Aug 2021#Opinion

How to become a project manager in the blockchain industry – and what problems you need to be prepared for

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Tatiana Galagutskaya

Tatiana Galagutskaya

Project Manager

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Blockchain and crypto are an extremely dynamic market, where project management specialists are always required. What competencies are needed to enter this industry and what are the growth prospects for RM in the agency, says Tatyana Galagutskaya, project manager at BDC Consulting

Why blockchain?

In 2021, the crypto market is in the spotlight again. The bitcoin rate first rose to $64,000, and then fell to $30,000; Elon Musk's tweets about crypto are discussed on the biggest media platforms; the boom of NFT tokens and DeFi continues.

Against this background, many new projects are being launched, and there is a huge demand for project managers in the blockchain sphere – both within startups and in agencies. I am lucky: I work in crypto and other areas of online business, both within companies and in one of the leading providers of digital marketing services for crypto – BDC Consulting. Therefore, my experience will certainly be useful to those project managers who are thinking about moving to blockchain.

Where does PM work better: in a startup or an agency?

The main insight that I learned from 4 years of work in product startups and 5+ years in agencies:

To work for a product company/startup, you need to love the product; to work in an agency, you need to love the process itself.

Of course, there are advantages to working directly in a small product company:

  1. Complete immersion in the niche and product: expertise in a particular field is growing rapidly;
  2. Autonomy: as a PM (Project Manager) you propose and make key decisions about product promotion, and the approval process is rather brief;
  3. The results of the work are clearly visible;
  4. The mistakes of the project manager are unlikely to be noticed by anyone, especially if there are no more marketers on the team.

However, after working for a couple of years in a startup in the field of e-Commerce, I realized that for me personally, the shortcomings of this format overcame the advantages:

  1. Working with a single product does not allow you to expand your marketing horizons;
  2. There are not enough like-minded people and mentors from whom you can learn;
  3. It simply becomes boring.

For these reasons, I've returned to the fascinating and dynamic world of agencies – specifically BDC Consulting. Working here allows me to pump the "marketing muscle", learn from the best digital professionals and develop soft skills.

What you need to know about project management in a digital agency

Many are interested in the profession of a project manager, but not everyone understands what is included in the work on the project. Therefore, I will briefly list the main phases, as well as the "chips" and principles that we successfully use at BDC Consulting.

Pre-project preparation

Sales managers together with marketers, brief customers, and develop a work plan. Here is our secret to success – CustDev, or interviews and surveys of the client's audience. CustDev allows us to understand the pains, fears, and doubts of users and to develop an attractive message that will close these fears. Another important element is the creation of scaling hypotheses, that is, non-obvious decisions that can lead to rapid growth.

After forming the strategy, we determine the composition of the team. There are small projects on which 2-3 specialists work, and there are also multi-month "epics" in which 10-20 people are involved.

Launch of the project

Our principle is that the strategy should move along with the market. It's not enough to just implement a pre-made plan point by point – especially in crypto, where one tweet by Elon Musk can turn the entire market upside down. We keep our finger on the pulse of trends and, if necessary, quickly rebuild.

In the process, we conduct constant internal brainstorming and weekly calls with the client to coordinate actions. Based on the results of the sprints, we arrange retrospectives to improve the quality of setting tasks.

Implement strategies and hypothesis testing

A high-quality promotion strategy in blockchain is always multi-channel. We use up to a dozen tools at a time – to be honest, I don't know agencies that operate with as many channels as BDC Consulting. For example, we are one of the few who offer a search engine reputation management (SERM) service.

The most interesting thing for me is to test scaling hypotheses. Often this requires the client to make rather unexpected changes on the website, on social networks, etc. – and how nice it is to see the surprise and joy of the client when the result turns out to be exactly as we predicted!

As a project manager, I don't communicate much with clients personally, because every project has an account manager. But I constantly keep account managers informed of the status of tasks for further transfer to the client and attend client calls to connect where necessary. I must say that being aware of the mood of the client is an important condition for the smooth implementation of the strategy.

