For several years now, I have written something about my experience at the Agile Alliance 20xx conference. I have been attending this conference every year since Agile2007. Yet, each time I am surprised by what I experience.
I have written most of this post and now coming back up to the top to add this paragraph. When I was writing what you will read next, I kept worrying that it seemed like name-dropping or that I would forget someone so I shouldn’t list anyone. But I’m keeping it how I wrote it – stream of thought of who I needed to appreciate (you may just find a second post about people I accidentally missed – sorry). Why? Because as with most things in my life, David Hussman inspired me. I knew his pain for the past month had been getting worse (he’s very sick). We had been texting and emailing – but he wanted to hold off on confirming if he could make his Stalwarts session on Monday until the last minute and contact me on Sat. He confirmed then what I knew was likely, he wouldn’t be able to join us at the conference. Brandon Carlson came up with a great idea that Brian Button said “go for it” – to have his time slot become stories of appreciation for people (not just Hussman but anyone) in the community that have made a difference. Obviously a lot of the stories were about Hussman and he even called in for a few minutes, which made everyone’s day. After the session, Jutta Eckstein and Jeff Patton both expressed a “we shouldn’t be waiting to tell people the influence and impact that they have had”. So I’m not waiting. I’m going to call names out and say thank you.
Dude (Hussman for those that don’t know), you are my person. During a week when you had plenty to deal with you, still sent me texts that bring me back to myself. In fact, you were the first to help me not go over the edge in 2007, and you continue to be the person that now pushes me to find the new edge that I’m capable of. So this week was about focusing on positivity: what and who could I appreciate in person at the event. So I’m going to finish the same way with summarizing all that was amazing about this week.
- Coach’s camp attendees: I started my week going for one day to my first coach’s camp. I had a little emotional diarrhea all over the marketplace on Sat (Diana Larsen helped remind me that I simply expressed my needs). I was slightly embarrassed but in a rough place. Without being able to say why, without being able to explain…this community stepped up to support me in ways that I didn’t know I needed. I received techniques to help manage the stress and emotions. Mostly, I received support in stories of making a difference, of similar self questions of doubt, of willingness to just sit quietly together, etc. The amazing part was it didn’t end that day, people continued to check in with me throughout the entire week. Mad respect for Llewellyn Falco, Martin Heider, Bernie Maloney, George Dinwiddie, Olaf Lewitz, Jenny Tarwater, Chris Sims, April Jefferson, Jeff Morgan, Woody Zuill, Reese Schmidt, Braz Brendt, Olga Yiannakis and many more that I had never met before or only once or twice that just wanted to support me. You helped set me on the right place mentally for the rest of the week. I’m extremely grateful.
- Volunteers, you get a ton of praise during the week and it doesn’t begin to touch the amount you deserve. You were not focused on the “I’m doing my 20 hours and done”, you were always finding ways to help. Purple shirts rock!
- Speakers, I wanted to see so many of you. However, I still had responsibilities this year as the Stalwarts Track Chair. As such, I spent most of my time with these sessions. Thank you Linda Rising, Diana Larsen, Ahmed Sidky, Jim Benson, Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson, Elizabeth Hendrickson, Mitch Lacey, Ash Coleman and Jeff Patton. All of you were inviting and open to the various questions from the community. I continue to learn from each one of you.
- Sponsors, Agile Alliance is a non profit that leverages this conference to help fund several initiatives throughout the year. We couldn’t be successful without your support and partnership in this event. Thank you so much!
- Track Chairs, you have one of the hardest jobs at the conference (and before). Thank you for your dedication, engagement and the amazing results you delivered as the program. I especially want to call out Tamsen Mitchell and Dana Pylayeva, the learning track chairs. They went above and beyond to coordinate a meet and greet for the learning track speakers (I was one of them) at the conference, introduce speakers, and continuously checked in throughout the year. You rock!
- Since I just mentioned speaking, I’m going to highlight this next. As a program team member, you can’t speak at the conference. So it’s been several years and I was thrilled to be back in a speaking role. My own session was about how we can do better as leaders/trainers/coaches/etc to help people learn by giving them experiences (exercises) vs just reading slides or dictating to people. I’m really happy with the feedback and results. My only wish was that I didn’t have to close fast…the last exercise went a little longer than expected but I’ll take that. Then having Gil Broza compliment me at the end was perfect icing on the cake.
