Making Safety a Prerequisite for Your Meetups

by Anjali Leon, South Florida Women in Agile group

Meetups have awakened new possibilities for people who have similar interests to find each other and meet face to face to learn, share, and expand their common interests.  

Creating one of these special interest groups is as easy as creating an account on meetup.com and sponsoring a new group for $89.00 for 6 months.  Add a compelling description, a geographic location, and sprinkle a few search keywords to attract people with a similar interest, and you have created a special space for connection!   Once you have announced the venue and topic for your first meetup, you can sit back and watch the magic of the internet unfold. People who were once strangers start joining the group and become part of a growing network and community.

Who can join a meetup?  Who can show up to an event?  Well, the beauty in the model is that anybody can join.  And that is also the  scary part!

In 2015, I founded South Florida Women in Agile and have organized monthly events with my co-organizer, Colleen Esposito ever since.  As organizers we have the pleasure of creating a unique space for curiosity, connection, co-creation, and community to emerge—and we also shoulder the responsibility to do what we can to ensure the safety of the people who attend our meetups as well as the security of the organizations that offer their venues to host our events. While always hoping the extra effort is unnecessary, we do our due diligence to create a physically and psychologically safe space for all our members.

Here are some tips that may help you make safety a prerequisite for your own meetup groups.

Vet potential members

Include a verification step before anyone joins the meetup.  Acceptance into our meetup group is a 2-step process where one of the meetup organizers needs to officially approve a new member.

Get a sense of whether the new member is a good fit for your group.  We ask each potential member 3 questions about their Agile experience, their role in the organization, and what they hope to get from the group.

Verify the new member’s identity.  We check that the potential member’s profile includes their full name and valid photo and, if not, we ask them to update their profile.  We then verify the member’s identity on another social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or similar.

Publish and enforce a code of conduct

Add a code of conduct to your meetup description and let any new member know they are expected to abide by that code of conduct.  We use the official Women In Agile code of conduct to address the values and intentions of our group.

Do not tolerate any behavior that violates the code of conduct.  Luckily, we have never had to call out a violation of the code of conduct (so far).

Make the meetup location only visible to people who sign up

When posting a new meetup, select the option of making the meetup location only visible to people who sign up in order to deter unexpected attendees.

Verify and keep a record of attendees

If you are hosting your meetup at a company, send the attendee list to your contact at least 2 days prior to the meetup.  Some hosting organizations require the attendee list to be vetted by their security department—it may be a bit of a pain, but well worth the effort.

Ask your attendees to sign in so that you have a record of everyone who attended.

Facilitate connections

Send a welcome note to new members letting them know what they can expect from the meetup and remind them about the code of conduct.

Personally welcome each member at the meetup—especially those attending for the first time.  And make a conscious effort to remember their names.

Allow time for networking.  Facilitate a simple ice breaker when possible.

Offer snacks and refreshments.   Food is a great connector.

Share information about upcoming events.  We regularly share information about other Agile meetups and events.

Create opportunities for members to contribute and connect.  Facilitate events where everyone gets to participate and solicit topics for a future meetup.  Engage members to facilitate or host a meetup. Enlist them to volunteer for a local event or encourage them to bring a friend to an upcoming meeting.  Ask them to help grow the group.

I hope you find these safety tips useful, reasonable, and practical. Use (for LinkedIn:  the comment section ) our #Slack channel to share your own tips for making psychological and physical safety a built-in prerequisite for all of your fantastic future meetups.

Be Bold and Lead with Love!

Be Bold and Lead with Love!

The Women in Agile breakfast at SAFe Summit 2018

By Deema Dajani

We came together at the SAFe Summit in DC, and left with inspiration and new connections.  This event was Women in Agile’s second year at the Summit, and the results did not disappoint. In sharing this experience with you, let us recap what we saw, experienced, and felt.

We saw

Growth!  The event attendance doubled from last year, and sold out a month in advance.  People showed up as early as 6:00am. Even at that hour, the energy level was high.  Since the event, several local groups have launched including Panama City, Toronto, and Boston.  This means Women in Agile local communities broke a barrier by going global!  

We experienced

Energy!  Attendees were engaged and interacting despite the early hour.  One attendee tweeted “Thank you for a lovely and lively event and for reminding me why I came here!”.  

