Michael Mordak is joined by Patrice Embry—Freelance Project Manager & Certified Scrum Master—to talk about how community has impacted her professional career and helped her build her own brand as a freelance project manager.
- Patrice’s background [1:48]
- A freelance project manager. She’s been in digital project management for 23 years.
- She has been a member of The DPM community for a long time.
- She’s also a member of the Bureau of Digital, a specific section for digital project managers. She does a lot of networking there – trying to find as many job opportunities as possible and post them in a LinkedIn group because people have helped her find gigs and jobs before and she wants to pay it forward.
I really enjoy the community. It’s my way of being able to connect with people outside of this little sphere that I have here at home.Patrice Embry
- Patrice’s biggest reasons for regularly and actively participating in communities [6:27]
- Even before she was a freelancer, she was a contributor. It was always helpful for her to get insight from other people and other project managers.
- She’s a social person, but an introvert. Online communities are perfect for her because she can turn away if she needs to.
- She gets a lot of business from communities, so it helps with her livelihood.
- The bigger reason is that she likes to pay things forward. She wouldn’t have gotten where she is without a few key people. She also likes to mentor just because it makes her feel good.
- Meeting Ben Aston (Founder of The Digital Project Manager and its parent organization, Black & White Zebra) was really helpful for her because that was the first larger community that she joined.
- But the person who helped her the most is Rachel Gertz from Louder than Ten – she took her under her wing when she first started learning that there was a whole community of digital project managers all over the place.
I like getting feedback from the community and just being a part of something is really important to me.Patrice Embry
Meet Our Guest
Patrice Embry of Project Menagerie is a freelance digital project manager and Certified Scrum Master. After 25 years in the field, she has been fortunate to work for agencies, corporations, and everything in between. Her clients have spanned far and wide across verticals: pharmaceutical, finance, construction, ecommerce, race cars, you name it. Her client roster includes LeBron James, ExxonMobil, Merck HCP Education, Lundbeck Pharma, ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, GS1, SEI Investments, Hamline University, and many more.
I do like to pay things forward. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without a few key people and I like to mentor just because it makes me feel good.Patrice Embry
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Patrice on LinkedIn
- Check out Patrice’s website
Related articles and podcasts:
Michael Mordak: Hey, it's Michael from The Digital Project Manager, and welcome to today's member Spotlight! We've managed to string together the baddest collection of project managers who are out there creating change and challenging the paradigms that exist in our projects today. These people are so cool and so forward thinking that I feel obligated to share some of their insights, thoughts, and experiences with you.
Today we're speaking with DPM expert and longtime community member, Patrice Embry. Patrice has been involved with The DPM for over 10 years and is an absolute joy of a human being. She brings thought-provoking discussion, invaluable advice, and almost enough pictures of her cats to the conversation. So let's jump in, find out more about Patrice, how community has impacted her professional career, and why you might want to consider a no flashing rule if you share a home office with your significant other.
How's your week been?
Patrice Embry: You know, a little up and down, but it's Friday, so I'm just trying to leave it all behind me.
Michael Mordak: Nice. All right. I mean, the story that you shared in our event channel earlier is probably a pretty good example of some of the ups and downs you had.
Patrice Embry: Yes, that is true. Very true.
Michael Mordak: But yeah, so as we jump into that, first, so today actually I guess I should give a little intro about what we're doing here. We are, as I mentioned before, as we're getting ready, trying out a new system where we grab some of the people from our community and learn more about them because we have conversations in there every day about the things that we're working on, challenges we're facing.
Maybe some things, like, some new things that we've learned, uh, but we don't really get to know much more about people's backgrounds or where they've come from or what they've learned along the way. So, uh, this is an opportunity to do that. And today we're just gonna chat about you and how community has impacted your career, which I know will be super interesting. But I'd love if you could give us a quick kind of who are you, where are you maybe, and what do you do?
