What does a Project Manager do?

This post is intended for anyone interested in conducting a Group Project.

Project Management Terms and Definitions

We’d recommend everyone on the team reading the below so they know more about why and how the project is being structured. If you’re a team lead for a group project, this should be very helpful.

  • Tracking : Team lead should set up task tracking and reporting so everyone knows what work is being done by whom and how it all comes together. I’d recommend using a Trello board to track tasks as it’s simple and free. See guides for using Trello with Scrum here and with Kanban here. If you prefer another tool, like if you really want to get Jira experience before using it at work, that’s totally fine too.

  • Communication : You should all agree on where you should chat and check in! You can start a private channel on the Pro Slack (easiest), open your own free Slack workspace, start a Discord server, whatever you’d like.

  • Time Commitments : Some people can commit a lot of time, some can’t. Understand early what people can and should commit to for this project, when they will be online and working, and set expectations early.

  • Deadlines : It’s hard to do work without them. Always remember that your teammates are volunteers, so it’s important to get everyone’s input and assent for deadlines, so that they agree to the things they’ll be held accountable for. Read more about how to set deadlines the right way here.

  • Syncing : Make sure that you and your team agree to a regular schedule of checking in with one another and on the project. Though most of these check-ins can be done asynchronously or via chat, you should try to meet on a group call when possible too. You don’t have to have do it daily , but the standup framework should help you (read this for more info).

  • Product Specifications & Implementing User Stories : Your team can work together to figure out exactly what needs to be done in order to build your product based on user stories provided (if you’re doing your own project and need to make your user stories, read “extra credit” below). Have a meeting and walk through the user stories, discussing what you’d need to do to make it happen. You can also divide up those stories between people to research what it’ll take to complete them to save on meeting time.

  • Pull Requests and Merging : You’re all going to be working on different parts of the same project, and they’ll eventually all need to come together. Decide on a system of pull requests, approvals, and merging. For example, one contributor will ask to make a pull request, and then they’ll need to have at least one thumbs up from someone who has reviewed their PR before merging. Make sure everyone is clear on how this system works and who approves what, when.

  • Group Learning : Finally, and this is vital, you’re all taking part in this project to learn with one another. Even on the job as a professional, continued learning, mentorship, and education is a vital part of a developer’s work and job satisfaction. Make sure that you’re taking the time to review one-another’s code not just for whether it should be merged or not, but how it can be better. Take the time to walk each other through concepts – after all, studies show that this is one of the best ways to cement your learning (fact!). Consider having one teammate do a screenshare of something tricky for the others. Talk through things and overcommunicate. If you all just work silently, you’ll only get a fraction of the value. This doesn’t mean everyone leaning on the most skilled people in the group or expecting to be taught, talk about it among yourselves and set expectations.

  • User Stories : Some projects for learners will already come with a series of user stories that you need to work through. If you are working on a project of your own, then you’ll need to make them. User stories are part of the team lead and designer’s reading list, but multiple team members can and should be involved. You can quickly learn how to craft your own user stories here. Adding more user stories is another great way to build your skills and keep practicing without continually having to build projects from scratch. You can easily just put yourself into the mind of the user and ask yourself… what would I as a consumer want from this website or software ? From there, the sky’s the limit.

  • Pointing or sizing : User stories have varying levels of complexity and may take different amounts of time to complete. When development teams estimate the time and effort it will take to accomplish a task, it is usually called pointing or sizing. This is important for being able to equitably divide work and to meet deadlines. You can learn about how to size projects in this quick blog post, and it’s best to do this in a group conversation if possible as it will be a very productive way to reframe and apply what you’ve been learning in coding.