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Professional Scrum Trainer Spotlight - Samuel Adesoga

January 25, 2024

In this PST spotlight episode, Dave West interviews Samuel Adesoga about his journey with Scrum and becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer. They talk about:

- Sam's experience with implementing Scrum in various organizations
- Digital transformation in Africa and the importance of simplifying approaches to change
- Scrum in Africa and its potential for innovation
- More!



Dave West: 0:20
Hello, and welcome to the community podcast. I'm your host Dave West CEO Today's podcast is focused on the journey of one of our fantastic professional scrum trainers one of our PSTs we're very fortunate that have to the podcast today, Sam Adesoga. Sam, welcome to the podcast.

Sam Adesoga: 0:41
Thank you, Dave. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you might be listening. And it's great to be on the podcast today.

Dave West: 0:49
So where are you actually talking to us from Sam. So

Sam Adesoga: 0:53
I am in London today. In my family. I'm in London today.

Dave West: 0:59
In bristling cold, chilly London, excellent. But you don't always spend all your time in London, I'm led to believe. Yes,

Sam Adesoga: 1:07
I actually spend about 40 to 50% of my time in Africa, in particular, Lagos. And in Accra, Ghana. Recently, I have since I became a PST, I've been picking up some work in that part of the world as well. And that's,

Dave West: 1:28
well, I'd really like to lean into that in today's podcasts because I think it's really interesting market really interesting continent. There's all sorts of things going on in Africa that I'd love to explore. But But before we do that, tell me a little bit about your background and how you came upon Scrum.

Sam Adesoga: 1:50
So many, many years ago, I used to be a developer. And I worked with a consultancy called footworks, with Martin Fowler, and a few other guys there. And that was how I actually came across agility at work. And we did at a time, all of our projects were delivered using the scrum framework. Even though, knowing what I know today, I don't think that we did quite well with a framework. I think we did the events. You know, it was more extreme a blend of extreme programming, and Groton? Well, yeah, so that was the very first time I came across Chrome.

Dave West: 2:29
Wow. And yeah, I mean, many of us know ThoughtWorks, they've been sort of legendary in our industry with jazz, humble Martin Fowler a bit Rebecca Parsons, some amazing people from there. And so they really emphasize the importance of done delivering working software, and the importance of frequently delivering you know, Jazz's work on continuous delivery, etc. So that's when you sort of discovered it, what happened next.

Sam Adesoga: 3:01
So, um, so I in ThoughtWorks, fortunately, for me, we were thrown in the deep end. I mean, I was a developer, I was doing some PR work ba work, doing some testing work. And that was quite interesting. Because also, we also got to do a lot of TDD whereby you are automating your tests, I just said the pipeline as well. And just to lean on what you said, right, we add that concept of delivering done work from the very first sprint, we made sure something was delivered. And after I left, that works, I went on to work with many organizations from Betson. I did media channel for BBC, then spent about eight years working with different investment banks have done about five or six investment banks in that time. And what they liked was the foundation that was built into me from ThoughtWorks. So a lot of the guys brought me on board to be because this guy understands agile, it really leaves it, let's bring him on board. And they didn't really care about anything else. And on one of my gigs, he was at a French bank in London, where I was brought in as a test manager. But that was the very first time I became a scrum master for the team. So these guys were building a trading platform for risk. And they had like six months delivery cycle. And they were really struggling and they brought me on board to come help them. And part of what we did on that team was to get them to we did a one month sprint in the end, where we were able to build release tests within a month. And that was probably one of the key defining moments of my career where I thought you know what, I could help organizations deliver have valued isn't the scrum framework? Yeah.

Dave West: 5:03
So it's so ironic they're building a risk platform, but they're doing it in a waterfall way. It's sort of like, I'm sure there's a joke there that we could we could find at some point. Okay, so you started, you're working, working out for about eight years working with lots of different organizations implementing Scrum, that moment at that, at that French bank in London, you sort of like became that started acting, delivering on the accountabilities of the scrum master. And that changed your your life? How did it change your life? What was sort of like that, aha, that epiphany moment.

