A Product Owner’s journey to becoming a Certified Scrum Professional

SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSP-01This article is about what I have submitted to Scrum Alliance while applying for my CSP (Certified Scrum Professional) certificate, and I would like to use this opportunity to share about my Agile learning journey during my years in Titansoft. This has been a very different journey in my life for the past 3 years as it required lots of guts and commitment.

Part 1: Please use this area to summarize your experience. Specific benefits to you and your team (personal impact vs. general benefits of Scrum). Scrum Alliance want to see some of you in this summary statement, giving insight into your learning and into your overall understanding and appreciation of Scrum and Agile ideas. We want a sense of what you have really taken to your heart and mind as you embrace Scrum and Agile concepts. We want to see more than a listing of your work history and your accomplishments. We want to see how using Scrum and Agile has changed the way you view work. You have a lot of space. Please use it to help our reviewers gain an understanding of your Scrum/Agile experience.)

I am not a typical “high achiever” who is good at everything. I would say that my background is that of an average Joe and this has influenced me in many ways to work hard. I graduated from a second-grade school and when I was younger, I started a design studio, followed by a travel agency which closed due to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. Although I was always aware that I may not be in the best class, I know that if I work hard, I can achieve the next level. I am not afraid of failing. I have experienced many failures in my life and being Agile is my commitment.

When change becomes a habit, it is becomes anti-inertia, no change becomes inertia. This drives me to continuously improve and enjoy the mess and uncertainties in the change process. Applying Scrum practice in the company will sustain a continuous business development, and provide an environment which will help teams and individuals to grow. “Fail fast, fail often and fail forward” is not a slogan, it is the working guideline for all my teams.

A Chinese song titled “My Future is Not a Dream” by Chang Yu-sheng, tells us that regardless of any difficulties you face, any challenges ahead of you, there’s always hope. Never give up now, because we believe that we will have a better tomorrow. The lyrics, “live in the present” and “be sure of who you want to be” resonates strongly with me. The melody never fails to bring me back to my teenage years, and also reminds me of the value and meaning of life. My commitment towards myself – don’t waste the time I have in my life.

I see organizational transformation, changes in my role and function as my biggest challenges right now. There are many unknowns and uncertainties that I need to understand and deal with alongside these changes which includes learning, re-learning and unlearning. I feel a strong sense of self-motivation whenever I find myself facing new challenges. This means that I am not stagnant in life.

Working as closely as possible with my business clients and users has enabled me to observe their behaviors and get insights from it. I have used the Specification by Example to clarify requirement and business rules with stakeholders, Impact mapping and user story mapping to create visualize backlog items and paper prototype to perform usability test. We use the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to test market needs and collect first hand feedback from real users. We do not just sit in the office and assume the ways which our users use our service, but instead, we collect feedback from customers face to face.

Hence, we also created a feedback loop for all tasks which was really important, applied just-in-time review to collect feedback from team and customers in a shorter span of time, use A/B test to collect feedback from users, use retrospective to collect feedback from team. I have also applied open space technology in the department to collect feedback and improve actions. The development of an item is important; but the outcome is more important than output because openness and active listening, being aware of the context and situation, avoiding biasness and understanding the perspectives and emotions give insights into one’s behavior.

To focus on business value and impacts, I have applied adaptive planning for backlog items. As a Product Owner, it is important to use the ‘adaptive planning’ approach, which is not to over-design and over-plan, in order to bring success and sustenance in the business. Moreover, the value of Agile and Scrum, Plan, Do, Check and Act, brings about small wins and proof market needs.

Courage enables me to adapt to new practices and to discover uncertainties; it also allows me to offer more space to the team by trying new domains and technologies. I agree that Prime directive retrospective teaches us to respect all team members with an adult mindset, and the accountability of their professions.

I am glad to say that at this point in life, I truly know who I am, and what I am doing. This sense of self-awareness has given me the confidence to say that I can face any challenges, no matter what.

I am really excited that my company “Titansoft Pte Ltd” was awarded the Singapore Best Tech Company to Work for Award in 2017 due to our Agile transformation. However, the journey is not the end for Titansoft- there’s no best in best, only better. As strong believers of adaptive planning and Agile development, we continue to aim for rapid, flexible responses to changes in users’ needs and market.

Part 2: Please relate how your work experience on this job supports the Scrum experience required to become a Certified Scrum Professional. Describe how you have used Scrum in your work (examples of Scrum ceremonies, Scrum concepts). Please feel free to provide information to help our reviewers know you and get a feel for your understanding of Scrum and Agile ideas.)

Since May 2014, as a development department manager, I have been working with external Agile consultants to apply Scrum in my department. I acted as a product owner and worked with my first Tiger team (cross functional developers) to setup the first Scrum working environment in the organization from May 2014 to Oct 2014.

We saw the changes in the Tiger team which includes product ownership and understanding the business value of the products we work on, I then decided to allow the team to hire their’ first full time Scrum Master in organization, the full time Scrum Master helps the product owner and team grow together with product success. After the first Tiger team success, I decided apply Scrum in three other development teams in my department (6 months) and also learnt to apply the LeSS framework from Nov 2014 to Dec 2015.

I am now the Product Owner of LeSS and I am currently working with four required Area PO to build a large scrum working environment with five teams with effect from 2016.

I introduced Agile practices from the industry to the organization. Not only did I apply the practice in the software development teams, but also in the production support teams. The support team uses Kanban and Kaizen practices to visualize work processes, and improve work quality respectively.

By joining the Singapore local Agile community, such as Agile Singapore and UXSG, going for product owner meet-ups, I was able to share my Agile experience and promote how Scrum practices brought about change to my organization. During the “AHA Conference 2016” in Shanghai and the “Agile Community Taiwan” meet-up in Taipei, I shared about Singapore’s and Titansoft’s Agile practices to their countries’ Agile industry experts.

Lastly, I was honoured to be one of “Who is Agile in Singapore” e-book contributor and delightedthat Tiansoft has sponsored “Agile Singapore 2014“, “Agile Tour Singapore 2015“, “Agile Singapore 2016“, “Global Scrum Gathering Singapore 2017”, a platform where we were able to share our Agile transformation journey.

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