Brian Krall, living in Chicago, Illinois, currently codes and designs at Duo Consulting, speaks, writes and tweets as @bkrall. He writes at Sideproject about the building things on the internet. If he's not glued to his laptop, he's traveling and exploring new things with his amazing wife or chasing his dog Kirby around the house.
Go with your gut
I’m an interaction designer. I’ve been working on the web since I was 14 (I’ll be 29 this year). A couple years ago, I was faced with a potential career changing decision. I was offered a project manager job for a considerable raise from what I was making as a web designer.
I had been at an interactive agency for about four years, going from a twerpy 22-year old who was a little scared to talk — to a senior position where I was mentoring others, helping with sales pitches, quoting new business and leading projects.
Here are a few things I got to do at my company that people would immediately raise their eyebrows when I told them: - Show up at 10AM - Bring my golden retriever into work, even when he was a puppy and would crap on the floor and go through everyone’s garbage - Wear jeans, a t-shirt and a baseball hat (they drew the line at swimsuits and pajamas) - Grab a beer from the always-stocked fridge - Play basketball with my coworkers every week at lunch
So, it probably goes without saying that I was happy at this place and grateful to be somewhere I liked going to everyday. In the 4+ years I was there, I saw us go through a bunch of different project managers for different reasons. We were averaging about one per year.
After a few projects that I was the project lead on that went well, our GM asked me if I would be interested in taking on a full-time PM gig. I was excited by the trust they showed in me and knew I was at the type of place that would teach me what I needed to know.
My biggest hesitation was that for the last year, I had sat right across from our PM and seen him turn red, nervously pace and even do that “blow your brains out” gesture when he was on the phone with clients. It’s a really challenging job (that this particular PM didn’t handle with the most composure) where you have to manage relationships, mesh your team’s personalities and most importantly meet and exceed your customer’s expectations.
I considered the stress and asked a ton of questions. I was really tempted by the offer, both for the change of pace and the pay bump. I ultimately decided I was better at designing and coding than taking care of projects in that role.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve since moved on to a new agency in downtown Chicago that has an awesome project management team. They’re great at the little things (motivating the team, prioritizing tasks) and the big things (picking the right team, establishing great relationships, etc.). The most prized commodity a PM can have on a daily basis is trust. When you have a challenge or a problem, the trust of your client and your team is the difference between it being something that both sides try to solve and a finger-pointing match.
The main thing I learned from my decision was to go with my gut and that I would be the most successful when I worked hard and was honest with myself. Also, that coding and designing didn’t mean bunkering down as a one-man wrecking crew, but collaborating as much as possible which provided me with the mental shift I needed. I knew I was happy and good at what I did. And while the other direction offered more money at the time, it wasn't something I was excited about diving into and it didn't fit my personality.
Every time I think about that decision, how much I like this industry and my coworkers (past and present), I’m relieved. Go with your gut.