The One Where I Accidentally Presented At a Conference

By Zoë Kaler

Last September, I attended my first work conference: Agile Midwest 2019. Day one was called “Women in Agile.”  

The keynote speaker was an upbeat, knowledge-filled woman named Jenny Tarwater. Her interactive keynote included a worksheet to help us create an action plan for “Amplifying Our Voices.” There was a section on the worksheet called “I Will…” where we listed the things we, as women in agile, will do to amplify our voices. The first thing I wrote was “embrace the uncomfortable.” Little did I know how soon I would practice this pledge. 

Day two of Agile Midwest 2019 was called “Open Space.” Again, first work conference, so I had NO idea what that meant; I came to find out it essentially means crowdsourcing the day’s topics. All 350ish of us sat facing the middle of the room where the microphone and “stickies” were. If you had a topic you’d like discussed, you came to the middle, wrote it on a sticky and announced it to the room. Then you put the stickie on panels called the “Marketplace,” which indicated the time and room number for that topic. 

In the morning session, I sat back and watched. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to this group of seasoned conference-goes. However, when we reconvened for the afternoon, I knew I wanted to contribute. I saw a gap in the morning sessions. There was so much talk about how to do Agile, how to implement Agile, problems with Agile, but no talk about what happens after the product development parts of Agile. What do you do after you created this awesome product? How are you telling your users and stakeholders what you’ve accomplished? Are you even doing this at all?

I’ve found stories to be an effective way to talk about these product outcomes, so I added, “Storytelling in Agile” to the Marketplace. I chose the first time slot for the afternoon session, so after the Marketplace was full, the conference-goers disassembled to their selected topics and I headed to mine.   

1pm arrived. It was time to get started. Trying to start a conversation, I asked the room if they wanted to share how they practice storytelling in Agile. No one raised their hands. Someone piped up and said, “Aren’t YOU going to tell US??” My throat lumped up and I realized that these people were not here to have an open conversation. They were here to learn about something they knew nothing about, and they expect ME to teach THEM!  

I brought this topic to the Marketplace because it’s something I believe in. I studied storytelling in undergrad as a journalism major and in grad school as an information science student. I’ve gone on to practice it in my career. I know a thing or two about it, but, needless to say, I was not prepared to teach these people anything. I began to recall all I could from the IS 590: Storytelling course I took in the Fall 2018 semester. So, there I was, rambling about the story structure of “The Three Little Pigs”. I asked questions and got no hands, asked more questions and got blank stares. I felt the lump in my throat grow, my neck and face get hot, and my chest tighten. What the heck was I doing?!

Luckily, I had just been to a session called, “Everything Icebreakers,” so I decided to break the ice with a game called “Link Up.” The object of the game is to learn something about everyone in the room while forming a human “link.” The first person yells out something unique about them, such as “I have a cat!” and if you have a cat, you yell, “link up” and run up the that person and link arms. This goes on until everyone is “linked.” I saw this as an opportunity to not just breaking ice, but for me to prepare for the next 50 minutes. 

With the broken ice and then next 50 minutes roughly planned, I dove in, embracing the uncomfortable…

I told a story about the jacket I was wearing, how I’m trying to pay off my student loans at an accelerated pace, and how the trip to Ann Taylor LOFT to pick up said jacket set me back a little more than intended. That got a few laughs and boosted my confidence. I told them about the three main elements of a story: tale, teller, and audience. I asked them to tell their neighbor a story; then we talked about how they felt telling and listening. We talked about empathy and how we’re humans who remember narratives better than facts. Then we talked about “Three Little Pigs” (again) and “Little Red Riding Hood” and how those story structures can apply to the corporate world.  

This 60 minutes in conference room 103 at Agile Midwest Open Space was the scariest thing; standing up there, responsible for filling the heads of theses 20 or so individuals with knowledge. But it ended up being a huge growth opportunity. 

As I was looking over my notes from Agile Midwest 2019, that note I wrote under the “I Will…” section caught my eye. In fact, a ton on the notes I took at “Women in Agile” caught my eye. I’ve even signed up for their “Launching New Voices” program to improve my public speaking skills.  

I could’ve left the room, I could’ve ignored my urge to add to the Marketplace in the first place, but I felt a little fire that day that told me to keep going and stand in that uncomfortable place.

Women in Agile – European Edition

By Beth Hatter

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Women in Agile – Europe conference held 7 November 2019 in the lovely city of Amsterdam. The organizers did an amazing job creating an environment of learning, exploring, and inclusion for all attendees – who represented over 30 countries!

