What Story Is My Career Telling?

Review season is upon us all again. Don’t tell me you love it, because while some pieces of feedback can be valuable from peers there is a ton of pain points along the road to a finished review. At Bottle Rocket Studios, we use360-degree feedback to fuel our bi-annual ritual; and I must say that this year I got much better feedback than usual.

As I was preparing for my review with my boss, I took some time to think of the story I have been writing for myself over the past (nearly) three years at the company. I think it’s extremely valuable to periodically read your own story and make sure it’s what you want to tell others.

So, I wrote down some things I created or worked on that went well, and some others that didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted. The best parts were the items that fell into both categories. When I was through, I had a story (longer than I thought it would be) of projects, internal initiatives, and learnings.

From that, I made a list of the top three of what I thought I was most and least proud of. And I was going to share that list here, but I quickly realized there were some themes from each list that warranted some true strengths I have right now.

Direct Interactions

Both levels of management above me agree that I am excellent when I’m working directly with people. When I’m teaching or training with individuals or teams, the passion I have with the material truly comes out. I believe that learning cultures set the stage for meaningful change, and to do that every organization must place people in position to reinforce new learnings.

This also comes from facilitation, the most direct way to teach someone. Probably because that’s the easiest way for me to learn, I find that if you can watch me do something once or twice the world can be your oyster. Followed up with a mentoring session, I feel confident in the end goal of education.

It’s also imperative to build a common language for everyone to use regardless of which vertical of the company you play in. We can’t have everyone walking around speaking their own language like we are in the Upper Room.

Research and Report

The world around us is constantly growing and evolving in the agile community. Across the world, I have the ability to connect and learn from thinkers and change agents just like me. I can learn tips and techniques, share presentations, and commiserate tough lessons.

When reviewing my story, I learned that many of those items I researched came in handy just when my company needed them.

Challenge for this kind of work is it’s tough to show on a Gantt chart or timesheet. There is no backlog item for constantly staying up to speed on what your company needs to be fed. The statistics from the State of Agile report, training materials for clients, and metrics on emerging trends have to come from some where.

All without a training budget.

Be an Ambassador

Many at my company have an agile mind and practice. That’s the beauty of a common sense based methodology. I don’t have to convince a VP that face-to-face communication between teams and business works, because no duh. However, many times an Agile Coach has to be the true face of this thinking at times for the company.

The best of the best can give credibility to our way or working without even lifting a finger.

Ambassadors sometimes have to roll their sleeves up and get in there with teams, as I’ve mentioned previously, but most of the time we are just a pretty face. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been texted and asked to come break a tie in some meeting. Other times I am presented with concepts and asked to experiment with an implementation on my teams.

Finally, we go tell others the good news. I’ve been fortunate enough to represent Bottle Rocket at some events and conferences, and many more are in my future this year.

So those are some awesome things I have going for me. Many times, it was just hard work during the right time at our company. However, what are some areas that I need to continue working on?

Developing a Coaching Plan

As much as I hate to admit it, we have a bit of a fire-fighting culture at times in our teams and I am no exception. When my coaching schedule is filled to the brim, I can sometimes flit around too much from Agile fire to Agile fire. If I want to continue to grow, I need to have a more organized approach.

I want to use things like Jason Little’s change canvas, or write some mission statements with individuals to create some tangible goals for growth.

A calendar should be created and adhered to for one-on-one mentoring for teammates. This could be akin to office hours, only with a closed agenda.

The real fruit from this learning will be a way to identify other budding agile leaders in the organization and turn them into an army of advocates that start coaching on their own.

Increased Understanding of ‘Standards’

There were many times in my story where I was asked to help stabilize teams across the organization and find come commonalities. Because our project teams stay together for such short periods, many felt that they didn’t know what kind of team was waiting for them on the next app.

Good part was that I was sometimes able to get some consistency. One of our verticals is a product group that was giving teams whiplash from all the change and fires. Three months later there was some light at the end of the tunnel. However, other times just as much chaos came from trying to herd cats as if I had left them alone.

Creatives love having things one way, and the engineers and quality personnel want it another. That struggle in and of itself is beautiful and maddening at the same time.

What I need is to continue finding ways to bring disciplines, stakeholders, and management together on common language and ground.

Learn to Experiment Better

As a learner who loves change, I often embrace the experiments that come from trying new techniques and methods. Training materials write themselves, and often I am expecting the change faster than expected. But at the heart of it all, I sometimes forget that I’m messing with people and their work.

Many of us take our craft personally, and a proposed change can challenge that. That’s why some of us fight it so much.

To get better, I need learn to think of the experiment outside of my vacuum and consider the daily cost of it before implementing it. This comes from more experience and a well-placed mentor walking beside me.

What’s Your Story?

Hopefully, I can continue writing an amazing story as we grow. What I would be interested in is how my story differs from yours. Would love to hear from you.


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