Kim is the kind of person you want on your side. She’s a passionate ball of positive energy that has nothing but rave reviews for her team at Gainsight, the leading Customer Success platform provider.
She’s a cheerleader for her company and even recounts how her friends have gotten tired of hearing her talk about work. “I would go on and on about how we get a monthly recharge day, my supportive manager, Larry Hill, that treats me like a friend, how the company values opinions and encourages us to follow the “Golden Rule” (treat people like you want to be treated) which is so easy to do when working with such amazing people. My friends don’t want to talk with me about work ever again!” she laughs.
With a wealth of experience in project management and as the IT Project Manager at Gainsight, Kim has a lot of insight to share. We sat down with her to hear about her professional journey and her top four soft skills for effective project management.
Falling in Love with Project Management
With her sight set on becoming a TV anchor, Kim Jenkins earned her college degree in Communications. Realizing that it wasn’t really the path she wanted to pursue, she began to work in customer support where she was quickly promoted to engineering operations.
In this role, Kim was responsible for documentation, making sure particular processes were followed and liaising between departments. Without realizing it, she found her sweet spot and was given the title of Project Manager. Since then, Kim has grown in her field, received her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and fallen in love with the work.
“I like being on the ground floor with a project to help the project team achieve the project’s goals,” she says.
Gainsight’s Down-to-earth Support
As Kim, like so many others, was locked in during COVID, a friend mentioned Gainsight’s virtual event, Pulse.
“I attended and I was so impressed by Nick Mehta, the CEO. He was a fountain of energy and has such a way of making you believe in his message. Sometimes CEOs can be untouchable, but he’s not like that. He's literally like the guy next door.”
A few months later, Kim was contacted by Regina Kiffin, a recruiter at Gainsight, about a project management role. At first skeptical of the seemingly random message, she decided to respond. But once she spoke with the recruiter, all skepticism vanished. She was enamored with the recruiter's positive energy and how her values aligned with those of the company, in particular, that of ‘childlike joy.’
“At the company, they really encourage us to bring in our childlike joy. It allows you basically to be a kid again. You can really bring your authentic self to work.”
She applied and soon found herself as a new hire. During the onboarding process, Kim recalls the CEO asking each new employee to send him a note about anything via Slack and he would respond. Kim was blown away by this activity and that he actually responded. “We chatted about the new NFL draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nick is a HUGE Steeler fan. I’d never been able to get this close to a company’s CEO before,” she says.
This introduction to the company set the tone for her future there and which is characterized by an openness that allows employees to make suggestions, offer new ideas, and work together on growing the company. “Gainsight really cares about you,” she adds.
Human-first Project Management
Since being at Gainsight, Kim has worked with many different people cross-functionally, many of them not part of her direct team. This comes with competing priorities, different personalities, conflict resolution, and dealing with unexpected surprises or changes, among other things.
“You’re constantly either being a referee or a cheerleader,” she says. This multifunctional role pushes her to keep in step with Gainsight's “human first” philosophy, a motto that she also holds as her own.
“Being a project manager, you need to have empathy and realize that the people that you're interacting with are human first. There may be times when people are having a bad day, but you need to be in tune with what's happening and listen to what’s being said verbally as well as non-verbally.”
In order to avoid burnout among her team members, she intentionally asks about their schedules and if deadlines align well with their personal responsibilities. “The key to communicating well is to have empathy for others and to always be human first.”
4 Soft Skills for Project Management
Although hard skills like budgeting and knowing how to use certain software are key to project management, Kim emphasizes the importance of these four soft skills:
- Open communication. “The number one thing that a project manager has to be able to do is communicate, and that is internally as well as externally. You are dealing with so many people—sponsors, stakeholders, etc. You need to be intentional in how you communicate with each of the members of the project.”
- Conflict resolution and management. “Conflict resolution and management means addressing issues when they arise, not ignoring conflicts, and listening. Taking into account that each person is coming with their own professional background and personality, it’s important to take the time to resolve any conflicts with open and professional communication.”
- Empathy. “I keep in mind that the people I’m interacting with are human first and there may be times that they are having a bad day.” Keeping this in mind, Kim takes into account their needs and priorities.
- Be a motivator. “You have to be able to motivate people depending on who's on your team.” This includes motivating people who don't have as much energy for a project, don’t believe in the project or people that are new to the field. “We’re all in this together and the project manager's role is to support, which is important to keep in mind.”