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A Stairway to Paradise!

When you have been in a squad, you feel you have had a triumphant learning experience.

After a long break, I thought of writing this little experience sharing blog here on a roller coaster learning saga I had in the month of October 2018 at London.

You must have seen a photo that I posted on my LinkedIn while I was leaving my town towards London. Yes, it was worth posting a picture as I was heading to attend my first ever Scrum Gathering – the mother of all gatherings and conferences.

For a change, I wasn’t a delegate at the conference, nor a speaker this time, but a Volunteer. I always wanted to taste different flavors of Agile by being in different roles at these gatherings.

I was fortunately a part of the Scrum Gathering London 2018 (SGLON18) review submission team. 

At this point, I am honored to write a couple of lines about Tony Richards. He is a wonderful human being and a born leader/coach.  He believes in nurturing talent and encouraging them to achieve more and more. I strongly feel this is a great trait to have as a leader. Your contribution is big for me to do all that I am doing here in the UK mate, Thanks Tony!

So, I was curious to see how the topics I reviewed are presented at the conference and hence applied to become a volunteer. They humbly accepted the request and offered a position of a volunteer at the gathering in London. We were gracefully called the ‘Scrum Squad’.

All the Scrum Squad members assembled on a Sunday morning for a sumptuous breakfast. Oh wait! It was not only for the breakfast though. The responsibilities of the squad members were to ensure that the delegates coming to the conference should have one of those best experiences ever. It was a simple ask, however, there are many things that go into it to make it a reality. 

We were 12 of us and had to pack some 860+ bags, which we completed within a record time of 4 hours or sorts. The whole team was extremely energetic and enthusiastic to take part in these activities and our mission was to wrap the day’s activities as soon as possible that day.

Our morning efforts were greatly complimented yet again by Scrum Alliance by providing the whole team a great vegetarian friendly lunch (at least for me). That was the time we all got around the lunch table and spent some time knowing each other better. After all, that was important, wasn’t it? For the next three days, we were to work together with a common vision; ensure that the delegates coming to the conference should have one of the best experiences ever.

A few other activities that we were involved on that day was to set things up at the registration desk to welcome our delegates the next day.

Pretty much with our tasks cut out for the next three days, it was that time when my legs looked at me and said, “You go on with your work, go on without me”.

It was the 8th of October, a great start on a bright Monday morning. People started walking in. We had to issue their conference lanyards welcoming them into the conference. It is a good routine that all the delegates choose the labels to go with their lanyards like the one you see below:

Margherita  and I had a great time at the registration desk, meeting people, greeting them, welcoming them into the conference and of course our little chat about gluten free meals etc.

The sessions began and since the squad members had their tasks assigned to each other (as a self-organised team), we had this advantage of being a part of these sessions and network with people there.

The first session I was a part of on day one was nothing but fun. Yes, it was facilitated by Neil Mullarkey.

Following Neil's session, I wanted to be at Mr.Sahota’s talk. I have always liked going through Michael's articles on his website and this was my opportunity to experience his talk in-person. All the listeners were exposed to some great insights around how one needs to embrace the change first to really introduce one.

Michael's kindness demonstrated while posing for a  photo with me.

Day one closed with a massive get together at Gaint Robot at Canary Wharf. The whole conference lot were present at the venue; networking, knowing each other, some great food and drinks to compliment the meet.

Day two: Yet another big day, where some experienced speakers were scheduled to talk and share their experiences. I was at the registration desk on day two as well. We already had about 800+ coming in on day one, with that day two was not too busy of a day at the registration as we had very few coming in that day.

I should mention our 'Signage and Supplies' cart man, one of our squad members Ian Davies. What an entertainer he has been at this gathering :)  Ian was there with his cart all the time, ready to supply any stationery materials to the rooms and would ensure those are in place before any sessions begins.

The beauty of this squad was that no one really felt they were burdened with work. It was so easily managed and with that spark of fun and smile all the time.

Day two had a good ending at the venue of the conference with a happy hours evening. I remember few of us were trading happy hours coupons for a handshake and hug with people (Margherita, there is no guilt now) :P

Day three was a very special day to me as I was dreaming about meeting this person, my idol, my guru, the co-creator of  Scrum, and CEO of Scrum Inc. Dr. Jeff Sutherland all my life and finally that day came true. I was extremely cautious about just walking up to him and shaking hands with him and introducing myself. I was also contemplating on what could possibly happen? He may say he was busy then or he may greet me with a hand shake in return. To my pleasant surprise, the latter came true. I met him, shook hands and introduced myself to him. He gracefully listened to all that I had to say. He and I started talking about many things, like how Alexas and Google homes taking over humans these days, how can we measure the productivity in Agile teams, how his team walked out of an agreed deal with a manufacturing giant etc. A 30-min talk with him literally pepped me up and made me feel all my efforts that I put in to make it to the conference was worthwhile.

With this, I want to mention about my lovely Scrum Squad. Like any other Scrum teams, we had our daily stand up meetings at 11:05 AM, scrum mastered by Julianne Jones. It becomes my rightful duty to write a few lines about Julianne. She was a great Scrum Master for this squad, who believed is true servant leadership. Right from the day one, she was seeking advice from us, who were a part of previous programs, and she let teams build ideas around that rather than pushing her thoughts down our throats.  Her constant appreciations kept all of us on our toes and we never ever were fatigued with the tasks at hand, running around a few miles within the location etc (we had a little competition going on as well, I think Sean won the race with around 40 thousand odd steps on each day).

My sincere thanks to Scrum Alliance (Leticia Duarte specifically) to have given me the opportunity to become a scrum squad member at the gathering.

Yet again, I would like to thank Tony Richards for his continuous encouragement, motivation and most importantly believing in me. You’re a star, Tony.

I have another humble friend who is behind making my Agile experiences great - Steve Granados. He was my ex-supervisor. However, we both never had that Manager-subordinate relationship ever. He has been a great support and encouragement for all that I do in the Agile world. So, thanks SteveG!

Last but not the least, friends from my own scrum squad. We smashed the event and possibly made a mark demonstrating our self-organisation and cohesive unit. Thank you guys! Hoping to be a part of this squad at many more gatherings in the future.

Cheers to all my Scrum Squad friends! Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.


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