Podcast S2 Ep. 13 – Steph Stylianou

I loved talking t

Yes – a lot of pain can be traced back to the beginning… to that Statement of work (SOW) that made that initial promise.

I really enjoyed my talk with Steph Stylianou, Principal Solutions Engineer at Salesforce on episode 12 of the podcast – in particular why projects go bad.

Engaging with a #SalesforcePartner is like embarking on a romantic relationship.

There’s the promise of what might be (Proposal and Statement of Work) based on initial expectations.

If those initial expectations are not grounded in reality…

“Um, no – I don’t really like football. Grateful for those season tickets but um, I’d rather pluck my nose hair…” 😬

… You know you’re in trouble.

Getting the Statement of Work right is so SO important.

We talked about how she moved to the UK and got to her dream company, and navigating the career paths as she grows into each role.

It’s a fascinating conversation and I invite you to listen in.

You can find the Spotify link here.



Pei Mun Lim 0:05
Hi, and welcome to another episode of on the payroll, my podcast about project management leadership, sales force, delivering great projects with great teams, and the lessons that we can get from implementations good and bad. And in today’s episode, I get an opportunity to get to know Steph scileanna. Much, much better. And the reason why I’m like this is because even though we work together and make positive for a while, we didn’t really get a chance to get to know each other. And that is the that’s how consulting is sometimes you get the team that you get on your head down with your team. And then after that, it’s next project, you socialize with the team that you’re with at that moment, and then you move on, in sometimes, there are great people in the company, and the past just doesn’t really cross just because of the projects that you’ve been on. And Steph was one of them. And she since moved on to Salesforce, where she where she works as a solutions engineer. So I really enjoyed having this opportunity to just get to know her a little bit better in how she made the decisions that moved up from Cyprus to London, working for Salesforce. I hope you enjoyed this episode.

Hello, Steph, welcome to my podcast OnThePeiroll. Thank you so much for making time to come and talk to me today. How long are you feeling? Okay, I’m good. I’m good. Thank you. How are you? I’m good. Thank you. I’m quite excited to have you here. We have worked in same company for a few years. And I was just reflecting that we didn’t get the opportunity to work with each other. So this is a great chance for me to learn a little bit more about you, I’m actually quite interested. So can I begin by asking you to tell us the story of your journey and how you got to where you are today, which is as a principal Solutions Engineer at Salesforce. But feel free to start wherever you feel comfortable. Yeah,

Steph Stylianou 2:28
sure. It’s actually I think, a little bit different maybe. I started in the UK. So I’m originally from Cyprus. And I studied, I didn’t mathematics degree in the UK. And it’s interesting when you do degrees like that, like STEM degrees, everyone encourages you to do them. But it’s interesting, because when you finish is like what do I do now? You know, like there’s the natural path from a degree like that is to go into teaching or lecturing or stay in academia, things like that. It’s no, there is no natural next step that you can follow. You know, there’s a lot of people studying accountancy, and there’s a career path there or, you know, going to law again, there’s a natural career path, I think there’s certain degrees that don’t have that natural progression. I thought I wanted to stay in academia for a bit. So instead of committing to a three year PhD, I decided to go down the Masters really sci fi and enjoy kind of the research and things like that. So I went into occupational psychology, again, very, very different. And I decided that I don’t actually like academia. The idea of spending three years studying literature and like studying people, was not exactly what kind of gave me the energy. I kind of wanted to get into work as soon as possible. I did move back to Cyprus for a bit for a couple of years. And the job market there at the time was very difficult. So it was in the middle of an economic crisis. There were not very many kind of jobs around the jobs that were available, you know, had a lot of demand. So I struggled. I struggled a lot find work. I ended up kind of falling into tech. My dad was into tech, he kind of suggested it as a path for me. And I became a business intelligence consultant. I was implementing SAP Business Objects at the time. He was interesting, but again, probably not for me sitting down and creating reports all day every day i i enjoy spending time with customers, understanding their process and things like that. So my company back in Salesforce that back at Cypress decided that they wanted to maybe start thinking about expanding into Salesforce and they want to people to kind of get certified and I put my hand up. And that’s kind of what led me to where I am, I very quickly decided that, you know, if I want the future, kind of to progress fast, if I want to grow my career in a meaningful way, I probably can’t do that. In Cyprus where I was, I always enjoyed the UK, I knew the language. So I kind of moved back. And I found a job in London for a consultancy, and really started kind of to get my battle scars in terms of project implementation as a functional consultant. And that’s eventually how I ended up at the company where we work together. progressing through that path, the implementation consultant path was really interesting, you know, was a lot of work to kind of understand the product, understand the best practice, make sure you’re saying the right things, you’re having the right advisory approach, the right consultancy approach with your different customers, sensing responding to what they like, and how they react. And eventually, I kind of developed into a solution architect, and then I progressed into that role. Fast forward to kind of a big project, where I learned a lot, I stressed a lot, and probably burned out a little bit, I decided that may be kind of the delivery approach and proceeding down that path would really burn me out if I continuously do that. And I eventually decided that you know, it, I don’t think it’s sustainable for me personally, in the long term. And that’s when I kind of moved into the pre sales role, which encompasses all of the things that are really enjoyed doing, you know, the customer interaction, the helping them understand the vision, helping them kind of

