It is not news that Agile community is highly inclusive. Agile thinking is formed on collaboration, sharing, and transparency. So no surprise that Agilists love sharing: forums, user groups, meetups, conferences - you name it! I started with answering questions at LinkedIn Forums, then joined a number of meetups and user groups where I met great people who became my friends, mentors, and peers, and then discovered Agile conferences and gatherings. First, I joined as a listener, then was invited to present at one (it was Agile Day NYC in 2012 and then a follow up Agile NYC Presentation- an amazing experience), and then was invited again, then started applying for larger conferences and was invited to speak at some of them (rejected by others), and finally, decided to support one of those where I had a excellent experience as a presenter. Below are my findings and my advice for others who may be in the beginning of this journey.
1. Online Agile presence. As I mentioned, Agile community is super inclusive. Whether you are a starting Agilist or an experienced Enterprise Agile Coach, online communities are a great place for you to gain or share knowledge. I am part of multiple LinkedIn Forums such as this and event post myself.
2. The next steps for me was to attend Agile events. I started with local eventsl: from New York Scrum User Group, Agile NYC meetups, PMI Agile events, other Agile/Scrum meetups in New York and New Jersey. There, I met great people and dedicated Agilists who became my friends and peers over the years. Most of those events are free and highly informative. It is an opportunity to bounce off ideas, get professional advice, meet people who share your professional interests, and share what you have to offer. It energized me because I could support others in the community and learn a lot myself.
3. The natural next step was to host some of those events. It was a great experience. I hosted NY SPIN and PMI Agile Panel at Kaplan Test Prep where I worked at that time, and it allowed Kaplan employees and many people outside of the company to collaborate and shared their experience. I did not mention yet that all of those were free events (some of those may charge $5-$6 for pizza and drinks provided there because people come after work day and it is an opportunity to share professional interests in a warm home-like atmosphere). They are run by community enthusiasts who do not get paid or rewarded anyhow else but by communication and collaboration. Up until recently, I have not heard of a presenter (even well-known) ever paid for presenting at a meetup. I was sad to hear of a first instance recently and I truly hope it's an outlier. The one below is free of charge and open to everyone - feel free to join!
4. After these first successful hosting experiences, my colleagues and I co-organized our own Agile/Lean Practitioners Meetup at Kaplan Test Prep which is now in its fifth year of existence and unites 1,259 practitioners as of today. Recently, Jeff Sutherland presented at our meetup - my posting on this is is on my blog. But most importantly, over a few years it became an important destination for the tri-state Agile community and a great venue for sharing Agile and Lean experiences. This is where I presented on Agile topics for the first time for the external audience, and it was a professionally rewarding and encouraging experience.
5. The next step was organic: my colleague and I were invited to present at Agile Day NYC 2012, and the experience was overwhelming. The feedback from the audience and from several well-known agilists who were at the event was energizing and though provoking. This is where I realized that sharing your thoughts with a large audience gives you an opportunity to organize your thinking, to meet amazing people, and get the feedback that you cannot compare with individual learning. This is how my speaking journey has begun.
6. Last year, I presented at Big Apple Scrum Day (BASD). The topic was "Agile Coaching is Dead. Long Live Agile Practicing." I was concerned about the provocative nature of my title and wanted to hear from the audience how they feel about my take on Agile Coaching changing as a profession over the last few years. The audience was amazing. Despite the large number of participants, we had a dialog, and it was positive (despite the difference of opinions) and I learned a lot from the conversation (and so did the participants). I came home energized and excited. When I came to Agile Day NYC in the fall, it was great to see many BASD participants and exchange our latest news and get their advice and encouragement.
7. Then, a friend of mine, Dana Pylayeva (who I met through an introduction in her role as a BASD Conference Chair) suggested that I apply to speak at larger conferences, and I submitted my topics to the Agile Games, Global Scrum Gathering, and Agile Conference 2016. I was selected by Agile Games, and I am excited to present in Boston in April 2016. Will share this experience with you in my upcoming blog postings. Thank you for your encouragement, Dana! I don't think I would have courage if Shilpa did not introduce us and you shared your passion as an engaging and thoughtful conference speaker. But things happen for a reason, and I was ready for the next step.
8. Excited by the community and the experience, I volunteered to support Dana and the New York Scrum User Group community for BASD-2016, a non-profit Agile community conference. Until you participate in organizing one of those events, it is hard to see the amount of work that goes into those. Just some of the activities include finding and booking a venue that can hold 300 people (talk to me if you think it's an easy task in New York), setting up an engine to collect submissions, then forming and running a team of expert Agilists who will be selecting out of hundreds of great applications, tying it all into a cohesive agenda with parallel sessions, organizing the space and food so that every participant feels comfortable, enjoys the food and the experience, and then make everyone feel welcome while providing an encouraging venue for ideas sharing and making it both interactive and a deep learning experience for everyone.
All the people who participate in organizing those events do it in their "free" time after work and do not get any remuneration, except for the opportunity to contribute to this community. When I asked Dana why she is doing this, she shared that she felt as a long-time conference presenter that she wanted to give back to the community, and this is why she organized BASD, which is a huge success in its second year of existence (all tickets are sold out 5 weeks before the May 16th event). By the way, it's not too late to be a volunteer.
The reason I am sharing my journey from being an observer to participant to host to organizer is to encourage you to think where you are in this journey and where you want to be, and if you are looking for encouragement and advice in this journey, feel free to reach out - I'll walk it with you.
Transformation agent with experience in business transformation including transition to Agile (Scrum, kanban, lean) and building scaled Agile and Lean organizations. Passionate about motivating people and building great teams.