Participant Interview - David Williams - Project/Product Manager


This is a continuation of our series promoting the experiences and ideas of participants who have consistently attended and interacted with 1st Conference over the years. In the first post, we spoke with Zoya, a Business Analyst and Coach. Today we speak with David Williams.

David comes from a Project/Product Management background. He's been in and around the traps of agile for quite some time, however as a strong advocate for learning and trying to challenge your natural assumptions, David believes there will always be an opportunity to get value out of a conference like 1st.

Take a read of the content of our discussion, he makes some valuable points relating to why you want to be across changes as a Project Manager, and the general discussion gives a good insight into the journey of adopting agile ways of working.

We've now officially launched 1st Conference for 2018, February 26th & 27th here in Melbourne, click on the button below to find out about how to register.

PS - Don't miss the highlights video from 2017 at the bottom of this post!

From a Project professional’s perspective, it’s about really trying to get at the reason why agile is supposed to work, and to challenge the traditional ideas and the beliefs we have in the models we use for project management.
— David Williams

Ringo: So tell me about yourself?

David: In terms of my professional background, I’m a person that’s been managing teams in some form or another as a Project or Product Manager for 17 years.

Over that time and for about 10 years now I’ve been working with agile related ideas around lean and systems thinking, mostly in the software development area.

Ringo: Tell me about your experience working in an agile way?

David: I was introduced to Scrum and that's where I started, I enjoyed seeing the immediate benefits that I could relate to. I think I have a very loving relationship with agile, I related really well to the concepts when I first started coming across it, and they resonated easily and immediately.

I was lucky enough to have a coach in the very early days, I think this is an essential part of becoming familiar with the concepts.

Ringo: What were some of the crucial learnings you had that helped you understand the value of agile, and how to address some of the issues you face trying to change ways of working an organisation?

David: The answer to that question changes every day because I'm always learning.

Martin Kearns was my first coach, it was valuable to understand that focusing on the fundamentals of scrum and the key elements of it was the most important part. There were a lot of things we thought we were doing that weren't even close to the mark, having a clear backlog, having a clear Product Owner, running standups effectively, a lot of people talk about just doing scrum by the book to start with, you need to make it work for you.

Ringo: You went to 1st in 2017 year, tell us about your experience?

David: It's interesting because I saw that Jurgen was speaking and that got my initial attention. I had a chat to Peter Lam (at Tabar) and mentioned that I was interested to listen to Jurgen, but I thought 1st Conference was just for beginners. Peter explained it was targeted for all levels and so I decided to go along.

1st worked for me in a way that allowed me to learn and take out of it what I needed to, irrespective of my level of experience.

Ringo: What are your thoughts on the new format as I’ve described it?

David: I like the idea of the new format, I use Alistair's Heart of Agile to break down existing problems or projects. I look at how are we collaborating, how are we delivering and how are we reflecting and improving. So I can see how all those elements come together as a great learning experience.

I used the HoA format recently on a project I was on, and I was able to focus the team how they can deliver more frequently, how they can collaborate better and how they can reflect and improve to ensure that they build quality into the product.

So to me, having a conference run on that model, sounds like a great idea.

Ringo: As a Project Manager, why would someone want to go to 1st Conference?

David: One of the things I enjoy is the networking and social networking side of things, that's less about the project management profession though. From a Project professional's perspective, it's about really trying to get at the reason why agile is supposed to work, and to challenge the traditional ideas and the beliefs we have in the models we use for project management. Agile and project management don't always play nicely together so it’s extremely important to understand how other people are addressing their overlap.

What I’m seeing is that project managers can be feeling threatened by agile, some people can embrace or fight it, some people can be PM in title but more agile in practice.

I could imagine it's a way for them to get a deeper understanding of the tools and ideas, but also the why it works, real case studies and get a better appreciation for how it is already influencing things and how to be a part of the change, as opposed to resisting it.

Ringo: If people were coming along, how would you encourage them to prepare before the day?

David: If you're going to come along as a project manager, you need to be prepared to undo everything in your head, be ready to be non-judgmental and challenge your own thinking.

That's the best thing you can do, get involved, ask questions, talk to people you don't know, and make new friends that work in completely different areas.

Don't be afraid to go and talk to random people.

Ringo: Any final comments?

David: Make sure you go to the after party they're awesome.

1st Conference Highlights video

Get an idea of what happens at 1st Conference, in a couple of minutes.