Yes, once again I have been laid off my job. I guess the third time is a charm. Three positions, less than 3 years apart, and all for varying reasons I will not get into much detail. The point is, actually, that this is getting old and every time I think I have it nailed, the rug is literally taken from beneath me. So why am I writing about this time around? Well, because if things go according to plan, this should be my last time.
I have been working in project management for quite some time, now. Actually, I have been doing it, unofficially, since 1999. What do I mean unofficially? I have been practicing an Agile approach to project management since I started designing websites for small businesses as a side job since 1999. But it was not until around 2013 that I did it professionally with an accompanying title. First, I started as a Project Coordinator, then a Scrum Master, followed by a Project Manager title and, most recently, a Senior Project Manager.
Although I am a certified Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner (CSM, CSPO), I have always had a very unique and effective approach to the methodology. I fact, I cannot recall when I have used any textbook version of known Agile processes to date, because when people tend to rely on a textbook approach, it often insinuates a “one size fits all” belief. And there really is no such creature in the world of software development and web design.
My First Professional Scrum Experience
After obtaining my CSM and CSPO certifications in 2013, I began as a Project Coordinator for a software development company who did contractual work for the government. It was here where I discovered the world of Scrum. And it was then that I discovered I have been following this same approach to website design since 1999.
Yet, although my employer had all in-house products and multiple development teams, it was 100% Scrum across all product lines and projects. And it was here where I challenged the project management director to our processes and proved that one size does not fit all. With the launch of a whole new project under development to meet an unrealistic deadline, I drafted a proposal to try a hybrid Agile approach that included Scrum and Kanban. It was not really new, but I was not aware of that, either. It was something other developers tried before and I decided to look into this new Scrumban approach. It was the only way I could see us meeting the deadlines.
After a thorough review and presentation to upper management, they gave me an opportunity to put it into action for 30 days and report on it. After the first 30 days, the team was 20% more efficient than other similar projects following their Scrum process. The 30 days turned to 60, then 90, and eventually ran through 3 quarters until we were able to deliver a MVP of the product we were developing. And the tea, did so with consistent increased efficiency of 15-30% above similar projects. This proved that there are other ways to manage projects in a more efficient manner.
Despite my job security at this company, I decided to move on as a Scrum Master at another agency. There was more pay, of course, but the real reason was beyond the money. This new position was going to give me more creative freedom to test other processes. But that did not last long. The culture and office politics made for a painful experience for me. I did manage to provide extensive feedback and convince the company that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution to managing projects. I was seeing a pattern here. But we successfully ran one project using Scrum, another as Kanban, one as Scrumban, and another in a very waterfall-like process.
The end of this journey ended when a major client, who had multiple projects managed by me, froze their contract while re-evaluating their project expenses. My employer was no longer able to keep me on-board and I was let go.
I took that opportunity to move from Florida to North Carolina and seek similar employment. I successfully landed a Project Manager position for a large agency to help them with an internal project with a $100,000 a month budget. My job was to help manage the project with my experience in Scrum. But less than 2 weeks into the job I realized a very serious problem: there was no buy-in from management on using Agile and everything about the culture as well as past and present projects pointed its finger at a waterfall process. After months of fierce battles and some internal restructuring, I felt like a fish out of water because I was not able to apply the experience they claimed they needed. Instead, I ended up managing stakeholder expectations instead of managing the project.
The end to this journey was very different, though. An acquisition by another company eliminated 80+ positions. And during the streamlined process, my position was eliminated. Any position that could be absorbed by the acquirer’s existing divisions were stripped away.
Third Time’s a Charm
Within a month I was able to land another job as a Senior Project Manager for a small local development agency. This was a very short-lived journey and came to an end due to the owner’s expectations of me. There are some other behind the scenes issues, I am sure, but to make this story as short as my journey, all I can say is that ultra-small agencies, with limited shared resources, taking in more projects than there is time to finish them, will never end well.
So What Now?
I have proven my abilities time and time, again. I have done so since 1999 and the fact that I still manage clients I acquired as far back as 2003, speaks volume of my project management abilities to deliver what they need. And I do so on a part-time basis, working on multiple projects simultaneously. But, in this case, I have full control of the project and not be forced to work with unrealistic expectations or report to someone with limited control on my behalf.
This recent lay off iteration is different than the previous ones: I have a handful of side projects sitting o the back burner simmering. Basically, I have dreams and expectations of transitioning into doing my own thing. I am going to go into business for myself and increase my exposure to provide consultant services and increase my client base for website design and development.
I received my notification at the end of the day on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. The rest of the day was one of self-discovery trying to figure out what to do next. And by this morning, Wednesday, September 20, 2017, my mind was made up to move forth with my dreams… my desires. Today was spent putting things in order and engaging in some marketing tasks.
Today is also the day this blog series was started. My goal is to share what I have experienced, what I have learned, the stumbling blocks and expectations from employers regarding project management and my opinions and feedback on what when wrong and how to possibly avoid them. I will rant here and there as well. I believe I have earned that right.
So until the next entry. Be creative in how projects are managed. Do not fall for the “one size fits all” mentality and stick to your guns when it comes to successfully managing projects. You will encounter obstacles. I know I did. But my innate rebellious self simply does not sit idle. I live, sleep, and eat “Agile”.