by M. Donigan | Sept. 21, 2023 | 3 Min Read

Thriving as a Non-Traditional Project Manager in a SaaS Environment

Unboxed Technology – new office – Open

Unboxed is a unique strategic learning company as we excel at being a one-stop shop. My contribution to this beautiful machine is as a Software Project Manager. One large component of Unboxed Technology is our SaaS product - Spoke. Spoke is a skill building platform that makes learning human. Ensuring that our team and our clients have the best experience with Spoke is where I come in. In my role as a Software Project Manager, I aid in the facilitation and release of our product as well as the implementation of Spoke for new and existing clients.

If you have worked in this area of tech then you know that the software as a service (SaaS) industry is dynamic and ever evolving, requiring agile leadership and innovative thinking. In this fast-paced environment, non-traditional project managers, like me, can bring unique perspectives and skill sets to the table. In this blog post, we will explore the journey of being a non-traditional project manager leading a SaaS team, highlighting the advantages and strategies for success in this role.

Embracing Diversity in Software Project Management

The role of a project manager in a SaaS team is often associated with a traditional background in software development or IT. However, this is not a prerequisite for success. I did not get a degree in STEM nor did I work as a Software Developer. I have a degree in international relations and my professional background is in operations across a variety of industries.

Yet, non-traditional project managers can add a valuable layer of diversity and unique perspective to the team. This diversity of experience can lead to more well-rounded decision-making and innovative problem-solving- and less stereotypical of an IT perspective.

Advantages of Non-Traditional Backgrounds in Tech

1. Customer-Centric Approach:

Non-traditional project managers often have experience in customer-facing roles. I have worked in retail and hospitality. Those experiences have been invaluable in the SaaS industry, where understanding and meeting customer needs are paramount. We build our products for people! Leveraging this experience, I find, can lead to better product development and user satisfaction.

2. Communication Skills:

Professionals from diverse backgrounds tend to have strong communication and interpersonal skills. Good, cross-functional teams are not made up of all the same people. Being able to communicate across cultures and groups is crucial for bridging gaps internally and with non-technical staff. It fosters collaboration as I help everyone get on the same page, so we show up as a united front with external stakeholders.

3. Risk Management:

Risk exists across all industries. My time in the medical field really sharpened my ability to identify risk as the stakes are very high when mistakes occur that can affect other people’s health. Identifying problems far in advance at the bedside can save people's lives. This skill is highly transferable to the software project management domain, where identifying and managing potential pitfalls is a constant challenge.

4. Adaptability:

Non-traditional project managers often bring adaptability and a willingness to learn. We didn’t start out in this field and worked to discover our niche. In the ever-changing SaaS landscape, being open to new technologies, methodologies, and market trends is a significant advantage.

Strategies for Success

1 . Continuous Learning:

Embrace a lifelong learning mindset. As a skills training company learning is always at the forefront of what we do and taking time to grow is encouraged. Unboxed see the value in investing in training, certifications, and courses related to the job. We even use our own software Coach to facilitate one-on-one growth.

2. Build a Diverse Team:

As a non-traditional project manager, surround yourself with a diverse team of experts who complement your skills. Having varied experience can be the breakthrough that solves a problem or produces a better outcome for the client. I work to encourage open communication and collaboration to leverage the strengths of each team member.

3. Emphasize Soft Skills:

Focus on honing your soft skills, including communication, leadership, and conflict resolution. In my experience, leaning into these skills rather than brute force is always more successful. Plus, these skills are essential for effective team management and stakeholder engagement.

4. Be Data-Driven:

Use data and analytics to guide your decision-making process. SaaS relies heavily on metrics for performance evaluation and improvement, so becomes proficient in data analysis tools and techniques. We use JIRA, which allows us to measure and track our productivity and the needs of our clients.

5. Cultivate a Customer-Centric Culture:

Prioritize customer feedback and incorporate it into your product development process. Your background in customer service or marketing can be a tremendous asset in ensuring that the SaaS product aligns with customer needs.


Being a non-traditional project manager leading a SaaS team has been highly rewarding. Every day is a new challenge or problem to solve. By having a more unique background and perspective, I feel as though I contribute to innovation in our product and success on the team. By embracing continuous learning, building a diverse team, and emphasizing soft skills, you too can thrive as a project manager in the SaaS world and contribute to the growth and success of your organization!

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