I opened the day with appreciations to the wonderful event team, Scaled Agile for sponsoring, and the Women in Agile board.  Then we shined the light on the wonderful work happening in the local communities that are organically forming around the country, these are groups supported by the Women in Agile organization.  The local group leaders are passionate volunteers, that generously dedicate their time to nurture their local Woman in Agile communities. The key message was to support the local Women in Agile groups near you:  1) join them and attend their gatherings, 2) for notable speakers or authors to volunteer to present at the local meet ups, and 3) for businesses to sponsor their activities, as the #1 request we get from local group leaders is for a couple of hundred dollars to cover refreshments for their meetups.  

 

Then we introduced the featured speaker Sally Elatta, who gave a most moving talk titled Be Bold, Be Real, and Lead with LOVE.  

Sally opened with her personal journey of overcoming barriers, as a young girl born in Sudan who migrated to the US with her family, and eventually started her business which thrived despite tough economic times. It was also interesting to see Sally’s strong connection to family woven through her presentation, this made her real and relatable to the audience.  

The talk centered around three powerful mantras:  Be bold, be real, and lead with love.

The first mantra is Be Bold.  Sally introduced it with quotes from Mandela and Jennifer Lee, encouraging us to be fearless in pursuit of what sets our soul on fire. Then she shared a personal mantra, “If a young girl from Sudan can come here and be successful, you can’t tell me something can’t be done’”.  That was a message to the audience to be bold with their Agile transformations. Dream big – your big dream could be to lead a very large transformation, your big dream could be to step up in a current role that you have now and show people who you really are. 

Then a surprising observation was shared, with a call to action Many of the enterprise business agility transformations I’m in right now are led by very powerful woman that bring heart and soul everyday to that transformation… so show up, lead the change and show who you really are, don’t be afraid, be bold and show them what ‘different’ looks like.”  This topic was wrapped up with the importance of mentors who encourage you to break through your personal constraints, Sally gave a nod to her mentors who included the late Jean Tabaka.

Be Real was the next matra.  Sally showed vulnerability with a personal story related to ‘imposter syndrome’ and shared a story about a time when her core beliefs were under attack at an executive retreat and how she found her courage to face the situation.  There was not a dry eye in the house at that point!  All of us have something inside our heart that make us feel like imposters, being afraid to speak up or show who we really are, feeling like we don’t belong, but when you find that courage to speak up, you could make a lasting impact on those around you.  Sally’s message was clear, to speak up when we face those moments of fear. The book Radical Candor by Kim Scott was cited for giving candid feedback.

Lead with Love was the final mantra that brought it home.  Sally shared her leadership style for her company Agile Transformation, which is a wholesome inclusive style grounded in shared values.  These values are very visible, Sally flashed the “wall of values” they have posted in the common area of their offices.  The values started with “we do what we say we’ll do”, and ended with “plant seeds” not weeds. You could hear the audience reaction to the painted wall, many felt they can take back to their organizations.  

 

We felt

Connected!  Attendees shared some emotional moments, moments of inspiration, and a sense of community.  We closed with an excerpt from Sally’s wall of values, a reminder to “lift each other up”.

That’s a wrap

With that, we concluded one event and left with the intent to stay connected through our local communities. See you at the next Women in Agile experience!

 

Special thanks to the event team: Liza Ridgway, Bria Schecker, Angel Chavez, Laura Powers, Alex Kanaan, Padmini Nidumolu, Kate Casey, Deema Dajani.

 

Featured speaker Sally Elatta with the Women in Agile Board Natalie Warnert, Eric Willeke, Deema Dajani, and Joanna Vahlsing (not in the picture)

4 Tips for Starting Your Women in Agile Group

by Elaine Brady, Denver Women in Agile group

A full-time job. Family and travel. Extracurriculars.

It’s not always easy to make time for a passion project with just 24 hours in a day, but that’s the funny thing about passion…there’s always a community (and brunch…and mimosas) there to support you.

That’s certainly the case with the small but mighty team behind Women in Agile-Denver, which hosted its kick-off Meetup on Sept. 25 at Galvanize Golden Triangle. We coordinated our first Meetup with Denver Startup Week in order to help drive traffic and start out with a bang! Thanks to some amazing gals at Galvanize Golden Triangle, we were able to pull this off!

For those of you interested in getting involved, or launching your own Women in Agile group, here are a few tips to inspire and engage the passionate community of ours.

1. Make Small Talk…Always

It all started with an elevator ride at Agile 2018 with Dr. Gail Ferreira. I had the chance to chat about the need for a Denver WIA group. We followed that conversation up with breakfast, and off we went. A huge shoutout to Deema Dajani for her continued support as we learn and grow.

