Q: How did you get started with Agile?
I started my Agile journey in 2011 when I was assigned as a business analyst to the first pilot project at my company that was going to use the Agile mindset and advanced practices in developing software. We were taking a transformational approach of “Being Agile”, first applying the mindset, and not just “Doing Agile” practices. I was hooked as soon as the instructor, Dr. Ahmed Sidky, opened his mouth! I was captivated by Agility and that experience has changed my career. I gravitated towards a specialty in Agile training, coaching and facilitation. As a business analyst on that first pilot, I participated in four incremental deliveries for the product and then was asked to join the company’s Agile Transformation Initiative. And I’ve “Been Agile” ever since.
Q: You have a rather unique title: Agile Coach on the Agile Operations team. What is your day-to-day like?
A typical day for me consists of delivering Agile training to employees across our enterprise. So far, I’ve trained over 600 employees in the Agile mindset and practices associated to incremental development and iterative delivery. In addition to training, I also have responsibilities of participating in strategic discussions regarding the rollout, or transformation of the enterprise, from applying a traditional waterfall approach to an Agile iterative approach. I also spend a great deal of time coaching teams that are new to Agile in applying practices such as Chartering, Iteration Planning, Software Demonstrations, Retrospectives, Backlog Grooming, User Stories, Estimation, etc…
Q: What challenges do you face with scaling Agile?
When transforming a large enterprise, we have to remember we are also transforming people and a deep-routed culture. We have to remember to employ good change management concepts and recognize that we are asking for individuals to change, and that everyone experiences change differently. We are asking people that are experts at their jobs, and have probably been for a long time, to do their job differently. With that, we have to be prepared for resistance and managing how different people will react to change, from despair, fear, hostility and even happiness (as in my case) until we gradual start moving forward with acceptance.
Q: Why did you seek ICAgile certification?
I’m not the type of person that just collects certifications to have them so it looks good on my resume. I think that most anybody can study for and pass a test, and that doesn’t mean he/she can actually demonstrate the necessary skills required to be an effective coach. Let’s face it, coaching is about people, not just projects and passing a standardized test doesn’t tell you anything about your people skills. ICAgile certification is competency based, which means you have to prove in front of a panel of industry leaders that you actually have the goods to be an effective coach. I feel that in addition to the knowledge, I now have industry recognized credibility.
Q: How was the ICP certification process/experience?
When I started on my journey, I didn’t really know where I was headed. My first stop was becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP) after taking an Agile Fundamentals class. When I joined my company’s Agile transformation initiative, the next stop was becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-AFT) and then becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC), after completing both the associated course learning objectives, respectively. I pursued all this training and certification to become a more effective Agile coach and assist my company, teams and individuals through an Agile transformation. At this point, I still wasn’t entirely sure where my Agile journey was taking me.
Q: What caused you to seek further certification and pursue ICAgile Expert-level certification?
I’ve never been accredited or certified in anything before. This opportunity is unlike any I’ve come across. When ICAgile finalized their process for the Expert-level (competency-based) certification I knew it was meant for me. I started to read about the qualifications and study the competency rubric and said, “Hey I can do this. It’s a challenge, and I’m up for it!”
Q: Which track of the ICP certification did you take? And why?
I took the Agile Coaching track. I have always wanted to help people. It’s been my dream; in my youth, I even contemplated the medical field, and have discovered I have fulfilled my dream by helping others in the IT field instead. The niche I’ve found within ICAgile allows me to give back to the community. ICAgile has given me the opportunity and credentials to fulfill my dream of helping others.
Q: How was the preparation for the Expert-level assessment?
My own personality forces me to be over prepared, but it is a serious process and should be taken as such. In addition to the required training and coaching experience, I had to submit a 10-minute video demonstrating my facilitation skills. Along with the video, I had to provide time markers from the video describing what facilitation techniques I was demonstrating. I must have watched that video a hundred times to get the markers just right! I also had to submit three references of people that I had coached, with at least one of them being new to Agile. I was also required to submit facilitation guides and any other documentation that would demonstrate my thought process in preparing for facilitating or coaching a team.
Q: How was the ICE-AC Gate review process?
After submitting my application with all the aforementioned documentation, I had to sit before a panel of industry experts for a 2-hour interview/gate review. I was extremely nervous, and was soon feeling relaxed after a quick five minute round of introductions. Next, the panel watched my video live which was followed by a short Q&A. I was glad when that was over! Next, I did a 10-minute coaching role play, followed by a 10-minute mentoring role play. Boy was I glad when that was over! This was followed by another round of general Q&A. Lyssa Adkins had some really tough questions. I’m glad I prepared as I did because I kept thinking “Boy, I don’t want to go through this again!” The panel then deliberated for 35 minutes while I stepped away and prayed that I would pass. Upon rejoining the panel, I was elated to find out I did pass. Even though I passed, I was really appreciative when the panel gave me great feedback intended to stretch me a bit and make me an even better coach.
Q: How do you think the Expert-level certification is going to help you at work?
Several of my colleagues will be taking the Coaching Agile Teams class this month. I hope I can help them prepare, study and also pass on the first try! As more people become involved with ICAgile, our transformation will deepen. It will give our program additional visibility, and people will see the results. This feels like just the beginning for me. It’s all about the journey and not the destination. I’m 100% confident that I want to stay on the path and keep learning.
Q: Any advice for anyone considering ICAgile certification?
Don’t take it lightly. It’s a serious process. Let it be serious. Be open to the possibility that ICAgile will change your life. For me it is the culmination of everything I’ve been looking for.
Q: I heard you are the first woman to become an ICAgile Expert. What are your thoughts about women in Agile or software development in general?
I don’t really think in terms of male versus female or that I’m at some disadvantage or a victim because I’m a woman. It never crosses my mind when I enter a room to coach or facilitate that I will be treated any differently because I’m a woman. My attitude is, “This is who I am and this is what I do.” In fact, I think there can be some very strong advantages to being a woman when it comes to Agile coaching. I certainly feel I can tap into my emotional, sympathetic, almost maternal instincts when it comes to helping others.
I’m inspired by this quote from Lysaa Adkins in her book, Coaching Agile Teams, “A friend loves you just the way you are. A coach loves you too much to let you stay that way.” Being a coach takes courage. The change is about helping someone become who they’re really capable of being, and it comes about by how you cultivate relationships. When someone calls and asks for my input, they begin to initiate the acceleration of their own process. I don’t need to do anything for them. It’s about triggering a different view of the world.
Q: Any advice for women in Agile?
Over the past 20+ years, I’ve had some great female role models in the IT industry. I don’t think we are at any disadvantage, and I hope to see the trend of women in Agile continue to increase. I may be the first, but I’m certainly not the last.