Your friends at Viget present Flourish, a Viget News & Culture Blog

Six Clues You’d Be a Great Digital Project Manager

project manager meeting

As Anna recently announced, we're launching a new Digital Project Manager (DPM) Apprenticeship this fall. We're excited about building a strong training program and introducing new people to the unique, exciting, and challenging DPM role at Viget. You might be wondering, though, what type of work does a DPM do on a daily basis? How do I know if it might be the right job for me and if it'd be something I'd enjoy?

1. Do you like problem solving? It's a key aspect to everything a DPM does. The job includes tasks that are typical of most project management jobs, like budget tracking, timeline planning, and scope management. It also includes responsibilities that are more commonly thought of as Product Management, like feature planning, ticket writing, and testing. With that combination, it's got a little bit of problem solving at every turn. You might be forecasting a budget one moment and working with the team to define the right feature the next.

2. Do you like breaking down complex ideas into clear, well-defined tasks? Closely collaborating with the team as we build a new site or application is a key part of the DPM role. You'll work with Viget's design and development teams to define what we're building, break that apart into actionable tickets for the team, test the working product, and then make it come to life by collaborating with the client and the team to bring it to completion. (Want to learn more? Check out Josh's great post about definition and documentation.)


Non-Obvious Paths to a Career in the Tech Industry

At Viget, we build digital products and websites for clients. The work is done by a team of people, and the most obvious roles involved are developers and designers. People in those roles often have obvious majors, like computer science and design or fine arts. If you’re looking to get into the tech industry, those are solid degrees to pursue.

Developers developing

I want to shine light on a less obvious, but key part of that team, and the less obvious academic backgrounds that can prepare someone for the work. As Kelly wrote recently, the Digital Project Manager role at Viget is key to the success of our projects. She highlighted the ways DPMs collaborate closely with designers and programmers, solve problems in ever-changing contexts, feel a strong committment to serving clients, and thrive under the pressure of deadlines and a final launch. It’s a demanding, but rewarding position within a very dynamic environment.

Digial Project Manager speaking to a group

But how would you know if you’re well-suited to being a DPM? It’s unlikely that as an 8th grader you were staying up all night to figure out how to translate complex ideas into discreet to-dos, the way some of our dev and designer friends were building their first applications and customizing their Neopets profiles. And, if you’re new to even knowing the DPM position exists, how likely is it that you studied something at all related to the role?

You might be surprised. We’ve noticed some interesting trends in terms of what our DPMs studied and what early jobs they took, long before they ever knew they’d be on a team of people building digital products.


Announcing Viget’s Digital Project Manager Apprenticeship

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new training program at Viget—the Digital Project Manager Apprenticeship.

The word “apprenticeship” sounds quaint (or does it?), but don’t be fooled. In our industry, “apprenticeship” usually refers to a specialized program for novices to train alongside an expert in order to gain hands-on experience and close mentorship. A couple examples, among many, of modern-day Apprenticeships include Fresh Tilled Soil’s UX Apprenticeship and 8th Light’s Apprenticeship for programmers.

However, as far as we know, nothing like an apprenticeship has ever existed for one of the most critical and complex roles in our industry: Digital Project Managers (DPMs).

We are excited to give it a try! Here are a few reasons why:

  • The talent is there, but it needs training. Right now, the market abounds with new and recent college graduates curious about our industry, but without an obvious way to enter it. They often hold degrees in non-technical subjects that have taught them to think critically, solve problems creatively, and communicate intelligently. They also love technology. But they have no idea the DPM job even exists.
  • Our industry needs and deserves stronger DPMs. Everywhere we look, a new bootcamp is sprouting up to teach future applicants how to code. But who is training up the next generation of DPMs to work alongside them? The DPM role is critical to the success of our projects, at Viget and throughout our industry. We hope to help nurture a growing field of expertise that often seems overlooked.
  • Full disclosure: we think recruiting for DPMs is hard, and we hope this will help. We have a thorough DPM evaluation process that includes multiple real-work-based exercises. And, yet, there’s no way to reproduce the unique, real-time challenges that come with client-facing work. Will every DPM Apprentice join Viget full-time? No. But we do hope to learn better who might be a fit for Viget and, while we’re at it, prepare all Apprentices to land competitive, first-time jobs in our industry.

