How 17 Strangers in 7 Time Zones Scaled Scrum with Nexus and Deployed to Production in 9 Days
In this episode of the Scrum.org Community Podcast, Patricia Kong joins as guest host with guests Professional Scrum Trainer Ravi Verma and Agile for Patriots graduates Brittny Snyder, Chris Cole and Jeremy Thomas to talk about their journey through the Agile for Patriots program and how they used Nexus to scale Scrum in their cohort of 17 people, where they were tasked with building a website showcasing their profiles. They talk about how they worked through challenges together, enabled self-management, supported each other, and hit the ground running quickly with picking up the Nexus framework and running with it to deploy to production in just 9 days!
Agile for Patriots is a Dallas-based non-profit that provides military veterans and their spouses with focused Agile training, practical experience, and Professional Scrum Master certification. The mission of Agile for Patriots is to prepare military Veterans and their spouses for Agile careers through training, coaching, certification and practical experience using the Scrum framework. Its vision is that all graduates of the Agile for Patriots program are employed with fulfilling roles in Agile Value Delivery.
Patricia Kong 0:20
Hi, welcome to the Scrum.org community Podcast. I'm Patricia Kong. And we'll be your guest host today. With me we have Ravi Verma, a professional scrum trainer from Texas. And also from the Texas area we have Jeremy Thomas, Chris Cole and Brittny Snyder from the Agile for Patriots program. I've really been looking forward to our conversation today. I want to take a chance though and say thank you for your service and support for our country. That's amazing. And I'm almost a little nervous to have this conversation because it's there's so many meaningful things in there. So we have the short time and Robbie, I want to dive right in actually not into Scrum and Nexus what we're going to talk about, but into the Agile for Patriots program that that has been near and dear to your heart. So could you tell everybody a little bit more about this program and why you started it and what it means and what it looks like. I know, I know, the people that we're going to talk to are part of a cohort that you just ran this year.
Ravi Verma 1:19
Yeah, so Agile for Patriots is a program I co founded with a friend of mine, Greg Gomel, our vision is to eliminate job insecurity for US military veterans and spouses who choose to pursue a career in Agile delivery. So that's why we exist, why did we create it? We are so grateful to military families, they sacrifice so much so that the rest of us can be free, we can feel safe. And I feel I felt bad that they are sacrificing so much when they are in the service. And then when they come back in the civilian space, I felt I was not doing my part and expressing my gratitude to them. And so the best way that I know how to express my gratitude is to teach. So that's why we created agile for Patriots are and the way in which we try to realize our vision is by providing scrum.org training, and scrum.org has been our partner in you have helped us every single every step of the way. So scrum.org offers scholarships for training and certifications. We help our grad applicants attend the training, get free training, free certification, then we put them through like a boot camp or laboratory, which is basically scrum.org applying professional scrum workshop on steroids. So there is an 11 day program, where they will do three three day sprints. And through the application of Scrum, they build a very simple software increment deliver it. And then they use that increment as a way to earn credibility with their future interviewers and hiring managers to demonstrate that not only do they understand the theory of Scrum, but they have applied it and delivered a real world increment. So in a nutshell, that's what the program is.
Patricia Kong 3:16
Thank you. Yeah. I saw on the the there's a website also right agile for patriots.org. And it says creating agile opportunities for America's patriots. So that's really apt. And that's a that's a great way to give back which I know you you've been doing throughout your career. So can you paint us a little bit of a picture because this is the first time that I really heard about this in such scale? Well, so you say like that, right? So usually you're teaching a cohort about Scrum, letting them know what that collaboration feels like. And then all of a sudden, you're knocking on the door and saying, Hey, Trish look, this is about Nexus. Now. For those who don't know what Nexus is. So scrum are focused on one product Nexus is also. So we have multiple teams working to build one product. How did that happen? So suddenly, in like a short class, and then I'm going to be ready to jump in to talk to you Jeremy about what your experience was, but but paint that Robbie, how did you go from usually five to 10 people to, you know, five to 10 teams or whatever you had there?
