1st Conference: Organiser Interview - Ed Wong

2017 is an exciting year for 1st Conference. This year we've extended it to two days and have multiple big name keynote speakers. We believe it's really taken a step forward, both in terms of the learning for the audience and the professionalism it will be delivered with.

I took the time to interview Ed Wong, Co-Founder of Tabar and one of the Organisers of 1st Conference. I wanted to give you the opportunity to understand more deeply the intentions behind 1st Conference, and to understand what you have the opportunity to learn by coming along.

Personally I'm really excited to be there this year and see what comes up. I will be posting follow on interviews of the keynote speakers in the coming weeks and lead in to 1st. Hopefully these help everyone in understanding what to expect to get the most out of the day.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reach out to us. My email is Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au and I'm always happy to hear from you.

1st Conference is being held on 2-3 March. Registration is available now.

I believe that these conferences help drive the improvement that’s needed in Australia in terms of the maturity of management and the workforce overall.

Ringo: How long ago did 1st Conference start and what’s it’s purpose? Where did the idea first come from?

Ed: 2017 will be the third edition of 1st Conference. The purpose of 1st to create an environment for people entering the Agile world, to give them some knowledge and inspiration to help them tackle the hurdles you find at the beginning of your Agile journey.

I think that the audience isn’t just people in IT. Lean and Agile didn’t originate from Software and IT; a lot of the concepts were borrowed from Japanese business and manufacturing thinking.  Working with agility affects everyone, and we think that people in all sorts of roles and businesses areas can get value at 1st.

The idea for 1st came along as a consequence of LAST Conference. LAST is a bit more ad hoc with local speakers and stemmed from the meetup community. 1st Conference is about being a bit more structured in the overall approach, adding some leading international thinkers.

Ringo: Tell us about the line up, and why you’ve selected the people that you have?

Ed: I’m really excited that this year our headliners are Alistair Cockburn, Jurgen Appelo, and Angela Ferguson from Thoughtworks.

The whole structure of 1st this year is to centre it around the Heart of Agile with talks/workshops that reinforce these principles. This was originally a meme created by Alistair Cockburn (one of the co-authors of the original Agile Manifesto), he felt that Agile was becoming over complicated so his work on the Heart of Agile was designed to help people understand the things that are most important about Agile. These are “Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect, Improve”

The other part is about trying to have better gender diversity. We’ve signed up to the Diversity Charter and Kelsey Van Haaster has been leading the charge on this, I’m personally really excited and I’d encourage you to speak to her about it.

We have used the contacts we have to find people who cover the topics but with real life experiences and compelling stories you can learn from.

Ringo: Is there anything special about this year that people should be looking out for?

Ed: One thing I’m really excited about is getting Jurgen Appelo out from The Netherlands to speak. He’s a very prominent thinker and leader in the Agile Management space and his work reflects strongly on what Heart Of Agile speaks about. Inc.com has called him a Top 50 Leadership Expert, a Top 50 Leadership Innovator and a Top 100 Great Leadership Speaker. Jurgen recently spoke at Agile Alliance’s Agile 2016 in Atlanta as a keynote speaker. Our relationship with Jurgen goes back to 2012 and we also had him speak at Dare Festival in 2014. He speaks closely to the importance of culture which is a key factor in working with more agility.

Obviously, we're very happy to continue our association with Alistair and be the first event in the Southern Hemisphere to be aligned to the HEart of Agile.

I’m also really pleased to hear from some voices that are new to us. For example Lilly Ryan, she has a really interesting topic about efforts to build a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, that shows how a big bang project release can bring about an epic fail.

Ringo: What’s the format of the event going to be? Is there anything from last year in terms of how it runs that you’re looking to specifically improve upon or how it will be different?

Ed: The first two editions we did were in a venue that we quickly outgrew, that held us back last year in terms of logistics. This time we’ve moved to RMIT Storey Hall, it’s a cool space right next to the state library with interesting architecture and decor and flexible learning spaces.

The format has changed to 2 days this year, we want to be different to other events that you might go to - we’re going for talks on the first day and 90 minute workshops on the second day.

We then want people to be able to go and learn something practical about at least one of those 4 core concepts and take something they can try straight away.

Ringo: What is it that you really want people to come out of the day with? What are the key learnings/outcomes?

Ed: This really ties into why we’ve changed the format, we want to marry up the theory and inspiration with practice. We hope this will be a deeper learning experience and allow people not to just come and forget about it the next day.

People should be inspired by the talks and understand the ideas and theories behind them. We then want people to be able to go and learn something practical about at least one of those 4 core concepts and take something they can try straight away.

Ringo: Do you think there’s anything special about Melbourne that makes these kinds of events work?

Ed: What’s special about Melbourne, although not necessarily unique, is that there is a strong community of practitioners here who get together in meetups etc and actually want to share their experience. This was the basis of LAST and what Tabar is really about. That ethos we believe carries onto 1st and helping an increasing number of people who are being asked to work with more agility, we’re seeing this a lot in banks, utilities, insurance etc.

Ringo: Tabar runs a few events in this space, tell us about the others and how they all fit together into an overall vision and what you’re trying to do?

Ed: There’s 3 key conferences we run. 1st Conference, LAST Conference and Spark the Change.

I’ve obviously spoke about 1st Conference already, in terms of our overall mission and purpose, where it came from and what we’re trying to achieve.

LAST Conference actually began for 2 core reasons, we had a strong meetup community around us, and after seeing Agile Tour in Sydney we decided we didn’t want to wait a year for the next one. LAST being a day or two of meetups all happening concurrently and going all day, inspired by the ethos of Agile Tour

LAST was designed for an audience who had a bit of experience in Agile, and for people in the community to have an opportunity to share their ideas and experience. It’s grown now to a two day event here in Melbourne, also running a LAST Sydney last year and we’re actively working with the Brisbane community for 29th September this year.

The third is Spark the Change which is about purpose and meaning in work. STC is run in London, the Netherlands, Toronto and Melbourne. The next Melbourne edition is going to be around October.

The reason for all of this is to help the existing community and also create and build that community. It’s all about sharing ideas with people who are interested in the theories and concepts that lie at the heart of what is know as "agility", and by extension, at the heart of work.

I believe that these conferences help drive the improvement that’s needed in Australia in terms of the maturity of management and the workforce overall. People are always talking about how Australia needs to up it’s game in terms of innovation and everything else, I believe communities and learning events like these are a part of what’s needed.