First month as a consultant
My name is Cosmin, working as a consultant at ShiftKey, as an Agile Team Coach.
Here, I will describe what I remember from my first month as a consultant (and ever) at one of our clients, Telenor.
I will try to make it at least as exciting as it was for me (note that I am writing this months later, when these things are a lot better and the focus and my squad are different than 5 months ago).
After about a month of searching different assignments, talking to brokers, checking with them and interviews, I had one interview(remotely) that changed all, with Telenor Karlskrona (on December 20th).
In one of the following days, my employer called me to congratulate me for passing the interview and asked me if I would consider it. The location is outside Stockholm (1 hour flight) and everyone I know would be far. After some thinking (and my gut feeling saying YES), I said that I would take the challenge. What I wanted was to do my job and see what it means to work as a consultant, for someone who has been an employee his entire life.
The first day was getting to the airport, take the plane and taxi to the Karlskrona office. I was met by my manager, Sara, and asked if it is ok to use Swedish (we can always switch to English, if necessary). I met my PO (Product Owner) and my squad, establishing the base for what I am going to do as an Agile Team Lead/Scrum Master.
The first step was to improve our stand-ups. They were sit-downs, lasting half an hour (8 colleagues + 4 remote) and the focus was to talk about our current problems and going to the next colleague, until the time was over.
After a week of only listening, observing and taking notes, at the stand-ups (the PO was facilitating them), we started ways of improving them, using the words ”let’s try”. The first step was to make it with people standing-up. The discomfort helped us go less into details, focusing on the relevant things and ending the meeting, so we can all sit down. 😊
A week later, we started trying to have them shorter, the ATL congratulating the team for making it to 22, 20 and 15 minutes. We have reached it, our milestone! Our record was 13 minutes, in which not only did we update the team with our work, but we also knew what we are going to do in the upcoming days. We also tried to support each other.
This actually was a consequence of seeing stand-ups as reporting, that got better in the first month and later, using the stand-up to talk about each one’s work, as well as to support each other. Every time when the ATL would hear ”I am impeded”, ”I have a problem with…” or ”What is more important…”, the question ”Who can help/assist you?” would arise.
Going back to the agile basics, in order to build a great agile team, one starts with the foundation. Understanding how people work and the environment is part of it. There is more, we have people. What are their dreams, hopes, what motivates them? After a 1-on-1 with each of them (employees and consultants) and sharing the insights (anonymously) with our PO, we (as a squad) focused on what we can do to work better together and become more Agile.
And that is another thing, part of the foundation: notes. Listening and talking mostly in Swedish (English for the colleagues that work remotely and require it), as well as working in a telecom environment (coming from the gaming industry), made me use a notebook, which I carried with me in all the meetings I had or was part of – wrote everything that was important for our squad, as well as questions and what needed follow-up. I am the type of person who is going to ask a lot of questions, so I could go with the squad or colleagues when asked how we work, instead of just ”that’s how we work”. Seeing the pain, the motivation and the conditions of our working environment was necessary for believing in it. And the more I believe in something, the more I can thrive!
I was fascinated by how much information was around me. Being new helped me a lot, I brought fresh eyes, new perspectives, which made me focus as much as I could on my squad, with extension to other ATLs. To get as much info as possible was the best environment I could ask for. And further more, my PO inviting me to different meetings helped me, as I could be exposed to different processes and dependencies we had.
As we started the sprint without me even knowing why we worked like this, I went through the sprint, taking notes on how we work and, finally, when the retrospective and the planning for the next sprint happened, I started feeling part of the team, as I would be fully part of it.
And there is more, there is a lot more, being offered the opportunity to work here is the beginning of a new age, I can feel it.
So, bottom line, from my perspective, what is the difference between a consultant and an employee? Was/Am I different than I was as an employee? My answer is that I only developed on what I learned, with the main focus being on helping everyone around me (especially my PO and my squad) as everything I did and do is for them. Maybe I was meant to become a consultant, to have an environment that would both challenging and demanding. I like it.