Ravi Verma 4:23
Yeah, so we had a sudden like, hockey stick curve, almost. So go hot eight. What happened in cohort eight, until cohort eight, a typical cohort size was about 10 people. Then we had two people who are like social media influencers who attended cohort eight one the biggest reason why we had experienced the growth was a military service member called Jay Salters. Who has like, I know 80,000 followers. So he graduated from cohort eight, and he started sharing about AFP. So we got more than 100 applications in cohort nine. And then we had Another graduate from cohort, a George Morris, who started doing social media. So because of the contributions of Jay and George, we got a lot of people. So I did two APS classes, we have 34 people who attend, I think, attended APs. Now usually there's a drop off after APS to practicum. So I was in suspense after finishing both the APS to say how many people are going to actually carry through. And then when all of the confirmations came in, I had an Oh, crap moment, like, Oh, my God, 17 people. And it was also Oh, my god, wow, we can make an impact to 17 lives, but then it was like, now how do we make it work? And that's where I said, we need Nexus and I hadn't planned for any of this, because I wasn't expecting it. So anyway, that's how we went from about 10 people to 17 people and why we needed suddenly needed at Nexus,
Patricia Kong 5:53
I'm sure that you must have made a decision between Nexus and some of the other programs, scaling program you've tried in your past
Ravi Verma 6:02
lives. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I have had the blessing of being trained on the three frameworks by the people who created it. So I attend I learned scale professional Scrum, by getting from Ken Schwaber. I had I learned SEO from Dean Leffingwell. And I learned less from Craig Larman. So I got it from the horse's mouth in all three cases. And there's a reason why, after going through all three, I still believe in Nexus, because of its simplicity. And the fact that if you understand single team Scrum, it is so minimalist, that the things that are added on are so little, my lived experience has shown me that if people understand single team Scrum, they look at Nexus and they're like, yeah, what's this? What's that, and they just get it. So that is the reason I chose Nexus because I thought the framework will not be a distraction, to achieving the mission, the mission is delivering value, the framework must be an enabler, and it it cannot become a problem in itself. And that's why I chose Nexus.
Patricia Kong 7:11
Excellent. So that brings me we were talking about simplicity. And I was I was looking, I was recapping the experience that y'all had shared. It didn't seem that simple. Jeremy, what I was reading kind of how you're thrown into the experience. So Jeremy Thomas, I understand that in this experience, you were next, a scrum master, the scrum master on the Nexus integration team, so very focused on making sure that things were coming together and really, really from bottom up serving the whole Nexus, all these 17 people. However, what I'm assuming, and what I understand is that you didn't know anything about what Nexus meant. So what was that experience? You come for training? So you've, you've learned some stuff. And now they said, Okay, let's apply. What? What happened then? And what what, what was your approach?
Jeremy Thomas 8:12
Thank you for the question. First thing that should be said is Ravi challenged us. Anyone that wasn't a development team had to interview extensively. And that required homework. So to get the opportunity to serve as a scrum master, and product owner, or what I become in was, was very challenging, and it had me dig deep and want it. And so we went on Friday day one of 11, when we found out who the what the roles were, and it was just a half day. And then he said, Oh, by the way, here's the keys to Agile for Patriots zoom. And then here's the by the way, we're going to be playing on the Nexus, and you're the, you know, you need to learn that. And that also we're going to use this thing called Jira, confluence, and WordPress. So good luck, see, and, you know, disperse, next sprint reviews, and I'm like, I didn't know what the next sprint review was. So I said, okay, that whole weekend, obviously, was I read the, I read, read and read a Nexus guide. And I understood that I had some accountabilities, and I knew that I had to apply some new events or some expanded events, if you will. And I had to understand the time boxes for those and how they complemented Scrum and I knew that I had to teach and do what a Scrum Master does, which is sure that we had everybody was well aware of the new framework that we were applying in addition to what we learned, but also keep the team aware of the times and the new time boxes and the proper estimate. Heading for those in the battle room, if you will, also had to figure out how to not end calls with 17 people across the globe in zoom, because I've never been to zoom host. So it was very, it was very fun. And it was, what was great was I told her everything, she threw me in the ocean without a paddle. So I thought that by about Wednesday, myself and the other Scrum Masters, we had all the training, we need it, and we had prepared us. Well. And all we had to do was what he shot it.
Patricia Kong 10:39
Right. So you're a program manager and, or you and you've got her management background? What do you think this would look like in at work in the real world? Is what do you think it would? Do you think it would work the same? Could you see this working in some of the teams that that you've worked with?
Jeremy Thomas 11:02
No, in my three weeks of retirement and working in the real world, if you will. What I've realized is real world is people are taking from different frameworks, they're taking, and they're kind of making it work for them, which you got to be flexible. And you got to be agile on to what your team needs. And so that's what I've seen currently is different. People are kind of picking and choosing a little bit of a certification path through the this organization is impressive and not easy. And that's why I'm proud to be you know, certified through this, this program. But I think it to answer your question. It doesn't. It's, it's very well received. But you got to not be too rigid to where you're not creating value.
