Becoming A TPM

Posted on Mon, 5/9/2016
3 minutes read

This Drupalcon session is about managing your projects from a technical level. I'm not really a project manager but I'm trying to get better at managing large projects so I can make sure me and my developers make the right choices.

The Dos and Don'ts of Technical Project Mangement

Definition of a Project Manager - hearding cats. Hopefully the audio & slides get posted on the Drupalcon site.

Taming two lions:

  • Clients
    • need proper expectations
    • need educations
    • need big dreams brought to reality
      • firm empathy
  • Developers
    • Don't need distractions
    • Communicate red flags to the client
    • Need to fed words of encouragement

Technical Project Manager

  • competent folks who worked up the technical ranks
  • became project leader through wit and skill
  • able to communicate clearly to the non-technical
  • Time <> Money <> Features
  • Trying to figure the actual solution
  • Daily life
    • write a few status reports
    • compose a dozen emails, take more calls, chat on slack, send more emails
    • help team prioritize the latest set of technical issues
    • assist in identifying the problem at the root of several technical issues
    • employ one or more mitigation strategies for technical risks
    • !!! pull at least one person out of tempting rabbit-hole

Transitioning to a TPM

  • PM -> TPM
    • Understanding Drupal
      • Structure: Learn the Drupal Basics
      • Tools: How Development is done
      • Investigation: How to find the problem
    • Research
      • Dismantle to learn
      • Stack exchange, Stack overflow,
      • Learn the fine art of boolean search operators
      • get thee to meetups! (I like this one as an idea for people to learn)
    • Hands-on Learning
      • Dive into techincal support
      • Create documentation
      • Assist during emergencies
      • Take notes, ask questions, take on tasks
  • Dev -> TPM
    • Mental shift of what a workday looks like
    • keep troubleshooting skills sharp
    • develop empathy and interpersonal skills
    • verbal judo (how to verbally de-escalate)
    • Challenges
      • Communicating clearly, non technically
      • document ALL THE THINGS
      • balancing thinking time vs talking time
        • Don't book meetings back to back
        • every half of meeting you have you need at least that much time to do the work
      • people coaching skills
        • Don't bully your developers

How to rock as a TPM

  • Quick tips
    • clear your inbox before EOD
    • understand priorities
    • stay close to the code
    • own your mistakes and your developer mistakes
    • be available, be calm
      • sometimes it's good to help out randomly late at night
    • double your estimate, both time & money
    • know when to ask for help
    • be humble, curious and unexpecting
    • know when to shut it off
  • Trust your gut
    • if you think we're going to be late, talk to them early.
  • Know how to read people
    • Face-to-face meetings are best with clients
  • Understand balance
    • balance clients needs with your developers skills

Getting into the weeds

  • Creating Tasks
    • understanding the problem
    • co-create the solution
    • write testing criteria to define done
    • determine estimate
    • check in on developer early
  • Create a User Story
  • Estimation
    • You're going to mess up a lot!
  • Toolbelt
    • Channels of communication
    • development methodologies
    • project management tools
    • automated reminders
      • set a reminder the second you say you'll do something at a particular time
    • testing, testing, testing
  • firefighters
    • intense client situations
    • budget / timeline / scope changes
    • magic words
    • keep calm

What does success look like?

You never know if you've made it, just like everything else in life.


They said "hey it's just a website" which is what we've been saying which is awesome! Being a TPM is a big thing, curious if this is sort of the role I'll be falling into or not. I did find some good things I'll be sharing with our product owners.