1st Conference: Keynote Interview - Ange Ferguson

Ange is the Group Managing Director, Asia Pacific for ThoughtWorks. She works with customers to obtain a sustained competitive position through the innovative application of technology. 

The thing she loves most about her work is that she works with curious, passionate people who love what they do, have actively chosen to do it and love taking that passion and curiosity to every situation they find themselves in.

We're lucky to have such an established guest contributing to 1st Conf, so we decided that we'd ask her a few questions and gather some insights to share with you.

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.

Don’t get distracted by all the noise. Start with the basics. Read the manifesto. Experiment.

Ringo: What’s your talk and/or workshop about? Where did the inspiration come from and what do you hope people can take out of it? 

Angela: Good question. And a hard question. I’m working on two ideas at the moment and I’m actually not sure at this point which one I’ll be using on the day. It also depends on the conversations I have with people on day 1.

One idea is around the importance of engineering excellence at the heart of agile software development (and excellence in whatever it is you’re doing if not software). Honestly, why bother optimising the way in which you collaborate around and arrange work, if the work you’re producing is substandard?

The other idea is around how I (and my colleagues) use an agile mindset to run a half-billion dollar global company. And the difficulty I faced in transitioning from a delivery mode (I’m a project manager by trade) to a general management role.
Or you might get something else entirely!

Ringo: Given this conference is centred around the Heart of Agile, is there one of the four parts that particularly resonates with you?

Angela: You like annoyingly hard questions don’t you. I tried doing a mini force-rank (it’s the PM in me), but they’re so interdependent that I twisted myself in circles. I love the word deliver, because I’m fan of getting things done. It makes me feel good. Collaborate, Reflect and Improve all have elements of healthy discomfort.

Collaborate, because while I know I work best in a collaborative environment, and purposely surround myself with people smarter than I, I’m also an introvert and while I like people, I need frequent hibernation to recover my energy.

Reflect can be an incredibly vulnerable thing, even more so in a collaborative environment, when you have to question yourself, your mental models, biases and effectiveness in full view of others. But if you’re motivated by the possibility of lifelong learning, it’s also incredibly energising.

And then Improve. That mindset of continuous improvement can be relentless and exhausting, but so rewarding!

Ringo: What should people be thinking about before they come to 1st conf to ensure get the most out of the two days?

Angela: I’ve never been to 1st before so I have no experience to draw on, however, as we are largely made up of our experiences, make sure you steal experience from as many people here as possible - not just the presenters, but from what others hear and understand as well. And, if, like me, you occasionally need a break from all the people, go hide in the bathroom for 5 minutes and take a few deep breaths.

Ringo: How do you think having a second day of workshops will add to the overall learning experience?

Angela: Learning isn’t just listening. Some of the most impactful learning experiences I’ve had have been through experience and observation. Because it’s workshop day, I’ll definitely be talking about the importance of learning through practical experience rather than relying on theory alone, but aside from that …

Ringo: What’s the best advice you’d give someone starting out on their Agile journey?

Angela: Don’t get distracted by all the noise. Start with the basics. Read the manifesto. Experiment. Discover what works for you and your team. Experiment, but don't go too far down a "what" or "how" path, without understanding the underlying "why".

Ringo: What are the most common roadblocks that people come across they should look out for?

Angela: I think the key one for me is tolerance of brilliant but ultimately destructive (and not in a good way) people. As technologists, our high regard for technical brilliance can sometimes lead us to tolerate behaviour that would be unacceptable in anyone else. Delivery is a very human problem, and an heroic team will beat an heroic individual every time. And if that heroic individual is an asshole, then you have no hope of achieving real success.