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Here's my story: COVID-19 gave me Scrum…and it changed my life for the better!

Last post 10:11 am January 24, 2024 by Loris Barbisan
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10:11 am January 24, 2024

As a sound engineer I started working in recording studios in the 90s, back when recordings were done on VHS looking digital tapes, but soon enough computers and home studios took over and the business shrunk. I ended up spending many years working on live events, first music festivals and eventually conferences and corporate events. 

As I entered my thirties, I started working as a project manager, and I continued working in corporate events in many different environments. As it happens to many, after years dealing with same clients, circumstances, places and people, I became very comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, and what used to be exciting and unique, became business as usual. 

In many ways, being that comfortable, and being the work so predictable to me, made me better at it…terrified clients would approach exhibitions and conferences with the strong feeling that their careers were on the line, and I gained a solid reputation for being the calming and reassuring presence they relied on, confident that their events were in good hands.

When in March 2020 the UK entered its first lockdown because of COVID-19, the event industry came to a halt. I had to personally call all my freelancers and contractors, and cancel hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work without knowing when and how events would start again. At the time I was working with The Royal College Of Physicians of London, hosting events for pharmaceutical corporations, all the major healthcare trusts in the UK, and of course our own series of conferences, seminars, and classes.

After a few months spent researching all the different options available to deliver events online, while Zoom and others frequently developed more features to meet the needs of home working teams, we established a course of action and contracted a development company to help creating the platform on which we would host all virtual and hybrid events we needed to deliver.

I was the project manager with the deepest understanding of our events’ requirements, and the most hands on person to coordinate our technical teams, in charge of executing the events: filming the speakers, formatting the slideshows, managing the Q&A sessions, and interacting with production companies and sponsors. And so I was assigned the role of Product Owner (a term I had never heard before).

Throughout the next 15 months, we went through sprint after sprint (3 weeks long), designing, updating , improving, customizing, adding and correcting the platforms which ended up delivering all the events of our most prestigious clients (WHO, UNICEF, L’Oreal, BioNTech, Danone, etc.), and for me like all others, this was a continuous learning experience, and my relationship with the Scrum Master was the thing I will cherish the most out of that time. 

My eyes had opened to the world of Scrum, it’s impact on efficiency, productivity, wellbeing at work, empowerment and therefore employee retention and customer satisfaction. I felt it was a one way ticket to the career I was made for, I wanted to be a Scrum Master, I wanted to coach teams and organisations in the cultural shift that would make their work and their life better.

Sadly as governments around the world started relaxing all COVID-19 rules, the events industry reversed to the familiar and reliable predictive method of managing their work and I felt I needed a way out.

The way out came when my better half applied and gained a position as a diplomat in Kigali Rwanda. And so, in October 2021, we moved the whole family (and everything we own) to East Africa. I left my job, and started studying, reading, researching and most of all, I transformed my culture and joined Agile with every cell in my body.

Last year I completed my PMP certification, and then CSM.

I am currently looking to start working as Scrum Master, remotely (as I am still in East Africa), and while I look for the right opportunity, I apply the Scrum framework to pretty much everything I do: family life admin, house employees such as guard, housekeeper, nanny (yes it is a thing in this part of the world to have home workers), but also workouts, and career work.

Most recently I was asked by a dear friend in Norway, to produce her latest music effort. She has written 10 songs and she would like me to make an album out of them. This is the topic for a different post, but once gathered together the team to put this together, we have started working remotely using Scrum diligently, me in Rwanda, her and two musicians in Norway, other two musicians in the UK. Scrum is working so well for us, and hopefully by Easter we will have a full album released!

The biggest challenge for me now is to find work as a Scrum Master as I am in a country where English is not spoken by many and even though Rwanda is setting itself  to become a technology hub in East Africa, it is culturally very difficult for me to work with local teams. At the same time my chances of taking my first role as Scrum Master remotely are rather slim, but that’s what I look for at this time in my life. Ultimately the only times in my life I have used Scrum, were and are entirely online, with teams scattered all over the world. I am confident 2024 is the year I can start working officially as a Scrum master and never look back at the days of gnat charts and waterfall nightmares.

I would be truly grateful if anyone has any recommendations on how to kick start my Scrum Master career online.

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