Meet a Maker : Mackenzie Hartung, Team Lead

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Welcome to post number two in our Meet a Maker series, where we learn more about the people at XWP and how they have come to work with and contribute to WordPress. Today we meet Mackenzie, Team Lead/Product Owner for team Hyperion.

So, who are you and what do you do?

I am Mackenzie, native New Jersey resident, by way of a 4 year stint in Tampa, Florida during college. I have an affinity for constantly learning, and always enjoy a good challenge, physically and mentally. I truly believe that an idle mind is under-served, so I try to fill my days with activities (both inside and outside of the “office) that push the boundaries mentally. I currently work as a Team Lead at XWP on a team of amazing individuals.

Describe the moment you first discovered and played with WordPress.

I was 19, and feeling the need to express myself online. I used to write a lot of poetry and personal reflections, and thought that I should put them in a place that I could share with friends and family (and all of my friends on the world wide web, haha). It gave me the ability to create a website that embodied how I felt, as I was venturing out on my own for the first time as an “adult”.

What are the biggest differences in project and team management between SMB web projects and enterprise projects?

With SMB web projects you generally have more flexibility to ebb and flow with the prioritization of your client POC’s request. Our job is to ensure we are most valuable to our clients at the time we are working with them. Our Agile framework gives us flexibility to re-prioritize if the clients needs warrant it. With Enterprise level projects there are more layers involved, and while a priority shift may make the most sense from a value output, it may not be the most logical to meet the expectations of stakeholders at the full utilization of budget.

Your Netflix account breaks and you’re stuck with only Adam Sandler movies and early 2000’s rom-coms. What do you watch?

Blended (Adam Sandler, 2014). Terry Crews’ character in the movie is amazing.

We follow SCRUM practices at XWP. Why do you think it works (if you do) and what is the biggest gotcha with doing it properly.

There are many reasons why SCRUM works, but I primarily find success in its flexibility, to shift priorities and stories, to work on what the client deems most important/of the highest value. Additionally, it compartmentalizes development, which helps to break down a project that may be very large and in turn, makes it attainable and detail-specific enough to complete components in a time-box. It is also a team-driven process, and collaboration is key to success.

The biggest “gotcha” I would say would be getting a client, who’s internal team does not follow SCRUM, to begin adopting the methodologies. SCRUM works really well, but change is never easy, and people are hesitant when change affects their day-to-day, so having details written out on how the SCRUM framework works really helps in communicating to a client the steps we take.

What do you do to “de-screen” throughout your work day?

Headstands. In a perfect world I take a break every hour and walk for a few minutes, but there is not always enough time to get a walk (beneficial enough to “de-screen”) in. Headstands are great…they get your blood flowing in reverse, and reset your mind. I have also been learning how to skateboard, so if I have ~10 minutes or so I take advantage of some nice weather and practice. It’s a different type of challenge for me, so it acts as a great mental break. We live on a hill…this new hobby seems neither logical nor safe, but it is fun.

For someone wanting to level up their WordPress project management skills, what tips and guidance would you give them?

Involve yourself in the WordPress Community as much as possible. There are so many resources at your fingertips…between online blogs, WordPress tutorials/lessons, local and regional meetups and WordCamps; getting involved is a great way to learn. You’ll find that most of the individuals you encounter that are part of the “community” love WordPress, and are extremely happy to talk to you about it. I am always a proponent of making use of the things that are readily available to me, and the Community is definitely one of them. The second tip I would have would be to talk to those in roles you aspire to reach, or those who used to be in the role you currently are in. Insight into how they did things, or how they would do them if they got a chance to redo a risky project, or a tight budget, will only help you learn and be better equipped to handle challenging situations if/when they arise.

Current soundtrack?

Currently my Spotify is rotating Dispatch, John Butler Trio and The Revivalists.

What can you teach me about project management in under 4 sentences?

Project Management is like sailing…you can get on the boat and know where all the lines are kept, and how to hoist the sail, but the true success lies in being able to read the wind and the water. Having the proper tools in place is an important foundation, but getting familiar with your clients/team as soon as possible, to ensure you can see two steps ahead at any given time, helps to be able to proactively manage a project, as opposed to reactively manage it.

What are your tools of choice for managing your team, projects and your day-to-day work?

I tend to be a bit old fashioned in my task management tracking. My personal preference is a good old written list (pen and paper). There is something so gratifying about being able to tangibly cross something off. When it comes to managing my team, I find that the tool itself is less important, and the success really lies in the process. We have day-to-day processes in place…such as the way the team reports stand-ups, the type of regular meetings we have, as well as knowing how to delegate work out to the appropriate team members. The last point is a crucial one, and really is two-fold, as it relies on myself (as the manager of the team) to be able to delegate work out efficiently/ensure the team remains unblocked, but also relies on each team member to be responsible and professional in delivering on delegated tasks (which is something my team is amazing at).

How would you like to contribute to WordPress in the near future?

I want to volunteer at Regional WordCamps. I believe immersing yourself in something is the best way to become engaged, and what better way to become immersive than to volunteer.

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