Today’s Role Model is Hope Pettway. Hope is the Director of Program Management at Skillz, which was named the fastest-growing company in America by Inc. Magazine. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in film. Hope spent over a decade working in the gaming industry – spanning the gamut from console to web and mobile, before transitioning to eSports.
Prior to Skillz, Hope worked at LucasArts and Zynga as a producer before transitioning into project management at Machine Zone. Today she can be found evaluating, refining, and establishing processes and best practices across a wide range of teams and projects. As a film, TV, and games fanatic, there is no doubting her passion for the industry!
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I’ve been the Director of Program Management at Skillz since February 2018. When I joined Skillz in August of 2016, I was a Senior Program Manager.
What attracted you to this director of program management role?
I was attracted to working on a platform that provided a different set of challenges than just working on specific games, which is what I spent the majority of my career doing. I wanted something where I could leverage my experience working in gaming, but also find new opportunities for growth. An eSports platform checked all those boxes, and I knew Skillz was the top company in this space.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
I get to work around 8:30 in the morning. This timing normally leaves me with about 30 minutes to update my to-do list, catch up on emails, and respond to Slack messages. As a general rule of thumb, mornings typically consist of team syncs and one-on-one meetings to ensure the goals for the day are clear and to help my team with any challenges. I break for lunch around 11:45, mostly to avoid long lines at the local food trucks or sandwich spot.
My afternoons vary between breakout sessions for brainstorms and blocking out time to work on hiring, project tracking/status review, and making sure we’re continuing to document best practices and processes. I also try to make myself available for people to come ask me questions about the latest releases and help remove any blockers for the team.
What skills/technologies help you succeed?
I think the biggest skill has been being able to multi-task and keep multiple plates spinning – no two days are ever the same, which is why I love this role so much.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your director of program management role?
I love building complex project timelines – it’s like putting together a 1000-piece puzzle. Everything has a place and needs to line up perfectly. I also love being around such creative, talented people that bring features we envision to life.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
The biggest challenge is balancing my day-to-day work while also thinking about the long-term strategy for the Program team. We’re growing fast here at Skillz, and my team needs to be focused on making sure we continue to be productive and efficient as we scale.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
I work with a number of cross-functional teams on a daily basis – it’s really the nature of my role. Typically I work with Product, Design, Engineering, and QA for features during development and then Marketing, Developer Success, and PR to get those features into the hands of our players and developers.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your director of program management role?
I’m currently working on my public speaking/presentation skills. It’s never really been my core area of focus, but as I progress in my career it’s becoming increasingly important that it comes naturally (and doesn’t stress me out).
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
Communication, organization, and passion are the most important personality traits for someone in my role. Every day you’re working with a lot of people in various disciplines who are all talking about the same things, but from different angles. The objective is to understand how to get everyone on the same page and focus on a single end goal.
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this director of program management role?
As a result of working at Skillz, I’ve gotten a lot better at automating my tracking and reporting. I used to think about everything on a very manual level. However, being the only Program Manager for my first year or so really forced me to get creative with spreadsheet customization and script formulas. I’ve also been able to work on my hiring and team building skills. I’ve had the opportunity to find, hire, and manage a great team and I’m looking forward to continuing to flex that muscle.
In your role, what metrics define success?
For me, it’s about not repeating the same mistake twice. This means being able to recognize what is working well and what needs to be adjusted. If the team is missing deadlines, my success is defined by working with them to understand what’s going on and creating a plan to fix it. Likewise, if we’re really hitting our stride and everything is working according to plan, I need to be able to recognize the things we’re doing right and replicate them again and again. At the end of the day, success is hitting the deadlines we set for ourselves.
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