visualize and understand the business value and actually guide them down a direction, you know, and help them think differently. And it had less of the stuff that I didn’t enjoy, like arguing about picklist values, and constantly kind of changing small things, spending a lot of time with the customer, and then translating it to a wider team. And, you know, just spending a lot of time into detail. I prefer kind of the strategy, I prefer the vision. Not I do think I am a detail person, but I don’t like spending my entire life in the detail. So I found that this pre sales role, the solution engineering role, was a much, much better fit in terms of my work life balance, and in terms of kind of my overall job satisfaction as well.

Pei Mun Lim 7:53
It sounds like kind of a, when you tell that story, and I’m listening to it sounds very odd. Yes. That seems to be the logical next step. And I can see why you’ve done it. Has it always been this way? In terms of your decision making? Did you always feel confident in that path? I want to take I don’t want to do this? Or do that? Or have there been moments where you think, Oh, I don’t know what to do A or B?

Steph Stylianou 8:21
That’s that’s a very good question. Because I have a personal coach, to help me with my career. And we were discussing exactly this topic this week, actually. And I think up to now, it has been the logical next step. And he was very clear in my head in terms of where I want to go and what I want to do next. And I think now I’m at a point in my career, where it’s not about the natural next step, it’s about what’s my direction for the next kind of five or 10 years. And I need to be more purposeful about what I’m doing, and kind of decide where do I get my energy from? What do I enjoy doing? Where do I want to be? And kind of identify my path and how I want to get there? So I think up to now, yes, it was very instinctive, and it was very, this is the logical next thing. By now it’s time to probably switch approaches and think a little bit more long term. And where I want to get to, and how I’m gonna get there.

Pei Mun Lim 9:26
I mean, thing. So let me ask how long have you had your approach for?

Steph Stylianou 9:32
We probably started in kind of in November or October last year, so not very long. Yeah.

Pei Mun Lim 9:39
What made you decide you needed to coach the uncertainty

Steph Stylianou 9:43
about what I want to do? I think because I’ve always had or almost always if we exclude the after university. Very stressful years. If we exclude that, I think I always kind of had a good direction in my head of where I want to go ah, And now it’s it’s getting to the point you know where I’m at, I’m very close to the top of kind of the individual contributor path within my role. So it’s time to kind of just start thinking a little bit more big picture and just start making different decisions. So that’s why I engage the coach to kind of help me structure my thoughts, and helped me form kind of this approach of not even the plan, but how do I decide on a plan? If that makes sense?

Pei Mun Lim 10:31
That’s really good, though. Because a lot of the people that I speak to within the ecosystem, view Salesforce as the angle, that’s where I want to go, because it’s an amazing company, for many, many reasons. The leadership’s quite inspiring the things that they’re doing, you just want to be part of that. And so you bring up a very interesting point where now that you that you’ve been there for three years now. So for you, you have I guess, too many people.

