Well, hello, and welcome to the inaugural podcast of The Digital Project Manager. Thanks for tuning in. And let me tell you a bit about what we’re going to cover off today. And then we’ll get straight to it. I’m going to tell you a little bit about The Digital Project Manager. I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself and what you can expect from this digital project management podcast. But by way of very brief introduction to start things off, I’m Ben Aston. I’m the founder of The Digital Project Manager site, and that is thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
And so let me tell you a little bit about The Digital Project Manager if you’re tuning in and you’ve never been to the site. This is just a little quick overview of what The Digital Project Manager is all about. When I talk about The Digital Project Manager, I really kind of describe it as project management guidance for the digital wild west, and the digital wild west because it’s the kind of agency studio world where the ordinary rules of project management don’t seem to work very well. The classic methodologies just don’t seem to fit. so we have to work around it. The site that I created, The Digital Project Manager, I describe it as the home of digital project management, inspiration, we’ve got how-to guides, tips, tricks, tools, and funnies, and we’ve got jobs, too, and we’re introducing and rolling out training as well.
So, it’s project management guidance for this crazy digital wild west, where we’ve got some crazy clients, we’ve got tiny budgets, we’ve got stupid deadlines, and we’re trying to deliver projects in the midst of it all.
So a little bit of background about the site. We founded … We — that’s me, myself, and I — founded the site in 2011. I’ve now got a guy called Gui who helps me run the site. But since then, in 2011 we launched, so more than five years ago now we’ve been running, and it’s now become one of the largest and most credible platforms for digital project management information and thought leadership out there. There aren’t many sites on that. A few have come and gone. But we get around 55,000 views every month, so thanks for who reads all the articles. And it’s really a rapidly expanding industry. Obviously digital is growing very fast, and so the demand for digital project managers is growing, and so we wanted to really create a site that supports project managers through that.
And our vision for what the The Digital Project Manager site is all about, it’s about elevating the conversation around digital, around project management, but around leadership, too. And in creating the platform what we’re really trying to do is give a voice to digital project managers, and that’s partly through the site. We publish articles from different digital project managers and also people who aren’t but who have got an interesting perspective on topics that we might be interested in. Also, we want to elevate that conversation through this podcast, actually, and have debates and discussions through that. But also as well, we have a Slack team. So if you haven’t joined our Slack team, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com, click on Community, and you can sign up to join our Slack team, and that’s totally free, and we don’t charge for that at all. So, come and join the conversation.
And, as I mentioned earlier, what I found was in starting out in digital project management more than 10 years ago, the classic project management methodologies didn’t seem to fit very well. There’s loads of general project management knowledge and resources that are out there on the internet, and a lot of it is really useful and can be applied to IT development, the big IT enterprise projects or software development. But the things that we seem to do in the agencies that I worked at and the studios I was in, those kind of methodologies and those processes didn’t seem to … We couldn’t really apply them very easily. We were working on these rogue, fast and loose projects. These were the everyday campaigns, the things that digital project managers, we deal with day in and day out, and these standard methodologies didn’t work so well. So that really was the point of starting The Digital Project Manager.
When I started out I found it very difficult to find any resources of anyone talking about or explaining ways of doing things other than the classic project management way. So that’s the idea, to empower a community to learn from one another that draws on the existing frameworks out there like PRINCE2, which I think is great, Scrum is great, PMBOK is great, but think about how we tailor that. How do we engineer that to work within the wild west of digital marketing and communications? And particularly, in agencies and studios, how can we make that work?
So, to kick things off, I thought it might be interesting, it might not be interesting, but a little bit of my story of becoming a digital project manager, and, actually, it’s quite a circuitous one, as I’m sure it is for many people. But growing up I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I liked planes, I liked Top Gun, so it was naturally a sound choice, but at school, after a few years and some kind of careers test I guess I did, did some career counseling, and those dreams of becoming a fighter pilot came crashing down.
I remember, actually quite vividly, going to visit my school career counselor and being presented with some quite damning results of my career prospects. The one that I actually seemed to score really highly in, in terms of a match of skills, interests, and abilities was a refuse collector, a bin man as we’d call them in the UK, which is great but driving a garbage truck didn’t feel like quite the same thing to me as driving a plane. It wasn’t really what I had in mind or what I aspired to, but that’s what the careers specialists thought I might be good at.
So, for most of my high school years I had no idea what digital project management was. I was simply a guy destined to be a refuse collector. I didn’t think I even … I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t want to become one, and to be honest, if someone said, “Oh, do you want to digital project manager one day when you grow up, when you’re old?” I’d probably think that sounded quite boring.