The day kicked off the first of three great keynotes from Jutta Eckstein who took us through exploring the world as our customer and how different types of interactions and relationships impact all the work we do and products we build – not just with the customer but also what is good for society and the planet.

The day continued with many amazing workshops and small group sessions – there were so many great topics on offer it was hard to choose! I was lucky to attend a session on eduScrum by Alisa Stolze – which explored bringing scrum into the education system and how this benefits students as well as teachers. This was a fascinating look into a very different approach to education than I’d seen before

As the second keynote, Carla Clarissa Van Stralen presented her journey through the corporate and how she came to coach females exclusively. She inspired us to develop our inner energies and authority as we explore the will to lead in new ways. 

The afternoon continued with great sessions and networking time, and some wonderful lightning talks (ok, a little bias there since I presented one!), and then Lyssa Adkins wrapped up the amazing day with her keynote on combining masculine and feminine energies for a better world.  With her inspiration and the energy of an amazing day of speakers, we all joined together for one last amazing dinner and departed ready to make our mark on the next step forward for each of us.

Women In Agile, Open Space, and Boats Oh My!

By April Jefferson

Magic and joyful exhaustion linger in the air as I am finally able to put sharpie to sticky note on my thoughts on the inaugural unconference, Women In Agile Open.

Authentically, I believed that the answer to the invitation would bring the right people. So much so, that as each ticket was sold we celebrated their pending arrival. Then I arrived on the boat expecting the unexpected.

The opening circle is where we affirmed whoever was there are the right people. They united and began stitching their stories together. Stories made of vulnerability, courage and curiosity, that anchored on inclusion from the seen and unseen forms of diversity in the space.

The theme of “Unlocking Potential Together” spoke to newbies and veterans and we moved beyond agendaless quickly. The space began to overflow with offerings. Many paired and merged their offerings together. The sessions around them were organic and void of ego, as each naturally nourished connection, often while in a circle.

Throughout the experience holding space felt organic as I adapted to the energy, experimented within constraints and nourished safety. Observing the openness, collaborations, and formation of connections felt amazing.

This open space was different than all the rest. Why we gathered became our anthem. All seemed to naturally embrace the principles and rule of open space as apart of their mindset. The energy felt authentic and deep, each person resolving to take their own path in their experience.

A natural crescendo occurred, when it was over it was over. And yet I was changed. I beamed and my soul shouted from the exuberation of our guests, from the touches put in place and experiences they had. Women shared the impact of the experience, the connections, gratitude for one another, and their future intentions.

Women In Agile Open came to be from my desire to create a space where women could empower other women, bring to the surface talents within, share learnings with one another, discover collaborators, inspire future speakers, foster allies, and build community.

My vision and intentions manifested. I am honored to be apart of the journey that so many said would forever cement in their life story.

April Jefferson, Women In Agile Open Chairwoman

Women in Agile and Open Space: A match made in … Cleveland?

By Nicole Derr

Photo Credit: April Jefferson

It was an unseasonably sunny and warm Saturday morning in October when a diverse collection of 40 women and allies met for the first ever Women In Agile Open on the banks of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. We arrived from locations as far afield as Seattle, Washington D.C., and Florida, and as near as across town. We all turned up to discuss issues related to the theme “Unlocking Potential Together”.

The Open Space format turned out to be a perfect match for the organic, collaborative, and   supportive nature of the women in attendance. Each attendee had the opportunity to lead sessions, which provided a rich and varied collection of topics and conversations.

We contemplated a wide range of topics, including “Retrospective Sharing”, “How to Define a High Performing Team”, “Something Other than Sorry”, “Language Matters”, “Unmasking Imposter Syndrome”, “Rapport Mapping”, “Agile Meets Primary Education”, and “My Culture is Messing with my Agile Success”. We also played two collaboration games, and made plans to revamp a quiet Women in Agile chapter in Atlanta and begin a new chapter in Cleveland. Not bad for two days’ effort!

The venue couldn’t have been more inspiring. Who wouldn’t be in their best frame of mind on a literal boat? Modern, bright, and open meeting spaces, both inside and outside, provided a waterfront backdrop that definitely aided the relaxed and friendly feel of the event. If you sat quietly for a moment (which attendees were often invited to do), you could even feel the waves gently lapping at the boat. It was like a vacation … with 40 of your best girlfriends. Of course, the food, including brunch and high tea, and social events, including a happy hour, karaoke at a nightclub, and wine, dinner, and dancing on a sunset cruise, might have also contributed to the vacation effect.