In the hang up on him, I hope he’s not in trouble, and pick up the call to call back, I think it is, I left something at home, as opposed to you know, there’s a UFO crashing in the school, you need to come pick me up right now. I don’t think is that. So you’ve been there now, I guess it’s the next step what? So for people who are listening, and they think, oh, I want to work at Salesforce. That’s my dream job. When I get there. I guess the first time I get the offer letter, I’m going to be absolutely excited. I’m going to tell everyone, I have one goal in the Olympics, and I’ve achieved everything. And then what next? After a while, I guess, can you share with me, I know you’re working this through with your coach. But it’d be great to just get some insight as to your thinking process. You’ve got there now. And what’s been your journey since when you first joined Salesforce, to where you are today, where you’re thinking, I’m at the top of my individual contributor role. What are the options in front of me?

Steph Stylianou 12:37
So I think there’s a distinction based on what you said, between the dream job and the dream company. You know, so I think Salesforce is a dream company. But in terms of dream jobs, that changes and that’s going to change for every person as they’re progressing through their career, you know, and Salesforce, an amazing company, but it’s also a company of 75,000 employees. It’s massive. And it’s it’s good, you know, it’s a growing company constantly. But it does mean that identifying kind of all the different options can become a task in itself, you know, if you’re in a small company, or a smaller company with 100 employees, you know, what everyone’s doing? And you know, oh, that’s an inspirational person, I want to be them, how do I become them, and there’s, there is a path, the forms, and that’s a lot easier. If you’re in a company like Salesforce, you know, you have so many different directions that you can go areas of the business that you might choose to grow into. And you know, all of the paths are open, which is a great thing, because you can explore and you can do all those different things, but it can also get overwhelming around a what do I should I do? What is the right choice? You know, what is the right thing for me? And I mean, it depends on the person, you know, some people just try, try try, and they don’t mind kind of the actually normal and try something else and things like that. But there’s also kind of an I think I’m more in that area where I want to go with as much information as possible, so that I give myself you know, the best probability of success. And I know that the onboarding process can be quite long and things like that. So I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, not myself, not my colleagues. So I want to make sure that I’m choosing the right thing. When I came into Salesforce, I came in as a lead solution engineer. And again, there was a natural next step, you know, I wanted to get to principal. And there was a process there’s like promotion processes there panels that we have to go through. We we need to make sure that we’re demonstrating the right skill set, we are demonstrating the right you know, leadership characteristics were respected, were multiplying, you know, our impact on the wider team. And now where I am now, there’s you know, within Solution engineering, there’s multiple paths outside of solution engineering, there’s multiple paths. So it’s more about the way that I’m going about thinking about it. And what my coach kind of advise me to think about is, which areas do I love? You know, which was similar to what I did when I moved from implementation to pre sales. What do I love, you know, I love spending time with customers. I like understanding my industry. So I work in high tech, which is a great industry to be in because you know, Salesforce is kind of one of the Golden standards. So I get to speak to my customers about what Salesforce does. So you have a low you have kind of the industry maybe where does the customer which areas of my job, am I not willing to let go? In which roles would provide me, you know, with that ability to speak to customers, understand the industry deeper be a thought leader in that area, while at the same time progressing? So there is still kind of the option to proceed on the individual contributor path, there’s that distinguished role as an example. But again, it’s it’s is that the right thing? Or is the right is it now the perfect time to actually, maybe start thinking about something else. And an area where, again, there’s good growth for me in from a personal perspective, as well, where I can get more out of it and understand different things that maybe I’ve never explored before.

Pei Mun Lim 16:32
Thank you, just going to pause for a moment. Thank you for that explanation, and also giving the difference, identifying the difference between the dream job and dream company. So just extending that slightly further, what are the options you have in front of you, that you, you know, that is open, but that you’re still trying to make a decision on?

Steph Stylianou 17:02
I think I’m still trying to figure that out? Yeah, it um, again, there’s the logical thing, there’s the logical next step, and the two kind of clear options of going down maybe the distinguished path, or what a lot of people tend to, or some people tend to choose, which is going down the management path within the solution engineering. And then there’s kind of a bunch of everything else, as well. Right. So I’m now very close in terms of determining what that next step might be at this stage. Gonna get there, I’m giving myself the time and the space to figure that out, then I’m trying not to put pressure. Because I think it’s important to just try and get it right. So yeah, I don’t know.

Pei Mun Lim 17:54
So you come across as someone who’s quite cautious in the way you approach things. Are you like that in the other areas of your life as well?

Steph Stylianou 18:05
I wouldn’t say I’m actually cautious. I wouldn’t self identify as that. I mean, when I moved to the UK, the way that I kind of made that decision, I mean, I think I knew what I wanted. But when I made that decision, I kind of like I remember thinking like I’m gonna flip a coin, you know, and it’s not about the act, it’s about knowing what you want, while you’re waiting for the result, or why you’re kind of about to see the result. I think I it’s not that I’m cautious. I think it’s because I usually do not what I want. So when I don’t know what I want, I’m getting a little bit paralyzed or overwhelmed. And then I’m struggling to kind of make a decision, because I don’t know what I want. I’m in the process of purchasing a flat right now. And again, it was a very quick decision. So yeah, I jump out of planes for fun. I don’t really identify as a cautious person. But yeah, it is, I think it’s when I’m unclear when there’s uncertainty that I get cautious. And it was the same probably, in my implementation, kind of experience, you know, when, when there was a lot of uncertainty, when there was a lot of unknowns, I always wanted to take a step back and think about things, you know, and kind of determine things. Whereas if everything is smooth, you know what to do next. So it’s, I think I kind of I pivot between the two, and it’s always when it doesn’t, it’s not instinctive, any means kind of thought, but I try and take a step back.

Pei Mun Lim 19:42
Okay, so I’m just going to simply slightly How do you holidays? Do you plan it to the nth degree or do you just get a ticket somewhere and see what happens next?

Steph Stylianou 19:52
So before the pandemic, I was the type of person that at the beginning of the year knew where they were going to spend every day or Holiday. But that was it. So yes, I know I want to spend like two weeks in Cyprus in the summer, seeing my family, I want to spend X weeks skydiving, I want to do this, I want to do that. But then if I’m going into a new country, I’m probably going to get on a plane get there and then be like, Oh, now what? You know. So it’s like you Yeah, it’s, I again, it’s kind of I know, sometimes the destination and I know what I want to do. And then it’s kind of well, I think we’ve told this as well, it’s important to experience it and see where you go, I don’t like the itinerary stuff, because then you’re stuck in, oh, I need to be there at that time. And I need to be there at that time. And you don’t get to kind of just take it all in and allow the city or the place to kind of take you somewhere. So yeah, I’m not I’m not. I’m not a big planner, I think when it comes to holidays and stuff.

Pei Mun Lim 21:01
But it’s still uncertainty in there. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And so I’m feel like a big bunch of contradictions in my head, no contract, not in a bad way. But So earlier on, you said, you know, uncertainty would paralyze you. But when it comes to holidays, it’s something that you embrace with both, you know, both hands open. But I like that I’m still trying to get to know you a little bit in terms of, kind of person you are. So here’s a question, would you if an opportunity came up in part of the world that you’ve never been would you do? Would you say yes,

Steph Stylianou 21:47
it depends if it’s the right opportunity. Yeah, if it excites me, and I want to do it. I don’t see why not. It depends on the circumstances, you know, if it’s something that it is exciting, and I can’t I want to do it, I don’t think I would hesitate for whatever reason. But you know, it needs to be the right thing. For sure.

Pei Mun Lim 22:15
Well, I guess I already knew the answer. Because you you came to England and you know, making new friends and starting a new job, I guess that’s something that you just took in your stride. And I can see that your next step will be something that you will not have done on a whim. You do sound like somebody who does think about stuff, and to a certain extent do plan some. So that’s, that’s really interesting, right? I’m just going to take you back with slightly when you were doing projects, because that’s the world that I live in items consulting in projects. Tell me about your favorite project? Do you have one or more than one?

Steph Stylianou 23:03
I think I do have kind of a project that I would classify as kind of my favorite one. And I, I would say that it’s mainly because it was kind of the probably the only time I can remember that, you know, things went on budget on time to plan you know, it’s probably like the audit of my project experience. Like the one time we went just perfect. And nothing was to worry about any was kind of just nice. It’s nice and smooth experience. And it just stayed with me because that became the goal. You know, that became the kind of we do this again. So yeah, I think that was kind of that was probably my favorite one was with a manufacturing company like a furniture manufacturer. And yeah, I was they knew what they were trying to achieve. They were not trying to overstretch, you know, what they were doing. It was a very specific, this is what we need, and we understand it and we know what we want. And there was not a lot of it was small organization which made you know, the decision making process fast and smooth. And yeah, it was it was a nice experience. Okay,

Pei Mun Lim 24:27
so if I can just summarize that slightly. It sounds like it was a good project because the client knew what they wanted. They were able to make decisions quickly based on information and recommendations that you provide. It sounds like they had more mature project management approach and understood about change. So tell me about some of the character building projects that had gone wrong. Were these principles were not applied how, you know, tell me about some of those.

