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 Izzy Quartararo who works in the Finance department of SolutionsIQ.
I started working at SolutionsIQ, when I was 16 years old, processing employee expenses as well as performing a few other small tasks a few hours a week. I was still in high school at the time. When I was 18 and graduated, I decided to go in a new direction and went on to pursue something different for a little over a year. After I felt that I learned all that I could learn, I decided to come back to SolutionsIQ! I was welcomed back with open arms and I am so grateful for that. I have been back for about two years now and SolutionsIQ has changed so much! In a good way, obviously. We have acquired two new companies and nothing could be more amazing to watch. SolutionsIQ is always presenting me with new challenges as a result of these changes, which enables me to gain new and valuable knowledge from all of my experiences here. I am going to school to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources and it is always great to be able to apply the things that I am learning in school to what I am doing at work. I have learned so much about Agile and it has been so valuable to me, both inside the workplace and out.
Agile in the Workplace
Currently I work full time as part of the Expense Team in the Finance Department. The Expense Team processes employee expenses as well as assists the Billing Team with invoicing our clients for the billable expenses that our consultants incur. The Finance Team uses several important Agile activities in our day-to-day work as well as our near-term and long-term strategy. SolutionsIQ’s Finance Team does a standup every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:00 am. Members of the team that aren’t physically in the office call in remotely to participate. Standup gives us a chance to visually see what everyone is working on for the next two days, reach out for help if it is needed and allows the team to connect, especially the ones who work remotely in other parts of the country. When the Finance Team gets together and everyone makes their tasks visible to the rest of the team, it significantly impacts the team in a positive way. Because of the monthly billing cycle, the Finance Team has 30-day sprints ending on the tenth of each month. We also do occasional retrospectives when they are needed, mostly if there is a conflict of some sort. Every time we do a retrospective as a team, I always find them to be very useful and I leave knowing exactly what action items are my responsibility.
A few weeks ago SolutionsIQ’s Expense Team and Billing Team got to participate in a Value Stream Mapping session with our very own consultant, Jeff Nicholls. Our goal for the Value Stream Mapping was to make visible all of the impediments in our process. Even though the members of our team knew exactly what the impediments were beforehand, it was very useful to be able to sit down and make them visible for others that are not included in our everyday processes to see. Both teams left the meeting feeling that positive changes were going to come out of this transparent and collaborative session. Sessions like this make me feel so lucky to be able to work at SolutionsIQ.
Another reason I’m excited to work at SolutionsIQ is that I have been given a great opportunity to transition over to the Consulting Ops Department. As a result of growing so quickly, SolutionsIQ has many, many more clients, which should come as no surprise to the people who have been following our growth. Clients with a large demand require extra effort in monitoring their budgets, organizing their expenses, etc. and that is a large portion of what I am hoping to accomplish! I am looking forward to taking my past Agile experiences into this role, as well as learning a lot more as I go.
My CSM Experience
In June I took a Certified ScrumMaster course here in Redmond, taught by SolutionsIQ consultant-trainers Bryan Stallings and Jeff Nicholls. Going into this class I knew that I was going to be familiar with most of the material that would be covered, so I wanted to mainly focus on the idea of “How can I use these Agile strategies to improve my work processes?” As I participated in this two-day class, I took notes that were specifically applicable to me instead of trying to record all the information that was being provided, whereas most of the other students were doing just that. After the class, I left with several sticky notes with action items on them that I was able to work through in my own time. My main focus was on strategizing how to get the consultants to submit their expenses in a timely and accurate manner, for example, submitting them every week, rather than waiting until the end of the month. Overall, the CSM course was a very valuable experience, not only to watch Bryan and Jeff do what they love, but to get new perspectives on Agile and SolutionsIQ as a whole.
Agile at Home
Recently I decided to move into my own one-bedroom apartment, as well as take two summer classes. With that came the obvious bills, random and unexpected expenses and all around a lot of craziness. As if that wasn’t enough, I decided it would be cool to get a fish and then later a cat, which if you’re wondering, isn’t the best combination. I very soon began to get overwhelmed and stressed about all the changes in my life. So the other night I decided to use what I learned at work to get organized. I pulled out some sticky notes and put together a Kanban board (“To Do → Doing → Done”) on my dining room wall of my new apartment. The items going on the “To Do” section included bills, chores, assignments and responsibilities. I included deadlines (my version of the time box) for each of these items as well. I then organized each of the items by deadline and placed them on the chart accordingly. Instead of doing the typical two-week sprint recommended in Scrum, I decided that I would do a short, one-day sprint and that I would have a new sprint for each day of the week. After putting together my chart and setting up my five, one-day sprints, I was completely aware of exactly what needed to be done and by when. Being the OCD, overly organized person that I am, I began to feel much more relaxed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. Had I not worked in an Agile work environment for several years, I might never have thought of approaching my at-home tasks in this way.
At SolutionsIQ, I also have the privilege of working with my amazing step mom, Kelly Quartararo. She works in the Consulting Operations department reviewing contracts and project margins as well as assisting with forecasts. Since we both work in an Agile work environment, a lot of the time we may have similar approaches to things. For example, oftentimes before we go on large family vacations, Kelly will create a large Kanban board on their dining room wall for everything that needs to be packed, made, put together, etc., before we leave for vacation. Also, since our family ratio is 5 kids to 2 adults, it’s always important that everyone is aware of the tasks at hand. The last time we did this on our family camping trip to Daroga State Park in Eastern Washington. What was most memorable about that experience was that my brother Josh couldn’t come and so we printed out a “Flat Josh” version of him that we took everywhere with us, even jetskiing! Because community is important, right?
This visualization of work is a key concept in Agile and works for any team in any workplace. It is a way for everyone to collaborate and accomplish what needs to be done, even if it’s just because the kids love to move the sticky notes from one section to another, which honestly I am guilty of myself. All in all, though, I feel that working at SolutionsIQ is helping me grow into a more collaborative adult with a more Agile way of thinking and being.