Alicja Włodarska
10
min read
Last Update:
January 15, 2024

Have you ever thought about what it's like to jump into the world of project management? I certainly did. Now that I've been wearing the 'Project Manager' hat at ULAM LABS for a year, I thought it'd be a blast to share this journey with a broader audience.Isn't this the perfect time to hold a retrospective meeting, right?

Why I Chose Project Management and ULAM LABS

I often joke that I didn't choose project management as my career; it somehow found me. My professional journey began as an intern in the project management department of a production company, and right from the start, it felt like the perfect fit. 

People close to me often point out that project management suits me well. Maybe it's because I tend to be a bit bossy, always wanting to plan every detail and monitor progress meticulously. This trait isn't limited to my professional life; even my weekends need to be carefully planned. I can't help but feel uneasy when I have to go with the flow instead of having a structured plan.

I have to admit, getting the job at ULAM LABS was a bit of an accident. When the job offer unexpectedly arrived in my inbox, I had to figure out if it was a good match for my career. What convinced me were the interesting case studies and projects on ULAM's blog and their active presence on social media.

It felt like a community of young, dynamic individuals passionately engaged in their work. Moreover, the recruitment process was a breath of fresh air; I could tell I wasn't just a face in a vast crowd of applicants. The recruitment team genuinely aimed to get to know me better.

Now, over a year into my journey here, I can confidently say that my initial uncertainties have been resolved. ULAM LABS has been a delightful surprise. The teams and the culture here are unmatched; it's an environment that encourages continuous learning and personal growth.

Initial expectations vs. reality: The surprises that awaited

When I joined ULAM LABS during my transition from production to the IT industry, I didn't carry specific expectations. Surprisingly, ULAM exceeded my expectations. I initially believed our clients would have a clear vision for their product, specifying its functions and appearance. I assumed my role would be to bring their vision to life.

The reality, however, was much more nuanced. While some projects did come with a well-defined vision, others required our support right from the conceptual stage. Here, the role of a project manager throws on a cape and transforms into something akin to a product manager. It's like project management decided to cosplay as a product guru for the day!

Before a project kicks off, we host intensive discovery workshops with the client. In these sessions, we dive into their vision, striving to shape and refine the project's scope collaboratively. Understanding current market demands and thinking strategically becomes imperative. 

We must ensure that after development, our products align with market requirements, allowing us to not only enter the market but also generate profits. This detailed process includes deep discussions, careful planning, and keeping a close eye on market trends. It changes the role of a project manager into that of a strategic product guardian.

The Learning Curve: Acquiring Essential Skills with ULAM’s Support

As mentioned earlier, transitioning from a vastly different industry to ULAM posed a demand for proficiency in two critical areas:

Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Knowledge

I was fortunate that this technology wasn't widely known at the time. Many of my new colleagues, like me, had limited or basic knowledge of cryptocurrencies. ULAM's onboarding process came to the rescue, offering a comprehensive education on cryptocurrencies and their various aspects tailored specifically to my project. 

Moreover, our regular "Crypto Tuesday" meetings have been a game-changer. These sessions delve into complex concepts and the latest developments in a way that's easy to understand for non-tech folks, making deeper comprehension possible through discussion.

Technical Aspects of Software Development

On the technical side of software development, my anxiety levels soared. I had no prior experience in this field, and while I had self-educated, translating theory into practice felt incredibly challenging. Initial interactions with developers felt like decoding a foreign language. 

Thankfully, with the unwavering support of my assigned mentor, the collaborative efforts of the team, and the passage of time, I gradually gained a foothold. ULAM's nurturing environment, along with the patience and expertise of my colleagues, played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between theory and hands-on application, turning my concerns into confidence.

Challenges & Triumphs

Each sprint brings its unique challenges as my team and I attempt to estimate the effort required to develop a new feature and whether we can accomplish it within the sprint timeline. The process is both thrilling and demanding. 

Every time we manage to add a new feature, it makes our whole team proud. When our customers give us positive feedback, it shows that we're doing a great job, and that makes us even prouder. These moments of success boost our commitment and inspire us to take on the next challenge with confidence.

During my journey at ULAM LABS, the most significant challenges often arose from the complex demands of our customers. One situation really stood out: a customer wanted users to be able to end financial contracts that had been agreed upon for a certain time. At first, I thought the answer was simple – ending the contract meant giving up potential earnings. But the customer had a different idea. They wanted an innovative approach that didn't result in a clear win-lose situation. Collaborative brainstorming sessions with our product designers played a big part in finding a resolution.

Together, we devised a termination scheme inspired by a well-known TV game show. This solution exceeded our customers' expectations, marking a creative triumph for our team.

Team dynamics & collaboration

Comparing my team to others at ULAM, I can confidently say that our team is truly unique. We're a mix of extreme introverts and the most outgoing extroverts, scattered across different cities and even countries. 

Admittedly, this dispersion could have made building strong connections challenging, especially in a remote work setting where casual office conversations were absent. However, I'm thrilled to say that despite these hurdles, we've forged an exceptionally effective team.

Our success in overcoming these challenges can be attributed to our innovative approaches. We've seamlessly blended work with creative integrations, participating in spirited GIF tournaments and lively games of Pictionary. These simple activities have helped us bond, creating a feeling of belonging and teamwork that goes beyond physical boundaries.