In the closing ceremony, attendees were asked to reflect on the past two days and share their thoughts. Overwhelmingly, attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn from, and be supported by, others who “look like them”. Old connections were rekindled and new connections were formed. It was unanimous that Women in Agile Open should become an annual event. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Photo Credit: Gagan Marwaha

Have An Espresso and A Smile–A recap of the ATX WiA Lean Espresso Session at Keep Austin Agile 2019

By Sydney Markle

“I haven’t seen you in years!” the woman yelled out as she embraced her friend. They beamed at each other as we started our round table discussion on how Agile can be used anywhere. 

Moments like this are what make the Austin Chapter of Women in Agile standout. At the recent Keep Austin Agile 2019 conference, Kate Kolchier, Taylor Frank, Erin Randall, Mindy Honcoop and Syd Markle hosted a hands-on open discussion called Lean Espresso.  

Much like a Lean Coffee, where participants determine the agenda, we ran 5 concurrent conversations:

  • Professions
  • Games
  • Soft Skills that Pay the Bills
  • Agile Anywhere
  • Tips and Tools

Participants spent two minutes brainstorming what they wanted to discuss each topic, and a lively discussion followed for 8-10 minutes. Then we invited participants to switch tables if they like. Sort of like speed-dating meets Lean Coffee. 

The goal of this session was to invite people to get a taste of our meetup. It was fun to run, and participants were smiling and connecting, which was the outcome we sought. 

For the past year, every month, we gather to share and support women who are building their understanding and reputation in the Agile community.

Our community provides opportunities for aspiring voices to test out their topics in front of a group, as well as peer coaching for improving the material. One past speaker had her presentation accepted by a conference and furthered her dream to write a book. Others have attended after losing a job and found confidence in our community to find another job. 

It’s a crazy special kind of community that people keep coming back to… even yoga instructors! 

We are so excited for another year for the Austin Chapter of Women in Agile and the magic moments that occur by just bringing people together and giving them a place to see themselves and be themselves.

Call to Action:

  • In Austin? Join us at our monthly ATX WiA Meetup!
  • Somewhere else in the world? So are Women in Agile! We’re now on 6 continents! Find your local community
  • Don’t see a local Women in Agile community in your area? Start one!
  • Already part of a community, please share stories about the magic moments you are finding in your group in the comments.

SAFe SuMMit WiA EVENT Recap

by Beth Hatter

Another great Women in Agile event at the annual global SAFe summit! Although it was an early start on a gorgeous morning in San Diego, the room quickly filled to the point they had to bring in extra tables and chairs to match the crowd. It’s always exciting to see so many allies at the events!

We kicked the day off hearing about Women in Agile from our hosts, Angel Chavez and Deema Dajani from Scaled Agile. They gave a quick overview of the programs Women in Agile has in place to support all of us and then moved on to our wonderful speakers.

Em Campbell-Pretty started off describing her journey and how she took risks that led to some great adventures. Even though failure seemed likely, taking the step forward into the unknown was an inspirational theme woven through her funny talk. By the end she had us all up dancing – literally!

We next heard from Riddhi Gupta and her wonderful story of starting the Women in Agile Charlotte chapter. Her story inspired us that great things can start from small groups, and we should all be bold enough to take that first step to see what awaits.

The morning was a great start to the day with connections being made, laughter shared, and new friendships forming. I always appreciate the supportive, welcoming, inclusive environment at Women in Agile events, and I look forward to the next one.

Agile2019 – Recap Women In Agile

By Cheryl Hammond, Co-Chair (WiA @ Agile20xx)

On the Sunday afternoon before Agile2019, the 300 people (our largest audience ever – sold out) in the Women in Agile community convened in Washington, D.C. for our annual, international, half-day conference. I’ve been privileged to be a part of these events since they began, and each year we’ve chosen a theme to organize our ideas and activities: 2016 Inform, 2017 Empower, 2018 Expand, and this year: Activate! (Being of a certain age, I can’t help thinking about Wonder Twin Powers whenever I say it…)

Code of Conduct

Before the conference even began, I had the privilege of sitting down with Paul Hammond (no relation, as far as we know) and Becky Hartman from the Agile Alliance Board, who would be presenting the Agile Alliance’s—and therefore, by extension, our—conference Code of Conduct later in the day. Every year, the Alliance has done meaningful work to further develop the Code of Conduct and how it’s presented, both at our conference and at the big Agile20xx event. At the kickoff of our event, we got to see them present the latest iteration, and both Becky and Paul spoke from the heart about how our Code of Conduct is intended to create a conference environment that actively welcomes those of us who haven’t always felt we belonged at a large tech industry gathering. I remember those days and that difference is personal for me!

