Culture and ValuesJune 3, 2021

Pavel Leontiev and Project Management Best Practices

Pavel Leontiev and Project Management Best Practices

How did you decide to pursue a Project Management career?

I’ve always had a passion for technology and love working with people. Over the years, I’ve worked in various roles, helping me get to where I am now. This experience has helped me become more well rounded. Previously I worked as a Requirements Manager, then as a QA manager, and at one point I was doing practically everything: attending clients’ meetings, writing documentation, and coding a bit both for Android and iOS. 

I can say that by the time I became a Project Manager, it was a natural transfer from one of my previous projects where I became a single contact point, an arbitrator, and a facilitator.

Can a person without technical background be a Project Manager? 

Absolutely yes and there are various types of Project Managers who fit various types of projects. What’s important is being able to speak a common language with engineering, inspire the team to achieve the goals set forth, communicate with business stakeholders and ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget.

Which methodologies do you use in your projects?

I can say that I’ve tried almost every methodology before – Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and SAFe. In the end, you need to use the one which suits your team and the business needs best. There are pros and cons to all options.

What are the first steps when you start a new project?

First and foremost, you need to understand the overall business goals and how the project is going to deliver business outcomes and value to the business. Next you need to consider deadlines, relevant stakeholders, and scope and start to create a roadmap from there.

It’s important to align the team, roles/responsibilities, how the communication cadence, communication tools, reportings and other types of things.

From there, we believe a well planned kick off week helps set the stage for successful outcomes and strong delivery.

What was the largest project you have ever worked on (in terms of team members) and the smallest?

The largest project I have worked on to date included 20-25 people (Web/Windows-Desktop/ Backend). I managed a delivery team with tech leads, product managers, and various developers. The teams were also divided into two big ones. 

The smallest team I even worked in consisted of myself (as a QA/Project Manager/Data Engineer), one developer, and a Product Manager.

How do you manage evolving business priorities? 

In this case you should use a change request model. We divide the whole project into small steps. Then we need to agree that for each iteration there’s a fixed amount of work. It’s an easier way to understand what’s needed. And then we can decide whether this change is really necessary or not, how it will influence the result of this small step and the overall project as well.

How do you manage several projects at the same time? 

It is similar to how you get multiple applications running on your laptop or mobile device simultaneously: the continuous runtime from a human perspective is a long chain of small independent tasks for a processor. So you switch from one task to another, keep their size sound, and prioritize them.

How do you deal with the tasks that randomly pop up? 

I use a so-called bucket conception. If the bucket is full, then there’s no way to pour something more than to pour something out of it first. And then you prioritize what is more important from the whole bucket of tasks. You can’t just come and add something new – then something else needs to be thrown away.

Name five tips for effective work as a Project Manager.

  • Use templates wherever you can. No one expects creativity or non-standard ways in reporting or sprint planning. 
  • Delegate and trust the team.
  • Listen to the people. Sometimes problems are outside of scope or timeline. An honest 15 minute talk can save weeks of teamwork and maintain morale.
  • Ask for help if you need it. It is better to look a bit unconfident to a couple of colleagues than to the whole team and customers in the end.
  • Align everybody. If your team, management, and customer side have similar and holistic views on the project, then this makes each aspect much better!

How do you improve your technical skills?

Listening to other people, understanding how they succeeded, and then trying to make it on my own. I had several mentors throughout my career who have helped me on my professional path to resolve the issues I couldn’t do on my own.

Top 5 PM skills to have in 2021?

I don’t think this has changed much in the last few decades, but COVID-19 and lockdowns made communication skills the most important, in my opinion. If you can’t communicate properly (and a lot!), you’re not going to make it, sorry. The other skills would be critical thinking, scheduling, soft skills, and your technical level. The exact order may vary from project to project.

What do you like most about your job at Transcenda?

No secrets. No bureaucracy. Just a top notch team and the very best culture.

What are your hobbies?

Honestly, when you have a kid and two unstoppable cats, your main hobby is having a rest. But apart from that, I would say reading books, singing karaoke, grilling, and taking part in quests (from online quizzes to full-weekend auto-quests 1000+ km long).

Which Transcenda value resonates the most with you? Why?

I bet if you asked around, people would say that mine should be “Keep it fun”. We all know we’re not here to make jokes, but sometimes a bit of a laugh (especially at yourself) can keep everybody’s mood and return people from machine-like to a human state again!

Alexey Koval
Alexey Koval