Day in the life of
Product Development Project Manager – Angela Dion
I am the New Product Development Project Manager at Nielsen-Kellerman. We are a trusted developer and manufacturer of rugged, reliable, and accurate consumer electronics instruments that help our customers succeed in their profession or passion. When I think of my job, I can pose a parallel to any type of sports team you’d like to imagine here. If a new product is the big game win, and our people are the players, I’m a strategic coach. I need to have a deep understanding of our goal (new product), players (resources), game schedule (project timeline), salary cap (project return on investment/budget), and our opponents (risk). I know our team is full of MVPs who have talent and ethics, so it is my job to make sure they have the playbook, equipment, communication, and support to perform their best. I also serve as the main point of contact to the team owners (Executive leadership) so they know exactly what is going on with a particular team at any given time.
What does your typical day look like?
I’ll start the day by leading project status meetings. We use Lean and Agile methodologies, so they’re scrum-style stand-ups that last 15-30 minutes. Then, I’ll write and disseminate brief project status summaries to ensure our entire company is kept informed. Next, I will lead a product review with our Executive team so a project may gain approval to move from the Design phase into Development. These important stakeholder touchpoints are part of our rigorous, yet relatively agile, product development process to ensure we have what we need to be successful each step of the way.
After that, I will attend an andon for a new product – a process tool that is used to inform and alarm teams of problems within their production or development process. That will get resolved and I will move on to having a celebratory lunch with a team that just released a new product. Always celebrate your wins! Then, I will facilitate a project retrospective for a product that was recently released. I make sure to document any process improvements that came out of our retrospective and inform the company of any new procedures as a result.
Last, I will spend any remaining time I have in supporting our New Product Development teams for whatever we need to get the job done. This could be almost anything – from adding requirements to a functional specification for a firmware developer; wireframing some UI/UX for an app developer; calling a materials vendor to get an answer for a mechanical engineer; proofreading an instruction manual for a brand manager; reviewing product forecast and ROI with a sales manager; alpha testing a weather station for a product manager, or communicating Bill of Materials change to a production process engineer.
Pros and Cons
The pros and cons of project management can be the same thing. It depends on what kind of person you are. We are growing and have teams working on products concurrently across 7 unique companies/brands. I am never bored. There is always a sense of urgency. There is always an opportunity to improve. There is always a challenge to address. I have to wear every hat that’s thrown at me and try to make them look OK, even if they’re the wrong size for my head. For me, the biggest pro is seeing a project team succeed, and there are lots of ways we succeed together. Having a project retrospective where we all agree on a way to improve our process is just as awesome to me as getting our new product out to its first customer.