I’ve spent 20 years helping things make sense for other people. It’s not dramatic, but it’s important, and it gets things done. I’ve done it in tech companies, financial companies, and I’ve done it in my own company. My job is not to be the smartest person in the room - my job is to make sure the smartest people in the room are solving the right problem.
Managing a team of four Agile Delivery Leads of varying levels of experience with responsibility for their success and the success of their poducts. In addition to coaching and mentoring my ADLs, I work with the senior leaders in each of their spaces to help apply agile practices to higher level planning, improving program increment discipline, developing reporting expectations and balancing businesses roadmapping needs against agile best practices.
Primarily a scrum master role for multiple teams, I was largely given responsibility for high visibility projects which had gone off the rails, and I worked with the team, their leadership and the product & customer organizations to try to find a way to get things back on track. In the process of coaching the teams and stakeholders, I also developed reporting and process standards and migrated a collection of loosely coupled teams into a functional release train.
What was initially a scrum master role evolved out of necessity into handling most project planning and coordination for a cloud startup. Established agile practices (modified scrum) for product teams, assisted product development and coached teams into owning practices themselves, and oversaw tools and processes for keeping everything working. Beyond that, I filled gaps where necessary, covering needs including competitor research, video production, copywriting, audit support, GDPR conversion and administrating internal systems.
Engaged clients as an analyst to help identify their needs and establish a working plan. Success with these engagements lead to project management roles in delivering work for government clients, mostly the USPS. Transition to project management also lead to education in agile practices (Scrum & Kanban) and update to our project practices.
Analyzed technical, business and regulatory specifications as well as customer needs for credit card processing POS systems, and developed specifications based on analysis. Reviewed and troubleshot large volume transactions.
Despite the changes in company name, title and location, the essential nature of the job maintained a central thread of talking to people within the company, identifying needs, and pursuing the best solution. As an information architect, this centered around documentation, document management and training. As a developer, it revolved around developing internal tools for our intranet. As a system analyst, it moved on to talking with vendors and selecting (or rejecting, as appropriate) large scale tools.
Responsible for talking with teams, getting an understanding of what they do and what they need, integrating that into the larger vision, and communicating their requirements to other groups in a comprehensible fashion.
Working as a NOC technician gave me an understanding of basic networking and network troubleshooting, and strong insight into the difference between how tools are designed and how they are actually used.
Supported judiciary staff by researching issues and legislation, preparing briefs, answering correspondence for the Senator, and covering committee hearings.
In the original template I used, this section was "Interests" and I considered just discarding it as that sounded more like a dating profile than a resumé. But after a little consideration, I figured this would be a nice space to put a little bit of humanizing information, if only so I can keep the summary up top succinct. Frankly, it also gives you fair warning about what you're dealing with.
I did not go to school to be organized for a living (who does) or even to get into technology. I was going to get into politics, and I started down that path with enthusiasm, and landed a staff job on Capitol Hill. It was great. I got to work on issues related to technology and spend my days doing all kinds of cool stuff. But what I hadn't accounted for was that if I wanted to do more, I was either going to need to get a law degree, or go work for a lobbying firm.
Neither option appealled, so I chose door C and moved to Silicon Valley and got a job as a NOCling. it was a good gig, and I learned enough that when a startup needed someone technical who could speak and write well, I was a good match. This began a long career as a guy who goes and talks to people, listens to what they're asking, helps them figure out what they need, then turns it all into a plan that everyone can agree on, then help that plan happen. That is a mouthful to say, and it's had a lot of titles over the years, but that always seems to be what it comes back to.
If it is not 100% obvious by now, I am a giant nerd. This resume exists solely because I hadn't messed around with webdev stuff in a few years. I play and write roleplaying games (I even have a bit of material in some obscure D&D books). I have witten a lot about notebooks, bags and pens. And somehow, along the way, I have become a giant nerd for organization.
Credit probably goes to David Allen, whose Getting Things Done was utterly eye-opening to me, both in terms of improving my own life, and introducing me to the idea that there were interesting and thoughtful systems that could be applied to this sort of problem. Down that path lies stacks of index cards, text editors and lifehacks, and for me it also very naturally lead to agile (small a intentional).
At this point I am a genuine true believer in the ideas behind agile, which has the upshot of making me incredibly skeptical of it - Agile has become a big enough deal that it's often not particularly agile. That makes for a tough line to walk if you want to use what works but not crank out jargon. Thankfully, agile itself offers the best guidelines possible for navigating this minefield - keep your eye on what you're really trying to accomplish and the people you're doing with. Be humble, learn, measure, and focus on outcomes over 'proper' form. It's this core idea that threads through the best parts of agile, product and design, and I delight in all three disciplines. We all have so much to learn and the only people benefitting from slicing us up are making excellent money as consultants.
Notably, I have spend my career getting things done, but I have largely stuck to servant-leader roles, avoiding management. Recently, I realized I had reached the limits of how much positive change I can bring to an organization with my own two hands, and that if I wanted to take things further, it was time to pursue formal leadership. I have not viewed this as a promotion so much as a lateral move - it is less about "moving up" the chain and more about expanding my skills for helping others succeed. Years of "soft power" have given me experience with many of the necessary tools - coaching, listening, planning and so on - but there are harder lessons of leadership that can only be learned first hand.