As a program chair for the past few years, I felt like I was going to the Agile2017 conference knowing what to expect. I was wrong. I promised to be as transparent as I could be – so this is truly a look inside my head and heart as I leave Agile2017.
During the week, I discussed highs and lows each day with Christina. I’m going to utilize this same format to get all of my thoughts out.
- 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. When people ask how this is all possible, the answer is very easy…purple shirts rock!
- Sarah Klarich and Becky Hartman: As we thanked the volunteers on Thursday for their hard work, I naturally turned to the two of you and a wave of appreciation overwhelmed me. You brought creativity, fun, empathy and passion to successfully creating #purplepride. Thank you so much!!!!
- Speakers, I’m no different than most of the conference attendees…I wanted to see so many of you. I heard so many positive comments about the keynotes and several speakers. A few went above and beyond with the little extra elements for the attendees. The one I heard the most about for his energy and content was Chris Li. This didn’t surprise me in the least bit. You know I think you rock!
- As usual, sponsors delivered in the most amazing ways. I heard constant comments about the fantastic events & swag throughout the week.
- Team (program, track, reviewers): our goal was a quality program…achieved. Understanding and recommending session submissions is no easy task but the result made it feel as such. People couldn’t decide between sessions, multiple sessions were full, a variety of topics, quality speakers, etc. Thank you!
Behind the scenes team (Agile Alliance, Elastic, AV, Hotel): Even I, as the conference chair, fail to understand how much work you handle to make this event a success. Over and over again, you almost could predict what someone needed next and magically made it happen. With kindness, humor and dedication…all of you worked tirelessly to make sure things were smooth for everyone else. Thank you!
- There is no doubt that one of my top highs from this past year has been building a relationship with Christina Hartikainen. I don’t typically call out one individual in a huge team of people, however, she truly deserves so much more than this shout out. We accepted this week that this sentiment applied both ways for us “Behind every strong woman is a stronger woman”. Not only did you kick butt and take names with helping to get everything covered…we found a way to center each other. Thank you for bringing me up when I was down and for sharing with me to be able to do the same. Sharing highs/lows every day, playing the weirdest game versions, laughter, dancing and deep conversations. I’m grateful that you started my conference by connecting me with an attendee that I had impacted and ended the conference with a great evening of laughter and conversations (plus Mike, Krystina, and Chris). Can’t wait to see you again in Nov!
- The other extremely top high for me was getting to see, hug and hear Dave Hussman. If you have been reading my blog, you know my mad respect for this man is endless. I couldn’t attend really any sessions but for his I drew a line, for this session, I wasn’t leaving. Nothing could bring me down from cloud nine after hearing him call me sister with a huge hug.
- Getting on stage. I doubt it will be a surprise that I wasn’t afraid to speak to over 2200 people but there were moments and I felt that I recovered quickly, with humor and ownership. The tiara and cape worked even better than I hoped. Thanks again Bernie and Laura for making me feel so very special.
- AFA family…and I do truly mean family. Only a family would understand when you break and yell at them over something stupid from the stress and exhaustion of the week. Not only did they understand but did everything they could to make sure I didn’t feel guilty afterwards. I’m extremely lucky!
- Jennifer Dyni…my forever teammate. I’m so ridiculously proud of you and love that our relationship remains strong even living states apart. When my inner self-critic takes hold, you bring the past, present and future to my attention in a way that makes me settle while thinking the world of you. Plus, you bring me tequila…seriously, is there anything better than that?!?
- Attendees, so many of you approached me with gratitude, hellos, feedback, questions…and I am relieved that despite the craziness, you felt yo
u could approach me. My conference started with one amazing attendee right out of the gate. Dipendra had attended my Agile2013 session. He shared with me the impact that session has had on him professionally and personally over the past several years. Yes, I was honored but even more I was absolutely touched that he would share with me some details of the impact. People have asked me for years, why I return each year…this is why, paying forward what others did for me. Thank you Dipendra for starting my week with such a connection.
Brian Button and I built a strong relationship over the past several years. I’m a better person as a result of his influence in my life. I know you will do a fantastic job for Agile2018 and I’m here to support you…always.
- Linda Cook ran the track chair submission process retrospective. She did an exercise of having the chairs write a card to the next chair. I absolutely loved this exercise – I plan on stealing it for a few purposes 🙂
- Doc List: Thank you for your friendship…I heard someone say your session was a game changer for them. Plus, I’m extremely grateful for the photos to help remember Agile 2017.
