My Unconventional Path to Program Manager

August 13, 2015

My Unconventional Path to Program Manager

By: Sharon Malfesi

For me, the road to Program Manager at Datto may have not taken the most conventional path, but it was a path I was well-prepared for.

Before becoming a Program Manager, I started out at Datto as a Software Developer.

As more and more projects began to pile up in the department, it became clear a project manager was a real necessity. I was offered the opportunity to take on the new position, essentially starting the Project Management Group at Datto.

While it wasn’t the conventional path, it wasn’t foreign territory for me by any means. I have a B.S. in Business Administration, with a minor in Computer Information Systems. Technical Project Management was actually the role I was always interested in and is the sole reason that I chose my educational path.

Before joining Datto, I was in various leadership roles that helped prepare me for organizational management positions. My most recent job before Datto was in law enforcement; although this is a completely different spectrum of work experience, I learned all of the key skills needed in order to be successful in a corporate team environment.

Regarding the role, “Program Manager” is much more ambiguous at Datto than other companies. In the past at Datto, I took on the responsibilities of day-to-day management in addition to your typical project management responsibilities including documentation, budgeting, and resource allocation.

As Datto has grown, my role has morphed into a multifaceted position, adopting an agile workflow. I don’t necessarily see myself as a people manager (because I’m not), but I still take on the managerial overhead and status reporting for each of my smaller project teams within the Software Engineering department.

I also handle the SCRUM process and act as ScrumMaster for all of my projects. Some of these responsibilities include facilitating team meetings, helping the team maintain project artifacts, setting up all standard SCRUM team meetings (retrospective, review, planning, etc), shielding the team from outside distractions and impediments, removing obstacles that prevent the team from achieving their goals, assisting the Product Owner in the refinement of user stories, and encouraging healthy communication between all members of a project team.

A typical day for me can consist of multiple SCRUM meetings, where each development team provides quick status updates in a 15 minute timebox. If any obstacles or problems arise for those teams, I handle them accordingly. My days can also include meetings for planning, product backlog refinement, retrospective and reviews. They often include some sort of management overhead for the team, such as creating sprint documentation, sending out reports to the team on sprint status, metrics gathering, etc. The main focus from day-to-day is consistent facilitation of good communication practices between team members.

When you have to act in such a versatile role, strong communication skills are incredibly important. While I mainly deal with internal customers, efficient communication is key to a successful team. With communication comes listening, which is crucial when you are in any type of management position. While I am only a peer to my teammates, they rely on me to listen and execute on their needs, whether it be removing a roadblock or answering a process-related question.

Adaptability is very important as well. Things are fast-paced here at Datto, and requirements / business needs are ever-changing, so an agile response is required from the Software Development team. While things are fast and can feel chaotic here, the environment is always welcoming and supportive. Everyone is very passionate at Datto. It’s fascinating to work with such intelligent people who are all working to create something unique and beneficial for the disaster and recovery and backup solution customer base.

My other passion? Performing with my band, Hollow Bones.