Tampa Bay Agile Coach’s Blitz

​Last night, AgileThought hosted the second Tampa Bay Agile Coach’s Blitz. At the first Coach’s Blitz, earlier this year, I was coached. This time time, I served as one of the five coaches. Each of us provided four one-on-one coaching sessions, plus a fifteen minute lightning talk.

I wasn’t worried about the lightning talk. I always go into a presentation feeling that I’m less prepared than I’d like, but I also trust my skill as a speaker and knew that I was comfortable with my topic. I was confident that my talk, “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” would be received well. I enjoyed giving it and engaging with the audience for a brief Q&A session afterward.

What concerned me was whether or not I would provide individual coaching on the same level that I’d received at the first Blitz. At that time, my now-colleague Christy Erbeck worked with me to identify a plan to grow as a public speaker. That led directly to my giving a presentation at Agile 2017 this year. I got a lot of value out of it, and I wanted to do the same for people who selected me as their coach this time.

The most challenging problem was the person working in an environment where agile terminology has been mapped onto pre-agile processes and roles. Her wanted to know how she could make agile work in her workplace. That was a tough question, but we outlined some ways she could apply the agile mindset to her own work and interactions.

One person had questions about how to structure multiple teams working from a common background. We talked a little about the Nexus scaling framework, and about building her teams around features rather than components. Another was struggling with how to prove to her company’s executives that the value her agile teams have delivered was due to the transition to agile. My final session was with someone who wanted to know how to get started writing and speaking about agile.

That one was pretty easy.

The event was a big success. I enjoyed the opportunity to share with the local agile community, and helping others boosted my confidence in my own skills.


TBSMG, August 2016

This month at the Tampa Bay Scrum Masters Guild, we followed up on the vision for the Guild that we decided on at last month’s meeting:

To take an active role in building up Tampa Bay as a major technology hub.

That’s a pretty tall order! Before we can decide how to make it a reality, we needed to decide how to recognize when we achieve it. We used a variation of brain storming called “Brain Writing” to generate a list of ideas, then used dot voting to select the five best indicators of success:

  • Increase in startup funding for tech companies/actual tech startups on par with major cities like San Francisco or NYC
  • Major technology conferences are hosted in Tampa
  • National media start to report on “Tampa Tech”
  • Increase in tech-related degrees awarded at area colleges/universities
  • IT salaries increase to be competitive with existing tech hubs, i.e., the Research Triangle or Austin

The next step will be to decide what steps to take to make those indicators happen. It’s a topic on the Trello board; vote for it if you want to see more progress on turning vision into reality.

We closed the meeting with a report on the Agile Alliance conference in Atlanta. Sam Falco (that’s me!) talked about two themes that cropped up in several Agile 2016 sessions: making work a safe space for experimentation and innovation, and the future of Agile. Both topics fed into a group discussion of “Modern Agile” and how its four principles map to the values in the Manifesto.

Next month’s guild meeting will be held at Grow Financial on September 7. Don’t miss it!

Farewell to 2015

2015 was the second most tumultuous year in my life. I lost my job at the beginning of the year, made a mistake in taking the first offer that came along to replace it, and struggled to retain a positive outlook and find my way forward. But I used the turmoil to find my way to the career I really wanted.

On January 19, a corporate restructuring eliminated my entire division. I tried to be optimistic. The severance package was generous, my skills were up-to-date, and I’d long wanted to find a new job, anyway. Maybe this would be a good thing.

Still, I worried, and my worry grew when, a month after the layoff, I hadn’t had a single interview in spite of sending out dozens of applications, working with multiple recruiters, and giving myself headaches searching career web sites. Then a developer who’d been canned along with me contacted me. He’d found a job. Send me your résumé, he said. They want to become agile. They need you. I had some trepidation after the interview process, but the offer they made came close to replacing my former salary. I let fear of being out of work override my concerns about whether they really wanted to be agile. I took the job.

My concerns proved well-founded. “Agile” was nothing more to them than a magic incantation that meant everything and nothing. I tried to introduce Agile principles, and was rebuffed at every turn. A month after I started, the CTO presented the new SDLC process he’d designed without any input from the people who would be expected to follow it. I pointed out that there was no provision for retrospectives. His response? “Sam, I never look back.”

He wasn’t joking. I started looking for a new job again that day.

Once again, I sent out résumés, worked with recruiters, and searched job boards. Once again, it did me no good. I needed to find a way to stand out. I’d been an acceptable Scrum Master at my previous job, but “good enough” wasn’t good enough. I needed to be great. I wanted to be great.

I signed up for a Certified Scrum Product Owner course. I didn’t want to become a Product Owner; I thought it would make me a better Scrum Master. It would help me better support the Product Owner at my next job, wherever that might be.

Meanwhile, I looked for other Scrum practitioners to learn from. I read. I engaged on Twitter. And I discovered Tampa Bay Agile. Through “Lean Coffee” meetings and monthly Scrum Masters Guild meetings, I connected with other Agile thinkers. My understanding of Scrum expanded exponentially and I drew inspiration and energy from the people I met.

In September, salvation arrived. A Scrum Master position opened at a company in Clearwater. I got the job. I took a week off between jobs to write in my journal about what I’d been through and how it had affected me. I wrote about how I would leave the negative energy and thought patterns behind. When I had processed all of those negative emotions, I wrote about what I hoped to accomplish, and planned for how I would continue to grow my career in my new job.

It’s been not quite three months, and I’ve adapted very well. That’s not to say I still don’t have a lot to learn, and plenty of growth ahead of me, but I’m eager for it. I’m energized by the challenge, and happier at work than I’ve been in years.

What I went through changed me. I could have let it beat me down, but I chose to find a way to move forward. And with what I’ve learned from 2015, I know that there’s no reason I can’t achieve even greater success in 2016.