2. Assemble a Rockstar Team

Deema was instrumental in helping me gather my thoughts and organize this first Meetup with a grassroots approach. From there I asked my good friend, Vesta Insam to join. Just like that, there are 2 of us.. And Deema calls with another woman who was interested. Patricia Tostado jumped on board. The 3 of us make a really great team! We met up for a nice Saturday brunch and our first guest speaker, Ti Mougne, joined.

3. Nail the Content

The 4 of us had an intellectually stimulating conversation and I could not wait until our first event! We knocked out the details during our planning brunch. We covered talking points, Ti’s presentation objectives, food/drink prep, marketing materials and how we would drive more traffic through LinkedIn, Meetup.com and Denver Startup Week. This was it, this is what we had been waiting for.. In only 5 short weeks we were able to pull this event together as a team!

4. Rinse. Wash. Repeat

  • Find sponsorship. Plans and budgets change, make a list and work with organizations in your area for a running list of sponsors for future events. Huge thanks to Colleen Johnson & ImagineX Consulting for their generous sponsorship.
  • Snacks and beverages are key. Week nights are hard, family, working full-time and committing to another community can be a lot, too. Incentivizing your attendees is an easy way to break down barriers.
  • Secure your space. Make it easy to access and familiar to members so they want to return to the warm, welcoming space each month. DSW was pivotal in posting our Meetup page and information on their marketing materials which helped drive traffic to our first event.
  • Share away! LinkedIn, Meetup, Twitter, social media to the max!

In my mind, the motivation behind starting Women in Agile Denver came from a need for Agile collaboration and inclusiveness in the Denver community. I wanted to feel part of a community that truly believes in an Agile approach, who really wanted to learn and grow from each other, who challenged each other in a positive way. The energy behind Meetups and networking events can feel like forced fun and can frankly be exhausting. I wanted to create a safe space where all ideas are welcome, we’re inclusive and diverse in our thought process and collaboration.

The sense of community we have built so far just feels amazing, in the most genuine way. I have never felt so at ease with a group of women in a professional setting. The amount of support and perspective brought to the table amazes me. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such motivated women who see a similar need in the community. Because of you all, showing up, giving us data, objectives and topics you would like covered–we are off to a very exciting start. When you combine a few passionate women who have a shared vision to tackle a need in a community, the rest just falls into place!

See you all on October 23 at Galvanize Golden Triangle in Denver! #WomeninAgile

Austin Local group kicks off!

Austin Women in Agile launched with an active meetup last Thursday September 13, 2018.  This vibrant community is off to a great start!

We invite recognized speakers and innovators from around the country to connect with this group, when your travels take you to great city of Austin.

Inspired by a Women in Agile gathering at Keep Austin Agile, Kate Kolchier took the initiative and organized the local Austin Women in Agile group along with Erin Randall, Mindy, and Taylor Frank.  Their first Meetup was last Thursday.  Kate shared how this first event went:

The Meetup went fantastic! As good as we could have hoped! We had about 20-ish people show up. Everyone was engaged and participating in our activities. They all said they can’t wait until next month. We’ve decided on the fourth Thursday monthly, at 6:30pm.

Click here to learn more about Women in Agile local groups.

Women in Agile Hosts their 3rd Annual Women in Agile Conference at Agile2018

On Sunday, August 5, 2018, Women in Agile held their third annual Women in Agile Conference at Agile2018. April Wensel, founder of Compassionate Coding, keynoted the sold-out event, and the group of over 200 participated in a Lean Coffee session before the two New Voices each took the stage to share their story. Huge appreciation to Tamsen Mitchell for the graphical recordings of the event.

Videos of the event can be found at the bottom of the Agile Alliance Initiative page.

For a recap of the event, check out this post, and we hope to see you at next year’s event. If you’re interested in helping Women in Agile, please reach out to info@womeninagile.org.

Graphical Recording by Tamsen Mitchell

Women in Agile at Agile2018 featured on Agile Uprising Podcast

In this podcast,  Agile Uprising’s Andy Cleff @justsitthere chats about the changing face of agile with a panel of guests:

We cover a range of topics ranging from gender issues, emotional intelligence, social consciousness, imposter syndrome, open space and the Women In Agile workshop being held at Agile2018 this August.

The overarching topic is how our community can continue supporting and compassionately including underrepresented groups.