It’s tradition to look back on the previous year around this time, to reflect on the challenges and successes and to make resolutions for the upcoming year. As my work anniversary also falls in January, this is a great time to review my first year at Insentra.
I started at Insentra with the fresh excitement one always has when starting something new and which you are looking forward to. I didn’t leave a company I was unhappy with to work for Insentra. I had worked with many of my coworkers for years and they were like family to me. I had started with the company before it was acquired and knew the processes because I had helped create some of them and had gone through training wheels to a BMX racer by that time. I loved the different business cultures of each customer I had a project with, and I knew the projects I was managing inside and out. However, a friend and past coworker of mine told me about a small customer focused global company which was gaining ground in the U.S. and was looking for their first US project manager. Their President for Americas, Jody Elkins, sent me a link to Insentra’s which reminded me of the first company I started out with after college – also small, and where everyone was responsible for the success and failure of the company. I was intrigued because I had never worked for a company based outside of the US and had previously experienced a lot of professional growth with a small company. After talking to a few people at Insentra I decided to accept the challenge of stretching myself again and learning something new.
When I used to train and mentor new employees, I would tell them the first 3 months would feel like they were a swimmer barely keeping their head above water but not to give up. By 6 months they would feel like they were getting the hang of it. And by the first year they would feel like they had been doing this forever. It was easy to say, but it had been a while since I had to experience my own words. The Insentra train is moving fast and I was that person in an old western hanging off the side of it with my feet dangling and trying to pull myself to the roof before the bad guys did. Looking back through my first year, I did make it to the train. Well, I am in the train shoveling coal with the rest of the crew, but you know what I mean. Here’s a few tidbits I’ve picked up so far on my journey.
Working remote and then working remote
When I was asked during my interview process how I would feel to be working remote 100% of the time, I said (and meant it) “no big deal”. I was already working 100% remote. However, what I didn’t think about was that I hadn’t been 100% remote from the very beginning. This wasn’t a major deal, but it was something new to experience. Onboarding a new remote person (i.e. me) is different than onboarding a person who comes into an office. Once you get your laptop all setup there are all these little things which come up like – what do all these acronyms mean, what applications do what, is there a company standard for “out of office” notices, who do I go to for this question or a need, what login goes to what application, etc. These questions come up when in an office as well, but usually you can ask the person in the cubicle next to you. I didn’t want to call people up throughout the day with a question here or there because they have work to do as well, but I wanted to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. What I found which worked was opening OneNote and writing the question down in a list every time one came up. I still do this. I then ask my mentor during our quick daily meetings which were setup for my first few weeks or on my weekly meetings with my manager. Insentra also has this fun practice of all your crew members and the management team setting up time to meet and chat with you over video. This is a great time to ask questions.
Project Management is Project Management, but processes can change
I believe the principles of project management are the same anywhere you go. Afterall – that is the premise of PMI in that there is a standard that is used by all project managers. However, there is also a learning curve when stepping into a new company. Every organization has their own processes within the project management methodology which you are required to learn to be successful. These processes can be different forms of internal communication, escalation paths, articles for governance, guides and locations for documentation, and the list goes on. Insentra has created a flow chart called a Project Process Flow for each of the project phases with links to corresponding documentation, this was a great help and heavily used when I first started – I still use it today! I also had mentors to go to for questions on processes and was able to ask questions in the team huddles. These avenues saved my bacon a few times as well.
Raise your hand if you let someone down
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “but in this world nothing can be said certain, except death and taxes”. I would go on to say it is also certain everyone will make at least one mistake in their lifetime. I know I have made tons of mistakes both large and small, even in the workplace. I have admitted mistakes and worked to resolve them, but there is always a trepidation when admitting the mistake whether it be pride, fear of reprisal, etc. We often try to forget those mistakes as soon as possible so the concept of “How did I let someone down?” was a bit new and daunting for me. I had to remember my mistakes, write them down, and then (gasp) talk about them in brief detail. There is something to be said about being vulnerable and open in the workplace. It is very liberating because it reminds you that we are all human and there are some good lessons learned we can all use.
Huddles and cuddles on video chat
Alistair Cockburn modeled various modes of communication which people use when collaborating, and one of the highest forms of communication is a face-to-face conversation. Face-to-face communication allows opportunities to interact in real time and is considered a more efficient and effective form of communication. Mark Twain once said, “Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.” Basically, a lot can be communicated face-to-face which is not easily communicated through email, phone calls, or phone conferences. This is important when crew members are in different locations and time zones as we all need to be going the same direction on the train or to use our motto: “One Team One Dream”. Insentra has embraced this concept with daily, 15-minute and sometimes weekly team meetings called huddles (or cuddles as the PMO team calls them). I am going to stop to mention I like the term “cuddles” because a closeness forms when you interact with your crew daily.
I look forward to these structured team meetings because it helps me get to know my peers no matter where we all work. Interacting in real time allows us to better communication not only with words, but also through body language and facial expressions. There is an easier flow of ideas which makes us more efficient and effective. It also builds our relationships with each because we share what we are doing for the day, our roadblocks, and our celebrations, both professional and personal, which helps us to be better versions of ourselves and we become a work family.
On towards the new year
Anyone who has ever had a meeting with me knows I can keep talking forever, so I am going to end my reflection here, but not the journey. I am looking forward to 2020 and my second year with Insentra with all the new challenges and successes, and most certainly something new to learn.