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Anna – My journey into tech

Hello, I’m Anna, a Project Manager at Lattimore and Friends. I have been here for just over a year, but my pathway into tech has been a long and winding one. So, if you are looking to get into tech, but are not too sure how to go about a career switch, this may help!

Project manager: the job description

My job is full of variety, something I really enjoy. I am responsible for planning project resources and timelines, making sure that the work answers the brief beautifully and is delivered on budget and on time. On a day-to-day basis, this involves a lot of communication and “translation” between the client and the web developers at our studio. Constant refinement of processes and the ability to adjust to changing requirements are an integral part of the job. All this can be a challenge to juggle when the projects are numerous and priorities ever-shifting, but that’s what makes it fun.

How I got here: gaining transferable skills from a range of roles

After finishing high school in New Zealand, I went to university and studied Fine Arts (the roles of an artist and a project manager may seem at odds, but artists are some of the most self-motivated and organised people I know!). I worked as a Student Advisor part-time while studying, where I gained really useful experience of having to understand the structure of various degrees and complex sets of rules and regulations, as well as communicating this information to potential and current students. All useful transferable skills I use in my job as a project manager.

After finishing my art degree with an exhibition of tiny watercolour paintings — about as far from web development as you can get — I completed an intensive, diploma of Graphic Design with a focus on technical skills in the Adobe Suite. The combination of the two qualifications gave me a good balance of skills between creative, lateral thinking and an understanding of the importance of robust processes and technical precision. This got me a little closer to the tech industry, but the design diploma, and my subsequent experience as a graphic designer, was very much print-focused. So, over the next five years, I worked as a graphic designer in a range of environments, from local government to boutique design studios, to doing freelance work for my own clients. At the same time, I wrote local events guides and case studies on projects from a range of creative disciplines for a couple of websites. This introduced me to some SEO principles and gave me first-hand experience with different content management systems, including WordPress.

After a while, I became more and more dissatisfied with graphic design. It did not quite compare to my personal art practice in terms of creative satisfaction. Not did it feel challenging enough on the problem-solving side of things. I was bored. Having spent some time pondering where to go next, I applied for a scholarship to a Master of Creative Technologies. To be completely honest with you, I did it on a whim and at the very last minute! But, as these things often go, I was accepted and the decision changed my life and career in unpredictable, but wonderful ways.

My thesis project was still design-focused, but I ended up dabbling in coding during the masters and starting to make more online-based artwork. Then, I was selected to attend a postgraduate programme at the Strelka Institute in Moscow, where I learned about the latest developments in automation, AR, VR, and was introduced to machine learning. The combination of the masters and this experience cemented my desire to work in the digital industry.

Getting the first gig

Fast forward about eight months, and I ended up in London, lucky enough to make the jump I needed by scoring a project management role at Lattimore and Friends. The role advertised for was initially a junior position, which developed into my current role. This is something you have to be prepared for when taking a swerve along your career path: you might have to suck it up, a lower position than when you are at the moment (potentially a pay cut too) and invest some time into learning things afresh.

These days, I am a project manager by day and a digital artist, writer, and researcher by night — the sweet spot for a split between my organisation-loving and creative sides. I also like the fact that I can use skills from a variety of past roles every day. My past experiences in customer service, design, and writing are super useful, and it is really satisfying to be able to bring it all together under one job description. Another bonus is the increased ability to work remotely. Of course, this has become the reality for many during the COVID-19 crisis, but we already have a team of remote developers, so this was a smooth shift to make.

So, if you are someone who has a varied background, but can identify a bunch of useful transferable skills, like being self-motivated, managing lots of tasks and processes at once, staying cool under pressure, problem-solving, empathy, great communication skills, attention to detail, and curiosity — project management could be a possible side-step into tech.

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