What to expect: on your first work day as a project manager

I asked my fellow colleagues about their first day as a project manager. Brand new, I mean. That very first day. New role. New position. New organisation. Plenty of fun stories. Here is Simon’s story:

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“On my first day as a project manager I brought a cactus to work. Small, round, spiky. It mirrored my sentiments that day. It was too small to notice on my desk, yet once you touch it, you’d not know what to expect. I had a meeting scheduled in an hour with the programme manager. I was in the dark as to what this title meant. My smiling young colleague, with whom I was to share the office, offered to give me a tour. The tour turned into a “learn- to- manage–the-coffee-machine” exercise on the office kitchenette. The coffee machine was not very collaborative. It probably sensed my cactus mood that day. Luckily for both of us, a lady arrived to the rescue of the poor machine. Ten minutes later I was in the office of the programme manager and I noticed the dark green coffee mug I just saw in the kitchenette. I realized in a sec that the earlier rescuer is my boss. “Do you manage all your projects the way you handle the coffee-making?”, she asked me. “I am jobless”, i thought to myself. “No, you are not” she said, as if reading my mind. “If you evaluate the situation and tell me your lessons learned”.  And he did.

Just in case you are curious about Simon’s lessons learned: Your first day at work does not need to be a blind date. Unless you like to be fully surprised. You were hired for the job, so, probably, your planning skills mattered in the decision. So use them to build self-confidence. Picture your first day. In as many details as you can. Re-reading the job description from the perspective of the job holder will help. Visualize yourself with rolled-up sleeves. Refresh your memory with faces from your interview. Your supervisor was very probably there.  It will prevent awkward moments as the one Simon faced.

Make an office tour with the objective of introducing yourself to colleagues, at an appropriate pace. The coffee machine can wait.Feel the office atmosphere.

A meeting with your superviser on your first day is an advantage. I can testify to that. And not all get it. So make full use of it.  It will give you answers to the four basic Ws:

What projects you are given to manage.

Who are your project team members.

When is the first milestone.

Where is your project in the programme and/or the organisation/company’s strategy.

Upon return to your desk:

a. make an inventory of docs on files.

b. start reading project documents. Make side notes.

c. schedule meetings with your team members. Let them know in advance your questions or the framework for discussion. It will give you and them a well prepared meeting.

Finally a golden advice I got from my first job: remember – you manage the projects. And not the other way around. Smile, be pro-active and enjoy your first day, dear new project manager!


“The project manager who smiled” by Bob Taylor

-What are you reading now, Oxana?project manager who smiled

-“The Project Manager who smiled”.

-Did you write the book? asked my good friend Frank.

-I wish. It’s Bob Taylor’s book, i smiled in response.

-See, it could be easily about you.

I do smile. Indeed, a lot more than at the beginning of my project manager’s path.

I believe now in the value of fun in project management. Walt Disney’s saying “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” resonates with my believes as project management is often about making the impossible possible.

I discovered the book 3 years ago. I wish i met it and Bob Taylor at the beginning of my project management path. Hence the reason I share it here.

It is one of my favourite books so far on project management.

The book is about having fun and being productive. In its Foreword, it brings the evidence of linkages between fun, good mood and healthy atmosphere and, ultimately, productivity.

Some personal notes I made:
It is unorthodox in a tools-templates-square–linear thinking project management world. Nevertheless, the book talks to you on pragmatic levels, from project manager to project manager, regardless of the size or location of your project.

It relies on a wealth of other project managers experience for things tried and workable approaches.

It puts a smile on the reader’s face and makes sure it stays there till the end.

The author is brave enough to give personal examples and stories, showing that there are gains in vulnerability. For example, in a moment of despair walking out of a room full of team members, closing the door and in a loud voice pretending to be a boss firing him in a very loud voice.

You’ll not often find “expectations management” tackled in project management books. It has its place in this book. The book gives workable approaches to the management of expectations through e.g. constant feedback mechanisms.

It gives reassurance that creativity has its place and role in project management, making it thus appealing to more creative spirits who want to do project management.

Each chapter on Fun Inspiration, Fun Jokes, Fun Motivation, Fun Status, Fun Ideas, Fun Theme Tunes, Fun Team is followed by a PM Celebrity Gossip, sharing reputable project managers’ experience and projects’ successful fun stories. You can really relate or have an aha! moment in these gossips.

Recommend it! Works both in project management and in overcoming storms at home. My kid will certainly respond with a smile if, in a moment of unhappiness, I’ ll point a finger at her with ”don’t you dare smile, do not even think about smiling”. Enjoy the book!

Welcome to My Project Delight

welcome to MPDI became a project manager by accident. Many years ago, the only opening at an organisation I wanted to work for was mysteriously called ‘project manager’. I applied, successfully passed the competition and they offered me the job. I hardly realised back then what the job is about and what to expect. I was all smiles on my first day. The organisation did its best, but it was also going through change management. I continued to put on a brave face. Very soon an avalanche of a multi million Euro projects portfolio, I was supposed to “manage”, challenged my smile with a smirk: “Let’s see your talents now”. Needless to say that as soon as my previous employer got back to me, I returned to the job I felt comfortable at.

In time, project management became a professional delight and I always cherishes my first experience. I wish back then I had a mentor or coach, or resources, which would explain the tips and tricks of the trade.  This blog is inspired by my younger self and the every day learner I am aspiring to be. Myprojectdelight.com is my Giving Pledge.

I manage projects mainly in the development management environment, which fosters numerous transferable skills and competences for both private and public sectors.

Generosity and knowledge sharing are my values. I offer tips whenever I can. “Tips are like hugs, without the awkward body contact” I once read next to a tips box in a cafe in an airport. So are the tips on this blog.

Enjoy it, thrive and share it around you!