyone contributed their opinions and suggestions. We made a list of questions, that could be answered from the data.
Our client required analysing 4 of his departments, so I decided to divide my team in group of 2’s. I allowed everyone to choose the division they wanted to work on and the questions they wanted to answer. Each team was responsible for answering at least 2 questions and provide some suggestions to improvise current situations. This made it a bit easier for them to work.
While I was prepared how I was going to distribute the work, I forgot to take into account the delays data related issues can cause. This brings me to next point.
Learn about data as much as you can
We were working with a very complex dataset. It had numerous tables with similar field names, making it really difficult to understand which filed to use for calculations. It lead to so many issues such as duplication, all teams doing same analysis, not having clear idea how to proceed. Thankfully, our client was readily available to help us with data related issues.
My advice to all future PM will be to know your data. By knowing, it will be easier for you to help your team quickly and efficiently.
Manage your team
You are managing both people and project. You can plan ahead what and by when everything should be ready. But you can’t plan how different member of your team is going to work for that deadline. Everyone has different pace and method to work towards a problem. As a PM it is your responsibility to be able to read and respond to each member of your team. They will throw thousands of ideas onto you or maybe none, you need to navigate through all and help them decide which is worth exploring.
Talk, talk and talk! Of course, You need to talk to client and to your team. But ensure that team members are talking amongst themselves. Each team member will be working on their aspect of the analysis. They might not have any idea what other team members are doing. You have to ensure that their analysis is not overlapping i.e. they are not working on same thing. To avoid that, in your everyday follow-ups with your team-members, ask everyone to listen what other person is presenting. If two team members are working on similar things, ask them to work together, to sort who is going to present what.
All in all “communication is the key”.
Lastly, don’t panic if things go south, and believe me they will. Keep yourself together as your team is relying on you. You need to fake it until you make it!!
These are some of the lessons I learned. Everyone is different. You might have different experience and might have to go through different problems. Remember these project are for you to gain experience so you are well prepared for real life situations. So learn as much as you can from these.