Discover why the art of information exchange is fundamental in today’s tech context and what is the role of Scrum Master in an interview with Federica Stagi, Neomobile’s Application Development Sr Manager
Could you tell us a bit about your professional background? How did you become passionate for the world of IT?
The art of communication has always been one my greatest passions. I graduated in Humanities, majoring in Linguistics, as I like to call it “the most scientific of all humanities”. It contains the right amount of Mathematics and Philosophy necessary to understand and give sense to the world around us.
After graduation I wanted to deepen my knowledge, so I completed a Master in Public and Political Communication at the University of Pisa and I started working on a project of maintenance and development of Informational systems for 2 Public Administration offices. This has been an important period because it helped me realize what I really wanted to do, and helped me make different choices in life: on one hand I didn’t find myself within the mechanisms of public administration, I realized that in that kind of context I could never grow professionally. Public institution for me was a sort of “a parking lot for a professional career” and this is why I decided to turn to the private sector. During the next few years I worked in different companies, in different roles, from web developer to technical account manager, but mostly as a sort of a facilitator between the company and their clients, when deciding the online communication strategy.
How did you acquire the necessary skills for all of these roles? They are quite versatile, although they all based on strong communication capabilities.
Indeed! After creating a strong academic base, and my first work experiences, I’ve realized that if I want to grow professionally I should never stop exploring and improving my skills. Aside 2 masters in communication, I did numerous certified courses that covered my areas of interest and allowed me to broaden my field of operations, bringing me finally in Neomobile, back in 2008.
This brings us to a very interesting point: your career is an excellent example of how important communication is in today’s tech companies. Tell us a bit more about on how you leverage your communication skills in your daily responsibilities?
Well I can confirm that the role of communication is crucial in all tech dynamics, especially in companies that adopted Agile frameworks and are looking forward to become a real resilient organization. My application development team in Neomobile is working according to the Scrum framework, and for the past several months I have been their Scrum Master – this is the role of facilitator who guides everybody to discover how they can best contribute to creating the most valuable product, promotes transformation and guides the team toward self-organization. This is why I’m so passionate about my role, I serve as a host leader for both the Product Owner and the Development Team, helping people understand and achieve their objectives by promoting collaboration, optimising the process and creating synergy within the team. This means also that I need to have a good knowledge of both technology and business strategy, which are two complementing sides in a company, which is another thing that I love about this role!
How do you experience this role on day to day basis?
In Agile everything is a process of constant learning, so when I was offered this role I was very enthusiastic about it, because it seemed like the right evolution of my previous experience and areas of expertise. I have to say that it was also quite challenging, because your time is divided in three parts: time you dedicate to the team, time for the PO and the time for entire organization. Then of course, you choose your own path, as in every other profession, whether you are oriented more toward people, technology itself or business. In my case, my main goal, aside of course the product delivery, is to help the team grow, become self-organized and above all satisfied.
What are the main challenges that you face within this role?
I have to say that it is managing the dynamic within the group. One of the most important skills you need to develop is the ability to recognize a potential conflict and help resolve it by guiding the team toward the solution. This is actually the biggest change when compared to the “old” way of working: by allowing the team to arrive to the solution independently, without any interference, everyone gains more trust and you are one step closer to self-organized teams. It is also very challenging for the team itself, because they need to perform within the group leaving their ego outside, it’s a shift from self-centered decision making to a group debate and reasoning.
Furthermore, you need to go through all 4 stages of team life: forming, storming, norming, and performing, and mastering these stages can guarantee the project & product success, but it is actually the most challenging part of the process. The team starts from getting to know the new work approach in the forming phase, then pushes the boundaries when entering the storming phase, since people with different working styles usually get in conflict; after the storm, of course, thanks to the fundamental contribution of the Scrum Master, the waters calm down and the team enters the norming phase where they resolve their differences, learn about each other’s strengths and how to value them. Now you arrive to performing – a frictionless team that can arrive to the common goal and has the energy and passion to act as a real high performing team.
Can you tell us more about the role of Scrum Master in an organization that is undergoing the Agile transformation?
When a company embraces Agile principles it actually re-lives the startup mindset, where everyone thinks and creates together. In the very core you have the effective and efficient communication. The face-to-face conversations become the heart and soul of every new project/product, and this shortening of the communication process enables a more agile response and quicker achievement of desired goals. But above all, I feel that my role is to keep the Kaizen alive, enable a productive context, make sure that the working agreements are respected, and empower the constant improvement – “change for the better”.
We are curious to know what it takes to be successful with Scrum within a company.
Even though it might seem complicated, the answer to this question is actually very simple: it’s not about what Scrum itself, or any other Agile framework can do for your company, but it is all about the cultural change that each individual must embrace. To make just one team function you need to undergo a very important process of learning, brainstorming, confronting and regulating, and when you complete this work on a team level it needs to be supported and well integrated into the entire system. Only then the team will be able to live and be creative and productive while maintaining a sustainable pace. In this way the Scrum Team, as a whole, will a living part of the new complex adaptive system called Neomobile.
And finally, what is in your opinion the most important thing a company gains when it decides to adopt Lean and Agile principles?
Without a doubt, it is it’s positioning on the path to become a Learning organization. The decision itself to embrace Agile as a preferred mindset puts in motion a series of processes, it is changing the way people perceive time and organization, it makes them rethink relationships within a company, and become more thoughtful, respectful, disciplined and emphatic. And I believe that this is the only natural path that a dynamic digital company such as Neomobile can undertake.