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Why Did I Become an Agile Project Manager? – Ricardo Vercesi

Ricardo Vercesi is a member of the ProjectManagers.Org community. He shares his story on why he became an Agile Project Manager in the following interview:

Why did you become a Project Manager?

I became a project manager because in 1998 I embraced a project that no one wanted, which was the webpage for the government agency I was working at. As such I had to learn code and start to manage myself and later the whole project within the agency and the European agency as well.

What work were you doing previously?

I was mainly working as a network and helpdesk technician for that same agency. Before that I worked as a professional photographer for 10 years.

What are you doing now?

Currently I am an independent digital consultant and also teach project management and Agile techniques.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

After the first six months I realised I was falling in love with the web. Soon after I discovered the hard way I had to have some method in the way I managed my projects, my schedule and my time in order to achieve the goals I had set to myself and all the projects I was working in.

Are you happy with the change?

Absolutely. Over the years I have kept learning code as well but my main focus has been project management. First with PMI teachings and since 2009 Agile, mainly Scrum and Kanban.

What do you miss and what don’t you miss?

From my previous occupation as a tech guy? Nothing at all. And I still photograph – a lot.

How did you go about making this career move?

I started looking online for information and bought some books. After I left the government agency I went on looking for companies with high standards in Project Management and learned as much as I could from experience and internal training.

What didn’t go well? What ‘wrong turns’ did you take?

Early on I had the misconception that the Project Manager just “organised” the work. In IT that is way off reality. Often we have to roll up our sleeves and set the standard ourselves by doing what needs to be done. When I discovered Agile I thought it was the answer for my prayers regarding that same issue. I was wrong once again. Although self-organised, Agile teams also need some guidance from time to time.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I just dove head first. Did not think much about it really. I was lucky enough to be always employed.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Probably changing my mindset. As a photographer I was always used to solve issues as they would occur. And as a technician I simply followed orders and had no broad view of any project. Jumping from that mindset to a completely organised one and having to foresee (or at least try to) risks and plan accordingly was a major achievement.

What were other difficulties and how did you overcome them? What help did you get?

Having to learn the business model in each new project for a new company was the toughest side of working as a project manager. But then again, that was also the thing that kept me going. Learning new things. Always.

What help did you get?

Not much formal help aside the internal training and courses I took along the way. But I did get help from all the Project Managers I worked along side with or simply met and had the chance to change experiences with.

What have you learnt in the process?

Besides all the formal Project Management techniques, two seem to outstand. Firstly the fact that to be a good Project Manager you need much more than just to know PMI, Scrum, Prince2 or whatever methodology you work with. You need a good tech knowledge, a great business knowledge and an exceptional amount of soft skills. Also, always keep on learning. And I found out that for me, the best way to do that is by teaching.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Not to sound presumptuous but probably not much. I like were I am now in my career.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Do not think for a minute you know everything. Always look for more. For something new, different. For something more. Something that will help you somewhere along the way. And never asume you are above anyone else. You might have “manager” on your job description but you need everyone to keep the cogs turning properly.

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