“Every story has an end, but in life every end is just a new beginning.”
Next month I start a new beginning working for Salesforce.com as Director of Product Management. Working at Deere for the last 13 years has been an amazing experience; I started as a java developer trying to create an ecommerce site, which was very exciting. To this day, I remember signing up a payment provider and adding my desk phone number to the contact section; I didn’t realize that my desk phone number would be the number that showed up on customer’s credit card statements. My desk phone would ring all day long with customers wondering what the charge was. I also remember updating a database where I was supposed to upgrade a customer from one frequency to a more accurate one; it was a $5k upgrade. My only problem was when I wrote the query, it updated all customers rather than just that one. I quickly learned what a DBA does and the importance of testing first.
I also learned how to champion change in this position. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I latched onto it like it was the wave of the future. I remember my boss asking if I had read the book, “Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results.” We ended up improving the morale and output in that department; it was great to be part of this process.
In 2004, Lindsay and I moved to Des Moines; looking back it was funny how scary we thought it was going to be. I also had a good friend that worked in the office, so we both decided to move (my friend took a new job and moved to Moline the week I started.)
Moving to Des Moines and working as a Program Manager was both fun and exhausting. In 2006, I was the Release Manager and that is when I realized that coordinating multi-program merging would be impossible.
In 2008, I moved to our desktop group and was introduced to Agile. At the time I had no idea what it was. Like any good developer I simply Googled, “what is Agile?” The next week I was on a plane to Seattle to take my first Agile class. That class changed my future.
Coming back to Deere I was on cloud 9; ready to start teaching the team what Agile was. Over the course of 2 years, our team went from “what is a story point?” to “can we ship software every day?” That time was one of those most rewarding parts of my career; yet, it was also the moment I almost quit.
Fast forward to 2009, we had probably 30+ people trying and practicing Agile, while another 300+ were still following traditional development processes. In late 2010, the 300+ people were struggling to ship a large program. New leadership entered and a call for change was in the air. It was July 2009 when we decided to burn bridges and go all in on Agile. We had no choice, we had to do something different and we had to do it fast.
This was the moment in my career that my world got turned upside down. Before I knew it, hundreds of people wanted to learn what Agile was and how to do it. I became the resident expert and helped lead the group through the change.
2010 felt like I was in fast forward. Half way through the year, we had trained and educated more than 500 people on the basics and uses of Agile. Our office was on overdrive. Things were changing faster than I could notify people. Cubicles were being blown up and people were collocating into teams. I remember the facilities manager yelling at me because people were moving all over and the facilities spreadsheet was not updated to reflect reality. I kind of shrugged and said, “sorry”.
Before I knew it departments and divisions started adopting Agile (some good, some bad), but they were all trying to learn how to be better. That was my goal: get people to start thinking about how to do things better and more efficiently.
I have so many memories of 2010-13 that I have a hard drive full of pictures and memories. This was the most rewarding time in my career. I never thought that I could make this big of change in to a company that has been around for 175 years. I never thought I had the authority to make these changes.
Nevertheless, all great things must end. It’s time for me to move on, to experience new opportunities and challenges. The coworkers I have worked with will never be forgotten.
The first question I get asked after people find out is, “What about Live Love Bake?” I’ll be able to working from Des Moines and will travel to San Francisco.
Thanks again to everyone who has supported me and thank you to my wife Lindsay for all of your support.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
How do big companies learn to be more Agile? They could go to conferences and try to meet other like minded and sized companies in similar, yet non-competing products. They could hire consultants to come in and share what they have learned at other companies OR they could just meetup on a regular basis and tackle the BIG issues and share ways to improve their company almost free of charge.
Yes, BIG companies are learning how to share their experiences with each other to make each other better. You ask, who are these companies?
Fact: Listening to an instructor and staring at a PowerPoint slide for an hour does not result in participants remembering.
A couple of years ago I attended a Rally Quarterly planning session and Jean Tabaka told the group to pair up during the break and inform each other what they heard or thought. Last year we had Menlo Innovations in our office and they said they do “walkies” every day at 3pm to give everyone a quick break.
So I combined the activities into what I call “Training Walkies.”