If you are reading this you probably already know about Umanlife, but for those who haven’t had the chance to be introduced yet, let me briefly present the concept. Umanlife is a startup that uses digital technologies to gather people’s personal data in order to offer them personalized advices and help them improve their well-being and health. Regarding our BtoB business model, we develop digital platforms for companies that want to allow their clients to monitor their health : tell us what you eat and how long you sleep and we will tell you how much sports you should do.
Who am I ?
My name is Caro, I’m a project manager at Umanlife and I work with the tech team. I graduated last year from a French engineering school where I specialized in Mathematics and decision making and in Business Development. Most of the education there was about group projects : long and short ones, in large or small groups covering a large range of topics from data mining to entrepreneurship. So of course I got out of college feeling like ready for project management in real life. And there it was, I joined Umanlife and realized I hadn’t covered it all and that it is much more complex to run a project when the team is not only made of students from the same school.
When you visit an engineering school, you’ll surprisingly meet mostly engineers-to-be just like myself a year ago. Make a group out of them, give them a project and that’s probably how they’ll handle it : they’ll meet a first time to agree on a solution they’re going to choose and how they’re going to run the project, they’ll split the work into equal tasks and assign one to everyone and, after a couple meetings every week or so, they’ll gather everything and be all pretty happy with the result.
What about now ?
Now, take a usual project in any digital company : it will involve developers, designers, marketers, experts like doctors or nutritionists in the case of Umanlife for instance, etc. And as you know, the marketing team and the tech team don’t always have the same vision of a product or a project in general, developers and doctors do not speak the same language. You cannot just split the work like students would do. You need to have people from different competences and different points of view being able to understand each other and work together in the same direction. That’s where the project manager is valuable, on top of imposing methods to run the project, he must ensure a good communication between the teams and create a shared vision that everyone can follow.
Something else we didn’t have in our projects back in engineering school : a client. You know the one that has requirements you don’t always find relevant, that asks for your advice but then chooses the opposite choice, that expects you to stick to the planning when he cannot give you all the needed information on time. Your client, the one that pays you so you have no choice but try your best to make him happy while respecting the budget and being able to say “no” when he’s asking for the moon.
As to my specific personal experience, I am currently working with mostly developers and I must admit everything they are doing is not crystal clear to me, they have to explain me when it becomes too technical. Believe me or not, communications appears to be the clue to most issues we can face on a project. I communicate with the developers to translate the client’s need and then need to vulgarize the technical aspects so that the clients can understand and be cooperative. If it’s more complex to conduct projects in an actual company than in college, it’s also more satisfying to work with people from various backgrounds and having to adapt to others’ opinion on a project.