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We caught up with some of our Project Managers Sven, Flo, Andre and Erik to get an insight into their day to day tasks and experiences at keylight.
Some project managers are born, some are made, and some find themselves using the wrong detergent in an industrial dishwasher and flooding a bar full of foam and taking that as a sign that whatever they’re meant to be, they’re probably not meant to be a barman.
Such is the tale of Sven, one of our project managers here at keylight. Sven has been working with keylight since May. After the dishwasher fiasco he worked in marketing and account management in the travel industry in his native Croatia; Croatia is a ‘touristy place’ and his father owns a travel agency, so ex-barman Sven felt obliged to follow in those footsteps. Eventually, however, Sven found his way to project management and keylight.
keylight is a B2B subscription SaaS provider and as such, our project managers play a vital role in facilitating communication between clients and implementation teams, as well as making sure projects stay on track and on budget. Sven believes the key to being a good project manager is in good communication skills, which includes being proactive, but also being frank about mistakes. As well as facilitating the subscription economy, keylight is itself a subscription service, so the project manager portfolio includes maintaining a strong, positive relationship with clients after the project has gone live. ‘It’s good working with clients when you have a solid foundation,’ says Sven. ‘A little empathy goes a long way’.
Sven’s fellow project manager Florian agrees on the importance of empathy in project management. ‘Project managers need to see things from the customer’s perspective and the developer’s perspective.’ Florian has been working with keylight for over two years, and an important skill he has learned on the job is the importance of extracting and processing lots of information from customers, then filtering and relaying that information to relevant staff within keylight. Although project managers may not have what Flo calls ‘direct output’ as a result of their work, this communication is an important part of ensuring developers can customize the product to the client’s exact specifications. The trick is not only understanding the information coming from the client, but also in relaying the details accurately to the dev teams.
Andre is our newest project manager, but prior to joining keylight in September he already had industry experience in SaaS, including projects outside of the subscription economy. Being the new kid on the block means he has only just started to dip his toes into managing projects with clients, but here at keylight all colleagues are encouraged to collaborate, explore personal interests, and bring new ideas to the table. ‘I have done project managing in an agile way, so I’ve shown the other project managers agile methodologies for project managing. After that, I packaged these methodologies into a more ‘classic’ project managing methodology with a roadmap,’ says Ande, who first heard of keylight through Zuora projects in his previous work in the IT sector in Cologne.
Meanwhile, Sven is our resident number-cruncher, and is involved in the operational side of things here at keylight. ‘I’m very focused on the results rather than the feelings,’ says Sven, who has taken the reins on company-wide time tracking. ‘I don’t like things we can’t measure and track.’
Not all the managers ‘share the same coffee machine’, as keylight also has offices in Zurich and Belgrade. Flo calls Erik, the Managing Director of our Zurich offices, the ‘CEO of Switzerland’, which is only a slight hyperbole. As a project manager and a solution architect, Erik has a clear perspective on the relationship keylight has with our customers. ‘We have some customers with a really clear vision, and some customers who need more guidance,’ says Erik. keylight is an out-of-the-box software designed for quickly launching and optimizing a subscription model. Erik says that part of the project manager’s job is explaining to customers that rather than investing vast time and effort on home-grown software, ‘we provide a solution that will solve 80-90% of an issue, and the rest can be solved with customization.’
Although we have lots of talented managers at keylight, each with a large and diverse set of responsibilities, keylight’s structure utilizes a ‘flat hierarchy’. Rather than directly supervising a group of workers, project managers at keylight work collaboratively with their teams and with other managers. ‘I’ve never experienced flat hierarchy before keylight; it’s really interesting to see how it works,’ says Andre. Sven sees the pros and cons of a flat hierarchy in terms of its impact on his role as a leader. ‘I’m not a fan of hierarchies and the implications of hierarchies; I am a team lead but I’m not responsible for my team’s contracts and salaries, which makes leadership a bit easier.’ Flo enjoys the flexibility and togetherness fostered by an equal playing field. ‘In our current hierarchy some people prefer to just get stuck into their personal responsibilities, whereas others can look at the bigger picture and can show initiative. I think the flat hierarchy fosters a feeling of togetherness.’ According to Erik, ‘moving towards the subscription economy is a big future-thinking step for lots of businesses’, and keylight’s flat hierarchy is a suitable ‘future-proof model’.
As is to be expected, the ongoing pandemic has changed the way we work at keylight, and the project managers have had to adapt their management accordingly. Fortunately, keylight has long been set up for home office and remote working, so on a logistical level this hasn’t been too much of a headache. Flexible working arrangements means that keylighters can start or finish early, as well as go to appointments without requesting time off. ‘The thing I really insanely adore is the opportunity to work remotely, so I can go back to see my family,’ says Sven, who is speaking to me from his family home in Croatia. ‘There’s room for ideas and flexibility to work how you like and where you like. It’s great for people with young children, or for those of us who want to go home to see family.’ Although the pandemic has scattered some of us to the wind, the opportunity to live and work in Berlin has drawn the best and brightest to keylight. Andre recently relocated from Cologne, and Sven came from Croatia by way of Newcastle and Dusseldorf. ‘I wanted to live in a big, culturally significant city whilst I’m young,’ says Sven. ‘I sent my CV all around the world and ended up in Germany.’
We at keylight are fortunate that it has been business as usual throughout these difficult and turbulent times, owing to the resilience of the subscription economy that has only grown as the world has gone in and out of lockdown. However, some of our rambunctious project managers miss keylight’s bustling, fun office culture, and look forward to the days where we can revel in keylight’s ‘togetherness’ again. ‘We used to enjoy socializing after work with colleagues - board games, kicker, beachball, sometimes a cheeky after-work beer, but unfortunately that has been impacted a lot by the pandemic,’ says Flo. Despite these changes to office life, our project managers remain incorrigibly cheerful about our work here at keylight. As Erik says, ‘there are lots of brilliant minds and nice people to work with at keylight, and the product is genius and really future proof’.
Sven has not yet managed to break the dishwasher at Berlin HQ.