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A Day in the Life of an IT Project Manager

Are you thinking about a career in IT project management but don’t know how to start? Maybe you’re unsure of what the job entails or if it’s the right career path for you. We’ve asked one of Appsilon’s Senior Project Leaders – Ania Skrzydło – for all the ins and outs of her experience as an IT Project Manager. Join us as we take a sneak peek into a day in the life of an IT Project Manager. 

What is the role of an IT Project Manager?

My job is to oversee the project, from the beginning to the end. I start by making sure we all understand the client’s business goals and requirements. And that it transpires into the project scope. 

I make sure the team has all the information and resources needed to complete the task. I set the timeline and manage the budget, reporting to the client along the way on the progress. 

Are you interested in becoming an R/Shiny Developer? Explore a day in the life of an R/Shiny Developer.

Finally, my job is to be there for the user adoption stage; gathering feedback and making sure we deliver the best possible results. 

I also act as a liaison between a client and the team. I ensure all involved parties understand each other and have all the necessary information to succeed. That’s why, as a project manager, you need to combine some IT skills with business acumen and communication prowess.

What does a typical day look like for IT Project Managers?

My days are very varied, depending on what I am currently working on. Which is one of the best things about this job for me. 

Some days you will find me preparing the review for the client, others I will be analyzing and describing tasks for the next Sprint with the tech team. I also combine the role of a project manager with that of a developer, so some of my days will be spent coding.

Ania Skrzydlo, Senior Project Leader at Appsilon combines R Programming knowledge, business acumen, and communication.

I do have a lot of meetings, especially in the afternoons. As a project manager, I lead or facilitate most of them, so each day I dedicate some time to preparing for that. I want to make sure meetings run smoothly, and are efficient and productive for all parties involved. A big part of my job is also making sure everyone has all the information they need, so I’ll be sending messages on Slack, Teams, or writing emails. 

One thing that does not change in my daily routine is planning. It is a really important part of a project manager’s job. Without it, you can get lost in the chaos.  

However, no amount of planning can protect you from the unexpected. So you also need to be flexible and think on your feet. I often need to quickly change plans to react to a new situation and find a solution to any issue that arises along the way. Which often means finding the right people for the job.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, I’m leading a big project for a customer from the life science industry. As part of it, we are developing four different applications that help analyze genomics data. I’m not only an IT Project Manager on this but also double as an R Shiny developer.

Another big thing on my agenda is Appsilon’s internal initiative on impact and user adoption monitoring. I believe the success of the application depends on the user experience. That is why user tests are so important  – they help determine if the application is useful and intuitive, help create a smoother development process, and ultimately, a user-friendly tool. I’m supporting other project leaders who enter this stage of their projects, helping them with the implementation of monitoring tools and gathering feedback from the client.

Do you need a degree in Computer Science to become a Project Manager in IT?

I graduated in 2015 with a Master’s Degree in Quantitative Methods in Economics and Information Systems. My first job was in a media agency, where I worked as a data analyst, gaining experience mostly in econometrics and optimizations. This is when I started to code in R while building the analytical apps and packages for the team. 

After a while, I decided to move within the company to the Business Intelligence and Technology department. Which, as it turned out, was my first step into a project management career. I was leading two big projects, combining the work of a project manager with being a business analyst. I was also responsible for the optimization engine (written in R) for one of those projects. After that experience, I joined Appsilon as a Senior Project Manager.

Ania shared her story with other women in the R-community during an R-Ladies Panel Discussion: Women in Shiny

What are some common challenges as a Project Manager?

Combining the work of a project manager with that of a developer. It requires two different perspectives and two different mindsets. With the first one, you get to see the project as a whole, and with the other one, you can focus more on its intricacies. But I want to keep doing them both, at least for now as it gives me a lot of insight into the backbones of the project and I believe that in a long run having this perspective helps me to be a better Project Manager.

Each day I try to dedicate some time to the dev work, taking a deeper dive into the tasks I’m working on and focusing on the details. But then I switch back to the Project Manager mode, to keep the high-level view of the process. 

What are the best parts of being an IT Project Manager at Appsilon?

I like the duality of the job and being in the middle, liaising between business and technology. I am constantly learning new things, as with each new project I need to gain an understanding of the business, to be able to grasp and then explain the requirements for the application that we are to build. On the other hand, I also need to understand the technology and its limitations. 

New to R? Check out Appsilon’s guide on how to start a career as an R/Shiny Developer.

I like driving the discussions and finding solutions. I enjoy facilitating the development process and then, monitoring the application in use. It’s really rewarding seeing something through like that, from the concept until its adaptation.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Being a mentor for the Dare IT program, which encourages and supports women to start and develop their careers in the tech industry. The program’s mission is to build an inclusive tech world so that technology is built for and serves everyone and not just a selected few. I am happy I can be a part of it, helping others make their first steps in the IT world.

If you could start over as an IT Project Manager, what would you do differently?

At first, I was afraid to join IT. I was always worried that I’m not good enough and that I need to learn more first. So I attended workshops and courses. But when you are attending the 10th course in a row, it stops being productive. 

Now I would just say – find the job you want and try to gain experience. Learning on the job, and putting your skills into practice, is worth a hundred times more than any knowledge you can get from the courses.

What are the Top 3 qualities of a good IT Project Manager?

  1. Excellent organization and time management
  2. Good communication skills
  3. Curiosity and willingness to learn new things

In my opinion, those are 3 excellent qualities to have at any level.

What’s your number one piece of advice for people who want to get into IT Project Management?

Just start 😉

Curious to read more about Ania’s work? Check out her blogs to learn how to design, build, and implement better data science products!