Podcast Ep. 44: Launching New Voices Initiative for Women in Agile with Jenny Tarwater

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Episode Description:

In today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, host Dan Neumann is joined by Jenny Tarwater. Jenny is a collaboration coach and owner of Blueshift Innovation as well as the co-organizer of the Lean Agile KC Conference and Agile Game Night. On top of that, she is also the international program director for Launching New Voices for Women in Agile.

The focus of today’s podcast is all about the new Women in Agile initiative, Launching New Voices. As an expert on the topic, Jenny explains what the initiative is all about, how it is making a difference in the space, and how they are helping new voices step up to share their stories and experiences. She also highlights many success stories, the outcomes they have seen from the program and how you can get involved for yourself.

Tune in to learn about how Launching New Voices is empowering new speakers and providing powerful experiences for them to grow and succeed.

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Key Takeaways:

  • What is the “Launching New Voices” initiative?
    • They are shedding light on new voices who are showcasing new ideas
    • They are lowering the barrier for entry for those who have a message or a story to tell through providing a better on-ramp to that stage
    • It is an effort to break outside the traditional networks
    • A chance to step out of the safety of your network and into new communities
    • A program that gives services to the new voices that are being launched and provides new experiences for them
    • A way to increase diversity and inclusion
  • How Jenny is helping these new voices become more comfortable through Launching New Voices and Women in Agile:
    • Through providing classes and training on public speaking for those new to speaking
    • By providing opportunities and experiences for new speakers (specifically giving them an opportunity to speak at the Women in Agile 2019 Conference and by pairing them with an experienced mentor)
  • Success stories and outcomes from bringing new voices forward:
    • Reignites the passion of the mentors and new voices alike
    • The protégés become very recognizable
    • Gives new voices incredible opportunities for networking as well as new speaking opportunities
    • Provides multiple pathways to continue to foster these new voices after they speak at the conference
  • Where to learn more or become a “new voice” yourself:
  • Other ways to get involved if you don’t have a Launching New Voices program near you:
    • Join or create a Meetupthey’re a great way to present new ideas and experiences to a smaller group



Mentioned in this Episode


Jenny Tarwater’s Book Pick:


Intro: [00:00] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought, the podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:16]  Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast.I’m your host Dan Neumann and I’m excited today to be joined by Jennifer Tarwater. She is a collaboration coach and owner of Blue Shift Innovation. She’s the co organizer of the Lean Agile KC conference, also co organizer of the agile game night. And she is the international program director for launching new voices for women in agile. And I jokingly said we should talk about limiting work in process right before we clicked record, but that’s for another day. So thanks for joining Jennifer.

Jennifer Tarwater: [00:50] Thank you so much for having me. I do want to point out when we’re talking about limiting WIP though that I, there were three other things recently, um, and why that’s relevant to this podcast is I really wanted to spend more time focusing on the launching new voices idea. So I’m in somewhat of an attempt to, of limiting that.

Dan Neumann: [01:13] That’s awesome. And that is going to be the focus of our time together, which is the launching new voices initiative. I first came across that when I had submitted a proposal to the Lean Agile KC conference. And then, so as part of that evaluation process, I ended up on a mailing list and I got an email that said, hey, we’re doing this launching new voices thing for the upcoming Lean Agile KC conference. And I was like, I must know more about what that is. So yeah, maybe talk a little bit about what launching new voices is.

Jennifer Tarwater: [01:46] Sure. Well, since your first contact with it was with the Lean Agile KC conference, I’ll start there. Um, the program that we did this year was we were sending an invitation out to say we would love to have new conference speakers, right. We, this is our fifth year on the conference. Uh, we do get a lot of folks that, um, submit year after year. Uh, so we would like to invite new people. The other thing is, and that we noticed that the folks that are on this stage don’t always represent the community that’s within the audience and the larger community, even that doesn’t attend the conference but is in the Greater Kansas City community. Uh, so we are trying to lower the barrier for folks that do have a message. Do have a story to tell? Um, so that they have the, uh, a better on ramp to that stage?

Dan Neumann: [02:40]  Yeah. And so you’ve touched on a few things, right? We wanted new voices and new people to participate and by extension, getting more representation of the community, the technology community as a whole.

