It’s Friday afternoon after a stressful week, and my brain ran out of fuel a long time ago. It feels as though every single hamster on the wheel that generates power for my brain has clocked out early, and I’m slowly losing my ability to generate coherent speech. All I want to do is curl up with a mug of tea and shut my brain completely off.
Instead, I post something that happened the day before in my Slack channel of other digital project managers. Within minutes, I have several edifying responses encouraging me with the humor and positivity in my story until I am laughing with them, feeling much better about my day and the job that I’m doing.
In October of 2016, I was so fortunate to attend the Digital Project Manager Summit in San Antonio, Texas. The event hosted over 200 DPMs from all over the world for three days of small groups, large seminars, interactive workshops, and networking opportunities. We heard from legends in the field of digital project management and got the opportunity to speak directly to representatives from some of the most widely-used tools in the field. We enjoyed meals, drinks, phenomenal conversation, and the beautiful San Antonio River Walk, but the best thing that I got from the conference began the moment that I left.
See, I had never before met anyone who did what I did. Like many DPMs (as I learned at the conference), I fell into this career much ‘by accident,’ and it has been a fast-paced learning experience since the very first day. I have a well-memorized “elevator pitch” that describes what I do to anyone who asks. But it has always felt a little bit lonely to be learning so much by myself and not have anyone to run ideas by or find solutions to problems with. I often longed for a DPM buddy to help me make sure that I’m not (too) crazy when I try to make a company-wide change, to learn from their unique experiences, and to commiserate with. But that wish changed the moment I left the DPM Summit.
While in San Antonio, we used Slack during the conference to communicate event updates, share funny jokes, and coordinate meetups. After the conference, our Slack channel became a family room for asking questions, seeking advice, learning from the way other teams managed projects, and encouraging one another. Nearly every day, I learn something valuable from our conversations, allowing me to become that much better at my job. But the best part of all is knowing that there are more than 200 people out there, doing the same job that I am, facing the same struggles, and working to make the same change.
It is so important to have family. It is so important to have community. You can learn from your ‘elders;’ you can help to educate others; you can lean on someone when you’re running out of strength; and you can share a funny meme that only they will understand. The education and knowledge that I got from the sessions at the DPM Summit in San Antonio last October were invaluable and contributed immensely to my growth as a DPM. But the best thing I got from the conference was finally getting to connect with my people.