What does it take to manage projects at a dynamic startup

Managing and organizing in general have always been one of my favorite things to do. Already as a teenager I took over responsibility for organizing Christmas markets in middle school, structuring work at the registration offices at sporting events, or planning the prom at high school.

When I started university, I got the chance to join a team of an association that organizes large public events with ~20k visitors. Besides this event management work, I also became a board member for finance of the association, being responsible for annual budgets of almost 250k € including public funding and official sponsorships.

At this point I had pretty much figured out that I wanted project management or closely related topics to be the main part of my future professional work.

More than 3 years ago, SO1 saw something in me and gave me a chance to become a project manager. They were willing to accept my non-profit experience in project and event management as relevant,  while almost all other job openings advertised required something like “5 years of professional experience in top tier companies” to even make it through the initial application screening.

The daily work as a project manager at SO1

As a project manager, I now work on multiple internal and external projects of varying sizes. That includes integration projects with our clients’ systems, product development projects with our distribution partners, and internal projects for process improvements. My operational tasks include scheduling, communication & stakeholder management, business requirements development, risk management, documentation, and much more.

As the business team at SO1 is rather small compared to our R&D department, I also have a second role as an account manager. Combining these two fields of responsibility makes me the first point of contact for the customer throughout the whole client relationship. Former project work with the client also provides me with most of the details of the domain-specific knowledge we have gained, which in turn helps me in developing the client relationship through change requests and consulting.

Startup project management

Managing projects in startups often deviates from approaches taken at established companies. Besides using agile project management methods there are other differences that are relevant when considering a career in a startup:

Limited resources
Whether it’s financial budgets, HR, or the amount of time available – at least one if not all three are usually in very short supply in your projects. You need to emphasize the 80:20 rule and always start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as first delivery.

Error culture
Of course, you want to avoid errors where possible. But one error usually doesn’t mean a complete failure. Startups use this spirit and see errors as a chance to mutually grow as a team and company.

Speed in development
Innovation speed and progress is one of the major advantages a startup wants to maintain in its industry. Lean hierarchies, and fast communication and decision-making form the basis for this. To keep up, you need to be able to adapt quickly to changes (as does your company).

Adaptable processes & tools
While startups may have their share of templates and defaults, compared to corporates it will be much easier to test and establish new software, project management artifacts, or other helpful improvements. As a project manager you can use this to adapt any known tool specifically to your (company’s) needs and keep overheads to a minimum.

So, if I could turn back time… would I join SO1 again?

Definitely!

I don’t believe I would have gained as much knowledge about my profession in an established company. Right from day one I took over responsibility for operational project management tasks.

Finally, there is one more factor that I can’t emphasize enough: the great team I am working with. At SO1, we are all keen to evolve as a company and support each other in every situation. Of course, the team you are working with is something that can be hard to check out upfront. So if you have the chance, I highly recommend to get to know your future colleagues before making a decision for or against a job offer.

 

Interested in working at a fast-paced technology company? Take a look at our job openings or contact us directly.



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