Jennifer Tarwater: [02:52] Right? Absolutely. You know, and so when we start asking folks, um, why, why don’t they submit? You know, there’s, there’s many reasons, some of which are, well, I don’t have anything to say, which is interesting. Um, I don’t think I’ve ever met a person that doesn’t have a great story, right? They have experiences that they’ve had where they’ve learned that are unique to them. Um, they may not have experience in packaging that up and being able to deliver that to an audience. Um, but everybody has a story and everybody has experienced and there’s so many of us in the agile community that have had successes and have failures. And the more we can share those, the more that we can all learn.

Dan Neumann: [03:34]  Yeah. Everybody does have a story and something to share. Um, and at the same time, submitting, going through the process of putting your idea in a way that is attractive to people who are reviewing and then going from there to getting in front of a group of people to speak, it’s um, it’s a challenge and not necessarily, um, a challenge that everybody thinks they’re ready for at any particular time.

Jennifer Tarwater: [04:03] Right, right. Absolutely. Yeah and if you go through the sequence of events from I have an idea to, I completed my talk, right. I delivered my talk. Um, that’s, you know, the next thing along is how do you submit and what are the conference organizers looking for? Um, and I link this a lot to creating a resume, right? There is definitely an art and science to uh, what you put on the resume, how the verbiage that you use, the format that you use. And part of that’s because conference organizers get many submissions and all conference organizers are wanting to put forth the best conference that they can. And so the more information that they have, the more that they can tell that this will connect with their audiences. Um, the more that you can do to give them confidence that you’re going to show up and deliver well, the better your chances are for being selected. And so that’s definitely part of that. The whole process is saying, well, how do I even submit?

Dan Neumann: [05:11]  Yeah. And you know, kind of one of the, one of the challenges is, um, the communities of speakers can be a little, uh, I don’t know, I can’t come up with a better phrase than inbred. So, um, you know, I’m just going to use that. It just, you know, so that’s a negative term, but it’s, it’s a lot of times you see the same speakers and then other speakers are often somehow in their circle of influence or, or their professional network. And so this launching new voices is an effort to break outside of maybe the traditional, um, networks of who would be speaking.

Jennifer Tarwater: [05:49] Right. Well, and let’s talk about that for a minute. So it’s, um, people have positive intent, right? And so when you see the same speakers again and again at different conferences, you know, part of that is absolutely, we know that product, we know that they’re going to deliver and they’re not going to say something. Um, you know, in the agile community, they’re not going to go up there and say something that’s really anti agile. It might be controversial, but it may not, but it’s likely not anti agile. Um, the other thing though is that the agile, uh, we have a community, right? And so, you know, I communicate on Twitter, I go to certain conferences and meetups and stuff. So I definitely have a network. And if all I ever do is tap into my network, we’re going to have those same folks those same voices again and again and again. Um, and so that’s really an area of focus for me this year is I’m, I’m really going to figure out how to really step out of the safety of my network, of the people that I know into, um, some communities where, um, I haven’t been before some places where I may feel uncomfortable, right? I mean, I’ve been to some of the tech conferences, uh, where, you know, folks may look at me and say, Oh, you don’t code, what are you here for? Right. Um, and for lots of different reasons actually. Um, but, but really I’m trying to expand that reach.

Dan Neumann: [07:19]  And, and so as, as you’ve kind of breaking out from the, the network maybe that you’re most familiar with almost like advertising versus reaching out to people, um, is kind of the thought that comes to mind.

Jennifer Tarwater: [07:32] Yeah. Um, well, yeah, I was thinking of that. What I was also thinking about. Um, so, so we talked about the Kansas City, uh, launching new voices, another place where we think about, um, reaching out outside of our network. Um, another program that I’m involved with at the national level Women in Agile is, um, that we pair new speakers with mentors and we’re recognizing in that same thread that when we’re looking for mentors, we also need to step outside of our existing networks and bring, um, so that maybe new new voices, new mentors into, into the mix.

Dan Neumann: [08:17]  Yeah. And that’s a challenge. And I, I liked that you said, you know, assuming good intent and you want to do the best service to the potential new voices that are getting launched. And so by connecting them to mentors who you have a high degree of confidence will provide an excellent experience for that person and not lead them astray, um, is definitely a challenge. But you also want to make sure that you’ve got the diversity and the inclusion that comes with that initiative as well. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about like how you’re helping these new voices become more comfortable. So if somebody is, I mean there’s the KC initiative as well as the, the women in Agile initiative. And so we either either or both.

