PM Interviews: Pawel Brodzinski

Over the coming weeks I will be publishing a series of interviews with successful project management professionals, experts and gurus. My main aim for this series is to discover and publish a range of views and opinions on what challenges project managers face, what approaches they find useful and how they perceive the future of project management.

This week I spoke to Pawel Brodzinski who has had a wide range of experiences within software project management and often writes entertainingly about them on his blog.

Q: Many people may already know you from your blog on software project management. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

My career so far has been quite a mixture of different positions related to software development including both “rank and file” and management roles. I worked at every stage of the software development lifecycle before moving to management roles which I think gives me quite a unique background in the software industry. For a time I worked for a large company building from scratch a development and implementation team for a new ERP software product. Unfortunately I couldn’t stand corporate politics and decided to move to a small company where I took over the development and project management division. That company split up and I ended up as COO of a spin-off from it: Wind Mobile.

Q: What are you currently working on?

Apart from fire fighting on projects whenever needed I look after an ongoing process of rebuilding the technical team within the company. The original goal was to move the company from a “guerrilla” operating model on to something much more organized. After relocating the company, a significant “refresh” of the team and re-implementing a project management methodology along with serious improvements in product quality it is now time to improve the software development part of the business.

Q: Wow! Sounds hectic. Do you find it difficult to manage your multiple commitments?

Maybe it sounds hectic but it isn’t so hard. Bear in mind that what I am describing is more than just a couple of months work! I just try to find the biggest issue at any one time and fix it. This cycle is executed again and again because there are always things which can be improved.

Q: Do you use any specific time management/organisation/personal productivity techniques to make sure you get everything done that you need to?

If you try to do too many things at the same time then you will fail. What I find is that everything starts with getting people involved – I don’t even try do everything personally. Having a great team (and I do have one!) makes things much easier than they at first look. Of course having a specific type of character helps, as you have to deal with quite a lot of stress and be highly committed, but that’s pretty obvious. I don’t think a specific technique would help though if your character doesn’t suit the job.

Q: What do you see as the greatest current challenge facing software project managers and what do you personally do to overcome it?

I think the challenge hasn’t changed over the years: projects are still being delivered late and over budget. Changing this is the key challenge. Personally I don’t believe that simply using any known methodology is an answer here. Software projects differ so much that I don’t think there will be any universal solution anytime soon. The only thing you can do is to try to find your own solutions for the teams and clients you have. I’m far from being an evangelist for any single methodology. Instead I constantly try to find and apply useful techniques from any of them. That ongoing improvement process is my solution to the challenge.

Q: What do you think has been the most important change in software project management over the last 10 years?

I think it’s a change in awareness. We consider managing software projects as a more important part of software development than we used to. As an effect we have seen the development of things like the Agile Manifesto and other methodologies. We see an increasing role for project managers, analysts and architects which is a sign of moving several steps further down the road away from gung-ho software implementation. I don’t consider Agile itself as the most important change as this is an answer to a specific group of problems only. I consider Agile to be a side-effect of the real change in awareness that has happened in executives’ minds.

Q: What is your number one PM tip, trick or technique?

Communicating. Every time there is an issue to resolve I will talk with all the interested parties, understand the root of the problem and find a way forwards. Very often you don’t need to dig very deeply to find a solution. You will find that people just aren’t talking to each other or trying to understand different points of view. They need a person, a proxy if you like, who will forward the right pieces of information to the right endpoints. When people see me running from one room to another, asking hundreds of questions and making hundreds of phone calls they know I’m probably trying to help people to communicate!

Q: What characteristics do you look for when bringing people on to your team?

Commitment, a willingness to learn and an ability to be a good team player. If you’ve got those three, the rest (including knowledge) can easily be built over time. Every issue I’ve ever had with a person on my team was because they sucked in one of those areas.

Q: That’s interesting. I have found that a certain technical aptitude/ability to think logically is important for technical roles. Does that mean you don’t include any technical tests when hiring new recruits for development positions?

Over time I ask more and more technical questions. I need to evaluate the candidate’s knowledge to decide if they’re worth the money they expect. However I usually can accept either inexperienced or experienced people as long as they have the right attitude. The characteristics I have mentioned tell me whether I want to hire a person at all whereas technical questions point me to where a candidate could fit into my team.

Q: Whilst we’re on the subject of technical skills, how much programming knowledge do you think someone managing a software project has to have?

You can have no programming knowledge and still be a great software project manager. On the other hand some programming knowledge definitely helps. I like to see at least a basic experience of development but it is not a must-have for me.

Q: How do you see software project management evolving into the future?

I don’t think there’s a big break-through ahead. Software projects have a long history of being over time and over budget despite numerous new methodologies and techniques being developed. That’s why a revolution shouldn’t be expected. Instead I think we will all rather slowly move forwards by improving our performance and adjusting the techniques we use. Gradually we will see a few more projects completed within their planned constraints.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just to say thanks for the interview and best wishes to all readers of Outside of the Triangle!

Other PM Interviews:

Advertisements

2 comments so far

  1. Fadi El-Eter on

    Hi,

    There’s a list of great Project Managers at http://www.pmhut.com/trainers/index.php. All of them are extremely good and I hope that you’ll be able to interview some of them.

  2. daviddaly on

    Hi Fadi,
    Thanks for the link. I am hoping to include interviews with some of the guys over at PM Hut in the near future. Watch this space!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: