I’ve spent pretty much my entire career in a project-based environment. Initially it seemed scary, but then I understood it was not an issue at all. Where’s stability I wondered? Well, this question was answered by Heraclitus 2500 years ago: “There’s nothing permanent except change”. It does make sense, more than ever. Researchers seem to argue around the exact figure, but more or less they accept that 20% of global GDP is produced project based in the world, and this figure can exceed 30% in developing countries.  

What is a project? PMBOK[1]definition: “A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service or result.” Interesting thing about projects is that lot of non-professional people don’t even realize what they are actually doing, is project work.

Apart from certain operation matters resulted by completed projects, over 80% of work done at BlockBen is project work. Obviously, a major chunk is IT driven, but there are a lot more like education, content, structuring, regulatory, legal, sales and marketing, events…etc. you name it. Projects left, right and centre.  

In my view, general challenges in such companies are resulted by 3 factors:

(a) Human resources – both internal and external, but I get to that in a minute,

(b) Volatility – in the volume of projects,

(c) Cross-team communication – Technically speaking BlockBen is a hybrid from an organisation point of view but keep in mind we are enormously project oriented.

Human Resources: Have exceptional importance in optimising teams and work for our colleagues. Pretty uniquely, following a 3-6 months period, we finetune or completely allow a shift to a different role that is more suitable for the person. This way we do not waste all the efforts that we have invested in our new entrants and try to keep everyone happy with the type of work they do. Not all the time, but in most cases the result and position are much more efficient for all parties.

Acquiring special skills and knowledge is always an issue. In lot of cases, one could not even directly acquire it…therefore we chose to work in blended models in terms of we are using external teams when we find experts in a certain field. From a risk prospective it could be seen as an issue, but with good knowledge transfers and working on strong relationship with these partners we tend to see this risk mitigated.  

Volatility: Is a tough one. Theoretically we could keep expanding our teams to new levels all the time, but practically we would never do it. Funding this unreasonable expansion would be a great way burning money, so we tend to utilize on our blended methodology in using both internal and external experts for certain projects. Decent forecasting is the key but if we get that right, we can give comfort to ourselves and to our external partners. We tend to have long term contracts with all our key external player, so we can give them certainty on the workflow, and we can also force ourselves to have a better utilization of resources.

Cross-team communication: Wow…we had major struggles with that. So much innovation, new ideas and new knowledge develop at BlockBen on a daily basis. We ended up designing our own Knowledge Transfer methodology. Implementation has already started, and it appears to be very efficient, touch wood.

Today’s job market is candidate driven. It has its merits from an organisation point of view, but this is something we have to work with. Thanks to the interesting things we are doing and to the serious money we have spent on LinkedIn, we get very strong inquiries from all types of candidates when we are hiring for new positions. We do keep our eyes open and occasionally approach potentials directly, but we mostly make open positions publicly visible. We also put a lot of emphasis on integrating late Y and early Z generation folks into the teams.

When it comes to interviews, the thing we look for the most is cultural fit. The person should have at least a decent level of academic background and deemed relevant experience, this is why we invite someone for an interview. There are certain types of “candidates” we deliberately avoid, not necessarily because they are good or bad, but we are very certain that they would not have a cultural fit with us:

Degree/certificate collectors: Wow…this is a noticeable chunk of candidates. I’m sure certain roles might require that, so all the boxes are ticked, but I wonder how on earth you became really good at something if you have spent all that time obtaining 2 undergrad, 2 postgrad and another 5 certifications by the age of 32? I’m sure there’s an answer to that…but we usually let other organisations ask it. I refrain myself from the speculation on the candidate’s true motives...

Institutionalized candidates: We have interviewed a lot of such candidates and figured out we no longer wish to fish from this segment. There’s nothing wrong with them, but definitely it is a no-fit for both our and also their culture. These candidates usually seek for a box where the experience determines how high the box is in the hierarchy. There is nothing wrong with that, but we can’t accommodate that in medium/senior positions…  

Burnouts: My personal "favourites". Spent 10-15 years working for a large corporation or consulting firm, even might be at a decent management position. In lot of cases, an entitlement-based approach kicks in which would result in us having to provide an A+ compensation and receive a C- performance. C-, because competence has already been proved through previous positions… and now it is time to relax and get paid for previous efforts.

So, who are we after? It is very straight forward, I think. We are after candidates who want to show and prove something. Someone, who wants to make a difference. And believe me, it applies to both junior and senior colleagues of ours. We do interesting things at BlockBen. What do we really offer? We offer a new, young, dynamic and diverse organisation with imperfections obviously. That’s why we need colleagues who can add and build and contribute. And of course, we offer a lot of what others necessarily don’t – we give a shot and we encourage to grow. We don’t want to put people into boxes and we want everyone to reach their true potential and we have a responsibility in that…and obviously we compensate in accordance with today’s candidate driven market.

  [1] A guide to the Project Management book of knowledge PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition by PMI Global Standard