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August 30th, 2010

The Lonely Cat-herd (the Story of a Project Manager)

I once had a job title officially list “cat-herder” as one of many descriptions of my responsibilities. I’ve never actually tried to herd cats, but I’ve always assumed it’s a fairly tedious task. (What one might do with a herd of cats is beyond me.) Regardless, I suspect there might be a flute involved.

Project Management isn’t often a very glamourous job. In fact, I never really suspected I might become a professional client/developer wrangler, organizer, babysitter, accountant, therapist, and Miss Cleo-esque mind reader. Yet, here I am.

Two frustrating realities regarding my role are that it never seems to be called the same thing (Project Manager, Product Manager, Account Manager, Producer, Coordinator, Slacker) and that the responsibilities or expectations are rarely the same. Those glaring realities also happen to be what I love about it. I like to think that good Projectductcoordimanagewhateverpeople aren’t trained, they’re groomed. Like Super Heroes or brilliant politicians or world-class cobblers. It’s no wonder that people don’t actively seek this role during early career searches — potential employers could never easily or fully describe (or know?) what each position might require. They just know they need one. And they’re probably right.

Let me introduce myself: my name is Matt Leiker and I joined the Voce Connect team around four months ago. I grew up in Kansas, went to school in Philly and have lived in NYC for the last 5+ years. My background is frustratingly broad, which also happens to be one of my biggest liabilities and best assets. Knowing a little about everything can be great for straddling various fields or industries, but obnoxious when trying to find entry-level jobs as I’m an expert in, well, nothing. At UPenn, I “studied” graphic design (a.k.a. Photoshop Funtime), marketing, the interwebs, and the science & philosophy of seeing (how do you know that ugly webpage is the same ugly webpage I see?). Yeah… what do you do with that? Google hard enough and you’ll find a few answers.

HTML Codemonkey might as well have been the official title of my first job at AOL Music. I eventually ended up in Product Management for their AIM team building a social network and constantly zipping back and forth to Dulles, Virginia where the majority of my team was located. (As well as Dublin, Ireland and Bangalore, India where we had a few remote development teams.) From there I ended up working at a small Swedish digital agency that did a lot of work with Absolut Vodka (“yes” to answer your unasked question).

I eventually re-connected with some old AOL colleagues at a small digital strategy company and worked with entities like the National Hockey League, Bonnaroo, Major League Soccer, and CBS Radio. It was on this last project that I got to work alongside the fantastic, amazing, and highly-attractive talents of team Voce.

That brings us to the present: our team is expanding, project scopes increasing, and workloads ballooning. This talented group of nerds has built a cohesive, productive, and awe-inspiring family; their work continues to speak for itself. My goals are clear (or as clear as they get in this b’niss):

  • Help wrangle the expanding client management required to upkeep the ever-growing list of projects on our docket
  • Revise and revamp some processes to increase efficiency and sanity in our worklife (note: I plan to make it all up as I go)
  • Improve the quality of work, customer satisfaction, and general code-sexiness of the Voce Connect team

We’ve got some incredibly challenging and exciting projects coming up. Over the course of the indefinite future I’ll be sharing with you some of our struggles, successes, and experiments in “Process”. This should be a fun ride. (And by fun I mean exhausting. (And by exhausting I mean awesome!))

Matt Leiker

About the Author
Matt Leiker acts as chief cat herder for the Voce Connect Platforms team, making sure projects are running smoothly and clients are happy. Follow him on twitter @mattleiker or see all his VoceNation posts.

Filed in Voce Culture, Voce People, Voce Platform Services

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