Patricia Kong 11:50
Right? All right, what I hope and I'm sure, I'm sure what Ravi hopes is that you have that foundation, right? And so you have, you have that capability to, you know, if we veer off path, we kind of know what needs to come back. And especially having that, that that accountability, when you're in the Nexus integration team, and you're the scrum master there is really having that global view to try to bring people together. So so so that's, that's a really good point. Now I want to get into it's not so simple. I want to get into somebody who was in one of the teams. So Chris Cole, thank you for being here. So you were a scrum master. In the team, what what did that look like for you? What did it mean? Where you're just like, all of a sudden, you're a scrum master. And you are using this thing? That's not called Scrum. That's what you thought you came to learn. And you're trying to work with people, but you're trying not to tell them what to do? What did that? What did that feel like?
Chris Cole 12:50
Sure. Thank you for your question, Patricia. First, I think it's it's funny to mention hearing it from Ravi for the first time. It's definitely interesting to see where he was coming from where, oh, my gosh, we have all these applicants, what are we going to do? And that's kind of how he came to the decision of Nexus because, like Jeremy mentioned, for us, it felt like Friday morning, hey, guess what, let's, let's do a Nexus see a Monday. as Jeremy said, we had a lot of homework with that. We had to learn what Nexus was. But I think he also mentioned that it felt like we were thrown into the ocean. But really, at the end of the day. We had more training than we thought, because Nexus is so simple. And I really think that's the beauty of it. I think for me as a scrum master on one of the teams. First, the difficulty was that it was foreign to us. And yes, it was simpler. After after learning it, it was simpler than we thought. But it was unfamiliar at the time. So it was daunting. Second, we were all strangers. 17 of us, none of us knew each other. We were all virtual. A lot of the team had never even heard what scrum was before before starting. It's also funny that Robbie mentioned Jay Salters was in cohort II, I that's how I found out about the AP program actually was through the Aktau education program. So I'm very grateful to both organizations for that. But specifically as a scrum master, on one of the Nexus teams or within the next framework. It felt like a developer at first. I didn't know what to do upfront, with Jeremy being a scrum master. And we had our product owner. My initial reaction was this is kind of weird. I feel like a developer and I think that was my initial struggle specifically as a scrum master was figuring out how I can help the team. We already have a scrum master in the next chapter. How can I be a scrum master on a on a team? And what I found quickly was most importantly, I had a great team and I had to enable self management, my team was able to accomplish a lot. And it was actually better to kind of step back, ask some open ended questions and provide a platform for them to work because we had an incredible team. After that, enabling self management, I'd say the second thing was conflict resolution, because we were 17 Strangers across the globe. And the fact that we were all very had a vested interest in the success of the product. As Robin mentioned, we build a website to showcase ourselves for jobs. So we were all not only building this, but we were also the customer itself, which was very unique. So we're learning Nexus, we're a customer of our own product. We don't know each other. I think those were the big the big struggle points for us. And I think that enabling self management and then conflict resolution were the two keys that I learned from this experience. Again, getting back to Nexus is very simple. It builds on Scrum, very, very minimalist, Stickley, and I think that enabled success for our team.
Patricia Kong 16:10
Excellent. For those who can't. So for those who can't see, we're actually we're recording this over zoom. And I don't know if this is good or bad. But Ravi Verma is just holding his belly and laughing these stories, I don't know if it's because he's, he thinks it's so great. Or it's just so fun that he threw people into the water and they learned how to swim. But, Chris, thank you for sharing that. What what I understand about you, at least from your profile, is that you you're you think about product, and a lot around product strategy and risk. So when you look at an a framework, like Nexus, or even Scrum, and you're talking about things like like, like self management, self organization, did you see the ways that this was helping you mitigate some of the risks? Or was you know what I'm what I'm talking about where it's like, well, when we throw around words like self management, or empower self organization sounds like we have a magic wand, we go, you got it? What did it look like when you were actually in person? Because it's, you know, even what you're talking about, we want the best product for ourselves. But when you have separate teams, everybody wants to win sometimes. The how does that? How do you how do you make sure that we're all winning? What does that look like?