Keynote

Stephanie Thomas, founder of Cur8able and creator of the Disability Fashion Styling System™, shared her personal journey helping people with disabilities dress with confidence, dignity, and self-reliance. As a member of the conference program team, I came in familiar with Stephanie’s TEDx talk and her interview with Vox, among others, but the talk she shared with us was even more personal and relatable for Women in Agile than I expected. Years ago, Stephanie observed a lack of accessibility in the fashion industry—shutting out people with disabilities, their family and friends, and an estimated $6 trillion in their aggregate income—and initially assumed that large established design and retail systems would want to change when presented with data and rational argument. Sound familiar, agilists?

Stephanie had built a successful career in journalism and media while pursuing access as a “hobby”. Then she flipped the script, going back to college for an additional degree in fashion. That’s when she discovered that speaking the industry’s language opened doors that had previously been closed to her. Knowing how the industry worked gave her the power to claim her place in it and disrupt it. She activated her passion and made it her vocation!

Along the way, I appreciated learning more respectful ways to think about people with seated body types (a new term for me). Individuals may identify using either people-first or identity-first terminology, a good reminder to be open and curious about what matters to the person we’re talking to, rather than making assumptions.

Collaboration

Each year, we devote most of our conference time to collaboration, and in 2019 we used the World Café format to activate “neighborhoods” in our (big!) meeting space—groups of tables representing Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Chinatown, and Adams Morgan—around a series of three broad, ambitious questions:

  • What is the commitment you hold that brought you into this space?
  • What can we create together that will make a difference in our communities?
  • What do I promise?

Yogita Dhond, Rose Hyde, and Kate Mountain served as our “baristas” for the day, shepherding each neighborhood through the process of idea generation and dissemination, of course with a healthy dose of networking and new productive relationships along the way. We wrote, drew, and laughed together as each table and neighborhood figured out how they wanted to engage with these questions and connect with others to activate creative ideas. Each neighborhood shared out key concepts, and we collected all the colorful table sheets at the end of the day to archive and browse later!

Launching New Voices

Capping off an energizing event, our inspiring New Voices speakers—women of promise with no prior national conference speaking experience—delivered three short talks that remind us how bright the future of Women in Agile truly is. Leah Burman shared the story of NASA’s 1969 Apollo program, the inspiring technical women who helped us get to the moon, and how agile principles are evident in their path to success; Nazee Hajebi helped us understand the impact of trauma, both physical and psychological, and how to create a safe environment for our teams to thrive; and Arundhati Dutta taught us ways to improve our coaching with concrete techniques for greater empathy. Leah and Arundhati have also shared their impressions of the conference overall!

We’ve only been doing LNV for a few years, but past protégés have already gone on to extraordinary careers as conference speakers and leaders in the WiA community. We’re excited to see where this year’s speakers’ journeys will take them!

Closing thoughts

On a whim, I asked from the stage how many in the audience were attending a Women in Agile conference for the first time, and I was so shocked by the percentage of upraised hands! Perhaps it was the Washington, D.C. effect—when I used to work in the public sector, every low-cost professional conference that didn’t require travel was a development opportunity to be seized. Still, I can’t help but think about the momentum we’ve built as an organization—Women in Agile became a 501(c)(3) non-profit this year—and the increase in attendance year over year, to the point that we’re now filling the Agile Alliance’s largest spaces to capacity with a wait list.

We can’t wait to see you next July 19 in Orlando, Florida. If you’re interested in serving as a volunteer organizer or an LNV mentor, or applying to speak as an LNV protégé, follow @womeninagileorg on Twitter to catch all our calls to Activate! in 2020 and beyond!

Thank you to our T-shirt sponsors of this event, Accenture|Solutions IQ and subscribe to our Women in Agile Podcast!

Recap of BAI Presents: Women in Agile

Two weeks ago, the Conference Allyship program of Women in Agile partnered with a new conference for a new event format and new topic. The result was BAI Presents: Women in Agile (sponsored by Accenture | Solutions IQ). Our inaugural partnership with both Accenture | Solutions IQ and the Business Agility Institute was a great success. If you missed it, here’s the recap.