Sam Adesoga: 5:40
So I think for me working at the bank, I remember when I did my first proposal to say we're going to try to deliver the product incrementally in a one monthly cycle, people laughed at me. I know the funny thing that happened at the meeting with the managers. And I remember, there was about 12 minutes into that meeting, I was stopped and said, Sam, this is not possible. Go away and think about it, and come back. And so I didn't know we could do it. To be honest with you. I just thought there's a lot of unknowns here. But let's give it a try. And I was, so I went away. And two weeks after I came back to the same room with more people, I was talking to more people. I said, Yes, we're going to go for that. And that took us about 18 months to get to that point that involves building CI CD pipelines, automating tests, getting the users to partner with Scrum teams and be part of our sprint review. But we did get there. And it was when I was about to leave now reflecting on what we had done in that bank in 18 months, I thought, you know, what, I was gonna carry on helping organizations, you know, adopt Scrum. And that was really, for me the defining moment about about to leave just reflecting on my experience in that particular bank.

Dave West: 7:03
Yeah, so this whole experience of actually going from the impossible to the possible, and you you sort of unlock the untapped power that scrum gave you. Okay, after you left that, that that bank, where else did you go tell me a little bit about some of your other experiences,

Sam Adesoga: 7:20
um, Barclays was another one that I liked talking about. So I went to Barclays twice. So the first time I did work with John smart, I don't know if you know, John Smith,

Dave West: 7:31
I do actually know John Smith, I

Sam Adesoga: 7:34
was on the team. And what we were doing at the time was helping Barclays to take on better ways of working. So at the time, we had the process in the bank at about 14 gates in the process from an idea to production. And what the team had done was to design a new process that was about three or four gates. And what I loved what I experienced was themes, where invite were brought into the new ways of working on invitation. So we had, we had a set of criteria, if you wanted to try out the new ways of working with the promises of going into production a lot quicker, you had to meet certain criterias, which forced some managers to rethink the way they were structured around work. And eventually, we are. And then every two, three weeks, we had a demo showing what themes that were using the new ways of working, how it was improving their work, and how their users were very happy. And what we had was a very long waiting list within the bank of teams that wanted to come on board. And that's something I've taken away. Because often that I've seen people try to transform the whole organization at the same time. And I've seen that not work. But when you start with a small set of teams, learn from that experiment, and then gradually scale across the bank. So that was a very good experience for me. And then I left the bank by about a year, then came back about 18 months later to help. This is now an extension of what we have done before now we're doing was helping teams within the bank to build their applications within the cloud, which is again, it's about looking at the leads time that was 18 months. And more than that, I won't we're doing now was allowing anyone in the bank to request an environment in AWS and Azure. And in minutes, you got what you wanted. That means that we had to replicate the security concerns in the bank in the cloud. And I was also for me, very, very interesting experience where I was working with a lot of people that worked in hardware, telecoms infrastructure, never done i Agile was chromed before, and setting up a team about for teams, and helping them to take on that incremental way of delivering software. So yeah, it does. It's some key defining, I think moments in my journey.

Dave West: 10:14
I really love the idea of Barclays, my my aunt used to work for Barclays, actually, which is interesting. But I love the way you talked about, you know, creating that sort of like that torch bearing team, those first teams, and then that generated demand by communicating and demoing their success inside the inside the organization, which then encouraged other teams to want to get into this way of working. And it's so much better for my experience doing that, rather than just telling everybody they have to work in this waste from debt from day one.

Sam Adesoga: 10:51
It doesn't work, it doesn't work and have a lot of bad experiences. Were that was the approach taken? Yeah.

Dave West: 10:57
And sort of the again, the irony of changing an organization is by its very definition, a complex problem, right? And the irony that we would do that in a waterfall, non incremental, non learning non agile way, is not lost on me. I mean, you know, absolutely,

Sam Adesoga: 11:17
you know, I tell organizations, now we teach and coach that the business they're doing is complex. And often times, we try to then change their ways of working using a very complex, convoluted approach. So for me, my mantra is already they their work is complex, you've got the politics, the organizational structure. So we've got to simplify our approach to help them move to that better way of working.