So, what does the DPM Apprenticeship look like?

It’s a twelve-week, paid training program, held at our DC-based Headquarters during the Fall of 2015 (and again in the winter or spring). If you join as a DPM Apprentice, you'll receive direct, daily mentorship from one of our full-time DPMs. You'll closely shadow your mentor in order to learn the full depth and breadth of a DPM’s responsibilities. You'll also tackle a variety of challenges, exercises, and prompts in order to build your own DPM skill set. Ideally, toward the end of the Apprenticeship, you'll have the chance to manage a starter project of your own. The goal is to expose the Apprentice as much as possible to the DPM role, while remaining open-minded about where the Apprentice’s real strengths and interests may lie—we anticipate and welcome discovering that an Apprentice might want to go on to pursue, say, UX or software development after experiencing our DPM Apprenticeship.

What does it take to become a DPM Apprentice? Thanks for asking! In a nutshell, it’ll take: smarts, curiosity, and grit. To learn more or apply, check out our full listing here, and help spread the word!


On the Origin and Nature of Viget’s Summer Scramble

To this day, the origin of The Scramble eludes us.

Sometimes, over a cold beer on a fine evening, we look back upon the years and consider the events leading up to The Scramble.  I maintain that it was all Emily Bloom’s idea, back in the foggy days of the internship program’s emergence, and that a paper cutter and pale blue card stock were involved.

Intern holding Scramble card made of pale blue card stock, circa 2012, when paper prodcuts were already something of a rarity.

But Emily, who, as our People Director, speaks for the Spirit of the People, says it started long before that, with an intern whose name nobody remembers. All anyone can remember is the gorgeous peach cobbler that was silently deposited on the kitchen counter the morning of said intern’s last day.

I say, if you want to take a broad view of the thing, you’ve got to consider the word itself. If you check the OED, which is widely regarded as the definitive record of the English language, you get a choice between the noun and the verb, and multiple definitions thereof, and it’s all a little wordy. But if you go with the noun’s first definition, you get the following:

***

scramble, n. A struggle with others for something or a share of something; hence, an indecorous struggle, a confused or disorderly proceeding.

***

And so, the question arises: do we ask our interns to struggle? And can that struggle become indecorous, confused, or disorderly? All in the name of something dubbed The Scramble?

Well, when you consider that, in addition to the wholesome, career-advancing, learning-of-things that we ask of our interns for ten, hot, summer weeks, we add a set of so-called “challenges”;

and when you consider that, as interns complete those "challenges," a body of unnamed judges, referred to simply as the Committee, awards points and, ultimately, fabulous prizes;

and when you consider that those "challenges" range from the athletic to the social to the earnest to the absurd, including:

  • decorate your desk
  • go running/hiking/biking with a fellow Viget
  • challenge a Viget to a game of skill
  • cook or bake something for the office
  • pull one harmless prank
  • write and submit a blog post for viget.com
  • attend a non-Viget industry event
  • teach a Viget (who’s not on your team) something new and non-work-related
  • learn a fact about Brian or Andy (our co-founders) that is not published on the web
  • initiate a remote conversation with someone from a different team in a different office location

​... and, when you consider that, over the years, those "challenges" have given rise to such historic moments as:

that time an intern beat our CEO in a footrace:

... and that time the interns showed up with home-made sweet treats each day for an entire week:

... and that time the interns conducted science experiments with dry ice:

...and that time an intern taught Laura how to make the perfect mashed potatoes:

... and that time an intern was devoured by a bear:

Image captured moments before Intern, right, was devoured by bear.

... well, then, I am proud and pleased to issue a resounding yes.

Yes, we do make our interns struggle. And, yes, that struggle can become indecorous, confused, or disorderly. And I’d venture further that, when we give this madness the name of The Scramble, we say what we mean and we mean what we say.

For more legend and lore, go hog wild and follow #scram15 on twitter and instagram.


