To call Anna Murray enthusiastic is an understatement. The passionate CEO of TMG eMedia, a New York City-based independent consulting firm, responds to virtually every topic with an insight, quip or relevant life experience that crumbles your preconceived ideas.
A dynamic speaker, she regularly smashes myths about the intersection of technology and project management. Many of the insights can be found in her book, The Complete Software Project Manager. In it she outlines a core philosophy of project management that might help your team arrive at a more rapid solution and craft a better workflow.
Through her work with TMG eMedia, she’s particularly focused on helping companies find ways to navigate the sometimes perilous world of slogging through a project. Before TMG eMedia, she assisted a number of major national brands with their technology rollouts.
These involved many different content management system (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) rollouts for companies like Kellogg's, Girl Scouts USA, Time Out North America, Slate and Harvard Business Publishing.
But Murray’s background includes more than business and technology. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from Yale and a master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism before embarking on her career, which also included a stint teaching ninth grade.
She still sees writing as one of her passions and believes her journalism background equipped her with an ability to hone in on details and see a project through to the end.
Murray will be one of numerous dynamic speakers at CMSWire's second annual DX Summit. The conference will run Nov. 14 to 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. We chatted with Murray about her background and the variety of topics she’ll take on during her time at the event.
Walter: You talk a lot about technology myths in your work. What are they, and how can they be a problem in terms of a project?
Murray: There are lots of technology myths out there about platform acquisition, and of course a lot of other areas relevant to those trying to build a digital experience. You have to learn to spot them so you don’t fall for them. I’m the CEO of a tech consulting company, and I’ve been doing this since 1996.
People told me at the time it’s too late to start a web agency, that all of that had been done by then. Since then my company has expanded to software, project management and technology strategy. Each step involved someone telling me that there was something that we were doing that wouldn’t work based on a prevailing myth at the time.
Another myth I hear a lot is, “Plan for the future.” Calling that a myth is kind of controversial, but there’s a lot of truth to thinking of it that way.
Technology moves too fast. There's a lot of dispute about Moore’s Law right now, and with a medium to large-sized software project in the time it takes you to complete it you may have lost a Moore’s Law cycle. The future is plowing into you and is way more fluid and unpredictable than when many of us got our first computer training 10 to 15 years ago.
Walter: TMG Media has worked with a number of clients that run the scope of the technology industry. How does the company stay so flexible and agile?
Murray: As a business owner, you have to be comfortable working without a net. Once you’ve got that down, you can adapt to anything — even joining Cirque du Soleil! Practically, it just means that you truly have to be ready for anything, but with the right mindset it’s truly possible.
Walter: How can more women be encouraged to take on leadership opportunities in business?
Murray: We women business leaders need to model the path for younger women. That starts with us being successful and happy. No younger woman is going to want to aspire to the life of an older business woman if she’s a wreck, no matter how successful she may be. Step one is for us to create the lives we want to have. Step two is to show other women how to do it.
Walter: How does your background in education and journalism impact your current role?
Murray: My most valued degree is the one I have in journalism. A journalist feels confident wading into any situation, whether it’s a technology hairball or covering the first generation of crack-addicted children to hit New York City public schools (an assignment I did). You learn to ask questions and figure it out.
Honestly, every day I think my training in journalism is one of the most valuable things I can bring to a career in technology. I was just at my reunion at Columbia Journalism School and many have gone onto blended careers, and I still do a lot of freelance journalism as well because I love it. On an hourly basis journalists have to delve into areas they're not familiar with and get up to speed and be able to write hardcore news and analysis on that topic.
I’ve also spent time in education. Once you’ve managed a class of ninth grades, you can pretty much run any kind of meeting.
Walter: There has been quite the explosion of marketing technology tools as of late. What do you think is behind that?
Murray: Has there been? I didn’t notice ... kidding! There are three reasons for this: cheaper faster development tools, big data and cloud computing. I guess you could add a fourth, which is the tech bubble. More tools can be good. It can also mean more confusion. Anyway, it’s not about the tools. It’s about the content and marketing message. The tools are ever evolving, so instead it’s about your core message and understanding what the goals are.
Walter: What other project have kept you busy?
Murray: I am learning Greek. No, seriously, I am. For a book I’m researching, I need to look up source material, which often doesn’t have an English translation. I have to be able to do a Google search in Greek and I got a Greek keyboard. I’m interviewing family members and enjoying the challenge of diving into the language.