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Q&A

Industry Q&A: Project Management with Sarah Skotnicki

Freelance Project Manager

Project Management
From the 2016 Industry expert profile series on our Skillstalk blog, we had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Skotnicki, who at the time was a design student and working as a Freelance Project Manager.

She has worked across various aspects of the design industry, gaining valuable experience through internships and paid work in the bustling cities of Melbourne and New York. In this Q&A, she tells us the importance of being a people-person in Project Management and how being a Project Manager is not limited to just one industry. 

What kind of work have you been doing throughout your current degree?

I started off just doing some freelance work for friends. I did the RMIT Graduate Photography Show branding and catalogues for that. From there, I got an internship in a hand-crafted jewellery company. I was doing some design work for them and I met some other people working in the design studio and started getting work doing some freelance projects. 

When I moved to New York, I interned with Milk Studios [a media company encompassing fashion, music, photography and film]. I wasn't running projects there, but more like head of teams for fashion week, and making sure things were running smoothly. I than got a job at a digital agency in New York called Oscuro. They would give me a project to manage and set a deadline to complete it. Sometimes there'd be other interns working on it, and at other points, I just had to get it done for a client. 

So, can you run us through the process of what those three days would be like?

Depending on the project, it could be a website or an animation, sometimes it'd be a whole branding concept for a company, the size of the team that I had for the project would change. Normally, I’d get a brief, have 2 or 3 hours where we would all individually come up with concepts, and then we’d meet up and develop an overall concept of what we are going to do. It involves mapping, wire frames and concept sketches. project management concept

And the project manager is delegating these tasks?

Yeah, normally a person's concept that has passed will be doing the delegation. There is always a leader for getting a project done, and above them is the person running the whole office, checking in to see if things were completed.

Do you have to be a people-person to be a project manager?

Yeah, you do. If you're good at what you do you'll get far, but the reality is the design industry is all about networking. You wont even get to a point where you can manage a project unless you've got people skills to network, and get yourself a foot in the door of the industry. 

You also have to commit to the fact that if you’re an intern, your workday isn’t the standard 9-5. You have to start at the bottom of the ladder to move your way up, and if there’s a project that’s half finished and you pull the intern card and go home, you’re going to burn all of your bridges.

Is it daunting trying to get a job?

It’s totally daunting. You have to put yourself on the line, and write a killer cover letter. No one is going to take someone that’s like everyone else. Figure out what the company does, and figure out why you would be better than anyone else.

What’s stressful about your job?

It’s stressful when you have a deadline and you’re not sure if you’re going to make it. You might be surrounded by people who are freaking out, and as a manager, it’s your job to take a step back, see that there’s a client who’s paying and who has no design skills. We have to give them a project. You have to stay calm about it and get the job done. If it means staying longer to meet a deadline, then that’s what you do.
project management concept

And what’s the best part?

A happy client!

So, being a project manager isn’t limited to one industry. 

A project manager is someone who is able to communicate with a team, and make sure everyone is happy. You won’t get anywhere if the team doesn’t want to be there. Make sure everyone is doing what they’re best at. Another big component involves understanding the needs of the client. In the very early briefing stages, you need to help the client figure out what they want.

For instance, if you’re designing a website, the client probably won’t know if they want a hosted Squarespace, versus a site that has taken hours of coding. As a manager, you need to find an in-between where everyone in the team can contribute to it, and you get a good project out of it.

Want to project manage like Sarah?

Be sure to check out our Project Management courses and what career outcomes you can achieve if you do either a certificate or a diploma-level course. If you have the desire to lead a team and can thrive in deadline-driven environment, these courses can help you develop the skills you need to prepare you for the role of Project Manager or similar job roles

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