On the specifics of project management in the blockchain and crypto industry

In order to become a PM in the agency for the promotion of blockchain projects, it is not necessary to understand this area in advance. The main thing is that the eyes burn and there is a desire to learn - and to learn a lot and very quickly. From my own experience, I can say: it is possible to master the main concepts of the crypto market and digital marketing in a few months, especially when there are experienced mentors in the team.

For example, we at BDC Consulting have developed a strong training system for new employees, which includes a course on blockchain. A mentor is attached to each beginner for 3 months, once a week a session of knowledge pumping is held with CEO Ales or with our trader-analyst. There's even a chat where we share insights and, of course, memes :).

Speaking of memes: there is an opinion that the project does not have to understand the specifics, but it is enough just to move the tasks in the task manager, like this parrot:

In fact, after passing onboarding and learning the basics of the crypto market, I felt tremendous progress in my work and in my position as a PM:

  1. Understanding the specifics of blockchain, it is much easier to set tasks, agree on KPIs and assess risks;
  2. When you understand the product and the audience of the client, you can more effectively manage the expectations of both the team and the client;
  3. And most importantly - you feel like a proactive member of the team and not just a coordinator.

By the way, projects from other areas often ask whether you need to know a specific PM methodology like PMP / PMI to start working in the blockchain sphere and in digital in general. The truth is that this mastery of the methodology is a good bonus for starting work, but you can do without it.

In digital, everything is more dynamic than in the same IT, so everything is decided by soft skills, prudence, and stress resistance. Often, you have to be as creative as possible to solve a problem that is not written about in any PM book and manual.

Growth prospects when working in the agency

For those who have passed the school of digital marketing on the basis of the agency, especially in the blockchain industry, all roads are open:

Growth of expertise. In an agency, a novice specialist can grow into a respected expert as quickly as possible. For example, an influencer manager can move on to working with top bloggers in the industry and develop an excellent contact base. By the way, our specialists are often asked for comments from the media.

Horizontal growth. The informal and loyal atmosphere of the agency allows you to change the type of activity, and try something new. For example, in BDC Consulting there were cases when a specialist in attracting users became a leading account manager, and the assistant CEO retrained in a project.

Transition to a startup. In blockchain, a marketing specialist or PM from a good agency may well move to a leadership position in a startup – say, become a marketing director or COO.

Who is suitable for work in the cryptosphere?

Moving to blockchain, you need to understand that this is one of the most dynamic markets where the situation can radically change in a matter of hours. Therefore, the project needs to make decisions quickly, monitor the clear implementation of tasks without breaking deadlines, and make sure that the team has all the necessary resources.

There is enough stress in the work of the PM. I will highlight the following factors:

  • Multitasking: it happens that the very number of notifications in Slack, Asana, and Telegram plunges into stress :).
  • Episodic lack of resources in the team: projects sometimes become too many. Currently, BDC Consulting is actively recruiting new specialists for a number of vacancies (including PM), so soon such situations will become rare.
  • Creating a positive attitude in the team and maintaining motivation, especially when the client expresses dissatisfaction. Sometimes you need to personally support some specialist.
  • The need to carefully give a colleague feedback about the mistake they made and not hurt their feelings. By the way, recently we had an internal master class "How to give feedback in an environmentally friendly way": this is an incredibly useful skill for a project.

You can summarize as follows: in crypto, you definitely will not get bored, but this pace is not suitable for everyone. In order not to burn out and effectively cope with the flow of information, it is necessary to competently plan cases and prioritize tasks.

However, the advantages of working in a cool consulting company in the blockchain sphere more than compensate for the effort expended. Here you are surrounded by strong professionals, which is very inspiring: the successful closure of the project is perceived not as a difficult task that causes stress, but as a natural and pleasant process. For me, this sense of flow, organic workflow is perhaps the most valuable motivation to work in the cryptosphere in general and at BDC Consulting in particular.

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