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A day in the life of a project manager at Sky

Learning People met with Felicity James, from Sky TV, to offer an insight into her role as a project manager. 

Updated on: 19th February 2020

During my time with Sky TV, I had the opportunity to work on some exciting creative marketing campaigns for a number of big TV shows, including Game of Thrones and A league of Their Own as well as big sporting events like the Ryder Cup.

Learning People | Felicity James, project manager at sky

What did you love about the role?

“What I loved the most about my role as a project manager is that each day is totally different. A project manager – or PM – typically has a number of projects on at any one time and they are often at different stages of their lifecycle. One project might be in kick off stage which in the marketing context means when the project manager and their team are meeting with the client to understand the project expectations. This involves brainstorming creative ideas and talking through approaches to the marketing campaign. Another project may be in the review phase, when the key decision makers are assessing the work and providing their opinions on what they like and what needs to change. All the while, another project may be in the midst of the execution process in which the team is producing and delivering the final products to the necessary outlets. This means that there are different action points to take everyday and a variety of scenarios to manage and respond to…it definitely keeps you on your toes.”

What would a typical day look like?

“This being said, if I had to describe a typical day at work it would go something like this: stop by the coffee shop for a strong espresso – don’t worry, this isn’t mandatory for the role. Open my computer and immediately pull up my project plan status document. This gets me up to speed with the stage of each project and the action points for the day. After checking through my emails, the rest of the day consists of status meetings, client calls, checking budgets, asking for resources and updating timelines.”

What does it take to become a successful project manager?

“There are definitely some key ingredients to being a successful project manager. The rudimentary skills include being highly organised and possessing an ability to work well under deadline pressures. Excellent communications skills are also paramount to being successful in the role.
It’s the project manager’s role to ensure that everyone that touches the project in some way – whether that be a direct member of the project team or a high-level stakeholder – is informed of the details that are relevant to them. And this information needs to be communicated in the correct way, depending on the team or person involved. A strong sense of leadership and decision making is also required to keep your team motivated and the projects running smoothly. But above all of this, I would say one of the most important qualities of a project manager is a love of working with people. A good PM must really enjoy engaging and communicating with personalities from all walks of life.”

What are the challenges?

“One of the more challenging elements to the role is the need to be flexible – and calm – to unexpected changes in schedules and project plans. You can be the best risk assessor in the world, and you can have every contingency plan possible mapped out, but there is always something that will pop up that hasn’t necessarily been accounted for…this is the beauty of living in a real and changeable world. For example, if a deadline is changed unexpectedly, a great project manager will assess the situation calmly and rationally, and seek solutions that will keep not only the project running on time and on budget, but that also maintains the motivation of the team.”

What project management courses would you recommend?

“There are quite a few project management courses out in the marketplace nowadays, ranging from one day seminars to a year or two long certificates. It is best to do your research as to which type of course best suits your particular industry and company requirements. One of the more well known courses is the PRINCE2. Widely recognised in the UK and internationally, this is a certificate that provides you with greater control of resources, and the ability to manage business and project risk more effectively.” 

Do you have any advice to aspiring project managers?

“My advice to those who are considering project management as a career, or have just started out is to remember that you are not expected to be an expert in every single component of the project. You are not meant to know the ins and outs of every person’s role in a particular project. They are the experts in their chosen field – they are the trained designers, the expert producers, the knowledgeable accountants, the experienced managers. It’s your role to motivate and lead your team, to ensure they know their individual role in the project lifecycle and to celebrate their successes. Always remember to celebrate your team’s successes, no matter how big or small they are.”