Interview with Meghan McInerny

In January’s meetup event Meghan McInerny, COO of Clockwork packed the MIMA event with so much information, she ran short on time to cover it all.  One of the great things about being a member of MIMA is the quality of the events and the presenters who are willing to share their expertise.

MIMA: Let’s continue where you left off at the meeting.  You packed a lot of information in there.

Meghan:  It is true, I keep thinking I need to package this into a longer presentation.  One of the things we didn’t get to is the importance of “Protecting the Team”.  As a project manager, one role you have is being an effective buffer between the team and distractions.  Knowing what is distraction and what is beneficial information to pass on.  A black belt skill is discerning that when the client is swirling, it won’t help my team to hear all that.  I am going to have a meeting to help the client process what they need and then share the outcome later with the team.  An entry level PM involves the team in everything or shelters them by always being the go-between even when their input would be beneficial -- the client really needs to discuss something that effects UX, and design and dev -- they should be in the room.  It is a fine line to walk.

MIMA:  You also had a slide on the importance of running “Kick-Ass meetings”.

Meghan:  It is important to use people’s time wisely.  People hate meetings so much.  There are companies where people ban meetings.  It’s not meetings that are the problem.  It is crappy meetings.  Too many meetings. It is important to engage people in a different way so they know that when you invite them to a meeting you have something valuable to offer.  You want to avoid the issue where people don’t show up, show up late or are multi-tasking and not participating.    

MIMA: One thing that came up in the Q&A related to how a PM knows when to step in with creative ideas.  Can you speak more on that?

We can’t do their jobs for them but we can do all the things that will make their jobs easier.  If you bring up creative ideas ineloquently, it will feel like you are doing the Creative Director’s job.  But there is a way to ask questions of team members to make the work better without stepping on toes.  One of the roles we play is the voice of the client.  You might ask, “We said that our primary strategy is…help me to understand how your approach meets the objective.“ As PM, you want to be able to answer the questions that you know the client will ask. 

MIMA: You mentioned in the MIMA event a regular Meet-Up you host for Project Managers as well as your thoughts on career paths for Project Managers.  You seem passionate on the subject and want Project Managers feel empowered and connected.

Meghan:  Project management as a career is often underestimated by leadership and the career path is unclear for a lot of people.  I started Twin Cities Interactive Project Management Meet-Up so Project Managers could support each other and learn best practices.  I wrote the book, Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process in response to people asking how to break into the industry and for instructions on successful processes to use.  My career as a Project Manager led me to be COO of Clockwork, as I see it I project manage the agency. 

I’m always interested in how Project Managers have used their transferable skills to be promoted into other roles and to assist others to develop an understanding of how to go about managing their career.  One of the issues in “being invisible,” which we talked about earlier as a Black Belt skill, is that your successes aren’t always visible to leaders.  PMs aren’t just executional and tactical, they are a source of leadership in organizations. Companies are overlooking a potential goldmine because they have trouble pointing to what their PMs did for the team.  Project Managers need to be their own best advocates, when they see themselves as leaders and know what their skills are, when those opportunities do come up, they feel confident to go after them.

We have a panel we are doing on March 1st, 2017. If there are folks out there who were once Project Managers and used that as a step in their career, we’d love to have them talk about their path.  They can reach me directly via Twitter @irishgirl or email me at meghan@clockwork.com.

This post was written by volunteer Gina Micek