My thoughts from the Panel Discussion – Future of Women in Agile
In March 2021, I had the privilege of co-hosting a panel discussion with Ellen Grove. The discussion was sponsored by Agile Testing Days – (Trendig) and the Agile Alliance. The participants were: Alex Schladeback, Faiza Yousuf, Claudia Badell, Johanna Rothman. I encourage you to watch the discussion yourself and see how these amazing women contribute to the world. You can see it at: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/future-of-women-in-agile.
The panel started with a discussion about leadership, and the challenges each participant had encountered, and some of the people that helped them along the way. It continued with a discussion about culture and how changing from one culture to another affected or challenged them. The final section was how we could encourage new leaders.
Some of the ideas that came out of the discussion got me thinking about how I can apply them to how I live my life and interact with others. I think the older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of others.
It’s not only how others perceive you, but also how do you perceive yourself. For many years – from childhood to young adult, to middle age, I felt invisible, and no one heard or saw me. I still fight that feeling sometimes, but now I know I can be myself. I don’t have to be the leader who stands up and shouts. I can lead quietly, and I can influence and lift others to be the best they can be.
The importance of saying YES to new opportunities: A few years ago, I gave a keynote at Agile Testing Days called Pivotal Moments that was exactly about this. So often, we are afraid to jump in – to try that new thing. ‘Yes’ opens doors that may not have been there. A few examples in my life are: Yes Jack, I will move to Singapore, ‘Yes’ me, I will enroll in university at 35, ‘Yes’ Sam, I will come to Toast Masters with you so I can learn to speak in public; ‘Yes’ Lisa, I will co-present with you at a conference; ‘Yes’ Lisa, I will help you write a book, Yes, yes and yes! What I don’t know, is how many times I said No and had a door slam shut without realizing that it did. I will never know what I missed – and maybe that is ok. Don’t let fear be the reason you don’t take the chance and step in. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in what you didn’t do, than what you did.
The ability to say NO:
You may be thinking that this contradicts the last paragraph, but I don’t think so. This is about understanding where you are in life, and if you have the energy to take on new things. For example, I have learned to say no to many conferences that I would love to speak at but do not have the time. I have learned to recommend other consultants or instructors when things get too busy for me, or I know they have better skills for a particular task. It is not always easy to make those decisions but look at your priorities in life and choose what is the most important for you … right now. And don’t dwell on what might have been.
The importance of a growth mindset: There are books written about this idea (by Carol Dweck), but Linda Rising is the person who first made this idea known to me in her keynote years ago, and the topic came up in the panel discussion. Are you a person who believes the talent you are born with dictates what makes you special? Or are you a person who believes that you can develop that talent with hard work, strategy, and input from others. Fixed vs Growth mindset. Every time I start something new – for example, our newest endeavor – the Agile Testing Fellowship – I am afraid. But I don’t let that fear stop me. I know there is much I do not know, and I have indeed learned lots – maybe more than I expected, but that is all good. Every corner I turn, there is another obstacle but when I view it with a growth mindset, I ask: “How can I over come this? Who can I ask for help? What strategy do I need to employ?” With these tools, I am ready for anything.
The importance of sharing what you’ve learned: Claudia brought up this idea and Johanna reiterated it by suggesting you not only talk about your experiences and your learnings but write about them so that more people have access to that knowledge. I’m an author of 3 books and I’ve written many articles and blog posts. That said, it’s a struggle for me. Writing does not come easily, and it takes me a long time to come up with the right words. I envy people whom I call wordsmiths, who can take 15 minutes to write a great article. But every word I write comes deeply from my heart. I may not have fancy words, and I do rely on those wordsmiths around me to help me make my work better and easier to read. My media of choice for sharing is one-on-ones or small groups, but that isn’t effective for reaching many people, so I’ve learned how to do public speaking, and I’ve learned how to write. We’ve all got it in us so please share your experiences so we can learn from you.
The importance of experimentation: We think about experimenting at work, trying new tools. And often we don’t think about it pertaining to ourselves. One of the recommendations out of the panel was to do this very thing – doubt yourself less and don’t be afraid to fail and try again. Give yourself permission to try something new as an experiment. Think about the hypothesis – If I try this, I expect to gain that, and I will know I have succeeded when … When I first decided to go to university as a mature student, I did an experiment (although I didn’t call it that at the time). I took two courses the very first year. One statistics course – my thinking was that if I could pass that, then I could pass anything. The second course was something for fun – I took first year Swedish. I passed the statistics course (just barely), but it gave me enough confidence to go full-time for the next 4 years. I also took 3 years of Swedish as one of my options. 😊
The power of listening: As a young person, I never spoke out – shyness maybe, but I think more a matter of upbringing. But I listened. As I grew older and wiser, and gained confidence, I lost that ability for a while and had to relearn it. I catch myself sometimes jumping in to answer a question or offer an opinion before I’ve heard it all, but not nearly as often as before, and I can stop myself (most of the time). I realize that when I listen … really listen without thinking about how I am going to answer, I learn much more. I can answer better because I have more information. I know I like it when people listen to what I have to say, so I can only assume that the people that talk to me, appreciate my full undivided attention.
Our experiences help to make us more well-rounded. We can use what we have learned from moving from one culture to another to help up to move forward – whether it is moving from one company to another, moving from one country to another, moving from being an individual contributor to being a manager, or maybe even moving from one team to another. There are many different types of culture, and each culture is different, and we can learn from each of them.
There were a few themes that rang true for me throughout the panel conversation, but the one struck home was: trust yourself, be with people you trust, and do it in an environment where you can be yourself.