Digital PM Summit 2015: Inspiration Achieved

This year’s epic Digital Project Management Summit is over. It’s now time to reflect and deliberate over the nuggets of wisdom from each presentation and conversation with our peers, then disseminate our epiphanies throughout our respective companies.

I was excited to be chosen to share a breakout presentation at the Digital PM Summit this year and despite my seasoned veteran status, I ended up walking away with as much wisdom and inspiration as I provided, if not more.

My talk was titled “Launch a Big Website Redesign Iteratively”, and as I was putting my slides together in the weeks before, I realized that the true wisdom in my story was not in a step-by-step process to simply “do it the way I did”. The wisdom I needed to share was how I embraced a new constraint of a much shorter timeline, took initiative to find an answer myself, decided to make it my responsibility that the project was successful despite the constraints I was given, challenged the status quo, set expectations with the client to prepare them to be able to embrace change, and came up with a creative solution that ended up turning it into a very successful project. The title of my presentation probably should have been more like “How You Can Creatively Solve a Problem and Work within Your Project’s Constraints and Come Up with Creative Solutions (One Example Being Launching a Previously Waterfall Project in Phases).” These messages were the real truths, the real nuggets of wisdom that I’ve shared with my PM team and colleagues over the years, not a step-by-step guide but a way of thinking and a way of approaching your work.

I felt validated in my choice of message as my favorite speaker from last year, Nancy Lyons of Clockwork Active Media in MN, kicked off day one with her opening keynote. She talked about how to be an intrapreneur, to take ownership and initiative in improving your process and company from your unique position within it. “Yes, that’s me! And that’s what I want to share with people!” I thought. But as the day progressed, I realized that many of the keynote talks covered ideas that I had planned to cover in my own talk, and I began to panic. As Robert Harr from Sparkbox told us to “Embrace the constraints” and “Set expectations early” and even used my own favorite go-to phrase, “That’s a great question,” I was thoroughly prepared to disappear from the summit and hide out until my flight home. Another conference favorite, Sam Barnes, talked about taking risks and doing the right thing in the face of risking your job or upsetting the status quo in his talk, “Do Well or Do Good.” By this time I was trying to figure out how to change my slides and remove the similarities to the previous speakers (and add strategic goat gifs) and felt like a sham.

You could say, “But great minds think alike,” but really it is that “experience breeds wisdom.” When you find a magical nugget of universal wisdom through your unique experiences, it is your responsibility to share it. As someone who is newer to conference speaking, I was lucky to have the company of fellow presenters who provided me with some wisdom from their experiences as seasoned conference speakers, and they reminded me that the redundancy of truths was a good thing to be embraced. On day two, as Paul Boag told us never to settle or accept the constraints imposed on us, I realized I needed to reject the constraints I was putting on myself and apply my creativity and problem-solving confidence I use in my project management roles to conference speaking.

Become a project CEO. Own it. Put yourself out there and take risks to do the right thing. Bring your unique perspective to the table, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask lots of them. Even stupid ones. Grow. And learn. Collaborate. Get excited! This is the secret sauce of those of us who feel confident and successful as DPMs, and we want to share that. We remember the days of feeling like robots, cogs in the machine, process-monkeys, and we’re preaching the path to enlightenment through our experiences. I have those experiences as much as the speakers who came before me, but my story is unique. So I drank my own Kool-Aid and got creative, calling out the redundant messages even more so and stressing the importance of them, rather than removing them. And I loved it. My talk was better than it was before, because instead of burying my story, it was even more true as I celebrated the wisdom gained in just the previous day.

As summit closer Denise Jacobs talked about channeling our creative nature, she blew our minds by strategically gathering references and quotes from the previous conference speakers to support her presentation on thinking creatively. Wisdom. BOOM. Inspiration achieved.

See you next year, Digital PMs!