I’m feeling excited, hopeful and optimistic to join the Aragon team as its product manager. We released Aragon 0.5 to the Ethereum Rinkeby Testnet on March 29, 2018. That felt like a beneficial day to reflect on how I came to join Aragon.
I started writing this post then. I’m finishing it on my flight back from my first week of offsite Aragon team meetings.
Blockchain and Just Rolling with It
My blockchain story started with a blockchain sticker on a mailbox in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You can read the full story here.
Before that, I started a career and life reboot. It’s evolved into a journey to align who I am with the work I do. I call that journey Just Rolling with It.
Just Rolling with It caused me to identify the skills I had that others would value and find beneficial. It turns out project management is one of those skills.
I realized blockchain was a space I wanted to work in. I began advocating for more blockchain projects to hire project managers.
The Ethereum Name Service
The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) was launching about the same time I figured this out. ENS caught my interest right away. I believed and still believe it could and will increase Ethereum’s adoption within the non-tech population. Increasing adoption through better usability will help Ethereum realize its potential.
The first launch attempt failed. I volunteered to be the project manager for the relaunch. The ENS lead developer, Nick Johnson, accepted my offer. After that, ENS launched successfully on its second attempt.
I attended the first ENS Workshop in London. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet others in the Ethereum ecosystem. It was here I met Jorge Izquierdo. Jorge’s one of Aragon’s founders.
Monica Zheng followed me on Twitter. I noticed her profile, since she recruits for crypto projects. Her human-focused approach caught my interest too.
I followed Monica back on Twitter. She sent me a DM shortly after that. It turns out she was working to fill a product manager role.
We connected on a call and she told me the product manager role was for Aragon. She also agreed that technical project management and product management were very similar. I was interested, yet hesitant to dedicate most of my time to a single project.
I spoke to Monica, then Aragon’s founders, Luis Cuende and Jorge Izquierdo. It felt like we aligned on many levels. Most importantly, we aligned on values. You can read more about that alignment in my Aragon team interview.
We continued to explore the fit and alignment over the course of weeks. This reinforced the match and overcame my hesitation to commit.
Now I’m writing this on the return flight home from my first week of Aragon team offsite meetings. I feel more aligned than ever with the project and team.
I first wrote about the need for more blockchain project managers at the start of 2017. I’ve been advocating for more projects to hire project managers since then. The holidays gave me time to reflect on the state of blockchain project management as 2018 begins.
Blockchain experienced what many would consider a breakout year in 2017. Its momentum is unlikely to slow down in 2018. Blockchain projects, existing and new, continue to develop at an accelerated pace.
I don’t get the sense blockchain project management has kept pace. I estimate most blockchain projects still aren’t managed by project managers. From the work I’m doing in the blockchain world, I see three categories of projects -
1 - Projects that don’t have a project manager and don’t think they need one
I estimate about 60% of blockchain projects aren’t managed by a project manager. The owners of these projects either don’t think they need one at all or don’t think they need one yet.
My thesis is the right project manager helps blockchain projects succeed. I explain why in this post.
2 - Projects that don’t have a project manager but want one
I estimate about 20% of blockchain projects fall into this category. I’ve spoken to a number of project owners that recognize the need for a project manager, yet don't have one.
They face two challenges. The first is finding a project manager who knows even a little about blockchain. The second is is trying to slow down long enough to find and onboard one.
The latter perpetuates a difficult cycle. The longer a project delays working with a PM, the harder it is too slow down and the more likely it is that something will break.
3 - Projects that do have a project manager
I estimate about 20% of blockchain projects are managed by a project manager. These projects usually recognize the PM need early in the project and have taken steps to hire a PM then.
Whether the selected project manager proves to be the right fit is a different story. That’s the topic of another post though.
If my estimates are even close to correct, most blockchain projects don’t have project managers. That’s a big opportunity, as the number of existing projects continues to grow. Yet significant challenges stand in the way of realizing it.
A major challenge is convincing blockchain project owner that project management will help their project succeed. I took a shot at making this case in my earlier post.
Another challenge is to engage with a project, once the project owner has recognized the need. I’m trying to figure out how to do this, in the least intrusive way possible to the project owners.
Even with the lightest touch, engaging requires the project owner to slow down a little. This is necessary to give even the most effective project manager what they need to get started.
There's another opportunity that has me feeling optimistic about blockchain project management in 2018. This is managing projects on behalf of project sponsors.
Project sponsors may be project owners building protocols for others to use or the fund managers investing in the projects. I’m starting to see interest from these projects' sponsors. Some are starting to recognize that a project manager can help make the projects built on their platform or that they invest in more successful.
Finally, there’s the product manager vs. project manager question. To me, these are similar roles, although that opinion tends to bother people, especially product managers.
