A common interview question is “What is the project you’re most proud of?” I love asking that question because most candidates light up and relax as they talk about a project they enjoyed. I love answering that question because I get to talk about the project that is still my pride and joy 10 years after it launched. My most recent project is my latest pride and joy, but I cannot specifically blog about it.
Announced in May 2004, the CRS-1 was the biggest, most cutting-edge telecommunications project at the time. The hardware was all new, with many new technologies we had to figure out how to manufacture. The software was also completely new. Multiple global sites were involved in the development of both the hardware and the software. When I joined the project, I made the switch from Manufacturing Engineer to NPI Program Manager. New hardware technology, new software, high reliability requirements, global development, new job – exciting times for a young Program Manager!
The main reasons why this project is my pride and joy are the same for all other projects I remember fondly:
1. The project had an element of Mission Impossible. Tell me a project is impossible or has never been done before, I’ll sign up. There is nothing like an impossible project to give me a sense that I can rally a team, bring value to the business and know that my passion will be invested well.
2. A smart, passionate team invested in the project. Great projects have great teams who all want to be there and contribute their talents. Everyone on the team wanted to be a part of the project, so we all did our best work possible. As a result, we all had a lot of autonomy. We knew what was important and rarely let ourselves get bogged down in the “stuff” that didn’t add any value.
3. We worked hard and still had fun. This isn’t just about the occasional major social events we had. Day-to-day we had a positive vibe on the team and collaborated well. Even when the stress went up, we would be able to find some humour or optimism in the situation. We supported each other. If anyone got swamped with work, someone would lend a hand. Even though we were a huge international team with different first languages and cultural backgrounds, we were able to communicate relatively well and work out problems when they occurred. All this made working together fun, even though we were working hard.
4. The end result was awesome. The product met all the business criteria for success. In addition, it earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the highest capacity internet router at the time. How cool is that? That achievement also meant we had a part in helping the internet keep growing all these years.
Whenever I get this combination of factors, I am very happy with the project and my part of it, no matter the industry. To be clear, we were a normal team with our ups and downs and project hiccoughs. When you look at the big picture, though, it is these positive factors that come through more than anything else.
What makes a project your pride and joy? Do you have different reasons? Is one reason more important than others? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments!