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How Agile Working Changed My Mindset

On her one year anniversary of working in a tech role, Tech Team Lead, Toni Bonser reflects on the advantages of building a world-class research platform in an agile environment.

Toni Bonser

What ‘Agile’ Means to Walr

This month marks one year of working in tech. My knowledge and experience have grown immeasurably in that time, I’ve learned new skills, developed in a leadership role, and worked cross-functionally to align the tech team to the wider business. However, amongst these lessons, the main development for me was a brand-new way of working – agile. 

“The team’s focus is always on delivering a cutting-edge research platform, while being able to shift priorities as needed.”

At Walr, agile means the tech team work in a way that works for us. This applies to the meetings we have, our iterative approach, and the tools we use. Whatever the method, the team’s focus is always on delivering a cutting-edge research platform, while being able to shift priorities as needed. 

The primary way the Walr Tech Team achieve this is through using the scrum framework. With our strong focus on automating routine processes and communication, the scrum framework neatly slots into our current operations and ways of working. 

Whereas the waterfall methodology – which I was well accustomed to as a survey project manager – entails each stage of a project being completed before the next begins, the scrum framework offers greater flexibility and works across all processes in tech. This level of agile working and automation have drastically changed my mindset. 

“I quickly saw what ‘teamwork’ really meant.”

Firstly, I quickly saw what “teamwork” really meant. In a waterfall environment, yes, you can technically be in a team – if “being in a team” means you share a line manager, or everyone follows what the project manager edicts – but ultimately your projects are yours and you, as the project manager, are accountable for delivery. In scrum, the whole scrum team, from the developers to the product owners, are accountable for delivery. There is a shared responsibility from feature design to production releases.

Secondly, scrum teams are less hierarchical than others. For example, my job title suggests a leadership role, but it is not in the traditional sense. Scrum uses the phrase “Servant leader” to describe it. My role is to ensure the team are working within scrum guidelines, to facilitate purposeful meetings, remove blockers, and protect them from scope shifts and time wasting. In the context of scrum, the terms “facilitator” or “agile coach” are much more accurate. 

How We Enable Agile Working at Walr

In terms of the practical implementation of scrum, we use some really effective tools to enable agile working and introduce automation into our workflow.

“Walr has a remote-first culture and employees are across several time zones, so we need to be able to respect our colleagues’ work hours and vacations.”

Shortly after moving into my tech role, my paper notepad became redundant; I now use the Microsoft “To Do” app. I have several tasks I need to complete weekly/monthly/quarterly or on specific days, so maintaining a physical “to do” list became untenable. The Microsoft “To Do” app enables you to categorize tasks, list them on specific days, program them to re-occur and schedule reminders. This also makes it easier to move items to different days when priorities change. 

Slack is, by far, the most useful tool for agile working, automation, and respecting boundaries. Walr has a remote-first culture and employees are across several time zones, so we need to be able to respect our colleagues’ work hours and vacations. Slack allows users to schedule messages. This is so impactful; to be able to write out a message when you remember to write it but deliver it at a time that is convenient for the recipient. 

Building a Team Focused on Quality, Efficiency and Collaboration

Alongside our core values, the tech team manifests quality, efficiency, and collaboration. By working within the scrum framework and implementing automation, we deliver on our goal to build and maintain a world-class, end-to-end platform for research professionals.

We would love to hear about the ways you work agile and any automation tips you have!

Ready toexplore more?

Speak with us to see how Walr can work for you.

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