Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, June 6, 2016

When to hang it up

Sometimes you have to pack your bags.
Last week I spoke about “struggle” and what I felt it meant.  It inspired a strong reaction from a few people.  Watching this reaction, it dawned on me, I was witnessing a conversation I had three years ago.  Each of us have moments in our careers where we consider leaving and going someplace else. Some of us have that choice forced upon us while others have a “moment of clarity” and then give their notice to their boss.  This week I want to talk about when it is time to leave.

I have been a software consultant and full time software developer for many years.  It was filled with frustration and failure.  Additionally, when I was a consultant I was often treated like high paid “help” who was supposed to keep his head down, mouth shut, and ignore the dysfunction which surrounded me.  I even completed a project early for a client and instead of being rewarded with an extension I was thanked and promptly rolled off.  I have been fired a week before Christmas and had to explain it my former spouse.  I have looked over my shoulder worried I was not good enough and smart enough to work with the other developers in my company.  I needed to make change.

With my own money, I took my Certified Scrum Master training.  I was feeling despair and working as a heads down developer was taking a toll on me.  This was a chance to practice what I preached about Agile.  After becoming an architect at a different firm, they learned about my Scrum Master training and made me the servant leader of development team.  Looking back on that experience, I realize that I was raw, cocky and untested.  One developer openly rebelled against me right away and I would spend weeks and months attempting to effect change.

That was three years ago.  Now, I am training product owners for division of my company, serving as a scrum master, and being “spun off” as my firm splits into three companies.  In those three years, being in the trenches as a scrum master has made me a much better servant leader.  I am even participating in the company mentoring program.  I voiced that I was restless and frustrated with the pace of change I am trying to effect and it looks like someone listened. For me, it is a sign that I need to stay because big changes are coming and my peers and superiors see that I should be part of that change.

I will only speak for myself but if you cannot get training through your work and if you are asked to do one thing but are rewarded for doing something else then it is time to leave.  Before I started working as a scrum master, I was a senior developer for a food company.  I was talking about a software project with a superior and he said I should start over because it didn’t look like something he could use on his iPad.  It was the final straw and with-in a month I was gone.  Since then, that company has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in agile consulting and they laid-off over 100 people, mostly older workers, in order to be more nimble.  They could have saved a lot of money and preserved those jobs if they just figured out how to keep me and allow me to spread agile through the firm.  I am glad I am no longer there.

Each member of the agile community is responsible for his or her own career.  We have to make choices every day about what we do and who we serve.  We also need to remember that we need to serve ourselves.  If we are unhappy or frustrated with what we are doing then we need to change.  If that means leaving one company to go to another then so be it.  For me, I am staying where I am.  I am entering an exciting time of change and I look forward to the challenges.  When I can’t say that any more then I have to quit.

Until next time.