2020-05-25 09:30

Agila Sverige

Sara Wänerskär

Agila Sverige is a Swedish speaking conference that takes place late spring/early summer. The Covid-19 situation meant that it was held online this year, with an extra IRL event in the autumn. Earlier this spring, I sent the organisers a proposal where I investigate how the Funnel dev organisation can have a clear contract towards its stakeholders whilst safeguarding its freedom and honouring agile principles. The speech was accepted and it was time to get to work and prepare a ten minute lightning talk! I have already held the talk, but want to share the journey there with you anyway. Maybe it can push other inexperienced speakers to submit a proposal, or you could just learn from my mistakes - skipping the “iterate” in the iterate and learn cycle. 


Looking at previous Agila Sverige lightning talks I was surprised how much content the speakers manage to cram in. Removing the corporate presentation that is usually found at the beginning of a talk and sticking to what’s important makes for an efficient and informative ten minutes. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say, but needed to gather more material to make sure that there is enough to make the talk interesting. 

The most time efficient and fun way of doing this is through interviews with my fellow Funnelers.  I prepared eight questions and got seven volunteers from the tech and customer facing teams. During the interviews I also posed some follow up questions, so no two conversations turned out the same. Helping others is an important part of the culture at Funnel, so it was easy to find a good mix of interviewees. I already knew that my colleagues are keen and intelligent, but it was extra nice to be reminded of this now when we are not seeing each other as much. All in all, this type of cross functional project is warmly recommended for boosting morale when working from home.

It seems like different parts of the organisation have a similar idea of what agile is. That is reassuring, as it is a widely used term that sometimes loses its meaning. Some of the answers from the customer facing organisation pushed on other aspects of agile than I had thought of. Turns out it was a good thing to ask for help, as this exposed the waterfall aspects of my speech making mindset!  

On the day…

The conference was held using Zoom. The organisers held a trial session the day before to make sure that everyone was comfortable using the technology. When you only have a ten minute slot there is really no time for tech related accidents! As it turned out, there were some issues with the chat function on Linux computers. Chat messages were supposed to be used to remind speakers of time left. As that did not work, it was decided that the moderator would make some kind of sound when there was only one minute left. 

I had learnt the speech by heart and had practised holding it using a timer. 9 minutes and 40 seconds seemed like a good time to aim for and I also decided to use the timer as a measure for success. Despite getting bored with the text as I read it several times, I was happy with the contents. It would be difficult for me to know how well the presentation went, but if I would stay close to the target time, there should not have been many hiccups from losing focus or starting to talk too quickly. By having a measure of success, I was hoping to avoid brooding over how well I performed afterwards. This strategy turned out to be quite successful and something I will keep on using to combat stress. Using the stress management strategy of focusing on what you can change and not to worry about the rest, I also found a spot in the house with good light and removed any background clutter. 

Now my ten minutes in the limelight are here and guess who has forgotten to unmute her microphone. Oops! Luckily I could just skip the first two phrases nobody heard and continue, so not to lose time. Speaking at a Zoom conference call, you cannot see the audience so it is a bit like miming in front of a mirror. This was both disconcerting and comforting. The muted microphone made me lose confidence in the beginning, but I did my best to regain confidence and hold an animated speech. 

Ten minutes pass quickly, which is a good thing as it was pretty intense. The speeches were bundles together into slots of three and the audience could ask questions after each slot. I received a few. At Funnel we do not use deadlines and we do not promise the customer to implement functionality before starting the work. There is nothing controversial about this to us. Deadlines are hard to set as we do not know how to solve a customer’s problem before starting to work on it and if there is an issuing production we will see to that first. Part of the selling point of Funnel is that our customers do not have to maintain several integrations themselves, so we have to stay on top and fix any problems quickly. However, judging by the questions, there would be agile organisations where they do not work like this. There are many ways to be agile, so this was hardly surprising. Meeting representatives from other organisations also means that you will be exposed to their way of expressing themselves. There are certain agile terms we use at Funnel, and they may not be the same as those that are used elsewhere. Answering the questions was fun as I had to think on my feet. It was a challenge to make sure I did not misunderstand any questions as well as doing a health check on my answers, so that my answers would reflect the Funnel way of doing things. 

Final thoughts

Speaking at Agila Sverige was so much fun. I learnt a lot about our organisation, the event was well organised with supportive organisers. It was also a nice way of getting to know colleagues and understand the challenges in their daily work. Doing the lighting talk was a bit like an 800 meter race where you are only competing with yourself. Now it is time to reload and hopefully be able to have another go soon!

Best regards

Sara Wänerskär dev@funnel

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