My daughter and I recently finished watching the new Babysitter’s Club series on Netflix. It was pretty different from the Babysitter’s Club of my youth, but still quite good.
While watching it, the word babysitter made me think of my interview at Wilderness Agency for the Project Manager position. The interviewer asked me what the project manager’s role is to me.
I answered, “Well, I consider a project manager to be a babysitter. You have to keep a close eye on the project, the budget, and your team, and sometimes annoy people if need be to get the job done.”
At least this seemed to be my experience from previous project manager positions. I’m assuming they liked this answer since I’m currently writing this blog as a Wilderness Agency Project Manager for nearly two years.
A Day as a Babysitter
While I’m calling our team children, let’s be honest, I am a lot older than some of them, making me feel a bit ancient. Let me explain my reasoning.
Say you’ve decided to take the kids to the pool for the day which means you, as the functioning adult in charge, have to make a plan for the day because kids need stuff. First, you need a big bag to put all the crap in. You need sunscreen, towels, floaties and swim diapers, cash for the snack bar, and extra clothes for the drive home (you have to protect the car seats). And don’t forget about treating yourself with a few necessities like a book and a big hat.
Inevitably, you will forget something, because even when you try and plan perfectly, nobody’s perfect. You will have to borrow sunscreen from that one mom who never forgets anything. Other times you overpack way too much and don’t end up using everything (admittedly, the car is old, so who cares if the seats get wet anyway).
A Day as a Project Manager
Projects at Wilderness Agency follow the same pattern. You can try and plan out everything perfectly, but unexpected things always pop up. A task you anticipate taking 10 hours takes 20; a task you think may take 2 days takes 5.
It’s checking in with your team even when you know you’re being annoying. You want to constantly check the pulse of the project, the client, and the team members working hard to make it happen. Essentially, are the kids all still alive in the pool? Do they need any more sunscreen?
It’s answering questions and being responsible for juggling the many elements of a successful project. Sometimes projects exceed expectations, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes fate decides a project will flow smoothly, and other times you’re so stressed that a 10 AM glass of wine sounds reasonable. I’ve learned that if you plan the best you can and over-prepare (but not over-think), you’re in a better position to handle the unexpected things that inevitably pop up.
And on those days you manage to wrangle all the kids into the car and drive to the pool on schedule, and immediately hear a clap of unwelcome thunder, remember that you brought cash for the snack bar. You can at least get some snacks while you wait for the storm to pass.