- Speaking with Arlo was wonderful. I was approached to do Presentation Karaoke on Friday but I said I would only do it if Arlo (who came up with the idea originally) would be my teammate. He agreed and delivering the session was a great experience. Arlo and I have known each other for quite some time but this is the first time we have worked in this way together – it won’t be the last.
- Elastic crew: people often ask – how do we do this conference, my quick answer is you. This was the 10th year that Elastic partnered with Agile Alliance for this conference, so they had a slide show of pictures through the year. I am not kidding when I say it felt like a yearbook for me – looking back over all of the events/locations/etc. And there is now more proof that I’ve been dancing all of these years.
- Agile Alliance Board: this was my first conference as a board member. We met before the conference and after the conference but it’s the between that I want to appreciation most. We are a team that only meets remotely once a month and in person every few months. Yet this week, I felt extremely connected to this team. Craig helping to setup Agile Advice with me (didn’t have to). Heidi helping me work though how to respond to a situation. Ellen being immediately available to partner respond for a COC issue. Victor giving me crap for not knowing about karaoke evening. Becky’s support in my sessions. Paul making a point to find time to have a happy hour tasty beverage and catch up. All of it…everyone, I look forward to my time on the board.
- Speaking of the board, made me remember Agile Tonight. So many people came together to make this experiment and discussion starter happen (Paul, Becky, Billie, Cat and Troy…there may be others sorry if I missed you). I personally couldn’t stay because my emotions were running on the edge but I saw the beginning and heard what we were hoping for “glad we are talking about this”. Thank you.
- Chris Li, for someone that I only met a couple of years ago, he has become one of my favorite people to connect with. This year we were able to work together in getting Agile Advice setup and running at the conference. I have been wanting to work with him and this only makes me want our work paths to cross as much as our paths at conferences do. You set the bar high my friend.
- There are also two people that ended up helping me out with Agile Advice and really overall at the conference: Reese Schmit and Braz Brandt. There are just no words to adequately explain how you helped me keep my sanity and later made events happen. I hope I am able to repay your generousity very soon. Thank you!!!!
- Random moments that I’m smiling about: getting to tell Johanna Rothman a joke, thanking Lyssa Adkins for helping me create the idea of Audacious Salon, meeting Jonathan Turner who made me a small unicorn, meeting Jessica who joined me for an event, meeting Olga who has a heart of gold, Mike Cottmeyer laying down some wisdom to help me out, learning that I was older than Matt Barcomb (which actually was not a smiling moment) and oversized chair laughter with Chris, Leslie, Paul, Marie and Jake and the ending baseball game event (even when I have no interest in baseball but Tamsen and Emma make it really fun).
- Sam Laing and Karen Greaves…every conference I have new memories with you both but this one was even more impactful for me. From private talks to dinners to mocking my skill sets…I absolutely cherish you both so much.
- Karaoke crew…so I underestimated a little when I thought 30 people might show up. There is something about after a long week of learning to let loose with people and sing your hearts out. Special shout-outs to people that made me laugh and helped keep the night rolling… Jennifer Dyni (my forever teammate – sorry I couldn’t see your session, still sad about that) and her Ultimate peeps, the Riot team (minus Ahmed because he’s lame…just kidding), Chris Edwards, Dave Prior, Rachel Howard, Chris Murman, Eric Willeke, Arlo Belshee, Ronica Roth, David Wire, Dhavel Panchal, Tom Perry, David Hawks, Cheryl Hammond, Tim Gifford and many many more!
- Christina Hartikainen. I could write a book about all of the amazing elements of who you are and the impact that you have had on me. I can’t wait to see what your touch brings to the conference in Agile2019. I truly love you!!!
- The entire Agile For All team was not present this year. Peter Green, Jake Calabrese and John Miller were here this year. The only sessions I went to beyond Stalwarts was theirs. I am so proud of their sessions and of our support for each other. I want to be better because of these peeps and I know I can try because of their support.
This year I had more quality conversations during day one than I did the entire week (my phone was constantly buzzing last year). I started the week with trying an experiment of saying “I’m sensational” until I tricked my brain into believing it. Turns out, with all of the support and experiences, I remembered. I may not be perfect, but I am making a difference. I’m forever grateful for this conference providing me an opportunity to remember that everyone is a special unicorn.
P.S. Oh and there were a lot of people missed this year…so Chris wanted you to know 🙂