Fabiola Eyholzer

 

Keynote: Fabiola Eyholzer

The event was held in New York City and was kicked off with a social hour and networking leading up to a fantastic keynote. Fabiola Eyholzer, CEO of Just Leading Solutions and Agile HR expert, keynoted for an audience of 80 people discussing diversity of thought and its importance in the workplace in The Power of Female Leaders in the Agile Enterprise. She highlighted some key problems to not having a diverse workplace and expressed greater overall diversity (not only gender) as a vital marker of successful organizations.

The targeted networking and skill building event of the evening was Speed Mentoring. Groups of 5-7 people sat together and made a backlog of topics they are experts on. They dot-voted to prioritize who would speak first and then one person practiced their speaking on the fly skills and mentoring the others in the group on their chosen (agile related or not) topic for 5-7 minutes. It was a great way to break the ice and practice teaching, speaking, and mentoring skills in a low pressure environment. (for more info and instructions please email)

Women sitting in a circle - speed mentoring

 

Speed Mentoring Group

Finally we ended the evening with a high stakes game of group Rock-Paper-Scissors with books for the winners. We hope to see you next year and at any of our other Conference Allyship / WiA Flagship Events. We look forward to continue helping grow this outstanding community through events like this in the future!

Resources: Slides from Fabiola’s Keynote

Thank you to our sponsors

BAI Presents: Women in Agile 2019

Join us for another edition and conference pairing of Women in Agile, sponsored by Solutions IQ and hosted by the Business Agility Conference. Great leaders come in all forms, and gender should not matter when determining if someone has the individual strengths and characteristics to lead employees. But even though men and women are equally qualified, many barriers still persist and women are still underrepresented in top leadership.

This is about to change: Feminine traits long considered as drawbacks to strong people management are the key strengths of 21st-century leadership. But the new leadership approach is about far more than equality and closing the gender gap. It is about creating workplaces that stand for empowering employees and embracing a diversity of thought while shaping the next generation of leaders, that can successfully guide people in an age of uncertainty and change.

Keynote: Fabiola Eyholzer

Join us for Women in Agile, a half-day conference focused on implementing business agility through agile HR and active mentoring. The keynote speaker will be Fabiola Eyholzer. Fabiola Eyholzer is a pioneer in Lean | Agile People Operations and CEO of Just Leading Solutions LLC, a New York based consultancy for Agile HR. In two decades as Management Consultant and Executive Advisor, Fabiola has worked with numerous key players across various industries and countries. They seek her expertise in Business Agility, Human Resources, Compensation & Performance Management, Operations & Processes, and Strategy. Together with her team, she helps enterprises to accelerate their agile transformation by focusing on their crucial asset: their people.

After the keynote, participants will engage in interactive activities (speed mentoring and presentation karaoke) to discuss and implement what they’ve learned. We look forward to this exciting pre-conference event and hope you will join us for Women in Agile!

Recap of the Women in Agile Conference at Agile2018

By: Joanna Vahlsing @joannavahlsing

The Women in Agile Conference at Agile2018 was sold out this year at 230 registrants and a waitlist dozens long. Last year we had over a hundred participants, and the year before that around 80. Love all the support for the Women in Agile community.

Natalie Warnert kicked us off with a warm welcome, an overview of the logistics of the event and really spoke to the reasons why the work we’re doing is so important, and that everyone there was playing a role.

She turned it over to Paul Hammond and Becky Hartman, who gave a brief update to the Code of Conduct and asked for participation in a voting exercise on the frequency of various issues that one may have experienced and/or witnessed. This information was used in the Agile Tonight segment later that week, where there was be a session on diversity and inclusion and ideas for how to be more proactive to help elevate the learning for everyone. Psychological safety was also a topic.

Then it was time to welcome April Wensel, founder of Compassionate Coding to deliver our keynote. Her keynote was titled Expanding Your Circle of Compassion for Greater Impact.

The wonderful Tamsen Mitchell created the below graphic.

After the break, it was time to break into our groups for facilitated Lean Coffee topics. We had a lively discussion about the topics and were able to get a lot of great ideas and helpful content when the tables shared their biggest learnings.

Working session on ideas for how to support Women in Agile

After the final break, it was time for the Launching New Voices program.

Suzi Webber spoke on Working Collaboratively – the power for treating people like adults, where she shared a story of how she and her son worked through conflict and the techniques that she learned and applied. Suzi’s recap of her experience can be found here.

Then Farzenah Orak shared she very moving and motivating story about how she was able to overcome setbacks and reach her goals. Impressive all-around! Her recap of the experience can be found here.

It was a wonderful way to kick off the Agile2018 conference and looking forward to continued success. If you’re interested in helping Women in Agile, please reach out to info@womeninagile.org.