For the latest edition of our Meet the Team blog series, we asked Kelly Navari to take a break from her role as a Senior Project Manager to ask about her career and the journey she took to become the amazing team member she is today.
Where are you calling from today?
My home office in Dayton, Oregon
What was your first job?
My very first job was working as an ice cream and yogurt scooper at a TCBY inside a gas station at one of Southern California’s busiest intersections – Katella and Los Alamitos Blvd. in Los Alamitos, CA.
My first job post-undergrad was working as a production graphic designer and art director for a local newspaper and publishing company.
How did you get to where you are today?
My journey to project management has been somewhat unorthodox. However, each step along the way has contributed greatly to how I operate today. Before going back to school in 2008, I owned and operated a pizza company and movie theater. The 5 yrs of experience I gained as a business owner truly helped me become a fearless product owner in tech.
After I earned my degree in graphic design, I worked as a marketing manager in wine, healthcare, and software development for over 10 years. In these roles, I gained a variety of experiences in managing budgets, growing revenue, logistics, and project management. I was lucky to have the opportunity to market for direct-to-consumer and business-to-business, as well as both products and services.
While growing the software development firm, I had an opportunity to take on my first $1M+ project as the project and product manager, scrum master, and account manager. We had a small operation and a very large client. This experience turned out to be something I truly loved and I knew that I had found my forever career.
What does your day-to-day look like?
My day-to-day can look very different from one to the next – which I love! To simplify, my day is communication and problem-solving. Communication comes in the form of emails, writing user stories, running internal and external meetings, creating reports, getting production teams unstuck, and addressing any urgent client matters. Problem-solving tasks include resourcing, risk management, time management, project planning, and getting into the weeds with production teams.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
There are two things that give me the most joy in my career and (for me) they are very closely related. They are solving problems and serving people. Logic was my favorite class in college and graphic design was another problem-solving chase for me. I feel alive when I solve something – yes, I am a total nerd! But the only thing better than solving a problem is doing it with someone and for someone. The combo of solving a puzzle and seeing the relief and joy in the people you solve it with – that’s literally everything to me. I want to make people’s lives easier. Whether it’s my coworkers, clients, or their customers, it’s what I strive for every day and makes me the happiest as a project manager.
Challenges and breakthroughs in launching your career?
I would say one of my biggest challenges and breakthroughs has been related to managing people and learning the difference between helping and serving. My young nature was always to do whatever it took to get any job done and sometimes that included taking work away from others and doing it myself. It was “helping”, and it was also my inexperience. Over time I’ve learned the importance of serving the people I work with to help them be the absolute best at what they do. I have learned to trust and in return, I get happier, more productive teams.
What impact did the pandemic have on your career/career outlook?
The pandemic impacted my career in many ways. Pre-pandemic, I had been a working mother for over 10 years and I was definitely burning out from both a lack of work/life balance and frankly a complete overload of both work and life. The pandemic slowed things down in such a way that I was able to gain perspective, reorganize my time, and better prioritize everything.
The ability to work from home was a huge part of the impact on me. Now I am able to accomplish so much more. I spend less time driving, less time between tasks, need fewer breaks, and no longer have in-office distractions that slow my productivity. But aside from becoming more efficient, working from home allowed me to find a company that I love. I truly enjoy the people I work with and the projects I get to be a part of at O3. To boot, I am able to work in EST, and that opens up my afternoons for my kids’ activities – it’s honestly perfect.
What’s one piece of advice other Project Managers need to hear?
Oh man, there are so many things I have to remind myself of each day. This is so cliche, but true, and so important for PMs specifically – don’t sweat the small stuff. Most project managers have type-a personalities by nature. It is our mission to not miss a single detail or let anything fall through the cracks. We can accomplish that without undue stress and allow all involved to keep our eyes on the big picture. We can’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I am a single mother of two very active teenagers. When I am not working, I am definitely on the sidelines cheering, tailgating, or traveling to watch my kids do what they love. My 17yo son plays competitive ice hockey and golf. My 15 year old daughter plays volleyball and softball and she’s very active in her local FFA chapter.
Can you share a favorite moment while working at O3?
I think my favorite moment at O3 was just a few weeks ago when we launched the Windsor Communities website. This website was something that had been in the making for a long time and the final push to launch was high-stakes and high-stress for everyone involved. Together the team at Windsor and the O3 crew completed a successful launch and we were all very proud of what we accomplished.