Patrice Embry: I'm a freelance project manager. I've been in digital project management for 23 years. It's a long, long time. Yeah. I'm outside of Philadelphia. And, um, I've been a member of your community for a really, really long time, like from pretty much the get go. So I've been around for a while.
Michael Mordak: You were part of the free Slack community that we had originally, right?
Patrice Embry: Yep.
Michael Mordak: Because it originally was a free Slack community and it just got overwhelmed if it's impossible. So it got shut down and uh, we've gone through some other changes, but now we've got currently our paid Slack community and yeah, it's amazing having you in there.
So we're very thankful for all of your insights and experience. But yeah, so other than our community, other than The DPM, are you involved in any other communities, whether that's for project management or networking or whatever else you could think of?
Patrice Embry: Yes, I am. I'm a member of the Bureau of Digital, which is a pretty big community of folks. They have like, uh, one specific section for digital project managers, but I kind of span the whole thing. That's owners and operations and designers and, and all kinds of folks, and I do a lot of networking there. I get a lot of leads there. I haven't been as great at it this year, but I try very hard to find as many job opportunities as possible from there and post them in a LinkedIn group that I run just because, you know, people have helped me find gigs and jobs before and I wanna kind of pay it forward.
So I participate there. I was participating in like a freelancer only group for a little while, but there's a lot of community stuff going on, so I had to cull it down a little bit. But that was nice just because I got a chance to talk to other freelancers about what their issues were. And I'm gonna try to take that information and experience that I have from there and bring it to the freelance channel here at Digital Project Manager.
So hopefully, you know, that's helpful because I really do believe in freelancing for folks if they feel like it's a viable option and I wanna help other people because like I said, people help me. One of the other communities I participated in until the whole company kind of shut down was super friendly, which is a company that does design systems.
And in that community I got to meet a lot of super cool people. You know, I'm just chatting with people and they're like, yeah, you know, I worked on that. Like I was the designer for that app. Like huge ash where I'm like, oh my God. Like I can't even believe that I'm talking to folks that have worked on those things.
So that was really cool and opportunity for me to get to know some, you know, fairly heavy hitters and stuff in that community. And that's been really helpful too, as I have tried to find other freelance clients and stuff because people do think of me when they think of freelance project managers because I am vocal everywhere all the time.
In my car, in this house, on Slack channels, like wherever it is, everybody can hear me all the time. I don't really shut up. So I really enjoy community. I feel like for me, because I work remotely, it's my, you know, I'm not going to the, you know, kitchen to microwave my fish. Like I'm not going to the water cooler to discuss shows. So this is my way of being able to connect with people outside of this little sphere that I have here at home.
Michael Mordak: Yeah. Couple things. I mean, first I love that the moments where you come into a community and you, like you said, you find people who are, have taken, you know, a huge role in some massive projects.
They built some big app, or they managed some massive event that you maybe, maybe were a part of at some point. And you realize, oh, I could just be in this community and talk to this person directly and ask them questions about it. Like, that's such a cool opportunity.
Patrice Embry: And they're just people and you're like, oh my God, you're just the person like me. You know, maybe you've accidentally walked into somebody else's, you know, video background and stuff like everybody else.
Michael Mordak: Exactly. So that's amazing. And then I definitely hear you on the, the idea of like calling back your, your communities though. Because I mean, I know that you shared your Slack ribbon before of all the different channels you're in, and I feel like I went through a little bit of a phase where I, I just wanted to join all of the communities and find all the insight. But you really need to kind of be a little bit more specific about it and intentional about which communities you're in and where you're spending your time.
Patrice Embry: Yeah, absolutely. I did, I had 26 at one time, but now I'm still in them technically, but I've signed out of all but like eight. So really kind of culling it down and trying to, uh, you know, focus, you know, a little bit more in my day.