Jennifer Tarwater: [09:07] Yeah. So, so, and I think that there is many different ways that you can do this. So I’m going to give a couple of examples. Um, but this is not going to illustrate all the potential. And so I guess my first call to action would be if you’re listening to this podcast and you have an idea, uh, go for it. Right? This is a very decentralized, um, idea. Um, there is no official, do we have permission to have a launching new voices type of program in our area? Um, but, but the ones that I’ve been involved with is in Kansas City. Um, one of the things that we decided to do was pull on the thread of, I don’t know how to do public speaking. Right. So I have an idea. I may have submitted to some conferences, but I’m not sure what I need to know before I get on stage. And so we had a two day class. It was on over two different Saturdays where we had a very experienced, uh, public training, public speaker, trainer donate his time and spend 16 hours training. And it was fantastic. I picked up a lot of really good, uh, pointers on body language, on tonality, on speed, um, on how you enter the stage. And so that was really priceless as far as giving some folks some competence. The other, the other thing that I really liked about the, the two days is it was very experiential. So we didn’t just watch a bunch of slides about how to do talks. We brought a talk that we had written into that and we had to, um, select certain portions of it to demonstrate some of the concepts that we were, that we were doing. So that was great. That the training portion of that I think was fantastic. So, you know, I encourage, if you are a, uh, experienced speaker doing something, like having a workshop with folks at your company or in your community to help them see how some of those things can come together. And that’s very different than what we’ve done with the Women in Agile initiative through agile alliance in which every year for the women in Agile Conference that precedes the agile 20X conference, we put out a call, an international call for three new speakers. Um, they deliver a seven minute talk, um, you know, on that international stage. And we pair them over the course of a couple of months with an experienced mentor. And in that model, we really allow them mentors to decide how they want to spend their time at with those proteges and what areas of focus that, um, that they may be able to, to bring to the new protege.

Dan Neumann: [12:10]  So you, you’ve identified some, some new speaker candidates and then are pairing them up with these, the mentors. Okay. Fantastic. What, what kind of success stories do you have from either, either location and bringing some of these voices forward?

Jennifer Tarwater: [12:30] So it’s been, it’s been wonderful. Um, I’ve seen, um, I think that thing that just came to mind for me is, especially at the the Women in Agile conference, we just had that three weeks ago too. So it’s very fresh. Um, after those proteges speak, there’s a glow not only from them, from the mentors and from the 250 people that are in the room. What I have been shocked by is that the, the quality and caliber of the talks that had been given do not feel like this is a first time talk. They’ve delivered some of the most interesting information that I see during that whole week, including by various seasoned agile conference speakers. So there’s that. Um, the other kind of really unexpected thing that happens is, um, those proteges then are very recognizable right to the, to the folks that are in that audience. Um, and they have a story to talk about. So the potential for them to network and also get new speaking opportunities, um, has just been fantastic.

Dan Neumann: [13:53]  You know, now that they’ve got the first one under their belt, they’ve shown some competence and other people have really positively then reinforced oh that that’s a great story or that’s a valuable story or here’s how it resonated with me. I think they get the power of invitation to continue to share that.

Jennifer Tarwater: [14:14] Right. And I, and I want to point out some of the other things that can happen too. We’ve had a couple of proteges, um, in different programs that have gotten a certain sound to a certain point and said, you know what? I don’t think this is for me. Right? And then when they were really understanding what goes into preparing a speech, not only preparing that content right, and the stories around it, um, but the mental game that goes along with that too. We’ve had some people say, this is not for me. And I think that’s great too. Right? They have that opportunity. Um, they, they, they went through the, what if they tried and it didn’t work out for them? I, I have learned quite a bit from the first time that I was at a conference that I said, Ooh, I want to do that. I think I can get up and talk about something that, that it’s not just getting up and talking about something, right. It’s, it’s not like having a casual conversation or even a conversation like we’re having right now. Um, that it does entail a lot of work it has very high rewards, but it has quite a bit of work

Dan Neumann: [15:33]  There are other channels. If somebody does begin the exploration process of conference speaking through a launching new voices initiative or something akin to that and they decide maybe this isn’t something that really gets me excited. There are other channels I think to be explored. You know, some people are better at writing than getting up and speaking. Some people are fantastic coaches, one on one or in small group settings versus kind of presenting something. Some people are better at facilitating workshops than doing a lecture based session. So there’s, there’s lots of different channels for continuing to foster those new voices outside of maybe this one path of conference speaking. But so you’re really, but for those who are interested in conference speaking, you’re helping them get up to the up the ramp of, of doing that and doing that successfully. So how do people maybe find out if there’s a new voices initiative going by or if they’re interested, how would they go about learning more?

