I’ve been asked to be part of the Agile Alliance Program team for Agile 2015 Conference. Since I’ve been transparent as a track chair in previous years, I want to provide a glimpse into this role as a program chair. Now the disclaimer is that this is my glimpse: former and future program chairs will think and potentially do things differently.
An early task to accomplish for each program chair is determining track chairs. For me this meant finding “pair-chairs” for these tracks:
- Coaching and Mentoring
- Collaboration, Culture and Teams
As a program team, we targeted some general goals/guides in helping to select:
- One returning and/or previous year’s track chair for each track. This is to provide experience and knowledge in helping to achieve a solid program.
- One new track chair for each track. This is to provide new perspectives to help make this and future conferences awesome.
- New track chair candidates should have experience volunteering and/or reviewing. This is not a “promotion” but it helps to have had experience being a reviewer first before take the lead as a chair.
These were goals not mandates. We kept these targets in mind as we explored candidates. Where does the list of candidates come from. This year, I pulled from:
- Last year’s track chairs for returning options
- Previous years’ track chairs for experienced options
- A URL was given out at the conference (and tweeted) for people to submit their interest in helping with Agile 2015. You had the option of volunteer, reviewer and/or track chair. This list was then reviewed.
- As a former track chair myself, a list of the top reviewers from my tracks. For what it is worth, I had created this list and sent it to last year’s program team before I ever knew I was going to be one of the program chairs. I just wanted these couple of individuals to be considered for next year given the high quality level of feedback (internal to the team and external to the submitter).
- Additional candidates based on the collective program team’s experience. I wasn’t the only one with a “list” of possible candidates.
Then it all starts to get a little fluid. It’s not a simple direct process. I focused first on determining the “returning/experienced” candidate for each of the four tracks. Choosing here is difficult but the options are more narrow, especially if you are starting with one returning. I tried to consider things such as is this their first time returning, what was the feedback on their contributions from the previous year (did they go to the retro, did they do reviews, etc) and there is an element of “how well would we work together” that is taken into consideration. I want to have fun while delivering quality work.
Once I have a candidate in mind, I reach out to them. I talk to them about their interest in being a pair-chair on this track for Agile 2015. However, it’s important to highlight that this is not a guarantee as things may change as we work to determine the pair-chair or final approval of the full committee from the board. If they express interest, then I add to my candidate list by inquiring if they have other names they would like to be considered.
This year, I did have one instance where the original target for a track did not work out. I went back to the start to consider other options. Overall, this first step is not easy. There are a ton of names in that compiled list that I respect, that I would love to work with, and that would do a great job. There are just only so many spots 🙁
Then I focus in on the pair-chairs. I’m going to break this down a little by each of the tracks. Let’s do coaching and mentoring first. I was the former track chair. Brandon Carlson agreed to be experienced chair on the track. He’s been a track chair in former years. He was a reviewer last year for this track. He was one of the top reviewers with great input into the final selections. However, because he was not a “returning” chair from last year, I felt it was important to keep consistency within the track. I had personally recommended Carlos Buxton as a stellar reviewer for the past three years (two on coaching and mentoring and one on adoption and transformation). This was an easy pairing. I spoke with Carlos and he was interested. One track done!
Let’s cover Leadership next. Esther Derby agreed to be the returning chair. One of the candidates on the interested list was Don Gray. Don had been a reviewer for several years and I had the experience of working one year with him and thought he did a great job. Given that these two had just presented together the previous year, I was fairly confident that it might be a good pairing. Upon talking with them both, they were interested. Another track done!
Onto Collaboration, Culture and Teams. Diane Zajac-Woodie experienced her first year as a track chair last year and she did a fantastic job. She agreed to return this year. Then I again went to the compiled list of new people that I thought would be a good match with Diane. Jennifer Dyni had been a volunteer for several years. In addition, she had been reviewing on the Leadership track for a few years. This combination would also bring knowledge from another track’s experience into this one. Upon talking with them both, they were interested. One more track to go!
Finally, Learning. Doc List agreed to be the chair with former experience. Similar to the value of a reviewer moving to a different track, the thought was there would be value in having Doc move tracks. Since Doc was not a returning chair on this track, I decided that although the target was to have one new person per track, that this scenario might be better suited to having another former experienced chair. So we continued down the path of moving tracks and Ellen Gottesdiener agreed to be the pair-chair. Whew, done!
I now had a final proposed list of track pair-chairs. I still had a list of people that I wished I had more spots available but as with most things…this is the reality.
Now I didn’t independently submit my list. We are a team at the program level. We discussed if anyone needed to move, if we missed anyone that really should be considered, etc. Then we as a team submitted the final full program committee names.
I have no idea if anyone cares about this but I was once curious. So I’m sharing. Maybe I can get one of these track chairs to guest post about finding reviewers.
What would you be interested in learning more about with Agile 2015?