Steph Stylianou 25:08
Um, I think when a project is gonna go wrong, you sometimes know from the very beginning, from as soon as he gets another statement of work, and he’s like, someone has done something here, someone has oversold something or under undersold something, you know. So yeah, it was probably the one that springs to mind the most is probably my last one. And I remember kind of we, we first had kind of like a starting phase, the customer where we did a lot of defining design, and then the customer then wanted to kind of pause for a bit. They reengaged about six months later, right. So we came back to, but what has happened, since you know, what has changed in the past six months? Are you sure that the decisions that you made them are still the decisions that you want today, you know, so suddenly, we had a very quick Sprint Zero, you know, like a couple of weeks, to kind of just remind ourselves of what happened six months ago, read through everything, be able to kind of confirm that all of those things were right, and also set ourselves up for the DevOps approaches, provision all the users and things like that in two weeks. And I remember at that time, kind of debating that with the kind of the sales team, the property management team and kind of everyone else within the project. And now it has to be like, boy, right? Like, that’s kind of my that was from the beginning, I was like, but if we take the time now, to get a right to make sure that we are on the right track, we can save a lot of time, down the line of refactoring, redoing things and working through them again and again. So it’s kind of from you know, from the very start when something is going to go slightly wrong, or, and that’s exactly what happened. You know, the old but no, that’s not the case anymore. That works in a different way. Now, no, we don’t want to do it like that. We don’t want to do it like this. Every user story has to be reworked, you know, very long, painful sessions, spending a day reworking all the user stories again, on a Friday, when the sprint was starting on a Monday, you know, it was just, we didn’t manage to catch up for months, we didn’t manage to kind of get it on track. For almost the entirety of phase one, it was just constant. Go back fix things. There’s not enough resources, not enough capacity, like trying to just get it over the line constantly.

Pei Mun Lim 28:11
So was this the internal team, who said don’t take the time to confirm it wasn’t the client who made the decision,

Steph Stylianou 28:22
he was probably a combined decision at that point that I’m not I’m not 100% and kind of short decision making process. I just believe that the way that the internal team reengaged was, Oh, we don’t need to rework anything, we can just start. You know, and that was kind of part of the selling point, I believe, you know, which then kind of led to six months of just overtime, and overworking at least the design team, you know, the team that was trying to figure out what’s the design was the requirement. So the architects, we were just trying to get something in the hands of the developers in the hands of the consultants to be able to kind of build something and prove value to the customer. So yeah, it was it was definitely a character building. That’s a good, that’s a good way to frame it.

Pei Mun Lim 29:24
Okay, so basically, it is what is kind of unique in that you had that pause in six months pause. I also had a project that was quite similar. And, you know, in six months, lots of things can happen. Stakeholders can change, agendas, priorities change, both on client side and also on the consulting side. And it’s always good idea to you know, take a restock. Is it a straight pick up and go? Or do we have to review and read zoning some stuff so that we start right foot in the way that you’ve suggested. And I think, also probably a combination of factors of expectation setting, maybe the sales team during the renegotiation, because sometimes they pause because they want to disengage. And then you know, it’s a matter of oh, you know, trying to what’s the word recover, trying to recover and promises might be made. That makes it just so much more challenging. So thank you for sharing that. Has there been any projects that you’ve worked on, that has changed you as a person? So I know already, you’ve talked about how you’ve decided that this job is not for you, and you were going to burn out if you carried on? Continuing down that path? Is there anything of the project that’s like that, that made you change your point of view about leadership or human behavior or yourself, how you view yourself that that you haven’t shared so far,

