I joined MentorMate as a Senior Project Manager a little over seven years ago. At the time, we had a fairly lean project management team. In total, we had five people including myself and then-Project Management Director Liz Spolyar (now Director of Continuation Engineering). We were based entirely out of our Minneapolis office to match the working hours of MentorMate’s client base at that time.
Today, our team consists of nineteen project managers (nine in the U.S. and ten in Bulgaria) as well as Director of Delivery Ian Good and myself in the Director of Client Experience role.
So, how did we go from a small, localized department to a world-class global team of over 20 people? By adapting to our client’s needs and evolving to provide them the best experience possible.
The Early Days
When I joined MentorMate, we were a much smaller company. Our scaled-back project management team was sufficient in keeping projects moving forward and delivering work on time and on budget. Each of us worked across multiple projects simultaneously and our team efficiently handled the work required.
As our company (and client list) grew, we began taking on longer, more complex engagements. Those more complex projects required more attention and management to stay on track. Our lean approach was no longer sustainable and our team began to evolve to reflect MentorMate’s overall growth.
This evolution began by simply adding additional team members to our U.S. project management team. Again, since most of our clients were located stateside, this made the most sense. That coupled with an enormous project management talent pool to pull from meant we could easily grow our team and continue delivering quality work to clients.
Part of our company’s growth, however, included several new clients based in Europe and the Nordics. Up to this point, what made our U.S.-based PM model successful was that we had similar working hours as our clients. We were available to clients during the hours that our Bulgarian technical teams weren’t.
With global clients, that was no longer the case and so we looked to the next stage of our evolution.
Offshore Made Easy: Project Management Edition
A few years ago, we began thinking about how we could build out our project management capabilities in Bulgaria to better serve our Europe-based clients. We started by looking internally at members of our technical teams who could take on project leadership roles and work alongside a U.S. project manager.
After one of our QAs, Rumyana Kusheva, began taking on more and more of these project leadership responsibilities, we decided to pilot an offshore project management approach. She transitioned from her role as a QA to be a full-time project manager and hit the ground running with one of our larger clients that required extra focus.
After this pilot proved to be a success, we continued growing our team in Bulgaria. As we did, we found that it wasn’t only our Europe-based clients that benefited.
Similar to our offshore development model, offering an option for Bulgaria-based project management provides immense value to clients. This is particularly true for large or complex projects that require a full-time project manager as it is a more budget-friendly option that doesn’t sacrifice quality — again, like our development team.
Currently, three of our four largest clients are being managed by Bulgaria-based project managers.
A New Career Path
In addition to the benefits this evolution offers clients, it also offers additional career path options for the folks working on our technical teams. Much like Rumyana pivoted from quality assurance to project management, our PM team in Bulgaria also includes former business analysts and developers as well.
Having this option available to our technical staff is a huge benefit as it offers flexibility as people grow in their careers in a non-technical career track.
As we continue towards a more remote working world, the need for in-person or in-office meetings is less critical to a project’s success. While there is still, and always will be, a need for U.S.-based project managers, we’ve been able to evolve past the exclusiveness of only having them based here. By having the option of Bulgarian PMs, we’re able to offer more options to suit clients’ needs.