Dave West: 11:47
I think simple, is very, very important, not necessarily the outcome, because obviously, the ways we work will ultimately reflect the complexity of the environment that we're in. But in terms of how we approach it, and I think that that's, that's, that's a key thing. It's bizarre. Ken Schreiber, the CO creator of Scrum just sent me an email with a joke about complexity and simplicity. So it's funny that you should, you should you should mention mention that. All right. So, I've had enough talking about banks love them, by the way, amazing institutions doing some amazing stuff. And you've obviously been heavily involved in those organizations. Take me to Africa. What, you know, you've you've doing, you know, significant amount of time and doing a lot of work in a number of countries in Africa. Tell me what's happening there, Sam.

Sam Adesoga: 12:37
So I think there's still a lot of work to be done in Africa, the law, the government's I mean, government, in recent years are now taking on transformation trying to improve the way they run their businesses. In fact, about two weeks ago, I spent a bow the whole day talking about the digital economy in Nigeria, and what does that mean, for people? And so So yeah, I think and also, if we're thinking about the fact that there's a lot of startups in Africa, in fact, I read some data somewhere that there is actually, Nigeria has got the highest number of startup funded startups in Africa, one of the highest in Africa. And that is driving everything else. Internet penetration is becoming more accessible, people are have access to internet, the music is being transferred or transmitted on Spotify, people are utterly changing their lives and in more money through the internet. So there is a general appetite for digital transformation. So that's what we've seen so far. And that is, and also what I've also seen as well is, in the job market, we are seeing an increasing number of Scrum Masters and agile coaches being advertised. And that for me is a good sign that people are now looking to improve their ways of working, be more effective improve efficiency by trying to use Scrum, and I'll go delve into the methodologies out there what

Dave West: 14:17
what I've noticed and from talking to you and and others about about Africa is that one yeah, there's a huge opportunity because of you know, the fact that the sheer volume and size of the of the continent I mean, it's big my my son's really into drawing maps at the moment and he's just and he just spent two evenings drawing all the countries in Africa and drawing around that I don't I think He's then going to put an alien invasion so I'm not totally but he's drawing and I didn't realize there's so many i Even though I sort of no i him doing it really made it very visible. So one there's a huge amount To You know, population to very young population, Sam, right? You know, the average age is significantly younger than people in England are put it that way. And, and that, that means digital natives, these people are born with a phone. I mean, they probably have to wait a couple of weeks, but there's a phone when they, you know when they when they leave their mum. And I think that that sort of digital native is super important. And there's a entrepreneurial passion that I haven't seen. I mean, you know, I spent quite a lot of time in Silicon Valley. And it's sort of akin to some of that, you know, this sort of, everybody's got an idea, you go into a coffee shop, and everybody's sitting there on their laptops, talking about this new business that they want to create.

Sam Adesoga: 15:49
In fact, I'll tell you what I've seen there a lot of young people developing program projects, managers, product managers, leaving working in Nigeria, do not want to leave the country, work organizations in Europe in the US, that is a massive, massive thing that we're seeing now. And guess what the challenge now is the organizations that are local in Nigeria, are struggling to attract talent, because now they are not able to compete in terms of wages, salaries. Compare is in the West. So you're right. Young, Young boys and girls that are writing code, I met a guy in length Python on his mobile phone. Yeah, I true. A lot of work, or this guy given me a new language in two days is to now code. And yes, you're right. Yes,

Dave West: 16:45
and empiricism, obviously, and complexity and the unknown, a kind of necessary in many of the situations in Africa. So because of that, it's natural. I was talking, I did a virtual event. And I was talking, you know, to people on the messaging and afterwards and, and it just empiricism. There was one comment, I was positioning, why empiricism is so important. And somebody said, But why? How could it not be? Is there and is there any other way of approaching work? You know, because electricity disappears? Because, you know, there's because there's some, you know, changing political situation, or there's some, whatever. And I was like, oh, yeah, I guess empiricism is a sort of a more natural thing when you're an emerging economy, rather than a I'm not gonna say stagnant economy, but an existing legacy economy, like, like Western Europe and North America, etc.

