A Poor Way to Gain Experience

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony of a project that I managed.  I wasn’t officially the project manager, but that is essentially what I did.  I was handed this project my first day on the job and thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  Looking back on it I was not prepared for what I had to do to have a successful project.

The first problem was that I hadn’t managed or worked on a design project in over 4 years.  You think you know what you’re doing, but you forget the little things that need to be done to have a successful project.  There was a lot of coordination between engineering disciplines that I completely forgot about, or thought that team members were handling, forgetting that as the project manager it was my responsibility to take care of that.

Next problem, when you start at a new company or an ongoing project you don’t know the discussions that have taken place or agreements made prior to you joining the project.  This was a huge problem.  Little did I know that there were a lot of deals and early discussions on the project that I was unaware of.  I would start something and then ask a question and either my boss or the other office manager would say, “Oh yeah we are doing something based on a discussion we had when the project initially started.”  Or unlike my other company where there was a lot of specialize support groups, I was responsible for things I had never done before.

In another issue it was the corporate culture, the way the office worked, the players on the team.  I was learning this stuff on the fly and sometimes too late.  For example, a week after things were done, the project manager told me, you have to be careful with so and so because…  Too late the budget was blown and the product was crappy.  We were correcting the problems right to the end of the build.

Lastly, on a similar project I was on at another company, the client was easy to work with and the team was awesome.  This team wasn’t awesome, and the client was very particular about everything.  I was complacent going in, and didn’t pay attention to detail.

Put all this together and I had a project that was over budget and had a lot of issues because of the above and my lack of attention to detail.  If I would have been more attentive, the issues I listed above would not have been a problem.

In the end it was a successful project for the client and they were very happy with it.  But it was tough on our company and we took a hit on the fee.  I was taken off the project because the client was pissed at me and it was up to my boss to make the corrections necessary.  In talking to my boss/PM today at the ribbon cutting I said, “I learned a lot on this project.  It was painful to learn this way, but I learned.” It was learning the hard way as my father use to say.

My boss’s response was great, and he was laughing as he said it.  It is a quote I will pass on many times.  He said, “You use experience to make good decisions, and you gain experience from poor ones.”




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