The Long Version

- Errrrrrr -

A while ago, in a galaxy far away…

A young Sam Barnes dressed as a Stormtrooper from Star Wars

thesambarnes in the 1980s, zzzzzzap!!

So how did I arrive here? A question I’m often asked and therefore, in true project management style, will deliver to you a re-usable answer that has been formulated over the years.

The Awakening

As we rolled into the millennium, aged 24 and armed with my BTECH in Graphic Design, I found myself putting it to good use by dressing in overalls and steel toe capped boots with my very own toolbox – yes I was servicing domestic and industrial power tools for a living. After a few years of being deafened every morning at 8am by chainsaws, generators and heavy-duty wacker plates (they exist) I was getting the distinct impression it may be time to move on.

At around the same time, without knowing how to turn a computer on and with no modem to phone socket cable, I managed to splice a standard telephone cable with a double-ended modem cable together to make a working modem cable – I had breathed life into the 56k dial-up modem, it squealed and it screeched and then suddenly I WAS CONNECTED TO THE INFORMATION SUPER HIGHWAY!

Old scan of a diagram explaining how to splice a telephone cable to a 56k modem cable

Splice telephone & 56k modem cables!

The Education

From the moment I connected I knew it was what I wanted to do for a living. I was fascinated with websites, more importantly how they were created. After a few attempts to gain employment in web related agencies I soon realised without some form of education or foundation knowledge I was going to find it difficult to get a foot in the door.

I went for it, deep end style, I ‘went back to school’ to do a degree in Web and e-Business computing – I absolutely loved it and it completely reaffirmed the certainty that this was what I wanted to do in life, I was lucky enough to gain a 1st in 2004 and it was time to begin work.

The Foot in the Door

During my university years I found myself increasingly drawn away from the enterprise systems design side of things and more towards the designing and developing of websites. To satisfy my passion I had built a few websites in my spare time and began to apply for a job in the web industry with a small portfolio of sites to show off.

My lucky break came when I was taken on by UK-based agency, TBS, now known as 3seven9. At TBS I started out as a content administrator primarily on Nokia.co.uk and Nokia.ie. Over the three and a half years I spent there I went from there to a front-end developer, specialising in XHTML, CSS and accessibility, working on a multitude of sites and finally, after expressing my opinions one too many times on ways to speed up web projects and increase quality, ended up as their Web Project Manager, an agency management team member and Nokia UK and Nokia Ireland Key User.

Being a Nokia Key User meant being the primary liaison between Nokia, TBS and all other third-party agencies from around the world. I also found myself in Finland once or twice a year at Nokia HQ, with the other Key Users from around the globe and Nokia bigwigs, giving a mixture of feedback, advice and presentations on how best to manage the content on their local sites.

At TBS I also gained invaluable experience in the following areas:

  • Pre-sales, proposals and pitching
  • Agency management
  • Line management and team recruitment
  • I.T. Infrastructure management

After over a year of line-managing a technical team of three, managing web projects and helping run the agency, I got that feeling again that it was time to move on – I needed a new challenge and wanted to focus specifically on web project management, putting into practice all the methods I had developed based on hours of trial and error and with a side helping of many sleepless nights researching and reading.

The Web Project Manager

I then went to work as a Producer (fancy name for a Web Project Manager) at Rawnet, a kick-ass web agency based in Windsor, UK. My primary role was to be responsible for the delivery of web projects and applications. The sub-roles included:

  • Developing in-house web project management processes
  • Web project quoting and estimating
  • Site information architecture (IA) design
  • Creative and functional specification document creation
  • Line management of a team of five
  • Search engine optimisation consultancy (SEO)

My mission at Rawnet was to help take the agency to the next level on the web project management side of things by creating solid, scalable and flexible processes that resulted in the production team working more efficiently, web projects consistently going out on budget and on time, and clients feeling like Rawnet has provided an excellent service and far exceeded their expectations!

A photograph of the New Lodge Rawnet Offices in Berkshire

The Rawnet office: Where Xbox champions were made

After two fantastic years I felt like I had acheived my aims at Rawnet. The headcount was rising, the agency was able to take on much bigger and more complex projects and keep them within acceptable budget and time limits with clients pretty much always really happy, and finally more Web Project Managers were hired thus the head dudes now realised the value of web project management.

I left a lot of really great people and great friends behind there, but it was time for something new, something a little different and something that would take me out of my comfort zone – it was time for Volume…

Volume: The Bigger Digital Agency

I worked at Volume, a UK digital agency of about 100 people, as a Technology Analyst for one year. This role in the Technology Department involved working with the Client Services, Creative and UX teams to understand client requirements and deliver solid functional specifications for the development team to build from, ensuring the final solution is of high-quality and aligns with the agreed scope. On top of this there was a heavy dose of web project management making sure all projects were delivered smoothly and on time.

A picture of Volume's digital campus

Volume’s digital campus

I joined Volume for a number of reasons, but the main one being I felt as if I’d worked in, and with, many small digital agencies over the years and had become very comfortable in the similar environments they all seem to have – it was time to try working at a larger digital agency. Somewhere that had large teams with leads, different departments, huge digital accounts and were working in digital areas I was unfamiliar with, quite frankly an alien world to me but something I felt I wanted to experience and hopefully enjoy and thrive in as much as I did the small digital agency world…

Working at Volume turned out to be one of the best experiences of my career to date. It showed me how things are done at bigger digital agencies and I have to say, far from being corporate hell it was great. Everyone was absolutely lovely and it was an incredibly difficult decision to move on, but I wanted to step into more uncharted waters in the bigger digital agency world, and Global Personals gave me that that chance – and this time to work in a product-based environment – woah, totally new!!

The Present

Having worked for almost two years as a Web Project Manager at GPL in Windsor, I’m now the Development Team Manager. GPL is a company that develops, maintains and extends its large online dating platform that clients such as FHM and Maxim use to power their dating websites.

Seriously – that’s more than enough about me, now get back to the homepage.