Steph Stylianou 31:13
I actually think my first probably project in the UK was an interesting one in that way, because he changed me as a consultant. I remember kind of the customer wanted a bunch of different options about something that we’re trying to achieve. And I mean, I was so green, right? I was like, Brian, you, I wanted to please, I kind of came up with kind of three or four different approaches that we could take a ratified, you know, the designs with more senior people in the team, architects, people like that. And then I went back to play back to the customer. And the quality no go well, so as I was presenting the options about kind of, like, five or 10 minutes through, they stopped me. And there was a bit of like, raising the voice type of situation, and they go to me, you have to provide a recommendation, were paying for a recommendation, not just for you to present a bunch of options, you know, like your consulting, give a recommendation. And I think that start that defines me, as a consultant from that point, from that point, I completely changed my approach. And I was like, they’re right, you know, they are paying for this is best practice. And this is what you should be doing. Now, if you don’t want to do that for whatever reason, because it’s expensive, or it doesn’t do what exactly what you want. And you can’t sacrifice your requirement based on all the other options, right, in order of what’s worse, from like a system perspective, but this is what we’re telling you you should be doing. And kind of keep that in mind. Right? So there’s also kind of that fallback that if we’ve gone for the very custom approach, you know, the very complicated approach, that we can always come back to standard if we need to. So if something happens, and they’re not happy with that, and they change their minds, you know, there’s always the in this is the best practice. So I have believed that from that point on, I switched my approach a lot and I became more consultative I became more kind of advisory in how I operate with customers. And I always kind of lead with this is what I want you to do, you know, this is what I am recommending. But this, this is also kind of available to you. Now, I do think that has served me well, over the years. Definitely. But I do think now it’s also time to start recognizing that depending on where people are, because I kind of use this approach for everything, you know, for helping my mentees for helping kind of my team have kind of used this type of approach. And I think, at least internally, and when I’m growing and I’m helping my team kind of think about things, I’m gonna decided that now it’s time to switch to a coaching style, and allow people to get there, you know, and depending on kind of how senior they are, you know, allow them to get there themselves, rather than trying to kind of just telling them and dictating. This is what it is. So I think again, he’s served me very well up to now. But now it might be time again to kind of just switch things around and try different styles.

Pei Mun Lim 34:45
I think what you’ve described as a change in context, one is a client and the other one is coaching. Whereby you want to encourage people to think about their own options and their own recommendations. I’m sure your coach wouldn’t be saying you should go for option D, you know, because

Steph Stylianou 35:06
someone just told me.

Pei Mun Lim 35:09
But to that point, though, there is a certain level of accountability, if someone tells you what to do, and it goes wrong, sometimes there’s a sense that I can blame that person. You know, the partner told me that you should go down the conflict path. And now look at now we’re hitting the CPU limits, you know, we did well on code. If we did do code, that would be much better. But obviously, the recommendation is, you know, you’ve got to maintain law. But there is a sense of, I’m paying you to tell me what to do. So I can blame you and things go wrong, which is, it does happen, but you shouldn’t, in terms of coaching me talking about internal team, you really want them to own their outcome. So your your flip in style is quite context driven. So that sounds the right thing to do. I have no question, which is, in terms of you being part of a team, project team, what Okay, setting the project aside, what kind of teams work best, the teams that you’ve worked in, what are the makeup of the people and the project manager or the leadership that makes you think this amazing team to work in, regardless of how character building project that we’re on, but with these people by my side, it’s just, you know, we can do anything, talk to me about your feelings around what makes a high performing team.

