Meet Danielle Custalow, a Project Manager everyone wants to work with! She’s been working in digital since 2001 and has great advice for other women in the industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
I made the move to Richmond several years ago coming from NOVA and haven’t looked back. I graduated from JMU as a Marketing major and started working in the field after school. After a few years of hands-on marketing experience, I realized I was less interested in positioning a product and that I was MUCH better suited for management and logistics. I enjoy seeing all of the operational pieces of the puzzle that need to come together to make something happen.
I decided to ditch Marketing and start my Account Management career. In 2001, I began working for a digital solutions company as a consultant and I’ve been in the digital industry ever since. In a consulting agency environment, I enjoy the diversity of work managing large projects and programs for a broad range of different clients. I’m currently a Project Manager at Veracity where we focus on fully understanding our clients’ business to create more engaging experiences for their customers, while implementing powerful technology for custom business solutions.
What do you do? How did you get involved in your industry?
Project Manager isn’t what you might consider a typical UX role. I work with talented UX designers and developers, but I’m not the one drafting beautiful designs or writing code. My role revolves around managing the success of a project, all while maintaining a healthy connection between our project teams and our clients. One big challenge of being a Project Manager is seeing the big picture but also managing the details; it definitely becomes a balancing act.
Client work always comes with obstacles, so I have to get creative and stay on my toes.
I scan the horizon for risks, deal with any resistance to change and lead the charge in coming up with solutions to new challenges along the way. As a PM, you basically block and tackle every obstacle put in front of your team, so they can focus on what they do best.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?
I love that I’m constantly learning at work with new clients, industries and technologies. I’ve learned things I would never have expected to have to know. A good example, I managed a project with Carnegie Hall to improve their ticketing user experience. We had to understand the ins and outs of how you seat the venue for certain events based on acoustics. Also, I get to brag about being on stage at Carnegie Hall (without any musical or vocal talent whatsoever). I also love all of the wonderful people you work with as a consultant — I’ve met some of my best friends working on projects with them.
My least favorite part of work is ‘red tape’. I’m not a big fan of red tape, but it is something you have to understand and handle as you work with larger organizations. While maneuvering around this red tape may not be my favorite part of my job, it’s always interesting to find new ways to cut through it!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for other women trying to be leaders in their community and/or organization?
Trust your instinct — Every time I’ve gone against my gut feeling, I wished I hadn’t. This doesn’t mean you should ignore advice from trusted friends and members of your team. It’s taking this all into account to guide your decisions, then believing in your ability, experience and intuition to make the right decision.
I’d also say you need to take ownership of your growth and success. Don’t wait for someone to recognize your talents. Find ways to jump in and start doing anything you can to get closer to the role or position you want. Then work your tail off and be persistent!
What brought you to Richmond? What do you love about RVA?
I’m originally from Northern Virginia but decided to pick up and move to Maui when I was 23 just to experience something different. It was a great adventure, but I wanted to move back closer to family and friends. Richmond was close to NOVA; the cost of living was much lower, and I had friends living here.
Living in RVA, you’re close to just about everything — you can be at the beach, in the mountains or in DC in a couple hours. I love that it has a small-town feel, but is actually a diverse city with great restaurants, festivals and nightlife.
What do you do in your free time?
On the weekends, I love to spend time with my family down on the water. We have a house on the Mattaponi River about 50 minutes outside of Richmond. It’s actually situated on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation, so there’s a rich history surrounding the area in addition to swimming, paddle boarding and boating. It’s great to watch my son spending time outdoors with his grandfather and uncle who teach him about his unique heritage.
Thank you for participating, Danielle!