Working in academic publishing doesn’t always mean writing or editing books (we have subject matter experts, called SMEs, for that!). It takes so many different skill sets and people to publish a book or a product. One of the cogs in the wheel of publishing is a project manager. If you’ve ever wondered what a project manager does, here is a snapshot of a typical day in the life.
This is when my day begins, either at home or in the office. I start by checking my calendar to see what’s ahead for the day and catching up on any emails I may have missed from the day before.
I have a calendar reminder set to check in on the progress of my active projects. During the project planning process, I have set up deadlines for different stages of the project.
For example, I have set the due date that the author finishes the first draft of chapter 1 for Friday. Each chapter will have a breakdown of the section and checkboxes for each so the author can check off completed sections as they go. This helps keep the author accountable and it helps me get a peek into the author’s progress.
If today is Wednesday, I’m hoping that the author has checked off more than half of the sections as complete. I’ll check to see how far the author has gotten and send any reminders if they’re running behind. If I’m tracking the start and finish dates of each section to get metrics on how long it takes to draft a section, I’ll record those dates as well.
I have a weekly meeting with my manager to discuss current projects. This meeting gives us an opportunity to compare our projects and to see where they overlap and if there are any processes that can be cross-applied. These check-ins also help to boost morale and increase motivation.
If I’m setting up a new project, I will work to remove as many obstacles as possible for the authors so all they need to focus on is doing their primary job: writing. Removing obstacles may include cleaning up old documents, consolidating files in a particular place, creating correlation guide’s that make looking up certain information really easy.
Lunch time—a great opportunity to take a break from staring at the screen!
We’ll typically have a team-wide meeting once a week. At this time, all project managers will come together to discuss pain points, wins, new ideas, and anything else that may benefit the group. We’ll hear updates from our manager on upcoming projects and seek advice from other PMs on any issues that pop up.
Every week, project managers will facilitate a quick 30-minute standing meeting with the authors and editors. Because editors manage the external relationship with customers and work so closely with sales and marketing (among many other things!) these meetings become good channels for the consistent flow of communication between the people creating the project and the people who are waiting on the completed work.
This is another good time to pick up work again on organizing and preparing my other projects. Depending on the stage of the project, I could be creating a schedule, checking completed work for quality assurance, or scheduling a retrospective on a recently-finished project. Retrospectives give everyone involved an opportunity to reflect on what went well, what went wrong, and what could have been done better for next time.
I’ll start to wrap up my work and do a quick assessment of what needs to be picked up again tomorrow and the next couple of weeks.
And that’s a wrap!