Putting that aside and taking into account the traditional definitions, I see project managers as a fantastic fit for blockchain projects building infrastructure. Infrastructure buildout is the phase many well-informed people believe blockchain is in now.
I also believe project managers are well-suited to manage Dapp development projects. My sense is most project owners view that as a product management role.
There’s no shortage in infrastructure projects and the need continues to grow. I believe infrastructure is the foundation for long-term blockchain value creation and dissemination. For these reasons, I intend to focus most of my attention in 2018 on infrastructure projects.
P.S. - I started Chainflow to help more blockchain projects succeed. Click here to learn how Chainflow can do this for your blockchain project.
Today I’m feeling excited to announce Chainflow. Chainflow is a blockchain project management consultancy. We apply efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.
My interest started as a hobby. Then I started figuring out how my background and experience could benefit blockchain’s exploding ecosystem.
The result is Chainflow. Chainflow is a blockchain project management consultancy. Chainflow applies efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.
Even minimal structure has a big impact on whether a blockchain project succeeds. This structure increases the return on a blockchain project team’s efforts. The structure does this by optimizing the project’s workflow.
That’s what we mean by blockchain workflow optimization. Chainflow applies efficient and effective project management techniques to optimize blockchain project workflow.
Not the way Chainflow does it. Unlike most project management consultants, we take a “less is more” approach. We apply enough project management to be effective, while staying out of the way as much as possible.
We will ask you to slow down, at least for a minute or two. This is necessary to baseline your project. It allows us to figure out the most efficient way to optimize your blockchain project’s workflow.
We won’t ask you to stop. We’ll run alongside of you. We’ll optimize your workflow as the work continues. That’s the way we operate.
These factors combine to increase the likelihood your project succeeds. Your team might be happier too. You might even sleep a little better at night and more if you're not sleeping enough, due to overwork and worry.
Ready to optimize your blockchain project workflow? Visit Chainflow to get started.
You can also schedule a free call with me there. We’ll use the call to determine the right starting point to optimize your project workflow.
P.S. - Need a little more convincing? Here's why your project needs a blockchain project manager.
Neglecting the most important project phase, planning, puts your project at risk. Two emotions cause the most important project phase to be the most neglected.
The two emotions are excitement and fear.
The project is new! It’s shiny!
This feels hopeful and optimistic. The project’s going to change the world!
This excitement tricks the team into believing its synchronized. Everyone thinks they have a common understanding of the project’s goals and how they’ll be achieved.
The excitement caused by the hope and optimism makes it hard to take a step back and plan.
Planning sounds boring. Nobody wants the boredom to stifle the excitement.
The team is ready to go, Go and GO!
After all, what can go wrong when everything looks so right?
The project’s already behind schedule. There’s no TIME to stop.
There are managers, investors and customers who needed this YESTERDAY.
Planning will only get in the way. Planning will only slow things down. And the project CAN’T slow down. The metrics will SUFFER. Progress must be demonstrated, at ALL COSTS.
That’s what the fear says.
Lots can go wrong. Lots will go wrong. Investing time to plan at the beginning of a project won’t stop things from going wrong.
Planning will help prevent things from going wrong. It will help a project recover when things start to go wrong.
Planning is worth the investment. The planning investment sets the foundation for a project’s success. That’s why it’s the most important project phase.
Think twice the next time you’re about to skip the planning phase. Check-in with yourself and see if a combination of fear and excitement are causing you to make this mistake.
Take three conscious breaths. Remind yourself that planning’s worth it. Then start planning!
P.S. - This goes for your blockchain project too, especially since you're asking people to trust you. You may be handling large sums of their money too.
I wrote an article earlier this year about the need for project managers in the blockchain space. I've started to do quite a bit of work in the space since then.
Here are some highlights -
2 - I'm helping a high-profile crypto project, with a > $100 million market cap, develop their go-to-market strategy.
3 - I'm advising the founder of a promising crypto-project as he gets the project off the ground w/his co-founders.
4 - I follow the blockchain space very closely. I've contributed to early stage projects that have rewarded my contributions with tokens.
5 - I maintain a running Bitcoin P/E ratio chart.
6 - I'm doing business development, client management and project management work with a well-respected blockchain consultancy.
I also attended Consensus and the Token Summit earlier this year. Here's an article I wrote about my key Token Summit takeaway.
All these activities have taken some time away from the blog. Stay tuned as I continue writing about project management and blockchain. Like the blockchain world, this blog's an evolution.
P.S. - Want to talk blockchain? Drop me a line here if you do!
The best project managers keep a project running smoothly. We also stay out of the way. That means doing some things and not doing others. Here are the do's and don'ts of the best project managers.
Do set the path to a successful outcome. Do keep the path clear and stay out of the way. Don't block the path.