- Experiments: We did several experiments this year…furthering audacious salon, furthering open jam, agile companies, customers & products, first timer orientation and feedback. Although there is several things to improve on, I think the highlight for me was when Chris Matts said roughly “these experiments are showing a desire and intent to dive deeper in advance sessions and a willingness to experiment”.
- Special nights of connecting: Even though I don’t watch Game of Thrones, observing others watch the show while Barcomb, Dyni and I chatted in the back was quite an experience (thanks Melissa for pulling this together). Whiskey night that turned into
old school whiskey night of deep honest raw conversations (much love to Arlo, Eric, Bonnie, Ronica, and Christine). Howl at the Moon after party…nothing like turning a piano bar into karaoke (thank you Kim and Chris for making that happen). Also the Party. as always, Diana Larsen started the dance floor and I loved every minute of letting loose. The band was amazing!
- Wednesday I became a board member for Agile Alliance starting January 2018. I was able to meet other board members that I wasn’t familiar with. I was able to attend a few board events during the week to get a feel for these meetings. I felt very welcomed and really looking forward to working with everyone. The question is are they ready for Heidi, Becky and myself?!?
- Code of Conduct updates definitely helped increase conversations and support situations. Be kind to others and behave professionally is extremely doable.
- Fluffy, the Alligator. I was chatting with someone about doing an upcoming keynote about getting out of your comfort zone. As karma would have it, someone mentioned that Fluffy was right over there – my immediate reaction was no way. The response was “sounds like a comfort zone” – so I held fluffy. Well, I let the videos speak to this – just know that it took five minutes afterwards for my hands to stop shaking. Thanks Henry for the video: Proof
- Sometimes I limit in my mind who is part of this community until I get to see Christina’s daughter meet Linda Rising. What an amazing moment that I will never forget to only then be followed by this beautiful drawing she made for me. She is going to rule the world!
Lows: (again, please note, that I do have other lows but am not able to share all of them. I share this because I do not want to give the impression that things were all rosebuds but that as with most things there are highs and lows).
- Still not happy with the volume of technical topics and advanced material sessions for the conference based on some feedback. As noted above, we are trying but this has been extremely difficult. If you have ideas, I truly encourage you to reach out to Brian Button (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- This was a different conference in so many ways. Typically, I’m constantly catching up and engaging in conversations. I just couldn’t do that this time. My phone would go off, we had to attend an event, we had to prepare for something coming up, etc. It felt absolutely lousy to basically constantly say “hi, gotta run”. I feel like I barely saw most people and really didn’t get to find out how many of my friends are doing. There is no sugar coating this…I didn’t like it. I know this was the reality and necessary but definitely not something I would ever want to experience again.
- Exhaustion: The pressure of this conference: the size, the desire to have people enjoy and learn, the endless activities, etc…left me absolutely wiped out. Mentally and physically, I found myself hitting break points in the week. I did my best to always do this in private but occasionally I got overwhelmed in the moment. I knew this was a big deal but my inner critical self put a ton of pressure on myself to do everything possible to make this a success. I’m so glad there was an amazing team to work with me – or you may have just found me curled up in a fetal position. So if you approached me with a compliment, I genuinely meant what I said…I needed to hear that for an energy boost.
- This last one I share not for sympathy but because this is a leadership blog. As with leaders in companies, I’m not always able to explore, discuss, explain, give a heads up and sometimes even provide additional context for things that are happening or being discussed. My role as chair is to be respectful to the situation at hand and not discuss any COC situation, conflicts, etc occurring. I’m accustomed to this as a leader in general but this is my tribe (friends) and at times, it was extremely difficult to be the leader when friends were involved. I am human and impacted deeply by the connections I’ve built. This year was full of gains and a couple of losses for me personally that didn’t end on Friday. My life is changed after Agile2017 – and I’ll be privately processing this for quite some time. I’m sorry that I had to ask but grateful that people respected the confidentially of the situation; and understood that despite our friendship, there were topics I would not discuss yesterday, today or tomorrow. I’m extremely grateful to my caring and supportive friends that understood how difficult this was for me and found ways to support me.
If you have gotten to this point, thanks. I have been attending Agile Alliance conferences since 2007…what I gain today is different but just as important. So THANK YOU for an amazing week of learning, laughter, love and leaving it all out on the dance floor!!! I hope to see you at Agile2018 🙂
Do you have any Agile2017 reflection thoughts to share?