Third Time’s the Charm: Lessons Learned as Director of Operations

The IMC class gathered in front of the white board.

Post created by Glory Burford
Applied IMC (Spring Quarter 2023)

After my time as a content creator and then a product manager, this quarter marked my first time taking on a more ‘big-picture’ kind of role as the director of operations for the integrated marketing communications class. Keep reading to learn more about the lessons I learned this quarter!

After my time as a content creator and then a product manager, this quarter marked my first time taking on a more ‘big-picture’ kind of role as the director of operations for the integrated marketing communications class. If you aren’t already familiar, this class is structured in three levels

  1. Small teams of content creators
  2. Product managers who manage those teams
  3. The executive team that oversees the product managers

Now that I have taken the class three times, I have seen and gotten familiar with all three levels of work and management that are involved in the marketing communications process. It was an interesting adjustment going from a product manager to being an executive team member, as I had gotten more used to doing hands-on work on products, but I now had to take a step back.

Two IMC students playing giant Jenga.

Different is OK

One of the biggest challenges with this was getting myself to be ok with varied work. Looking back on it, I realize that as a product manager I was pretty unconcerned with what work was being done on other team’s products. I was focused in on my own team’s work, and I knew all the little details of what was what and had a hand in all aspects of it. Now that I have a much broader field of view, I’m more aware of the state of each team’s product, as I have to review all of it before it’s distributed. However, I’m not closely involved in the individual product processes as I would be if I was a product manager.

This means that I am always seeing lots of varied work across teams, a natural result of the team-structured class format. I often had to remind myself that I needed to support the content creators and product managers’ creative freedom in deciding how to approach their products, while at the same time imparting more big-picture feedback and direction. There were times when I approved content that I personally would have done differently, but it was important that I encouraged and recognized individual perspectives and nuances.

Efficient Organization

Another lesson I learned this quarter is the importance of a centralized organization system. There were several resources created by members of the executive team this quarter and past quarters to help product managers and content creators tackle the different tasks of the class, such as creative strategy development and pre-production. However, these resources were all spread out in different locations on Teams, and it wasn’t very clear how to navigate to them. I was asked multiple times by product managers for a certain logo or how to do submit blogs to the marketing blog, when those resources were available in the Teams files—but just because they are available, doesn’t mean they are very accessible.

The AIMC legacy documents on a Trello board with 5 columns.

I have begun working on a legacy document for the class, housed on Trello. ‘Begun’ being the operative word here, as it will be a ongoing process that will hopefully be continued by future directors of operations. In this Trello board I have the product history from past quarters of IMC, as well as important digital assets (marketing program brand elements, creative brief, etc.), social media channel logins, and helpful resources for content creation processes. Having a one-stop shop like this for class resources and information is extremely valuable, as it should help with team efficiency in being able to find what you need quickly and easily.

Try, Try, Try…

The last piece of wisdom I would like to bestow upon you, dear reader, is to try. Don’t let yourself get hung up on apprehension or worry that you won’t be good enough. I believe that it’s in this way that I’ve grown the most this year, largely thanks to this class and the teachings of our instructor Dan Purdy. In Fall quarter when I began as a content creator, I told myself I would never want to move onto the next level, being a product manager, because the idea of leading my own team scared me. Then at the end of the quarter, my product manager Bianca told me she thought I would be a great leader and recommended that I become a product manager. The story then repeated itself the following quarter: I felt fine about product management, but joining the executive team? Out of the question, yet here I am. So my big takeaway from this class is to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to try something new and scary, because you never know when you will find what makes you thrive.

It’s also important to point out the big influence I had in deciding to continue with each level of this class: peer support. When I didn’t believe in my own ability, Bianca was there to say otherwise. When I figured product management would be my last stab at the class, Jace, our managing director, advocated for me to continue. Slowly, others’ belief in me has been turning into believing in myself. All this goes to say, make sure you uplift and celebrate your peers. If you think someone is deserving of recognition and appreciation, make it known! There’s a good chance that hearing that will go a long way in building their confidence and willingness to reach for new heights.

The IMC class celebrating and eating pizza at Flatstick Pub.