Jennifer Tarwater: [16:35] Yeah. All right. So if you’re a protege, um, a couple of different ways. Um, so like I said, I’m involved with the womeninagile.org. Um, though the Women in Agile 501-C3 not for profit, which you can find, uh, uh, women in agile.org, um, you can sign up and then we will use the folks that are in that list to announce things like the, um, program that we’ll have next year for Agile Alliance. But we may also use that to announce, um, when we have a clearinghouse page of all launching new voices and initiatives internationally. Right? So we’ve seen some things in Chicago. We’ve seen some things in Florida, um, of course Kansas City. And so, um, take a look at that. We’ll continue to, uh, build up that list so you can look for some things there. Um, likewise as a mentor joining that, that email us would be great. For conference organizers and this is really where the conference organizers can, can really make this more of a broadly recognized and accessible thing. Um, what about having a launching new voices program with your conference? Um, whether that be something that the conference organizers sponsor or somebody else in the community, but say, hey, you know, we are always looking for new voices, six months preceding the conference. Let’s have a meetup about it. Let’s talk about what may or may not be, um, the impediments for you to submit. And then how can we pair you with somebody or suggest some training or some podcasts or, um, something online that you can help fill those gaps.

Dan Neumann: [18:26]  Yeah. And what are the challenges then? Like you’d mentioned if people want to start launching new voices that they can, and that’s part of the reason with womeninagile.org the website. Then the challenge of getting a list is because anybody could start one, which is kind of the beauty and the challenge of it all at the same time. Yep.

Jennifer Tarwater: [18:44] Yeah. Yeah. So I, so this was it. This is a new position for me that they had that we agreed upon in August and so my high dream right now, and again why I needed to limit some work is that on that same website, I want to have a couple of different things. I want to have like the starter pack, right? So if you want to be a, if you want to start a launching new voices initiative in your area, here are three different ways that you could do it and here are some templates that you could use and here are some folks that you can follow on Twitter and so that it really just helps accelerate the learning curve for folks that want to do that.

Dan Neumann: [19:26]  That’s pretty cool. And if people listening have done something related to launching new voices or facilitating, how might they get about sharing that? So you’re not tasked with creating that from scratch if some folks do have…

Jennifer Tarwater: [19:40] Oh, absolutely. Yes, please, please, please. Uh, so we have a email address. It’s newvoices@womeninagile.org.

Dan Neumann: [19:55]  Okay, cool. And we’ll put that in the show notes that they can get at agilethoughts.com/podcast and um, hopefully they’re able to find that maybe some folks have some patterns that they’re already using for launching new voices or for getting people more comfortable with conference speaking and a who are interested in collaborating going forward. And even if they don’t have something immediately available to share. So Jennifer, that’s a, we’ve talked about some of the formal structures, the one that Lean Agile KC has in place, the one Women in Agile is starting. And then, you know, maybe there is or isn’t a launching new voices nearby. What are some other ways that people who are maybe curious about this conference speaking concept or maybe they want to try it out, where are some other places they might go?

Jennifer Tarwater: [20:46] Right. So meetups. Meetups are an absolutely great place where you have maybe even a smaller audience where you can take an idea, um, and present that to the group. Um, as a meetup organizer, I will tell you, I’m always looking for folks that are willing to come and invest some time with the community and provide those, um, experiences, those um, and sometimes I think people trip up and say, you know, I’m not an expert in x, so why would I want to be in front of a meetup and, and have a conversation about that. But what we’re really looking for are people’s individual experiences with those things, what they learned and what other people can take from that. And so I’m not sure, before I was an organizer, I realized I could just go up and ask and say, I’d really like to be the one that comes one month and provides something. Can I work with you on what that topic might be and what would you be willing to do that? And I think more likely than not, those was meetup organizers would say yes.

Dan Neumann: [21:59]  I would agree. I guess I would have a hard time envisioning tech meetups or collaboration related meetups or whatever the, the theme of might be of them just saying, oh, we have way too many good ideas already in the queue. I mean, I just maybe, yeah, I just don’t see that happening and, and, right. So, and the other thing I like about the meetups is it’s local folks. They want to see you succeed. You know, they’re not a particularly judgy audience in my perspective. And even from the ones I’ve gone to, they want the speakers to succeed and they’ll, uh, you know, pretty forgiving group to get in front of.

