Program Managers at ExpressVPN What it’s like: Program Managers at ExpressVPN

Our program managers work both as a team and in support of departments across the business. Here's what it takes to join their team!
pjm discussion

Who are the PgMs?

Informally, the mission of program managers (PgMs) at ExpressVPN is to “be the grease that keeps the machine running smoothly.” In this case “the machine” would be the company. We live to proactively suggest efficiency improvements to help our assigned teams deliver on their OKRs (objectives and key results).

This includes everything from planning and completing projects as scoped and on time, to uncovering dependencies and proactively managing risks, to delivering precise, insightful, actionable stakeholder communications. “Taskmaster” is probably too harsh a word, but we certainly help others stay on-task.

While this article is specifically about our PgM team, a lot of this also applies to other teams, too! Read on to find out more.

How do PgMs work at ExpressVPN?

PgMs are often assigned to one or more teams. A team might be totally cross-functional in nature with a mix of engineers, designers, marketers, and data analysts, for example. Or a team might be a single function like Security. Teams generally have around 3-10 people in them, some of whom might be located in the same office as you, but many are also spread around the world.

We work tightly alongside specialists across the business who are making strategic decisions about what we will do to achieve goals and move metrics. This gives us a unique level of exposure to super interesting strategic discussions, and although our role is around giving guidance on how that work will be delivered, including resourcing requirements, timelines, and risks, being in the room means we often get to give broader input, too.

We have a wide range of exposure, from working with software engineers on fun new bits of tech being built in the company, to delivering exciting marketing campaigns or optimizing workflows in key internal business functions—it all depends on which teams we’re working with. We try and pair program managers with teams relevant to their interests/experiences or backgrounds, or in new areas where they are keen to learn!

Read more: Productivity Tips from ExpressVPN Program Managers

PgM team structure

Our crew is a super friendly bunch, spanning a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds. We support each other, share nerdy Google-product tips and tricks on the regular, and aren’t shy in our use of emojis! We enjoy getting down to the nitty-gritty during our sharing sessions, where lively conversation and valuable insights are the order of the day—along with yummy lunches from our favorite spots. Because we are all assigned to support various teams, we don’t work directly together a lot of the time.

However, when our powers are combined it’s usually for:

  • Large programs that need more than one program manager

  • Knowledge sharing or skill development

  • When multiple cross-functional teams are working on something together

What are the biggest challenges for PgMs?

As we are in a fast-growth stage and most of us are juggling work across multiple, varied types of teams, it can be a challenge to stay on top of everything and battle the inefficiencies of context switching.

Saying ‘no’—People genuinely care here and really want to help each other out, and program managers are no different. In fact, we often tend towards being the more help-inclined types. Because we work so broadly, we have a great general company and process knowledge, and people often come to us for help and advice. Learning to say no at the right time is a challenge, but important to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Managing without authority. Yes, it’s a bit of a buzz term but it's an issue we face regularly, especially how to get people to do stuff for your team It sounds easy but it can be challenging depending on who you need to do things for you! It’s actually something we commonly swap tips on as a team, finding the secret sauce of whether to Slack, call, meet, comment, or email key stakeholders to help us get things done more effectively!

What skills do you need to be a successful PgM at ExpressVPN?

We’re glad you asked! We are always looking for new and awesome teammates. Aside from the standard program/project management skills listed in our job ad (timelines, stakeholder management, requirement definition etc.), these are some of the things we think are extra important:

  • Highly organized: Keeping track of tons of tasks at a time and always being on top of the latest deadline doesn’t happen without a strong dose of organizational talent.

  • Super clear and concise written and verbal communication skills: We do A LOT of writing and talking to many different audiences.

  • Adaptability: Things change quickly around here and if you can adapt well, you’ll be in good stead.

  • People-person: If you enjoy interacting with people, you’ll enjoy your days here much more!

Join #LifeAtExpressVPN

These are just some of the things we look out for during our hiring process. If you’re new to program management but have related experience, we are definitely open to hearing from you. Some of the backgrounds of our team include: account manager, campaign manager, programmer, business analyst, and traffic manager. We’d love to help you grow into a kick-a** program manager!