Sam Adesoga: 17:47
I mean, I was gonna say, as well that I personally believe that empiricism is actually innate in us as human beings. Look at b&b. How do we learn to walk learn to write we try filming? Yeah, so maybe it's more not as intentional, but it almost feels like we'll learn by experiment. And you try something? Oh, no, I'll go again. So to what you're saying also, what I see a lot is because of in Africa, it's ripe for innovation. And I've been talking to organizations about how we can use these agile ways of working like Scrum, to drive innovation. That's complex, we don't have all the answers a lot of unknowns, what we need to do, but by working in smaller screens, getting your product out there in the eyes on the customer get feedback, I believe it is Warren, it's natural to apply these frameworks as far as Chrome to drive innovation.

Dave West: 18:48
I completely agree. And it's funny, and a lot of people when they're doing innovation, study, start using Scrum, really, in the in the scale build sort of phase of a classic Lean Startup, in my opinion, from my experience, the use of Scrum, the idea of product goals, the idea of sprint goals, the idea of transparency, you know, sprint review, at cetera, can work from day one on a program on building a product creating you know, in an innovation situation, it is true that the nature of the Sprint's changes during the life but that's true of anything you know, and and the volume of code etc will increase and the volume of unknowns will decrease. And other kinds of experiments like surveys and customer interviews, etc. will decrease but the reality is that that Scrum works in these situations incredibly well.

Sam Adesoga: 19:51
Absolutely. I think we just have to get comfortable that we don't know everything and the things we don't know. Yeah,

Dave West: 19:58
and and things Like definition of done, we need to sort of reframe that in that context, we need to think a little bit about what undone work really means. And we need to obviously think about value. And our backlogs need to describe outcomes rather than work. And that those things are super, super important as well. I'm I'm very excited for Africa. And that's not just because I want to visit and experience the, the food, the views, the people, it's got nothing to do with that. It's purely because there's a great opportunity for scrum that

Sam Adesoga: 20:35
I've you know, visited before.

Dave West: 20:37
Only South Africa, which is obviously very different from some of the places you've currently you're gone to.

Sam Adesoga: 20:43
All right. So we have a plan, which I will tell you later to get

Dave West: 20:48
your head here, ladies, I'm being I'm being if my wife talks to any of you, it's definitely for a very important business reason. Don't believe anything else? Well, we tried to keep these podcasts short. And you and I could talk all day about the opportunity in Africa, your experiences in, in the banking sector in London and in other companies and of course, your heritage at ThoughtWorks. It is sort of another interesting sort of connection, Martin Fowler sat on a plane with Ken Schreiber. And ultimately set in motion the creation of as an organization, so so your your lineage has some serious roots inside Sam, which is, which is interesting. And Martin just lives, not totally round the corner. He lives sort of the other side of Boston to me, but he's is he's a he's a passionate force in the Boston community. So thank you for your time. Sam. Thank

Sam Adesoga: 21:57
you very much for having me, Dave. It's been a pleasure.

Dave West: 22:01
Okay, everybody, that was a, I think a fantastic conversation with one of our amazing professional scrum trainers, one of our PS teens, Sam Adesoga, talking to us from London, but he doesn't spend all his time in London. We talked about his journey from his start at ThoughtWorks through the banking sector, and now his mission to empower Africa to change the world, which is kind of exciting. And one, I definitely would love to get on with him. Thank you for listening, wherever you are, whatever time of the day, whatever country you're listening to this podcast today. My name is Dave West. And hopefully if you enjoyed today, come and listen to more. We have some interesting podcasts not only do we explore the journeys of professional scrum trainers have taken like Sam today but we also talk to all sorts of interesting people about professional Scrum and how professional scrum has changed their lives. So thanks for listening. Have a fantastic rest of your day. Wherever you are. Take care scrum on

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