Jennifer Tarwater: [22:35] Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Neumann: [22:37]  And then you’re right, the, the concept of how, how somebody maybe has taken something that’s well known and applied it and learned lessons good, the bad, the ugly, and, and really sharing that so that other people aren’t stumbling for the first time through, you know, regardless of what the practice might be.

Jennifer Tarwater: [22:59] Right, right. Absolutely. You know, and I love that saying that nobody stands in the same river twice, right? So it’s very rare that I hear a speaker that I can’t gain some kind of information from, even if it’s a topic that I’ve heard many, many times, even if it’s a topic that I’ve heard from the person that invented that topic, right? Because how they experienced and their unique complex adaptive system with those particular individuals. Maybe more like what I need then the theory that you read in the book. So again, I think that’s, it’s a, there’s a theme here where I think conference speaking, meetup speaking is just like when you’re having a conversation with somebody, you are bringing your authentic self to that and talking about the things that you experience. So whether that is a book or a class or a conference, and you’ve been talking about how that impacted you, uh, it can be very impactful to other people as well.

Dan Neumann: [24:04]  Very cool. So there’s an invite for people to contact you, not contact you personally but contact the new voices at womeninagile.org.

Jennifer Tarwater: [24:14] Yeah, or they can, they can contact me. That’s fine. I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter and all kinds of other places. So I happily invite the, the personal contact as well.

Dan Neumann: [24:25]  Okay. That’s a nice end. That reminds me of an episode that I did with Betty Pierce, one of my colleagues that agile thought, and we talked a little bit about the power of invitation. Um, she was talking about breaking into a male dominated industry as a developer and for her, she did exactly what we were talking about. She went to a meetup, did a talk, and somebody in the attendance at the meetup said, wow, you have to come and share that at a conference. So it was she, she did go to a meetup and then the power of invitation, somebody who was helping organize a conference said we need you to come share that. And she’d never viewed herself as a conference speaker. So, uh, and now Betty speaks at several conferences. She’s very capable and both as a developer and a speaker and has, has really created energy and content around that. So there’s the new voices, Women in Agile and then for conference organizers to take some initiative to, to help foster their own diversity there. So, you know, they’re not lamenting the fact that, gosh, we have a speaker list that doesn’t represent the community, but really take an active role in trying to, to build that diversity, get those new voices out. Very cool. Before we wrap up, I am curious, we usually ask folks what they’ve been reading that maybe has them inspired these days and I am curious what’s on your list.

Jennifer Tarwater: [25:48] Oh, okay. And that’s easy for me. Right now. I’m, I am very enthralled with Esther Derby’s new book, Seven Year Olds for Positive, Productive Change. She talks about micro shifts for macro results. Um, and so she, I liked her that she proposes that it’s for change agents. Um, and I certainly in my role as an agile collaboration coach, um, work with change a lot, but I don’t meet very many people that don’t deal with change. So I think it is, has a lot of universal truths in it and highly recommend.

Dan Neumann: [26:24]  That’s fantastic. I have started that and I found it interesting that she says in there she would maybe refer to them as heuristics versus rules because there are things that could be applied, but I don’t know, seven heuristics for positive productive change might not market as well when people don’t really know what that second word means.

Jennifer Tarwater: [26:42] Yeah, I, I may have heard a rumor and that, um, that the publisher liked the role, the, the name roles more than heuristics. So again, I don’t know that the average bear, ah, would recognize as much about seven heuristics for positive change. So I think there was a good decision there.

Dan Neumann: [27:02]  I think so too. It’s certainly, it’s like, oh, I’ve got to get the rules then. But I mean, these aren’t rules. They’re here, a sticks, son of a gun, and I’m going to have to keep thinking. That’s awesome. Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting through that and I’m seeing how to apply some of those. Well, thank you for taking some time out of your day to record some, some thoughts on launching new voices and hopefully other people can, uh, continue to push that initiative forward and we’ll get more new voices in the agile community.

Jennifer Tarwater: [27:32] Awesome. Great. And for those out there listening, you have a story and the world needs to hear it.

Outro: [27:40] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought, get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.

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