Michael Mordak: I know you mentioned a little bit about kind of why you're participating. You mentioned, you know, networking is a big one also, you know, share, like sharing those, those jobs out that you come across. I guess what, yeah, what are the kind of the biggest reasons or that you have for regularly and, and actively participating in some of those communities that you're into?
Patrice Embry: You know, even before I was a freelancer, I was a contributor just because, you know, most of the places I've worked, I've been the only project manager or one of like a small, you know, number. So it was always helpful for me to get insight from other people, other project managers, because I didn't really have that in my job.
But especially as I went freelance, you know, I don't say this to like, it sounds weird. I'm not being self-serving and it's not the primary reason why I'm involved in communities. I'm involved in them just because I'm a social person, but an introvert. So like online communities are perfect for me cause I can like turn away if I need to or whatever.
You know, it's not someone standing in front of me, which is really helpful for me. But I do get a lot of business from communities, so it kind of, you know, helps me with my livelihood. But I would say the bigger reason for me is that I do like to pay things forward. I wouldn't have gotten where I am without a few, you know, key people and you know, I like to mentor and stuff just because it makes me feel good.
You know, I was helping someone the other day with, um, she was, you know, getting ready to go on a job interview and, you know, I, I've got opinions with a capital L and I was giving her some of the things that, you know, I think are important with interviewing, you know, making sure that it's a two-way street and you're not just sitting there trying to be there perfect candidate, but you're interviewing them as well. And, uh, you know, this person got back to me and she was like, I did everything that you said and it went really well. And the interviewers told me afterwards that they haven't seen people be so prepared with like, questions for them.
And so that kind of stuff kind of keeps me going cuz you know, as a freelancer I don't necessarily get, I'm not getting like a performance review because I'm not an employee. So I'm not always getting like the feedback that you would normally get as a full-time person. So I like getting that feedback from the community and just being a part of something is really important to me.
Michael Mordak: That's super cool. I love that. Yeah. You're kind of using the community as a feedback loop for yourself to kind of see if your actions and your ideas are actually resonating with people. That's really neat. Yeah. And that's so cool that the person was able to get back to you and see that the interview went really well. That's cool.
Patrice Embry: She got the job. Yes. So exciting.
Michael Mordak: You also mentioned as well that there were some key people that maybe you met through a community that, you know, helped you get to where you are and, and maybe you wouldn't have been in the same position you are without having been in that community. Are you able to expand a little bit more on that?
Patrice Embry: Yeah. I mean, besides you, well, you know, meeting Ben who runs Black and White Zebra, you know, meeting him was really helpful for me because that was the first larger community that I, you know, joined. Was the one that proceeded the one that you're overseeing now. So meeting him, and it's where I did most of my early writing.
It's where I did most of my early webinars. You know, he gave me a really nice platform that gave me a lot of confidence to kind of, you know, raise my voice in some other places that I was. But I would say the person who helped me the most is Rachel Gertz from Louder than Ten. And she basically took me under her wing when I very first started, like learning that there was a whole community of folks, digital project managers all over the place that were kind of getting together and forming communities because at the time it was an emerging job.
And so, you know, having someone to take you and you know, show you around and let you meet different people was really, really helpful for me. It's one of the reasons why I do like to talk to so many folks and introduce as many people to each other as possible, because that's what really got me to where I am.
And I have never been, knock on wood, I've never been happier in my career than I am right now. And I want that for everybody. So whatever I can do to make that happen, it's, it's important to me to, you know, bring that to other people.
Michael Mordak: That's amazing. Yeah. I love that. Some people just take you under your wing and, and I mean, it shows that you have been somebody who is very aware of that and, and you kind of talked about how you're doing that for other people as well, or offering to do that for other people as well, which is super cool.
And I know that, uh, I mean, I've seen firsthand people who've joined our community and said, I'm here because Patrice done talks about freelancing, you know, taught me so much by just watching her videos and stuff, so.
Patrice Embry: That's good to hear. Aw.
