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Interview with an agency pro

Who

Amy
Tsang

What

Project Manager

How

Coffee, Fruits and Songza

Nicola Brown, a recent grad and freelance communications specialist sat down with Amy Tsang to see what life is like as a Project Manager.

Nicola

What is your job all about, in a nutshell?<br>

The majority of my day is spent communicating with different departments and teams inside and outside the agency. As a Project Manager, I have to be able to speak the same language as creative, production, accounting and third party suppliers. Communication is the key in this industry, and it is my responsibility to ensure that is carried throughout the project cycle successfully.<br>

Can you describe a typical work week?<br>

My week consists of team status meetings, project briefs, creating timelines and budgets, brief studio and some art buying. Once a project has been briefed in, we?ll also have internal review before client presentation. Depending on the nature of the project, I will then engage with a printer/illustrator/photographer/promotional supplier, etc., for quotes. There are no projects that are the same; trying to figure out something you?ve never done before is quite fun and exciting.<br>

What elements of your work do you get most excited about?<br>

I get excited about working with different people, such as photographers, illustrators, animation studio, recording studio, internal creative directors and designers, to make the creative come to life. I also really enjoy working with suppliers who often show me what?s new on the market.<br>

Describe some of the biggest challenges you have faced and do face in your position. How have you overcome them?<br>

One of the biggest challenges, and this applies to any position in any workplace, is dealing with different personalities and confrontations. Especially for a Project Manager, who is dealing with so many different groups of personalities everyday, you have to be a well-rounded individual, be respectful, and speak up if something is not right.<br>

What surprised you the most about your current job when you first started?<br>

Different agencies have their own unique culture, and when they hire someone new they also consider whether this person would fit within that culture. Compared to a larger size agency where I have worked in the past, my current workplace?s culture is much more intimate.<br>

Describe your career path so far. How did you get to where you are today and what have you learned?<br>

I started off as a Studio Coordinator where I learned everything about studio production processes and how to deal with challenging situations. I was promoted to Production Manager, and I got to work with many different suppliers and people from other departments, so I gained more skills on budgeting, scheduling and negotiating. Currently, as a Project Manager, I work on print, promos, some radio records and online projects. In this role I am still using the skills I?ve developed over time in my different roles, and I?m still learning new things every day.<br>

What skills, abilities and attitudes would a person need in order to do the kind of work you do really well?<br>

A positive attitude and a good deal of curiosity are really important. Offer to help others, so long as it is within your capability. You can always learn something new from others and you never know where these new skills may lead you. Be on time to meetings, and ask as many questions as needed; it is always better to have more information up front than not enough. Also, be prepared for the worst, as some projects can start off very smoothly but there will always be last minute changes which can throw the project off schedule and off budget. Being prepared to account for these situations is key. Finally, be open-minded. Never just say ?no? to client requests; always come back with some form of solution to their problem.<br>

What?s your fuel of choice?<br>

Coffee, fruits and Songza.<br>

Can you share some general advice or words of wisdom for someone looking to pursue a career in advertising?<br>

Advertising isn?t always as glamorous as it is portrayed in the media. Be prepared for working long hours, late nights (particularly before a client pitch), and avoid taking the attitude of ?I?m too good for this.? Employers want someone who has the potential and the will to learn and work hard to do better.

How might someone best prepare to take on a role like yours?

As a Project Manager, you?ll need a few years of experience working in an agency to know the ins and outs of creative development and studio or digital production. You?ll need to be able to outline timing, budget, identify problems before they occur and be good at negotiation. If the agency already has specific processes in place, make sure you implement those processes ? they are there for a reason!<br>

What do you really wish someone had told you before you started your job search in advertising?<br>

It?s important to understand that to be successful in this industry you really need to have a passion for advertising. It?s also important to be yourself, as this industry really rewards individuality and creativity.<br>