Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Annika Giese, Project Manager at InnoGames. Read more about Annika in this interview:
Hi Annika, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Could you tell us more about your current profession and the career path that led you to it?

For the last 5 years I have been working as a project manager with the focus on software development at InnoGames. Together with our corporate systems team I am responsible to concept and build tools for our marketing department. I worked for example on a campaign management tool and currently on a landing page system. I am basically the bridge between my marketing colleagues who are using the tools in their daily work and the developers who build them. I try to “translate” the needs and requirements from marketing into a more technical concept for the developers.

Before InnoGames, I was working with an online career service startup, where I started over 10 years ago as an intern. And how it usually is in startups, you basically do everything that needs to be done. I did not become an expert on one topic, I did everything a bit. Although back then it was not defined as such, I always did project management to some extent.

I very much love the diversity of the job. You need a technical understanding, communication is a huge part, you should like numbers and it also has a creative side. It never gets boring, there are always new challenges ahead and you learn something new with every new project or product you are working on.

What are some of your (everyday) tasks as project manager at InnoGames, what does your job entail?

This is obviously highly dependent on the project and the current phase of the project. At the beginning of a project, you operate more on a strategical top level. When you are in development, the tasks are getting more granular.

In a usual week however, I would join quite some meetings to sync with the developers as well as the stakeholders. I would also create some tickets in JIRA – a project management tool that is very often used in software development. Tickets are basically a description of small work packages for the developers. My job is to make sure that they include all the information the developers need and that they are prioritized regarding the milestones which have been defined for the project. We talk about these tickets in our weekly or bi-weekly planning meeting to collectively discuss content and priorities. Also, almost no week passes without doing some analysis either on the product or on the processes.

Although there are of course some typical tasks, in general my job is not very repetitive. Content changes with every concept, sometimes with every feature. We also revisit standardized processes to check if they still fit our needs. A good tool that we use for this is a regular retrospective meeting. In this we talk about what was good, what needs improvement and what could we have done differently. Every team member shares their opinions and in the end we together come with action points or decisions which we will then try out to optimize our work.

Which advice would you give to someone who might also be interested in working as a project manager? What are some good first steps, and which skills are useful to acquire?

The job of a project manager can be very different depending on the industry, the size of the company and the project itself. Most companies want their project managers to have a degree in the field of the project as a basic requirement (like business administration, software development, engineering etc.).

I would recommend to not hesitate if you did not cover “Project Management” in your studies, though. Of course, there is useful theory behind it, but I believe that the most important skills you need as a project manager can be achieved by doing it. And the cool thing is: this does not mean that you need to work as a project manager already.

What all project managers have in common, no matter which industry they are working in, are organizational and communicational skills. Both are easy to acquire and improve in your everyday life: You may already be the person that organizes travels with friends or who always keeps an overview of what is needed for the next big family event? Congratulations! You are already doing project management! If you want to improve, recap what went well, what did not and try to generate learnings: what could you do differently next time? It is more about the techniques than the actual task.

You can also try to put more effort into communication: Does everyone know what to bring to the event? Might it be important that you reach out to some people via text message while others you should rather call directly? When writing an email, try to read it through the eyes of the one who is receiving it. Would they understand it easily, by only reading it once? Is the structure clear enough and did you give all content that is needed?

So in a nutshell: Stay agile, be open for improvements and curious!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Annika!

Annika’s Links: LinkedInInnogames: Careers & Open Job Positions

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Jessica Hackenbroch