This Month we have the opportunity to speak to the wonderful Isa where she tells us about her career and opens up about her biggest life challenge. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, you are an incredible human and we look forward to follow your journey.
Q: Tell us about your career?
A: My first proper job was organising a 1000-people open source conference called DrupalCon. It was the time when Drupal (and other open source content management systems) was “learning how to walk”. I was successful in the community, understood Drupal and its people and so I continued working with them and the CMS for a few years. When I moved to Doha, Qatar, I thought I should maybe try out what I had a degree in, which is International Marketing. Turns out that wasn’t really my jam (it was at the time when social media marketing was about to take off and many of the jobs of today didn’t exist). I really enjoyed working with people, collaborating and brainstorming with a team to make something that is good even better.
At the same time, I was involved in European Education projects for lifelong learning. This was a really good platform for me to engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I learned so much about how people communicate, about structures within Europe, smaller communities in remote rural areas at the Black Sea. My roles for each project spanned from workshop facilitator, running a communications workshop to being a project manager.
Once I moved to London, I had the opportunity to be a part of a growing team and company (and to move away from the open source world) where I could try my hand as a “servant leader”. For the past 5 years, I’ve been mainly working as a Project/Delivery Manager for SaaS companies.
On the side, I also started my own blog again (isapisa.com), ventured into creating my own greetings cards through an exhibition in the south of France and experimented with content monetisation using blockchain.
Q: What inspired you to work in this field?
A: When it comes to Drupal and open source CMS, I suppose I fell into it. I was looking for a challenge, naive and full of energy after graduating, practised my elevator pitch and walked into an agency that was recommended to me and basically told my then future boss that he needed to hire me. Little did I know that it would be a major influence for my career, the people I met and therefore the network I built, and where it led me even to this day.
Q: What does your job involve?
A: The definition of a project manager varies slightly depending on how the company is structured and what they do. As a project manager for a digital agency, it could entail anything from account management, that is dealing with clients and making sure they are happy, some pre-sales and upselling of products to existing clients, to managing often agile processes and team members (developers, quality assurance people, consultants, designers, UX experts). There is a trend that’s emerged these past few years where the traditional role of a Digital Project Manager is transitioned to a Delivery Manager in some companies. A Delivery Manager is more of a servant leader, akin to a Scrum Master but client facing and having all of the traditional project manager responsibilities such as budgeting, resource planning, risk planning and making sure deadlines are respected.
Q: What has been the biggest career challenge?
A: I had to take a break for a little more than a year because I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. I was 30 then and like many millennial women, I was also struggling with “where the heck has the time gone? My life was supposed to be completely different”. When I was finally ready to go back to work, I was struggling with how I would do. I thought I forgot everything, that I wouldn’t be as good as before because I was still on medication and because I hadn’t worked for a year.
Having a break, forced or not, gives you time to reflect what you want to do professionally and how you want to live generally. It also makes you feel like you’re missing out and might be left behind because everyone else is still spinning their wheels and getting on with their achievements career-wise. Coming to terms with that and realising what matters has been a big challenge for me, as I’ve always been the one at the front of the line.
Q: What has been your career highlight?
I don’t think I can pick just one. Generally I would say that one of my highlights is fighting for my worth and having my worth confirmed. It’s a great feeling realising that you are good at what you do and when other people, your team and your boss especially, realise and admit to it as well.
Q: What are your goals for 2019?
I am looking for new role that allows me to work remotely from anywhere in Europe. I hope it’ll give me the flexibility and balance I want to also do some side hustles.
Q: What was the best advice you have been given and who was it from?
Don’t take it personal.
I think as women (yes I am generalising) we are prone to taking everything a bit too personal and get emotionally too invested. At least I was. My husband and parents kept telling me that I am wasting precious energy and that I need to learn to let things go. I am not saving lives or anything remotely important enough to get caught up in an emotional rollercoaster.
Q: Lastly what advice would you give to our Professional Women?
Speak up when something isn’t right. I made that promise to myself a few years ago and there have been moments I felt particularly proud because I didn’t let a condescending comment about other female co-workers slide or because I didn’t stay quiet when a man would talk over me whilst I was mid-sentence. It may rock a few boats but it’ll get you the respect you deserve and you’ll very quickly realise who can deal with it and who cannot.
Also, unless you’re literally saving lives or the planet, let it go. Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the right reasons and it makes you happy on some kind of level.