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Metal Toad Project Manager Profile: Steve Winters

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 Katie have already been profiled, and now it's on to Steve, our newest addition to the PM team!

What makes a stellar digital PM?

A stellar DPM posses a specific set of personality traits, someone who is both inquisitive and resourceful. They are ones who strive to find the best solution and fully understand a task, while using their resources (be it co-workers, friends, and Google) to find out how to get something done right, or possibly better.

What was your path to becoming a project manager?

I have always been a natural leader in a collaborative environment. When I was younger I started a band. That led to booking concerts, which lead to recording, managing a venue, and many other entrepreneurial endeavors. The experience led to the recognition that I like the process much more than I enjoy the final product, and while I enjoy the chaos of creating a deliverable product (be it a concert or website), I find the process, management, creating spreadsheets, discussing, and planning to be the most exciting part. Being a PM allows me to work on the “process” time and time again.

What do you love about being a project manager?

I am a highly interactive person and prefer that method for tackling projects. Working with others brings out personal qualities which in turn, makes for a great project and a happy me. I love exploring what I am capable of and pushing myself to learn new things. Being a project manager I find myself always trying to keep up with the others around me in a professional way and I enjoy that push to become better, and find myself inspired by the wealth of knowledge around me.

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

I would advise any new digital PM to make sure they are a disciplined and organized. Both qualities will relate not only to projects, but how they learn and explore new ideas or unfamiliar technologies. Scheduling time for yourself to learn, research, and experiment will be key in a field that is constantly changing and growing.

What has been your biggest challenge as a digital PM?

By far, the biggest struggle is in the beginning stages of your career, and each new employer you work for. Ramping up on a project, learning the lingo, names (of people), tools used, etc. is a lot….and all at once. After that, there will be struggles at times, but ones that can all be addressed as a group vs the individual struggle of learning quickly or on the fly. Everything else required of a PM is a skill you take with you. The client communication, technical prowess, and process are all PM muscles that if you keep flexed will not fade easily, making each beginning easier.

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

Google! It protects one from looking dumb 80% of the time. The technology to answer any question you could ever have is truly amazing.

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

I am able to very much rely on the helpfulness and intelligence of our developers. My co-workers are great at teaching me things when I admit I do not know them well, and most the Metal Toad developers are able to communicate effectively to clients when questions go over my head. Beyond that, I make time to learn outside of work and spend a good amount of quality time with the Internet. These days there is a tutorial video on almost anything on YouTube, blog posts are created daily on every subject imaginable, and countless free resources are waiting to be Googled. You can’t learn technology by osmosis.

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

Understanding each individual as a person is key, knowing who likes certain types of projects and who deals with interruptions better. Inversely, knowing who gets overly distracted by interruptions. To an extent, the home-life/personality of individuals is also key in management and motivation. Putting a developer on a project that is rushed with a near deadline may excite one person, but cause burnout in another.

How do you recover from a bad day?

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

David Allen “Getting Things Done”
Mike Cohn “Agile Estimation and Planning”
Benrick “This Book Will Change Your Life”
Anything and everything that challenges the way you think and approach life.

Date posted: January 20, 2014

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