Meet our newest Robot – Pony. Ponybot. Actually, his name is Zach, but he goes by his nickname around here which is fine with us since we are two Zach’s deep around here. He is our newest Project Manager, so he will have his hands in all sorts of pies around here. Without further ado:
Ok, what’s with the nickname?
I’m called Pony because I used to have long hair and I wore it back in a ponytail. Back in 2004, this was not exactly the fashion of the day, and a bunch of my co-workers at the time decided to rib me by calling me “pony boy” or “ponytail” or whatever. Somehow it stuck, but after a while it got shortened to “Pony” and here we are in 2016 and now everyone calls me that. At least it’s relatively easy for people to remember!
Tell us about your background in project management.
I was a late bloomer; didn’t get into this stuff until I was well into my thirties. I always worked in operations, support, distribution, that kind of thing. I have a natural tendency to always be looking for ways to improve any process or situation I’m involved in, and over time I found that I could get a lot done just by clearly communicating my goals “on paper”, organizing ideas into actionable sets of requirements, and then seeing them through to implementation. Before finding my way to Staffing Robot, I worked for CD Baby (an online music retail/distribution company), so I also got the opportunity to work with crazy smart software developers. So I was working directly with these guys, scoping out projects, regularly checking up on their progress, doing all this stuff, and eventually management was like, “Um – you shouldn’t be doing this, this is a job for a project manager”. I realized that this was a whole role in and of itself, and after getting a couple little certifications and relentlessly annoying the development managers, they eventually made me a project manager! Since then, I’ve had a great mix of super-technical backend projects (tough but good for my PM chops), and UX improvement stuff (my favorite). I moved over to Staffing Robot to get back into working directly with external clients, which is what I truly love.
What do you love most about project management?
The opportunity to make a project an enjoyable experience for all! Since I don’t have a technical background, I understand how difficult it can be to understand the concepts involved in web design and functionality. At the same time, I understand how challenging it can be for a developer or designer to translate a non-technical person’s needs into requirements that they can do something with. The project manager gets to sit right at this nexus, ultimately guiding that conversation to achieve the client’s goals in a way that the development team can be proud of. Because this exchange has the potential to be so grueling and awkward, I always view my top responsibility as setting and maintaining a light, fun, and respectful tone for the project between all parties involved. If the client feels like they’re really being listened to and understood, and the team feels like they’re consistently progressing towards an awesome result, the project will typically be a success. I’m a firm believer in the idea of working hard and having fun at the same time. There’s obviously a ton more that goes into it all, but really the most gratifying aspect for me is simply keeping everyone happy day after day.
Worst job you ever had growing up?
I worked for an auto-glass company, they replaced windshields and car windows and stuff like that. At the beginning of my shift, I’d take a full pack of post-its and write “Please call me about your car” on every single one, with the phone number for the business. My job was to drive out to big parking lots (think malls & business parks) and put one of these post-its on any car I saw with a cracked window or windshield. When the person would get to their car (at which point I was obviously long gone), they’d see the post-it and presumably think that someone hit their car or that there was some other problem. So they’d call the number which was answered by a salesperson who tried to sell them on glass repair. I’d drive from one parking lot to another, doing that all day. It was totally sketchy and… maybe illegal? One day I brought the guitar player from my band in with me and informed them that I was quitting and he would be taking my place. They were fine with this; he ended up working there for years afterwards.
Favorite thing(s) to do outside of work?
I have a few passions: I’m a lifelong musician, so I’ll typically have a few part-time music projects going at any given time. I also LOVE watching and analyzing professional wrestling (not kidding), reading comic books, cheesy horror movies (I have a subscription to Full Moon’s streaming service) and collecting action figures. Yep, I’m one of those guys.
Best part of living in Portland?
It’s like the Goldilocks city for me. The pace, weather, size… everything is JUST right for me. I think really I just love the vibe here: relaxed but not apathetic. And there’s an appreciation for good art, food, music, parks, and all that.
Do you have any pets? kids? plants?
Two cats, two dogs, a half dozen fish and a dozen or so plants. Oh yes, and one human child.
Favorite thing about working for Staffing Robot so far?
The work environment is perfect for me: Everyone is very engaged with what they’re doing and committed to getting a lot done, but manage to do so in a casual, relaxed way. Also, I love the fact that every project is a creative endeavor, and not simply a checklist of technical tasks. What a joy to work with a skilled team in this capacity!