Chris Cole 17:37
Absolutely, I actually have a great example of that one. So one thing I noticed when, when using the ones to enable self management of my team was they wanted to do everything, and they wanted it to be done fast. And they were excited to see the product they were going to build for themselves and how it's going to help them grow. And that, in particular, started to cause conflict. There were conflicts between a couple of our teams, because one team was building the homepage and another team was building a second page. And then it was like, Well, why are you building the homepage of our website? When that's our, our job. So I guess, where the conflict management came into play, it was more it was it was a balance of self management and reducing cross team dependencies. And I think that was the risk, the risk of being like go conquer the world, was that it created some conflict. And that's really where I saw the value in being a scrum master on a team was working with the other SCRUM masters to deconflict. And then during backlog refinement, making sure that we were reducing cross team dependencies to the best of our ability. I think that's how we were able to mitigate risk to create our products at the end of the day. Oh,
Patricia Kong 18:55
and I'm imagine what happens in these in these large companies and, and what it makes me think about especially so when I think about teams and crossing dependency, like think about not only the notion of conflict, but how much that cost, and so on, people are getting petty or into these little things. It's just catching, catching, catching up the door. So so it's nice to have that foundation. So speaking of magic wands, I have somebody who's a self proclaimed scrum master magician. So Brittany Schneider. My understanding is that you were also a scrum master. In the Nexus working with this group, what was what was what was it like for you? What was what was challenging, but what also wasn't challenging? I'd love to hear about things that were just easy.
Brittny Snyder 19:40
Thank you, Patricia, for that intro. That was great. Um, personally on my team, I share similar sentiments as Chris, right. He kind of hit everything on the head in terms of 17 Strangers, how we were coming together as a large group on the Nexus team, but then also we were separating to our own individual teams. So for me, the most challenging part of all of this was kind of creating and then maintaining the cross team collaboration across each team, right, because we're working towards the same product. So that was probably the most challenging thing. And then, on our own individual teams, I think we all did a great job at initiating and establishing that connection, and kind of relaying what Jeremy did as the Nexus scrum master all of his lessons and teachings and kind of relaying that to our team to ensure that they felt supported and confident in what we were producing. But having to kind of take the conversations that we were having on our smaller scale team and kind of bringing that to the larger group was challenging, and had a lot of its own, you know, disagreements and things that we had to work through which Chris kind of highlighted with, you know, conflict resolution, and ensuring that we were efficient with what we were doing and the time that we had. And a way that it kind of helped us grow closer as the 17 individual people. But I would say that was probably the most challenging thing for me personally. But also things that were great, you know, through the challenges, we were able to establish such a great connection at the end, we were able to kind of understand each other's demeanor and temperaments on this 17 individuals working together and kind of creating the product that we ended up releasing.
Patricia Kong 21:40
That's, that's, that's excellent. So Bernie, I'm wondering, for for you, it's this, this is an experience that you've all taken to, to advance your careers or to add some color to your careers professionally. What what what have you pulled from this experience that you think has helped you? In? In your job?
Brittny Snyder 22:10
Yeah, that's a great question. I want to say everything, honestly, truly everything I get so emotional, in a good way, just thinking about the experience. And sitting here with Jeremy and Chris today and Robbie. The whole experience is near and dear to my heart, and learning. Right, as Chris mentioned, just kind of learning, having insight on what Scrum is, but how I've been able to utilize that in my current job as a scrum master is kind of implementing things that we already did write, kind of implementing the human connection, the icebreakers, being inclusive and establishing that first, which is really important to me as an individual. And I think something that we really needed to kind of push this through to the end of that project. But honestly, everything just kind of being able to work with so many different people all across the globe, I think was a huge advantage, because it allows me to kind of have the ability to work through diversity and understand, you know, different kinds of people and how they're all working, especially when you're in a setting with, you know, developers from all over the world. I'm at my current job, we do have, you know, individuals from India and Brazil. So having that ability to kind of collaborate and work together seamlessly. I learned that through this experience,
Patricia Kong 23:30
well done, what a win. The there's a there's a sentiment actually, that I that I we're kind of running short on time, but that I want to pull through that the that the three of you have been mentioning and so Jeremy, before we started, I said what a story and you said, story, it's it really feels like a family. And can you can you elaborate on that Jeremy like what this this experience is has been like, because it was it's short, right? And I'm, I'm wondering, I'm wondering what that means for you also as a as a as someone who is participating in Agile for Patriots, because the thing that I hear so that the similarities of family is that in the Agile industry, and then you guys have been saying things that it takes us years to kind of get into the skulls of other people but for y'all, it's been so quick and I'm just wondering, when you talk about family or why it's why when I talk to people about military people learning about agile they're just say they're excellent. They just get it it's just natural. What what is this?