So, how did I become one? Well, ever since we got our first PC, and that was a long, long time ago. For those of you old enough to remember, it was in the days of a 386 PC was the first one that our family owned, with a 33K dial-up modem, which in those days was pretty impressive. But I found quite quickly I had a mild addiction to the internet. You’d get these magazines with CDs that gave you minutes of access to the internet. And I started building my first websites, and I was hooked. I created some websites, some early ones that I created, there was one called Seuch Times, and that was a satirical online news paper, kind of think of The Onion, pretty much cloned by The Onion, I’d say. I had another site called The World of Ben very originally, and it was a message board and a friend profile site, obviously since cloned by Facebook. And I didn’t think of Google before its time, but other than that, I was pretty much cutting edge back in those days, in the late ’90s.
So, the websites that I created, let me tell you, they weren’t very good, but I loved the idea that the global connectivity of the web. And because of that level of technology and building websites, I thought, well, the sensible thing for me to do, then, is study computer science. However, I was a bit nervous to be honest about doing computer science ’cause I’d never really done any serious programming. I’d done some front-end stuff. So I though, I know, I’ll spend a year in industry, I’ll be a front-end developer and see what it’s like. But quite rapidly into that year I realized, actually, sitting in front of a computer all day just coding is pretty boring. And I also wasn’t very good at it.
So instead of going to study a computer science degree, I thought, okay, let’s just study something else. So I did a BA in International Relations and Politics, and wrote lots of long essays, but I realized that actually, what I was interested in was marketing and advertising. But then after having done some placements at traditional advertising agencies, other publicists. I was at an agency called Lowe. I was at another agency called HCW in London. The feedback I got was that I had my finger in too many pies, and those pies were mainly digital ones. I was a bit to maverick for a traditional agency that was just trying to create TV ads, and print and radio ads.
And then I found that there were these things called digital agencies where I was able to put my digital know-how to good use. And I realized that, actually, this is what I was enjoying, playing around in my spare time at home, and they were actually people out there who did this for a living. So I became account manager, or an account executive, at Wunderman Interactive, and I progressed to an account manager, and then I realized that, actually, because I was quite hands-on in my digital knowledge and expertise, I’d probably make a good project manager. Or so I thought at the time.
So I made this switch. I was a hybrid producer kind of role at an agency called Dare in London, and that was a lot of fun. I won lots of awards working on some big accounts there. And since then I worked at another agency in London, and moved up the ranks to become the director of project management at an agency in London, and really built out a project management team there, and the digital project management discipline within the agency. And then I spent some time at DDB as a freelancer.
So I’ve had a whole bunch of experience creating a whole load of different kinds of things across a really wide range of clients: automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen, Honda; utility brands including BT, British Gas, Exxon; FMCG stuff like Unilever; Consumer electronics including Sony. Most recently, since moving to Canada — I live in Vancouver right now — I’ve been doing lots of public sector work, lots of work with government.
So, when it comes to the world of digital project management I’ve been there and done a bit of that, and that’s really why I wanted to start this thing five or so years ago. Because when I started out, I couldn’t really find anything useful to help me learn how to do this thing. When I made that transition from an account manager to a producer and then project management, I was kind of going at bit blind. So, really, I just wanted to share with others some of those experiences and what I’ve learned along the way so that others can get a bit of a head start.
So, there’s my story. I hope that was mildly interesting. But it just gives you some context into what The Digital Project Manager is all about and the background to this website.
So, finally, just what expect from this podcast. This, obviously, is the first ever digital project management podcast, and so it’s early days. What can you expect? Well, I’m not entirely sure. We’re on this adventure a bit together, but I thought starting a podcast might be a good idea. Just to go back to the vision of what we’re trying to do in terms of elevating that conversation, and while we’re giving people the opportunity to write articles and share them on the site. We’ve got a mailing list now of a few thousand people. What I really wanted to do there was to elevate that even further and to give those people who are writing articles the opportunity to share a bit deeper their thoughts when the are writing them, and to have some debates and discussions about them.
So, we’re going use the podcast to review the week’s blog post, and when ever we can, get the author to join us live to discuss and debate their ideas. And we’ll also share the world of project management this week. Some stuff to check out, review what else is going on with PM blogs and Meetups and that kind of thing. I hope we’ll be able to have some expert interviews, some round table discussions, we’ve got one planned coming right up, and tools as well. So, we’ll have lots of fun along the way.
And so that just about wraps up everything for this week. Stay tuned for our next episode, and check out all we’ve been talking about today on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. Thanks for listening. See you soon!