Michael Mordak: Yeah. And then I guess a final question I'd love to hear from you is, you mentioned that there were some people who've been very influential and helped you out a lot. Is there any one person who's just like somebody who maybe you never thought you'd meet in the community or somebody who you met and just thought they're the coolest person in the world? That's not me.
Patrice Embry: Well, how do you know it's not you? I mean, you don't know how I feel. Maybe it is. I've met so many people that I can't think of like one person that sticks out. I think it's the sheer number of people that I've met is actually the bigger deal to me because I do wind up, you know, coming across people in different areas where they're like, I know you and I might not always remember them, but I love the fact that people remember me.
I'm terrible with names and, you know, remembering stuff, and my husband can attest to that because I've forgotten almost we're, we're married almost 10 years and I've forgotten maybe eight of our anniversaries out of that 10 years. So, you know, I'm not great with that stuff. So I love it when people say they know me.
That's fantastic. But I wouldn't say that there's necessarily one person that jumps in my head, but it's just the fact that I'd met so many people. And I might see them in one place and see them somewhere else, and their name pops up over here and, you know, I, I get a new freelance client and they're already there, or you know, it, it's just really nice to know as many people as I do.
I feel like that's the thing that's bigger than me, than meeting any one person.
Michael Mordak: Have you been able to get together with anybody outside of your online communities?
Patrice Embry: I have, yeah. There's someone that I work with, um, Natalie Semczuk she's in community as well. And Natalie, she lived all over the place, but when she'd been, I think she's back in upstate New York, but when she was in upstate New York, I had taken my daughter on a road trip to Montreal and visit those weird Canadians up there.
And, uh, on our way back, we swung through like her area, we met for lunch and it was amazing to see her. Yeah, I've seen lots of people before at like conferences and, and things that are specifically for project managers. So I had met her before in person, met a bunch of people before in person. But having like non PM or not at an event type interaction with her was really, really cool for me.
So I, I love that kind of thing. I, I also happened to be in the same city as, um, a couple of other folks that are, that are, you know, fairly influential in the project management world, like Brett Harned, who actually wrote a book about project management and, um, he's become a friend of mine too. That's been a really huge thing for me is just getting to know some of the folks that are in my immediate area too.
So we do have a, a meetup in Philadelphia. It's kind of gone by the wayside since the pandemic, but, um, we're trying to kind of kick it back into gear, but it, it's hard, like, I don't even like leave my house anymore. Like for two years not having left the house, I was in heaven. So I have to kind of even get myself ready to go out and see other people again.
But yeah, I mean, I, I just feel like I've met a lot of cool people along the way, and when I get to see them outside of, you know, the project management world, it's even more fun. We're really amazing people, all of us, so, it's cool to hang out with any of us.
Michael Mordak: I haven't met a project manager that I did not like.
Yeah. Well, this has been awesome. I love that you're able to share kind of your journey and experience with community as a DPM. I'm gonna say again that I love having you in the community with us because you, yeah, I just in there every, I mean, it feels like every day offering help to people and, uh, sharing your insight and experience. But also like sharing, you know, the situations that, you know, challenge you and that, you know, obstacles that you face as well.
Because, I mean, even after 23 years of being a, a, you know, a digital project manager or, or project manager to any degree, you know, we still come across things that we need help with. So it's, it's always good to lean into the community and have them, have people there that can offer insight.
Patrice Embry: It's invaluable, honestly.
Michael Mordak: Well, thanks so much for your time, Patrice, and uh, we'll chat again in Slack.
Patrice Embry: Sounds good. Thank you.
Michael Mordak: Thanks so much. We'll see you later.
Thanks for tuning into our member Spotlight with Patrice Embry. She has so much more insight to share with you, so if you'd like to come chat with us in the Slack channel and we'd love to have you. You can learn more about it on our website thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership. We'd love to see you there!
And until then, we'll see you on the next one.