November Consultant of the Month
With a graphic design background, Jackie Tran pandemic-pivoted into a new project management consulting career. When she’s not helping clients launch new products, Jackie loves to find zen in the kitchen cooking her favorite Italian food.
Why did you decide to become a consultant? What path did you take to become a consultant?
I got into consulting because of the flexibility. I realized that I would rather work remotely and set my own schedule. The pandemic helped shape that thinking. I can work the hours I want and I can try different things.
Jackie's Keys to Success
- Pivoting into a more desirable career
- Earning a master’s degree in her new field
- Continuing to build technical skills
- Investing in people upfront on projects
I started out as a graphic designer working at a publishing company based in Portland. There, I wore many hats – operations management, project management, and art direction. At one point, I got burnt out. I couldn't do the juggling anymore, so I decided to pivot and got my master’s degree in operations and technology management. After I graduated, I officially went into project management full time.
What was your favorite project to work on or work you are most proud of?
I’m excited about my current project with WooCommerce. I work with different business units of Automattic, WooCommerce’s parent company, including WordPress, Tumblr, MailPoet, and Jetpack. This project requires working with various stakeholders to build a new product and a go-to market strategy. I like working with many different types of people – engineers, marketers, product leaders, and the CEO of the company as well.
What do you love about consulting?
Companies usually bring in consultants to help solve a problem. One of the reasons I really enjoy consulting is because I get to come in with a fresh perspective and bring something new to the table that people may not have thought of before.
What have been your biggest challenges as a consultant?
Since I’m not full time at a company, I miss out on some employee perks. Because the company is fully distributed, WooCommerce has in-person meetups for teams in fun places every quarter – for example, marketing is meeting in Lisbon and product ops is meeting in Dublin.
Another challenge is that you don't know if a client is going to renew a contract, so there's always a feeling of having to prove yourself. You constantly have to think about the next step because of the temporary nature of the job.
How do you market yourself?
I try to learn new skills every year to add to my resume. I'm working on a Google UX certification offered by Coursera, my previous client. When I finished my contract, they enrolled me in the alumni learning program, so I can still get certifications free of charge. Otherwise, I use LinkedIn and watch EM Marketing's emails for new roles.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
When I want to slow down and think, cooking is a great way to relieve stress. There's something really zen about cooking, chopping, sauteing, and stirring. I can make different kinds of food, but Italian is my favorite, because it's easier than other cuisines. I love carbs in general, and I recently bought a pasta maker.
What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?
When you join a project, spend the first month getting to know as many people as possible. You should have a one-on-one with the people you’ll work with daily in the first week. But you can also meet people who might not touch your scope of work, if you're interested in the work they're doing or if your work might overlap in the future. At WooCommerce, I met 60 people within the first two weeks. After the first month, you're not going to have time to meet people anymore. You're going to be in the weeds, and everyone's going to be busy. Invest in and build connections with people from the very beginning.