Metal Toad Project Manager Profile: Rhienna Renee Guedry

As part of our project manager application process, we ask applicants to respond to a number of questions about themselves focused on their approach and philosophy when it comes to project management. We figured that if we were going to put applicants up to those questions, we should respond to them as well! Adam and Steve have already been profiled, and now it's on to Rhienna!

What makes a stellar digital PM?


My answer is equal parts formula and magic: formula being the experience and great communication skills of a highly organized and motivated individual. “Magic,” of course, is subjective, and less easier to measure—you either have it or you don’t. In terms of Digital Project Management, that magic is some combination of the following: natural leadership, big-picture thinking, innovation, emotional intelligence, intuitiveness, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

What was your path to becoming a project manager?


I started my professional career working at a major book publisher, but I found myself being asked to take on more and more PM duties in addition to editing manuscripts. Making print-edition books, in many ways, follows a digital/web publishing workflow (Waterfall to the extreme). I ended up being recruited by an awesome creative services agency that had my publisher as a client at the time. Initially, I was reluctant to step away from Editorial (because I fancied myself a writer), but it ended up being a defining moment in my career.

After that opportunity, I found myself freelancing, often taking on digital projects as a PM, which often included UX and QA. That facilitated my move to Portland in 2007, and some strategic and great partnerships working as a PM/Director/Jill of All Trades that followed. Now, I’m hooked, in part because Project Management is amorphous and there will forever be something new to learn, improve, or map out. But it’s also because that line of thinking doesn’t have to stay at the office—anything in your life can be a “project” to manage, from learning a song on the piano to a major home renovation.

What do you love about being a project manager?


Keeping things organized and making the impossible happen, which both are so critical! There’s this moment when a project first begins—and no matter how many projects you have managed, it’s always the same (for me)—where it feels like utter, impossible chaos. And then something amazing happens. Your brain just starts...making things happen: sorting into tasks, sizing those tasks, correlating to a timeline, drawing connections between people and tools and The Way It’s Gonna Happen, flexing it’s muscles all over the place, picking up speed. It is completely empowering and inspiring, and such a crucial part of any new project. As much as I love that early stage of decoding a puzzle and making all the pieces fit into place, I also love watching a project morph and evolve through time.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to a new digital PM?


Listen to the people around you. Read everything. Don’t be afraid to dive in (you’ll learn to swim faster!): sit in on demos, follow trending topics on social media, go to meet-ups, engage on blog posts. Immerse yourself in the world whirling around you. Plan B (after you try all of the above): fake it ‘til you make it.

What has been your biggest challenge as a digital PM?


Keeping up with technology and processes that are rapidly changing and evolving. Of course, this challenge is also part of what makes working in this industry so dynamic and exciting.

What is the one tool you can’t live without at work? Why?


Some form of a calendar. The tools might vary per organization or even evolve over time, but I can’t imagine a project existing without some form of time table/schedule/calendar.

How do you succeed at managing projects where you’re unfamiliar with the technologies being used?


I have a very high-level understanding of the technology concepts, which works as my foundation, however I rely heavily on the Developers I work with for this. The more immersed I get, the more I tend to grow my own knowledge, become better equipped to ask the right questions, or anticipate future issues.

What’s the most important thing you must do to manage and motivate humans successfully?


Being able to read people, and adapt accordingly. It takes a bit of work to tune intuitive sensing, but it makes a huge difference to treat humans as individuals and respond in the best way per person and per situation. Even communication methods show personal preference: some communicate best in private chats or in response to emails, others are most motivated by a quick coffee chat or walk around the block.

How do you recover from a bad day?


Weather permitting, my preferred way to blow off steam is a bike ride listening to music. It gives me a chance to decompress, whether that’s rehashing the details of a given hard day, or completely change my thinking by focusing on the scenery, sounds. When all else fails, there’s always whiskey.

Do you have any reading or listening recommendations that serve to inspire or inform digital project managers?


Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity

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