Mastering the Office Move

In less than a year at Viget, I organized and executed two office moves. The seven-year lease at our previous office ended right around the time I started; but, our new space wasn’t going to be ready until months later. So, we packed our things and moved to a temporary space. Nine unexpected months later, we moved into our brand new office! Below are a few of the lessons I learned along the way.

 

Finding the Right Movers:

When finding movers for your office, you should go with someone who is experienced and you should ask for references to back up their claims. While prepping for our move, we talked with a lot of moving companies and asked for quotes from three. We even had in-office “interviews” with the companies we looked into. By the end of the interviewing and reference checking, we had a clear gut feeling of which mover we should choose.

Prepping:

Several months out from our move we created a master timeline and shared it with all the people who would help with various parts of the move. Your timeline should include things like when to start packing, when you’ll go through storage closets and start purging things your office no longer needs, and even when to send emails to staff with move instructions. We also included details like “terminate Internet service” and “change address in contract template.” Thinking through all of these details ahead of time (and writing them down) will help keep you on task when things begin to feel overwhelming.

Another big aspect of our move prep was creating an office inventory and assigning each piece of furniture a home. We created floor plans for our new space and laid out each piece of furniture exactly where we wanted it to go.

Packing:

Packing is probably the most daunting part of the whole move. Approximately 32 people work from our HQ location, we had about 7,000 SF in our last office, and we were there for 7 years! A lot of stuff gets acquired over 7 years! The best place to start with packing is to purge the things you no longer need. Things like old computers, books that are no longer relevant, and furniture that won’t work in your new space are all great things to get rid of 6-8 weeks before you even start packing. Craigslist, Goodwill, Freecycle, and other donation centers are great ways of purging things while benefiting others (and keeping trash out of the landfills).

When you finally get down to the business of packing:

  • Make each person in charge of their own desk area. This will be a huge burden off your shoulders and ensure they protect their own stuff. Encourage your colleagues to take home anything fragile and to purge old junk too!
  • Attack one room each day.
  • Start early if you can. Up to four weeks ahead of time for less frequently-used items, artwork, and decor.
  • Don’t overlook disassembly and removing items from the walls. We had teams of two take down whiteboards, TV’s, and mounted cabinets prior to our move.  

The Big Day(s):

Give yourself time. For both phases, we planned to have the movers come a day or two before a three-day weekend. While the movers only took one day to move all of our furniture and boxes, we used the additional days to get things organized, unpack, and complete a variety of DIY projects (okay… a lot of DIY projects) before everyone showed up to the new space.

Print out copies of the floor plans (discussed in the prep section) and make sure you have a number of them posted in your new space. Our movers used these to position the furniture exactly how we wanted -- and the best part: they didn’t have to chase someone down every time they brought in a new piece.

Delegate. Put someone in charge of transporting important things like special paintings, petty cash, and anything the movers won’t move (most won’t move chemicals or alcohol). We also designated a person to stay at our old space until the end and one person to direct at the new space. Most importantly -- don’t forget to take care of your office helpers. Moves take a long time -- provide dinner or lunch (and snacks) to your core move team.

The Aftermath:

After a move weekend, there’s usually still a lot left to do. Try to make the first day special for those seeing the new space for the first time. For our first day in the new office, we had a special breakfast and all spent time sitting at our handcrafted “eatin’ tables.” It really made the first day feel like a special, celebratory occasion.

I recommend creating a to-do list of projects you need to finish up post-move. Whether it’s wrapping things up at your old space or organizing a storage closet, having a list always helps … and crossing things off is so satisfying!

Making It Fun:

Some companies want the move process to be invisible, but that’s a pretty difficult task. No matter what, the move is going to have a big impact on the rest of the company. We found lots of opportunities to make our move more fun (and tolerable) for everyone.

  • As we sold furniture on craigslist, we used the money to build our “Milkshake Fund”, a pot of money we use to do spontaneous fun things, like buying milkshakes for the whole office.
  • We opened up opportunities for people to explore hobby woodworking, name our new conference rooms, and test out furniture ideas ahead of time.
  • We also hung a move countdown at the front of the office which got people excited and kept them informed about how far off the move was.