Summary // Silly girl, opportunities are for boys
During my first month at Javan, I was assigned to a team of mostly junior engineers with a new Tech Lead and a mediocre Product Manager. I jumped right in as Scrum Master for the team and received positive feedback about the changes.
It wasn’t long before one of my peers, Joe, came to me and asked about how I was doing ceremonies on my team. After walking him through my cadence and ceremonies, I offered to help his team identify friction points in their processes. I sat in on their refinement meetings, checked out their Jira project, and asked them what their team’s three biggest problems were. I gave both Joe and his Product Manager advice, tips, and tricks to solve their three problems.
Flash forward to month three where you find me living in a metrics hell. The all-male leadership team (Fred + Ronaldo) didn’t know what metrics they wanted us to collect, but they “would figure that out along the way.” We were tasked with providing metrics about the success of our teams. That’s it. That was the instructions. No template. No explanation of the intended audience or reasons why this was so urgent. Nothing. You know, the basic stuff that you would expect high-level leaders to know to provide.
A new Director was hired named Henry. Henry came in hot — going absolutely insane with metrics. He was building intense Tableau dashboards, creating forecasting metrics, and giving in-depth presentations about metrics. Henry was up to his eyeballs in metrics.
All of the Engineering Managers muddled through it, ultimately delivering a little bit or absolutely everything, with nothing in between. I worked an entire weekend on it to ensure that it was easy to follow, visually broken up, clear, and concise. When I presented my findings in a leadership meeting, the leaders spent the whole time talking about what metrics they wanted to gather rather than allowing me to present the report. Do I smell a microaggression?
Either way, in this report, I pointed out that it didn’t seem that very many people were familiar with Agile practices. I told them that any Engineering Manager or Product Manager should be able to step in as Scrum Master for their team. I also was pretty pointed about how mediocre my Product Manager was. I mean, the man had been on vacation 30% of the time I had been at Javan. You know who was holding down the fort? A woman.
One day, Henry announces that he’s bringing in a man named Phil from Amazon to conduct Agile training for the department. They start falling all over themselves about what a great dude Phil is, how accomplished he is, and eventually they start bragging about how they worked with him at their last company. Basically, it was a modern-day bro-out.
So, naturally, ya girl is instantly pissed.
I decided to meet with Fred in order to better understand this decision. I am sitting across from him, he’s wearing a white, pressed business shirt, blue jeans, and a very nice watch that probably set him back a couple thousand.
I asked Fred why they didn’t offer me a chance to mentor others in Agile practices since, you know, I was already doing that. Fred took the least optimal path with his response. He leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. He brought his hands together to form a loose triangle before he said, “Well, I didn’t know you had all this experience teaching Agile to large groups of people.” As he said it, he waved his right hand across the table like a Blackjack dealer before pulling their second card. He leaned back in his chair and rested his right ankle on his left knee. He took in a deep breath, crossed his arms and said, “Why don’t you tell me about your experience doing that.”
No, you definitely heard that right and, yes, it was all the way sarcastic.
I told him I didn’t have any experience doing that. I told him that I had worked in both Agile and waterfall, in Scrum and in Kanban for most of my career. I told him that the way someone gets to do that is through the opportunity to do so. I said it seemed like he was denying me an opportunity to even try.
He said, “you know what probably happened? He probably implemented things on his team and others bought into it and started doing it and then he was asked to train a larger group. That’s probably how he got started.”
What’s that like?
Despite all my efforts to improve my team’s scrum practices and to help others improve their scrum practices, I was still left standing alone, stripped of an opportunity to grow in my career.
I think the worst part of it all is that it would have cost nothing to give me a chance. The worst-case scenario would have been that people felt that I wasn’t very helpful.
That’s really sad.