The teamwork, though it's not something you can put your finger on, is a powerful thing. It's made our regular projects extraordinary. Even when things got tough, we stuck together, proving that we can overcome distance and build strong relationships, even online.

Tools of the Trade: Empowering Seamless Project Management

At the heart of my toolkit lies Jira, a Project Management Software that forms the backbone of my operations. Its robust features facilitate detailed planning, smooth task distribution, and precise progress tracking, whether it's within a sprint or the entire project, all graphically represented on the Gantt chart.

For communication, we rely on Slack and Google Meet, serving as our lifelines. These platforms enable instant and efficient communication, laying the foundation for successful project execution. Real-time discussions, brainstorming, meme exchanges and issue resolution find their home here, fostering a sense of immediacy and teamwork.

Google Workspace plays a pivotal role as our Cloud-Based Collaboration hub. Its array of tools, including shared documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, streamlines our collaborative efforts. Google Drive, a cloud storage service, ensures secure storage and easy accessibility to our essential files and resources, enhancing our daily productivity.

Staying true to tradition, I always keep a physical notebook in my toolkit. This simple but important tool helps me jot down important notes and discussion points during meetings. Handwriting seems to improve memory, and it's a method I trust in my organization. In the midst of our digital world, this physical notebook acts like a bridge, connecting my strategies to something tangible, so I don't miss any details in our virtual collaboration.

Personal Growth: A Transformative Journey in Project Management

My journey into project management at ULAM LABS has been a real game-changer, improving not just my job skills but also the way I see things personally. This role has been like a furnace, heating up my growth and making my skills and outlook better in important ways:

  • Adaptability: Project management demands a sharp sense of adaptability. Dealing with diverse projects, each with its unique challenges, has sharpened my ability to quickly adjust strategies and approaches.

  • Effective Communication: Clear, concise, and empathetic communication became my foundation. Interacting with various stakeholders, from clients to team members, taught me the art of expressing complex ideas simply. I learned that listening actively was just as crucial as speaking persuasively.

  • Conflict Resolution: Projects often come with conflicts, which I learned to view not as obstacles but as chances for resolution. Developing conflict resolution skills, I discovered, was not just about finding compromises but fostering understanding and collaboration amid differing opinions.

  • Leadership & Team Empowerment: Project management illuminated the power of empowering my team. Delegating responsibility and trusting in my team's abilities became key elements in fostering their growth.

  • User Experience: Understanding UX became a focal point, guiding me to integrate user-centric design thinking into project workflows. Prioritizing the end-users' needs and experiences became fundamental, ensuring that our projects were not only functional but also intuitive and user-friendly.

Reflection: Key takeaways from my mentors and peers at ULAM LABS

At ULAM LABS, the wisdom shared by mentors and the collaborative spirit among peers have proven invaluable. Here are the key lessons that have profoundly influenced my professional journey:

  • Mentorship: Learning from experienced mentors offered insights that went beyond textbooks. Their guidance, often drawn from real-world experiences, played a pivotal role in shaping my problem-solving, leadership, and ethical decision-making approaches.
  • Collaboration & Diversity: ULAM LABS' diverse and inclusive culture fostered collaboration among individuals from various backgrounds. Embracing this diversity not only enriched my perspectives but also taught me the power of collective intelligence in discovering innovative solutions.
  • Continuous Learning: The culture at ULAM LABS taught me to keep learning about new industry trends and emerging technologies. It made me believe that in the always-changing world of technology, you can't afford to stay the same.
  • Empathy & Collaboration: Above all, the emphasis on empathy in interactions and collaboration highlighted the human aspect of technology. Understanding the end-users' needs and collaborating empathetically with colleagues and clients became the foundation of successful projects.

In essence, my role in project management at ULAM LABS has been more than just a professional pursuit; it has been a transformative experience that reshaped my skills, perspectives, and approach to life. 

With every project undertaken and every lesson learned, I've grown not only as a project manager but as a resilient, empathetic, and adaptable individual, ready to face any challenge that comes my way.

Looking Ahead: Lessons for the Next Year as a Project Manager

As I set out on the next leg of my journey as a Project Manager, certain key lessons will act as guiding principles:

  • Embracing Flexibility: The ability to adapt swiftly to evolving project landscapes is crucial. I will keep refining my flexibility, embracing new methodologies, and adjusting strategies based on project needs. Being open to change ensures resilience in the face of evolving challenges.

  • Continuous Learning: Project management is a dynamic field, and continuous learning is vital. I'll invest in upgrading my skills, staying updated on emerging technologies, and exploring new project management tools. Committing to ongoing education ensures that I can leverage the latest trends to enhance project efficiency and success.

Looking forward, I'm excited about the new trends and developments shaping the project management landscape, driven by AI and Automation. The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation into project management tools promises to streamline routine tasks, allowing project managers to focus on strategic decision-making. Predictive analytics and intelligent insights will revolutionize project planning and risk management.

As I look ahead, I'm excited about using these trends and the lessons I've learned to keep my role as a Project Manager fresh, innovative, and effective. Adapting to change and keeping up with industry updates will be essential for running successful projects in the always-changing project management world.

Getting ready for another year of projects, team meetings, and the inevitable challenges, I'm armed with a year's worth of experiences and a lot of gratitude. Thanks to the teams, mentors, coffee machine, and all of you, our readers, for being part of my first year's journey. Let's see where the next year takes us!

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