Scrum and Beyond
What is Greener Than Grass?
One of the great privileges of working for Saxon Global is the amount of effort the leadership puts into training all levels of staff. One of the most difficult parts of working for Saxon is being, by far, the least technically savvy person in the room.
I have the immense pleasure of being the most green employee in the entire office. Part of the extensive training involves bringing in actual consultants to share details about their trade and focus in the IT world. A few weeks ago, we hosted the immensely talented Rabea Buksik as gave us a thorough lesson on Scrum Framework and the benefits of the practice. Rabea, a certified Scrum master and former TK20 employee, was quick to a joke but still incredibly insightful.
The meeting started with Rabea asking who all was familiar with Scrum Framework and how technical she could be with explanations. As luck would have it, everyone has at least three years of applicable experience and had a thorough understanding of Scrum so we could skip the basics. Everyone, of course, except for myself. This wouldn’t be a tremendous problem because Scrum is relatively intuitive; it is a framework (NOT a methodology) for sustaining and producing complex products. In short, Scrum allows for open and flexible communication during projects.
What is Scrum?
I am by no means an expert, but the training by Rabea left me infinitely more knowledgeable about the process. Scrum can be mistaken for a methodology, but the true purpose is more relaxed than that. Methodology suggests a particular set of principles, tools, and practices will be used for a project while a framework implies autonomy and personal license. Scrum does not dictate what tools will be used; it acts as a catalyst for improved communication and teamwork.
Scrum is broken up into 2-4 week “sprints”, but maintains daily meetings to monitor progress and hold the team accountable. The process has a couple of different players:
- Product Owner – Liaison between business stakeholders and development team. Sets “goals” with user stories in the form of product backlogs.
- Development Team – Does bulk of the coding or development of the “goals” set by the product owner
- Scrum Master – Facilitator for the Development Team, but not to be mistaken for a lead. More than anything, the Scrum Master is a servant leader and assists wherever possible. Runs the Daily Scrum.
All of these players come together to create an environment that is more flexible and much quicker than old school waterfall methodologies. The sprints have the following (ideal) structure:
Product backlog à Sprint planning à Sprint backlog à Sprint! à Ship product
The teams work independently for this 2-4 week sprint, but the Scrum Master will lead out on a “Daily Scrum” every morning in which the entire team to discuss impediments, user story progress, and general work context. There is a serious focus on everyone standing during the Daily Scrum so time is not wasted and people get through their talking points quickly.
The end product within Scrum can fall under many different spectrums, but all Scrum projects have a focus on speed and transparency. Ultimately when a consultant works in Scrum framework they have experience in a fast-paced, teamwork centric environment and everything else is a variable.
I have a ton to learn about the implications of Scrum, but Rabea has given me adequate knowledge to have confidence when discussing the framework with potential consultants, and that means the training is incredibly effective.
Alex R. – First Year Recruiter at Saxon Global
Tech Meetups Empower Your Organization
The Meetups we see in the Dallas area are impressively insightful and they are providing real value to those who attend. Tonight’s session we ventured to was called “Building Bots in AWS”. The format was an half hour discussion about how to study for Amazon Web Services certifications then followed with an hour of guided instruction on how to build a Chat Bot using Lambda in AWS. From groups of engineers studying for AWS certifications, Agile enthusiasts debating Agile frameworks, and Product Managers discussing the evolution of their roles, we have seen how Meetups drive collaboration across organizations.
The intelligence level at these Meetups is quite impressive. The audiences range from entry level CS graduates to 35 year tech veterans. You can find all of them participating as a think tank focusing on a trending topic for a few hours straight. The solutions that are thrown out and the recent best practices give different organizations new ideas and validation for tech trends they are mauling over for their own adoption. Here are three values that we have seen from shadowing the smart people at these Meetups.
1. Best Practices
As you are leading new initiatives for your organization, it can be difficult to build your case for adopting tools and processes that are new on the market. Executive and business stakeholders buy in may take a little more convincing than you just saying it’s a good idea. By attending these meetings you are able to witness how other tech focused teams are putting new technologies to work. Even better, you have an avenue to ask them live questions about the adoption and pit falls of the technologies. We see teams bring examples of how they prototyped and ruled new tech in or out for their organizations to these Meetups consistently.
2. Team Building
As teams learn together, they bond. However paying for high end training that is relevant can be expensive. These Meetups provide a great venue for you and your team to explore new topics for free. It could be ideal to take the team out for tacos then head over to the MeetUp and sit together.
3. Recruiting Opportunity
As we mentioned earlier, these rooms are full of smart engineers that going to events to educate themselves. What a great avenue to meet new potential employees for your team. If you have open positions, you usually can ask the Meetup moderator to let you post an open position on their forum or stand up during the meeting and announce your role. Come early or stay late, you will be able to strike up conversations with likeminded tech folks that you could see hiring.
Your Top Employees Know Your Next Great Hire
Most of your successful hires are going come through your current team. However it’s not top of mind for your team to tell you about who they know to hire. Let’s explore some techniques to drive new hires from your current employees.
Hire the References
As you meet strong candidates during your interview process make sure to ask for their references. Even if the references were peers on the team, you need those names in your candidate funnel. We see that the references as the next step on the food chain and not a just a check box in the process of identifying talent in a competitive market. You will need to practice transitioning your reference check to prospecting call. This is usually accomplished by flipping the call from a conversation about the candidate to asking the reference about their current role. Here are simple lead ins to the conversation:
“I appreciate you sharing so much about Michael’s time working with you at ExcelNet. This will help us make a final decision. I am curious, what type of role are in you in now? Do you enjoy it? Would you change anything about the position?” As you guide this call, you could find some data points about the candidate
Broadcast Your Jobs Internally and Often
How often does your team get a full breakdown of all positions that are open within your company? Your team might be responsible for running testing and operations, but they probably worked with very talented Full Stack Engineers at their last company. We seem to forget that just telling your team about the opening isn’t going to spread the word to enough folks. How to fix this? Simple. Start emailing out the open positions list every week to your entire organization. Spread the word during your stand ups, town halls, and newsletters. Also, pass the word through your chat tools like Slack or HipChat. However, get the message out of your silo! The teams that are focusing on other projects might have the one away connection that is your next hire.
Pay Big Bucks for Referrals
The cost of third party recruiting can become over whelming. You can dedicate a part of that recruiting budget to create an effective referral program internally. This is a best practice that some of the largest and forward thinking companies take advantage of and it works. Paying your employees $1,000 bonuses for recommending great candidates that get hired can save tens of thousands from the recruiting budget. Companies such Capital One pay $2,500 referral bonuses to employees that recommend hires for the IT organization. In order to pull this off, you need have the team aware of the program and a tool to track the referrals correctly (internal web portal, Sharepoint, or Google Sheet will suffice). Partner with your HR department to correctly set up how these referrals are introduced and guided through the interview process. Also see if they can set a unique code or referral tag that can placed with the candidates profile if they apply online to positions.