Do set the path to a successful outcome by developing, updating and communicating the path. Do keep the path clear by removing roadblocks. Do give your team what they need to make progress down the path, toward the successful outcome.
Do ask questions when they benefit the project. Do ask the hard questions when necessary.
Don't block the path. Don't get in the way. Don't impede progress. Don't establish process related roadblocks on the path. Don't stop people smarter than you from doing what they need to do. Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something.
Don't ask unnecessary questions for your own personal benefit. Don't shy away from asking the hard questions when necessary.
Do set your team up for success. Do give credit to team members where and when credit is due. Don't take undue credit when the team succeeds.
Do take responsibility when things don't go well. Don't blame the team when a project goes off-track.
Do celebrate small wins along the way. Do use the small wins to build momentum toward the bigger goal. Do try and have some fun as you proceed down the path toward a successful outcome 🙂
A project manager who follows these do's and don'ts will keep a project running smoothly. A project manager who doesn't follow them will only cause problems and get in the way.
Contact me to work with a project manager who follows these do's and don'ts. I'll keep your project running smoothly.
Asana Is The Right Choice to Keep Your IT Tasks Organized
Asana is my choice for managing IT projects. I’ve managed big IT projects for large government agencies and financial institutions. I wish Asana had been available to use on those projects. I was stuck using MS Project. That’s a nightmare I don’t wish to experience again 🙂
I’ve used Asana to manage projects since then. I also use it to manage my daily priorities. Asana has helped me complete thousands of daily tasks.
Here are the 3 reasons I’d choose Asana to manage IT projects.
This four tier structure can support projects of any size. Companies organize projects in different ways. Individuals use different approaches to get work done. Asana’s flexibility adapts to the various organizational approaches used to complete tasks and projects.
Asana can become complicated in the hands of an inexperienced project manager. The flexible structure will do what you want it to do. This is an asset for an experienced project manager. An experienced project manager knows how to structure efficient project workflows. We know how to balance simplicity with complexity.
This same asset can become a liability for an inexperienced project manager. It will do what the project manger tells it to do. It won't dictate how a project is set up.Asana will allow an experienced project manager to set up an effective project structure. Asana will also allow an inexperienced project manager to set up an ineffective project structure.
Asana supports collaboration at each level of its structure. A project owner can add collaborators to workspaces, projects, tasks and subtasks. The project owner can set permissions at each level of the structure as well.
Asana organizes communication at each level of its structure as well. This makes it easy to view the communication you need to see at any one time, i.e. the history of a task.
This organization prevents you from getting distracted by communication unrelated to the workspace, project, task or subtask at hand. The approach also helps keep your email Inbox clean.
(Tip: Make sure to set up your notifications to limit the number of emails you receive.)
Drawback/Shortcoming -The free version doesn't provide a full range of flexible permission options. You have to upgrade to a paid version for access to the most flexible permission options. The concept of adding a collaborator as a "Guest" can be a bit confusing too.
Asana is list-based. The lists are organized in a user-friendly way. I describe the user experience as list-based. Asana leads with a list-based structure and adds appropriate UX enhancements throughout the tool.
It’s a systematic and logical approach to UX. I’d say it leads with the left side of the brain and allows the right side of the brain to soften the edges. I believe this UX approach synchronizes well with how IT people and organizations think.
This is a key point. A task management tool is only helpful if it's adopted and used. Choosing a tool that fits well with a team’s way of thinking goes along way in increasing adoption and use. This helps your project succeed. Isn’t that the whole point of using a task management tool in the first place?
I wouldn't say Asana's UX is the most "beautiful" project management tool out there. It's practical and pretty enough though.
The list-based approach may not be the right tool for a team heavy on creative people. People more comfortable with a visual interface might prefer a different tool.
Selection of the right tool to get IT tasks done depends on many factors. Flexibility, collaboration and user experience are the three reasons I use Asana to manage IT tasks. Give it a try if these reasons are important to you as well.
P.S. - Want to give Asana a try? Drop me a line if you need help structuring your Asana workflow. I'll help you maximize Asana's effectiveness, while avoiding the tool's potential shortcomings.
Photo by Jesse Oricco via Unsplash
I curate a weekly list of project manager job openings at top tech and startup companies in New York. Use it to make finding your next project management job at a top New York tech or startup company easier and faster. Subscribe for free here.
I update the list each week. It includes jobs from the best New York tech and startup job sources like -
Subscribe now to receive the list each week for free.
My hope is it will make finding your next project manager job at a company you enjoy faster and easier!
Why do I do this?
I believe the future of work is about collaboration, not ruthless competition. I curate this list to help the project management community in New York thrive!
P.S. - Would you like me to add a new source or your company’s posting to the list? Please send it to me for consideration by contacting me here.
Photo credit, recent NYC Startup Map from Digital NYC