We recently had a conversation with Ellie Bird, our Project Manager from the UK branch. During our talk, we discussed the qualities that make someone great for this position, as well as how Ellie managed to smoothly execute her last significant project. However, Ellie’s interests extend beyond her role. She is an avid theatre-goer and enjoys attending music concerts. She also takes part in various charity events and is a physically active individual who has previously completed 10k runs, swam from pier to pier in Bournemouth, and even gone skydiving. Let’s get to know her better!

How did you start as a Project Manager and when did you join Spyrosoft?

I became a PM in my previous employment, where I planned and installed train ticketing machines. I completed over 1,000 installations while working on the project. It also involved the software included on the machines and various projects updating the devices. I then joined Spyrosoft in December 2021. Since then, I have worked on the Red Funnel Project, which, coincidentally, I used to work with from a train ticket perspective in my previous employment.

The last project, Red Funnel, was a very interesting, but challenging one. What was the client’s initial idea and request?

Red Funnel initially engaged Spyrosoft to assist in identifying all of the interfaces with the booking system and website to understand the project’s impact and the key stakeholders’ requirements. Following the publication of the document, they requested that I project manage the programme of works. The initial project was the implementation of the new website alongside the upgrade of the booking system, and the scope was changed six months into the project to include the digitalisation of their holiday programme.

What did you see as the potential setback at the beginning and what turned out to be the actual challenge?

I initially viewed the potential setback of having to complete a ‘big bang’ go live, where the website and newly upgraded booking system had to be launched at the same time. However, the biggest challenge was the added complexity of multiple suppliers to manage with a project team, who had to share their time with their BAU responsibilities.

Communication can be a significant problem, and business is no exception. How did you make it clear between everyone involved, especially with stakeholders with different points of view?

It was clear from my initial placement that I wanted the team to communicate everything to me to allow me to understand any issues or restrictions. The beauty of being external to the business was that I could listen to requirements, risks, issues and give a balanced, unbiased view of them, which at times provided clarity that those in the BAU roles weren’t able to see.

How long did it take you to fully understand the client’s business and the challenges they faced, and what would you advise other PMs out there?

It took about three months to gain around 75% of the business and the demands on my stakeholders; however, even now, two years on, I am still learning different intricacies of their business. The best bit of advice I would give to other PMs is to embrace the client’s business, always put your client hat on and put yourself in their shoes to understand their needs. Although I work for Spyrosoft, when I am on the project, I see myself as an employee of Red Funnel, and it has become my passion to make sure that I deliver the best result possible.

What tools and methods helped you overcome the challenges of this project?

The best one in my toolbox is drawing on the experience from the more senior PMs I have worked with throughout the years. Be it from my Line Manager, Shane Poole, to external PMs who have guided me in my previous roles. I am also an active member of the APM society, so I have a vast amount of information at my disposal. However, for me, the biggest tool and method you can use is talking regularly with your stakeholders, and face-to-face meetings are priceless.

What was the project’s outcome, and what were your thoughts once it was done?

The outcome was the project going live in November, and I can say it is the proudest moment in my project management career – surpassing the installation of over 1,000 train ticket machines nationwide. I am continuing to work with Red Funnel to push through further functionality, but the biggest hurdle of one big bang was successfully completed.

Thanks to VERB, the website providers, we have got a wonderful video showcasing the result of the project.

What advice would you give younger Ellie when you first started this journey?

Don’t be afraid to ask and question anything.

Thank you, Ellie! We appreciate your willingness to share.

If you want to learn more about the atmosphere in our UK-based office, take a look at our recent interview with People Partner Gemma Blackaller. Additionally, if you are interested in working alongside experts like Ellie, please have a look at our Career page and check out open positions!

About the author

Marija Jurina

Marija Jurina

Employer Branding Specialist