Jeremy Thomas 24:41
That's a great question. And you know, I started reflecting on my experiences in the military, we we have we don't have an option to not play well with each other. We need everyone you know the sun of the individuals is far less than the sum of the whole. And we know that and whether you're a military veteran or military spouse, you lock arms and you marched forward. And so we were quickly able to get to conquer any challenge. It didn't matter whether it was, you know, passive aggressive behavior, technology. I mean, we all we wouldn't learned it, we wouldn't, we wouldn't talk about it, we, we went into the vulnerable when we went there quickly, and we didn't let poison stop us, and couldn't prevent, because we knew we had to go, we had to get it done. And I think our experiences our life experiences, well prepare us. I know, for me, but, you know, it's like, you know, you go on, you go downrange, you only have the person left or right. And that's the way and you know, even for like their spouses, when they're when they're left. They're the only parent there, their mom, dad, whatever, whatever's there. And you know, my wife will be the first one to tell you, it's hard. But there's no way to say you can't do it. You can't. You just have to do. And so I think that's how we were quickly able to put everything in be successful, because there's no other alternative.
Patricia Kong 26:15
That's that focus. Chris, do you have anything to add? I know, I know, also, that this is this experience has been a success for all of you, I would say because you're you're you're in the next phase of your, your careers in or in the civilian life in an agile space. So I'm wondering if you have anything to add on to the experience or to what to what Jeremy just mentioned.
Chris Cole 26:39
Nothing in particular, to add, I really, I couldn't reinforce it enough, though, I actually didn't even really think about it that way until Jeremy just started talking about it a minute ago. It's it's a learning curve for us coming out of the military to adapt and begin to not just take orders or give orders and encourage creativity and collaboration. Versus do it because I'm your boss, or they told me to do it. So I'll do it. And I think it it just goes to show the flexibility of agile it goes to show how much more you can accomplish in that sort of setting. So yeah, I definitely reinforce what what Jeremy is saying in that regard.
Patricia Kong 27:28
All right. Yeah. And for our military's for is for Brittany, ultimate servant leadership. Right. Well, what does that mean? For you? Anything to add there from your perspective?
Brittny Snyder 27:39
Absolutely. Um, so as they're kind of giving their speaking, I'm just thinking about the word resiliency. Right. And I think, kind of as your question before, that's something that I've kind of had to lean on. And I think this is especially important for, you know, our servicemembers, where you're always relying on resiliency, and especially as a military, military spouse as well, right there, you're the researcher, you're auditing what it is, I guess, metaphorically as a scrum master, right, even as a military spouse to implement those values as you're supporting your partner, whether they're deployed or not. But really, the resiliency is the real resiliency and the tact, you know, to keep going and to figure it out. And that's kind of essentially what we all did. And, you know, just kind of hearing everyone's answers and stepping back. And I'm kind of presently in that situation. I'm working as a scrum master, thankfully. But yeah, it's I've been really using the resiliency and the tact that I think comes with this, you know, position as a spouse, but I know especially Chris and Jeremy can relate and other service members as well.
Patricia Kong 28:54
Thank you, I've never, I would say I really have never felt the scrum values exhibited as much as I just had in this this conversation. So this was really beautiful. And again, thank you, Robbie, for bringing this to light. So Robbie, again, agile for patriots.org. Anything that you want to share about cold this cohort and and for future cohorts, what they might expect.
Ravi Verma 29:18
Yeah, I think this cohort has been one of my most fulfilling, I learned so much from them. And I learned more from them than they learn from me. I think what I would like our listeners to take away from this is US military families, that level of talent that is available. If you are not tapping into that talent, you are missing out on a competitive advantage. Because if there is one group of people that life has trained through adversity, that no matter what life throws at you, you got to just deal with it. It's US military families. So and that's the skill we need people Will on Scrum teams to possess. Okay, fine, something happened? Not ideal. How are we going to deal with it? So I think that's a closing thought. And for cohort 10, we are preparing. But if you are listening to this podcast and if you're considering it isn't good fit for me, if you can demonstrate the values that Jeremy and Chris and Brittany demonstrated in this conversation, we got a spot waiting for you create more problems, I would love to have to create nexus plus for a future cohort.
Patricia Kong 30:35
So of course, and Jeremy, Brittany and Chris, you're a part of 17. So we're gonna thank all those people that were in that, that nexus and of course, Ravi and that's it for us today. So thank you for listening. Thank you again, all of you and Scrum on. Thank you