Sarah Karandy, Scrum Master par excellence at Enervee, shares her take
Sarah Karandy heads up Enervee’s Agile Project Management team. For those not in the product development space, Scrum is an agile method of iterative and incremental product delivery that uses frequent feedback and collaborative decision making – and the one we most rely on at Enervee. I had the pleasure of peppering Sarah with questions about her takeaways from this year’s global Scrum extravaganza, which took place in June 2022 – and I learned a lot in the process.
Hi, Sarah. Could you tell me a bit about how you ended up in your Scrum Master role?
Sure thing! In College I studied music and Psychology, but quickly learned that my true love was technology. I started off as a Quality Assurance Engineer at a large automotive software company, and quickly learned that the Scrum Master role on the team was where my talents and interests would be best utilized. I had the pleasure of working with a well known Agile Leader: Cherie Silas - and it firmly cemented the fact that I was meant to do this job.
Just curious: What do you think makes a great Scrum Master?
A great scrum master is someone who helps to build teams that are resilient to change, over needing walls built up around them. A great scrum master is someone who listens before speaking, who has a high emotional EQ, who is an expert in scrum, and who is an expert in facilitating team discussions to elicit feedback and increased value. At Enervee we utilize the Aristotle survey (a Project from Google) to help determine levels of psychological safety, motivation, satisfaction, meaning of work, and so much more! This helps us to promote an Agile Company culture, over just one business unit.
Was having a female mentor important to you as a woman in tech?
This was an integral part of my success.
Turning to the event itself, let’s begin with the basics. I understand that we’re not talking rugby here, but can you help me understand what happens at one of these events? Have you attended before?
The World Scrum Gathering is held every year (since 2013), and it is an event FULL of training, talks, panels, and networking opportunities! It's organized by the non-profit Scrum Alliance from where I have my own certification. This was my first year going to the World Scrum Gathering, and I will be back next year!
OK, I see…a veritable scrum extravaganza for agilists…
What were the highlights? Can you distill all of that down to three?
Oh gosh, this is going to be hard. For me the top three were talks about facilitating retrospectives with remote teams, agile health metrics, and Alexa Robinson's talk that compared Brene’ Brown’s “Daring to Lead” to Agile Leadership! There was also an amazing Women In Agile panel (a network of mentors/mentees that I belong to).
Sounds great! I’m particularly curious about retrospectives with remote teams...They can be a fraught exercise, even when everyone is in the same room. How can we keep them productive?
While in many ways Scrum Masters have found ways to adapt to remote scrum teams, it is no secret that until this point many of the tools in our tool belt were observations in real time. When folks are creating a safe space, and having honest conversations about things that went wrong, and how to improve in order to create more value and efficiency, it can be hard to assess engagement and participation. For example, folks sometimes elect to keep their cameras off, which can make non- verbal expressions incredibly difficult to observe. One way around that is to make it fun for people to fully engage through gamification. Things like agile jeopardy, or asking people to pick an object that represents their experience over the last 10 days and explain why, can really draw people out. There are still so many opportunities to make retrospectives more effective with remote teams, and I’m excited to implement some of the new ideas we’ve learned!
I'd love to hear how those experiments go, keep me posted! Are there other learnings you took away from the event?
I learned SO many things! I have some great new ideas to implement with my team of Scrum Masters and our Agile Teams! I also met some wonderful folks from around the world, and had a chance to reconnect with some former colleagues!
So, maybe “music”, “math” and “python” aren’t the only universal languages…
Other insights or observations that come to mind, Sarah?
It’s always an eye opening experience when you step out of your day to day Agile Environment and into a conference full of professionals in your craft. You quickly realize how much work you still need to do, and you often leave more energized than you came!
This time was a little different for me – I left feeling really proud of what we have built over the past year and a half in regards to our Agile accomplishments. From planned Product Increments, to Consistent Scrum events, measurable velocities, and increased psychological safety – we have made some HUGE strides. With that said – we have SO much more to discover and learn as a company, and I’m excited to get back to work!
Great to hear, we need you orchestrating the show!
Sarah, it’s been a pleasure…thanks for your time!
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