Steph Stylianou 36:52
It’s the ability for everyone to kind of just show what they’re good at and grow, you know, if anyone, if people start get kind of dictated 100%, and though this is your role, this way you need to be doing, and there’s no ability for them to kind of just speak up and kind of say, Oh, I have this idea or have this opinion and things like that, then I think it starts kind of stalling. So it’s a team that people are allowed to kind of be creative in is to have enough diversity. So not everyone is with exactly the same background. So if you, and I mean, kind of even professional background, right, if you get a bunch of functional consultants and ask them to design a solution, they’re all going to come up with configuration approaches, or most of them are going to come up with configuration approaches. And it’s kind of a becomes an echo chamber, right? So you need people with different with different backgrounds, so that you can start saying, well, actually, we need to think about that we didn’t think about that initially, or we need to think about this, we haven’t thought about that either. So it’s important to kind of just have that diverse experience, to allow kind of really the best to kind of come out of that, you know, at the same time, it does depend. So it’s if it’s a really big team, not everyone can constantly be inputting, you know, in everything. So you kind of you decide who’s relevant to be in conversations was irrelevant, it was not relevant to be in conversations because you have to. So it varies. It’s good when you know, like, what I found really works really well is when there’s that funnel system, you know, so where the pm decides what’s relevant for the team to know what’s noise, you know, so not everything comes through, because that becomes kind of, oh, the customers complaining about this, and this and this, and this, oh, my God, where are we going to do you know, but some of that might just be noise. And some of it might be useful to know. So if the project manager or program managers decide, you know, how that what information goes to the implementation team, I think that’s a productive way of working, and then the same downwards, you know, the architects then choose what’s noise for, you know, the consultants to know what’s not. And, again, you progress in that way. So if, okay, there’s a concern about the velocity or the speed of the team, maybe you get the different work streams and you speak to them about okay, why why are we stalling? is maybe the DevOps is holding us back? What is it so you can work through the problem. But if it’s kind of something that’s really not relevant for them to know, then they don’t they don’t not everyone needs to be stressed in a team 100% of the time, you know, you can protect and ring fence certain people so that they can do their best work. So, yeah, a lot of kind of different things can happen, I think to make a team more productive and more high performing I mean, and it’s going to be different depending on the individuals that you have in that in.

Pei Mun Lim 40:06
This segues very nicely to the next question that I have, which is around. So you’ve already highlighted. One thing that project managers or program managers can do is to identify what’s noise, and what’s important to focus on. So in your experience throughout all the places that you’ve worked in, what other things do? So let’s step back, one of the things that I believe is the Pm is, we have direct impact on the team’s day to day happiness in how we manage things. But I’d like to hear from your point of view, apart from the sifting of noise and relevant things for the team, what are the what are the aspects or traits that a project manager or the leader of your team should have in order to make sure that that you like that you like working with somebody like that? What are the things that a pm needs to halfway through to like working with that person?

Steph Stylianou 41:17
I mean, the two, I think, common ones is going to be the scope management. So making sure that we don’t constantly we’re not constantly dealing with scope, creep. And the change management piece, so if you know, we’ve already developed something, delivered something, and now we need to change it, because business changed, that needs to be kind of dealt with in an appropriate way. Because otherwise, you know, there’s just more stuff to do and less time to do it. So I think that’s just part of the hopefully, that’s just part of the job description. Other things, though, that would make a difference is just listening to you know, what worries the team. Because those are the risks. Those are the project risks, usually, you know, so if the team is saying, and it’s highlighting, I’m worried about this, this and this, and I think, you know, that could put the project at risk, there needs to be some active listening there, without kind of putting them minimizing their concerns in any way. And then that needs to be kind of consumed and communicated in an appropriate way, when that does get communicated to the customer. That feedback needs to come back to the team. So that because if I if I if you’re my project manager, and I’m telling you something, and you kind of minimize me, and then you do communicate with the customer, you never told me that you did I think you’re not doing your job, you know, so and then that creates frustration that’s unnecessary, because you have been doing what I’m expecting. But I don’t know what you have. Right? So then I keep telling you the same thing, which frustrates you, because you’ve told me already, so telling me right. But I don’t know you’re doing anything with it. So it’s about kind of that constant communication, exchange of information, and making sure that it’s not kind of just, yeah, someone feeling like, Oh, I’m just saying it, and I’m, it’s like, I’m speaking to a wall, right, nothing’s going through. The other big thing, I think, that I found frustrating was sometimes the change of project management.

Pei Mun Lim 43:28

Steph Stylianou 43:31
if for whatever reason, kind of a project manager leaves, maybe the customer doesn’t agree with them, or whatever, they’ve left the company, or whatever might happen, that transition really needs to be managed closely, what happens sometimes, and that’s not everywhere, but what happens sometimes, is that there is a gap between the old project manager and the new project manager, the burden is gonna go on the team, that that work in that role needs to be filled, right? And then suddenly, things are going to fall through the cracks, there’s going to be more scope creep, because I don’t have time to deal with arguing, you know, I need to just do my work. So there’s going to be more scope creep, it creates a precedent that then cannot be like the new pm now has to fight, right? We don’t do that anymore, you know, or whatever. So actually, that transition where there is a change in project management, I think there needs to be a very good buffer between the old project manager and the new project manager to make sure that the disruption to the project or just the team is minimized as much as possible. Because again, I’ve had projects that had had like 4pm changes, you know, in two years. That was painful. That was very painful.

