Youth in Agile is a new blog series sponsored by SolutionsIQ that gives young Agilists a voice in a world that is constantly changing and asking increasingly more of them. The contributors to this series are college-aged individuals who are part of the SolutionsIQ community — interns, participants of a certification course, family to SolutionsIQ’s core community. As Agile becomes more and more mainstream, it’s imperative that we begin listening to the next generation of Agilists who have hopefully learned from us and our mistakes and can continue down the path of growth in the work place that this generation and previous ones have carefully laid out.
This blog was written by Mia Rudd, an Economics and International Relations major at USC in California.
Two Eye-Opening Experiences in an Agile Work Environment
Before interning at SolutionsIQ, I had never really worked in a professional environment and I had almost no idea what Agile was. However, this past summer I had the opportunity to immerse myself in an Agile environment through my participation in a Certified ScrumMaster course here at SolutionsIQ and my internship with the sales department. Working in such a collaborative and cooperative office was a much different setup than I would have expected for my first job. It has been such a great experience exposing myself to the Agile work space and I hope I can work in a similar environment after I graduate from USC. I wanted to share my thoughts on my summer of eye-opening experiences at SolutionsIQ.
Getting My CSM
My first introduction to Agile was through the two-day Certified ScrumMaster course that SolutionsIQ offers. Although the class is usually comprised of solely working-age men and women, I was one of five college students given the opportunity to participate. Many of the attendees commented on how great it was for such young people to be exposed to Scrum and to start absorbing Agile concepts. They really enjoyed hearing our perspectives, giving us advice and sharing their experiences of the workplace. I enjoyed working with an older group of people, a much different experience than I’m used to at school. It was interesting observing how different ages operate and learn, especially during team exercises.
As opposed to many of the students in the class, I had no previous exposure to any kind of work environment, so, to me, learning Agile seemed obvious and intuitive. A lot of the attendees had trouble grasping concepts that seemed simple to me. I think they struggled with Agile because they had been using “waterfall” for so long. After the first day, it was hard to understand why all companies hadn’t already implemented Agile and why people would spend so much time and money learning something so basic.
As we started working in teams, I realized barely anyone felt the same way I did. What was really surprising to me was the small group dynamic and lack of effective teamwork. I’m used to working with unreliable college students, so I was sure working with a group of successful adults would be much easier. But I was wrong: a lot of the adults I worked with didn’t want to be team players. Many of them were unable to commit and agree to team decisions, slowing down the team as a whole. Additionally, several of them wanted to cheat in order to finish our group work quicker. This concerned me and really got me thinking – if these working adults would cheat on a fake project for a CSM course, a class meant to teach them teamwork and collaboration, then how they do they approach their real jobs?
Although I’m not interested in software development, I was still able to gain a lot from the CSM course. The instructors (Bryan Stallings and Jeff Nicholls) helped me apply Scrum to my everyday life, especially regarding schoolwork. In fact, I learned that making a backlog of work can be beneficial for almost any project, from redoing your backyard, to planning a Thanksgiving dinner.
My favorite concept from the course was learning about Sprints. When I was younger, I always imagined workers being stressed-out and drained, often required to stay late nights and weekends to meet deadlines and catch up on overflow work. The Sprint makes so much sense: it allows for work to be done efficiently, while avoiding unnecessary stress and overtime. In Scrum, projects are broken up into smaller tasks, and the team works in Sprints to perform the tasks. It also gives teams a sense of accomplishment once each project is finished, which likely boosts optimism and morale.
I think students my age would enjoy the CSM course because it provides a good perspective on how a work place should operate. Few people I know are even aware of what Agile is, but taking the CSM course completely opened my eyes and made me realize that working in an efficient, beneficial and simple environment isn’t as hard to achieve as you might expect.
Interning at SolutionsIQ was an incredibly valuable experience. Not only did I enjoy working in such a friendly and welcoming environment, but I was able to improve my communication and interpersonal skills in a professional setting.
The office is extremely interconnected. The departments blend together both physically, through the setup of desks, as well as socially, through the constant communication between people. Everyone knows one another and is constantly talking to each other and asking for feedback. I also really like the fact that everyone is treated the same — no one is clearly “above” or “below” anyone else. It’s far from an intimidating environment; in fact, it’s extremely comfortable and casual while still remaining productive. Everyone is working, but no one seems stressed.
My favorite project so far has been helping Renee Wright with event planning for Jeff Leach’s #SIQRoadtrip. Not only did I find campsites for Jeff to park his RV for the night, but I was also responsible for researching and organizing events and dinners all around the US, including a baseball game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. In addition, I compiled a list of the contact information and location of SolutionsIQ consultants so Jeff could easily organize his plans. It was a great experience communicating with Jeff and Renee, as well as the many event centers and restaurants I was in charge of contacting, especially since I’d love to be some form of event planner one day.
Not only were Jeff and Renee really easy to work with, but everyone I’ve had the opportunity to help has taught me so much. I mainly worked with the sales team, and they always made sure I understood the purpose of my work assignments and encouraged lots of questions before I began. They took the time to thoroughly explain projects, while simultaneously teaching me about the business world.
When I started my internship, I was unsure of what to expect and what others would expect from me, but because the SolutionsIQ environment is so social and friendly, it wasn’t hard for me to feel welcome immediately. The main takeaway I gained from this internship is improved communication skills. The constant emailing, video chatting and meeting with the other employees has really made me feel comfortable in a professional work environment. I used to take so long trying to decide how to respond to emails, worried I would say something wrong, but now it comes more easily.
In my opinion, the constant collaboration and feedback, as well as the general interconnectedness throughout the office provide the optimal work space for productivity. That’s why I’d love to work in an environment similar to that of SolutionsIQ after I graduate.