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An interview with senior IT project manager José

Sarah Schwarz

In our interview series we chat to members of the woom team to find out a bit more about their working day. This time we are joined by our senior IT project manager José.

José, a Spanish-born dad of two, joined woom in 2019. In his role as a senior IT project manager, he acts as an intermediary between the application development team and the users. In this video interview, he tells us all about the projects he's working on at the moment, what made him join the woom team and what never fails to put a smile on his face. 

Can you describe your job for us in one sentence?

I bring together all the right people involved in creating tailored solutions for specific tasks and make sure that every deadline is met along the way. 

What do you think it takes to be a good IT project manager?

A lot of what we do involves listening and asking questions. After all, the projects we work on often bring together our IT department with other departments and external partners. And the chances are that we won't all be speaking the same language. A good project manager will make sure everything is as clear as can be by asking questions, clarifying jargon, setting out requirements, pointing out overlaps and discrepancies, and ensuring that the brief is explained in a language that everyone can clearly understand. Basically, we do everything we can to avoid misunderstandings.

What does bike riding mean to you? 

When I used to live in Spain, I would travel around on my bike. To me, it was nothing more than a frame with two wheels. An object I simply used to get from A to B. But bikes took on a new meaning for me when I became a father. Going for bike rides makes my children unbelievably happy and that joy is so infectious. And now I'm surrounded by that same passion and enthusiasm for cycling in my work at woom. It really shines through when talking to my colleagues who work on the products here.

How did you end up working at woom? What attracted you to the company?

A former colleague of mine who started working at woom told me that the company was looking for a new IT project manager. The position sounded absolutely perfect for me so I decided to apply. And here I am now!

What projects are you working on at the moment? 

One project I'm currently working on is the creation of an interface for our external communications. So I'm busy defining processes and then optimising them by making them as transparent as possible at every level. That way, everyone can meet their deadlines and uphold agreements with external partners. I'm also working on our company's main communications tool. We're currently in the process of merging together the existing US and European workspaces.

Do you have a typical workday?

No, there's no such thing for me. IT project management is so varied that I'm faced with something new every few days. Not to mention that every single project is different and needs me to apply a new strategy. It's my job to think through every step in a project. Sometimes that takes me several hours and the original problem can then be resolved within the space of ten minutes. 

It all comes down to effective communication. Meetings are a big part of my work and the preparation and follow-up are absolutely crucial. I make sure every meeting starts with a clear agenda and is followed up with minutes. I take my meeting minutes very seriously, you know. As far as the meetings themselves go, I always try to keep things as productive as possible. There's usually a brainstorming session that encourages everyone in the meeting to come up with ideas on the spot. I think that's so important.

How big is your team? Can you break it down for us? 

There are nine of us in the IT team at the moment – five men and four women from six countries (Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, India, Iran and, last but not least, Spain ;)  

How do you work together as a team and with other departments? Do you work with external partners sometimes too?

Our team has been working remotely a lot more since the pandemic started. We use the online tool Slack to communicate informally with colleagues and many of our external partners. I log projects on our project management tool.

I actually talk to external partners every day – be it over the phone, on a video call or in person. Depending on the project, I may even invite them to stand-up meetings. It all depends on what I think is going to work best for a specific project.

During the pandemic, we have obviously missed out on a lot of the spontaneous informal chatter by the coffee machine. But we have been trying to make up for that by having little online chats. As a team, we make the effort to get together once a week for a virtual coffee. That gives us the chance to catch up on everything that has been going on outside of work. 

What do you like most about working in IT project management at woom? 

That's easy! It has to be the variety of projects I get to work on. The IT projects themselves are always so different depending on which other departments are involved. And then I'm always coordinating projects from other departments, which gives me a fascinating insight into other areas of the business. It's amazing how much I learn! 

As an IT project manager, you need coordination skills, specialist knowledge and a strategic approach. Basically, you've got it all! What are the biggest challenges in IT project management? 

(Laughs and blushes) Gathering together all the requirements. It's so important but it can be incredibly complicated too. Once I've managed to get the right people on board, I have to make sure I ask them the right questions. Nothing is obvious or logical. And don't forget that not every member of staff has the technical knowledge to be able to quite envision the potential repercussions. I'm always telling people to be careful what they wish for! 

What impact does woom advancing internationalisation have on the IT department and your projects?

The demand for resources just keeps on growing. For us in the IT department, that means new software tools and interfaces catering to more languages, more currencies and ultimately more people. As the world of work gets more complex, we look to ease the pressure by making processes more agile going forward.

It's all about being agile these days! Are you more of a scrum or waterfall team? Or do you follow a different methodology altogether?

We lean more towards the waterfall methodology, but we're seeing a shift towards hybrid project management right now. In the medium to long term, we'd like to use the scrum process too but that will require a lot of time and a shift in mindset. That's why I think we're best-off sticking to our hybrid approach for the time being. 

What is your training and education background? Do you have a degree and, if so, what in? 

I have a Master's in engineering with a specialisation in automation. Before I started working at woom, I was involved in projects in different roles. For example, I was a project engineer and a project developer in a past life. When I had the chance to try my hand at project management, I enjoyed it right away. That's when I decided to work towards my PMP® (Project Management Professional) certification. 

Do you actually need to be able to code as an IT project manager? And what are your coding skills like? 

I have coded in the past and I've even had a go at code analysis and troubleshooting. You don't need to be able to code in this job, but I would say that it does help if you have at least a basic understanding of what developers do. It means you can put yourself in their position and work out if a particular solution is feasible and what the workload might look like. 

Do you favour open source or licensed products?

I'm on the fence! I tend to trust my team's instincts and allow myself to be guided by what the developers need.

Want to know more about the day-to-day of working at woom?