Pei Mun Lim 44:47
So that leads me to my next question, which is around styles. So you had one project with a client is the same. And you’ve got four different project managers now take Seeing aside the transition period and the pain associated with moving from one to the other how, which of those four handled it best. So one of the things that I get asked to do a lot in, in my role is to pick a project that’s in recovery mode, sometimes, and I’ve got to pick up something from scratch and try and figure out what everything. And you know, what the lay of the land is, what the vibe is, and how the energy is lagging, where things went wrong, etc. So of the four that you’ve had, you know, how did those who you felt manage the best? What did they do that was different from the others who didn’t manage it quite as well, I

Steph Stylianou 45:53
think it was the ones that stopped for a second take stock. So the ones that, you know, recognize that, look, I don’t know this project, I’m new to it. Tell me what’s going on. Tell me what’s wrong, tell me what worked, tell me what didn’t work, you know, and collaborated with the team, and actually spent like, a little bit of time just listening and figuring out how it needs to be different. Because, you know, if, if something has not been going the right way, especially if the last pm was asked to kind of maybe leave the project. Why, you know, and actually speak to the team to understand that. I don’t think like it’s necessary, you know, that, in every project, you know, some of them are more of some project managers or more, I want to be like, friend, like a friend to all the consultants are, I want to be, you know, like coaching them, I want to be this, I want to be that, that it depends on the person, you know, some people are gonna want to be coached a little bit more, some people are not, I don’t think it’s about that. I think it’s about kind of just recognizing that, yeah, this is good, you know, the start stop continue model, you know, we’re going to start doing this, we’re going to stop doing this. And then we’re going to continue doing this, and kind of just agreeing this way of working with the interact with the project team and with the customer as well, to kind of just change something about the approach, because a lot of people are coming back coming into a project, they’re picking up the work of the last project manager was doing, and they end up kind of just carrying on in the same trajectory, right. Whereas I think it’s important to kind of just recognize that some things do might need to change them, we might need to kind of switch the approach. And it’s an opportunity to do so because it’s a different person. So people are just having that expectation that something is going to be different this time. So I think that it pretender should be embraced, not kind of ignored.

Pei Mun Lim 48:00
So just one last question about that particular project. Was there a reason why there were four different PMS? Was it just a personality clash? Or was it just a project that was one of those tricky, complex ones? Where politics is part of the whole situation? And just trying to get a sense of how did you get for two years?

Steph Stylianou 48:26
I think, I think it was a combination of things. You know, sometimes it was a personality clash. Sometimes it was a lack of recognition that the project manager was bringing. Some sometimes it was lack of maybe expected value being delivered for the entire kind of project. And it was politics, because then it will either be the project team, or it will be the customer. It’s also things like, it was maybe a contractor that made me wanted to move on. It will it was genuinely just the perfect storm of circumstances. To be honest. I don’t think it was specifically like any one thing probably every pm there was a different reason for why they had to exit but it’s just interesting, right? Like, you got it all fell on one. It’s also the fact that people were not motivated enough to stick with it. I think, you know, it’s kind of if if things are going wrong, if you have to deal with politics, like you kind of mentioned all the time, then if you have a different opportunity to go and do something else you might take that because it will be easier or because you’re not seeing kind of the anything significant changing anytime soon. So it was it was a little bit of everything I can doesn’t help. It doesn’t help your answer.

Pei Mun Lim 49:54
I don’t know I I think it does, but the only sense I can get out of it was That must be terribly frustrating for the project team to have to learn to work with so many different people and not ideal in you know having to carried but an in between during a transition. So I wouldn’t be very mindful of your time. Thank you again, Steph, for spending time this has been really fascinating to get to know you, both on personal level and the professional journey you’ve taken. I’m very glad to see you’ve got to Salesforce mothership, as so many people say whatever path you choose to take entries can be exciting because of how you look at things and how you approach things. And also thank you for the time in sharing your experience because inside all of that, there are so many things I can draw on in terms of learnings other people could take on board in their career within the ecosystem. So I do appreciate your time. Thank you, Steph.

Steph Stylianou 51:01
Thank you. Thank you for having me.