Ready for ReadyTalk!

 

Kelly Valdes, our newest marketing intern, started just last week. She's writing weekly to document her experience in working with Marketing and other departments at ReadyTalk. Stay tuned for further antics from Marketing and to experience our great culture through an intern's eyes.

My name is Kelly Valdes and I am the new Marketing intern at ReadyTalk. I am excited for this new opportunity to join the web and audio conferencing world. I look forward to learning more about the dynamics of Business to Business Marketing and further expanding my industry experience here at ReadyTalk.

Here I am about to conclude my first week here at ReadyTalk, and it’s just in time for Marketing happy hour. Getting to know my co-workers and continually meeting new faces has been so much fun. Allison Wolfe [the other marketing intern] was so helpful on my first day. She was so nice and did a great job teaching me Salesforce and showing me the ropes, and not-to-mention where to find all the yummy snacks in the kitchen. I discovered on day 2, after spending $20 for parking, to never neglect checking the Rockies schedule for day games. Sarah, the awesome office manager, luckily hooked me up with a Light Rail pass which will be a life-savor.

I experienced my first meeting with the marketing team regarding Dreamforce and man am I jealous that everyone is at San Francisco! The meeting was filled with jokes and laughter, clearly signifying how closely knit the marketing team is, but bottom-line, I now understand all the dedication and teamwork it takes to plan a business trip and creating a booth at a conference. Melanie, the events coordinator, has done a great job with getting everything organized and ready to go.

It’s great having Mike McKinnon [senior demand generation manager] around who loves lacrosse as much as I do and played both collegiately and professionally. He is doing an excellent job incorporating me onto the marketing team and helping me with Salesforce. I did a few mini projects for Tracy [channel marketing manager] this week and have learned more about the research that goes into target marketing and sales.

It’s been fun catching up with old friends from high school and college randomly on the 16th Street Mall. I feel so grownup going to happy hour or dinner with my friends and family and telling them about ReadyTalk. I discovered last night that my neighbor across the street uses our audio and web conferencing software and loves it. Naturally, everyone is jealous of the fact that there are kegs in the kitchen and the great location of the office.

Being in an office with people who encompass such high energy and positive attitudes is refreshing and motivating. It is evident how much ReadyTalk employees enjoy their jobs and work environment. There’s a clear “work-hard, play-hard” aura in the building. Overall, I am extremely happy with this opportunity and first week at ReadyTalk. I am happy to have Teresa Lawlor [director of marketing] as my boss and to work with such an excellent team.

From SCRUM to Kanban

As many of you regular readers may know, we're an agile development shop. We have been running a process known as SCRUM for quite some time now. We've had a lot of success with it, and we've learned a lot along the way. That's how these agile processes work; continue to inspect and adapt and evaluate and adjust. If something isn't working, put some time and energy into thinking about why it isn't working and figure out a way to improve it as a team. As we've grown and scaled to more small SCRUM teams, we've realized that we could be gaining even more efficiencies because the start and stop points of an iteration tend to slow a team down.

Gaining efficiencies

Enter Kanban. Kanban is similar to SCRUM in many ways, but one of the fundamental differences is there is no concept of an iteration. The process allows for and supports a model of continuous flow. If I had to come up with an analogy, it would be that of mail pickup from a train. The time wasted when a train has to stop, pick up the mail, and start again is tremendous when you are trying to maintain a schedule; instead let the train keep momentum and put the mail out to be picked up as it rolls by. Similarly, a software development team that is comfortable enough with ad-hoc and as-needed meetings can gain efficiencies by not stopping to "pick up the mail". The backlog can be replenished as needed by a very involved product owner. The team can continue to retrospect and adapt and communicate without slowing down the momentum they are making on a feature release.

We began by trying Kanban with a single team that was very operational in nature. This worked well because it allowed the team to deal with those operational issues that came up while still keeping momentum on everything else. They didn't have to worry about the operational issues killing their iteration commitments, which can be a morale hit, even though the business understood the impact that operational work had on the team in a SCRUM process. It was more of a mental victory than anything else.

We've since scaled the Kanban process to a number of feature teams and we plan on rolling it out across all of engineering. The feedback from the teams has been great, and the product owners have been supportive and understanding of the change in how a team's velocity is tracked (cycle time vs. story point velocity). As a part of this process, we also moved from component teams to feature teams, which has been a huge benefit in keeping teams focused on a single project before moving on to the next project. Have you experimented with Kanban? Are you suffering from some of the same problems in your SCRUM process? I'd love to hear thoughts that you may have on this topic!

Jason Collins (aka JC) is the VP of Engineering at ReadyTalk and the self-appointed Chief Happiness Officer. He’s been either writing code or managing engineers for nearly 15 years and has a passion for technology and agile development practices. The happiness of the engineering team is his top priority and he can usually be found wearing a ReadyTalk cape and the infamous “idea helmet” around the office to help keep people motivated and entertained. When he’s not hanging out with his work family, he’s at home with his wife and four boys doing all sorts of geeky things, like playing video games and watching campy Sci-Fi and Action flicks.