I Don’t Sprint, I Stroll: A Non-Techie’s Journey to Product Ownership

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I have to admit, back in college when I was fantasizing about my glamorous soon-to-be marketing gig that was clearly falling from the sky as soon as I graduated, I never imagined that sixteen years later I would be practicing writing a good user story or working to prioritize stories in a sprint. But such is the life of a marketing team member here at a company with thirteen different web properties all in various states of maturation.

I used to think agile described how bendable you were, or a cheetah, or whatever. As a matter of fact, when I first started at SQE (soon to be TechWell), I would write headlines like “Show your flexibility with agile training.” Say what? Looking back, I am pretty sure the director of training thought she was going to have to rewrite my subject lines until the end of time.

I have been working at SQE for four years now, and recently I was asked to take over product ownership of two of our web properties. It made sense. The website is our marketplace, and the sites are a manifestation of our brand. As a new product owner, I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the certified product owner course offered by SQE Training. (OK, shameless plug, but I’m in marketing, so don’t act like you’re shocked.)

I walked into that class Sunday morning feeling pretty confident(ish). This was not my first rodeo; I had worked with a ScrumMaster and a dev team, albeit a small one. I knew buzzwords like lean, kanban, and Agile Manifesto. I was set! Then other people started talking ... and I realized I might not be the agilista I’d imagined.

Five minutes in, I realized I better just zip it lest the giant banner that said “Development Poser” fall out of my mouth. I sat in the back of the class (cliché, I know, but true) and made sure a much smarter and more experienced guy was sitting in front of me. If I leaned just slightly to the right, I think I was even able to disappear behind him—not that I was trying, of course!

Keeping my mouth shut ain’t easy, but listening to the experiences of others was invaluable. True, my experience was not the same as most of these people (Collocated teams? Chief product owners? Continuous deployment? It all sounds so complicated!), but I got a serious education on agile development and my role in it. I also developed an amazing respect for those people who do this every day.

I started to think that what we need is a companion class for the other disciplines that interact with software development teams to help them better understand the intricacies of what this process entails. I have a few new class names I started kicking around: “Dude, I swear we are not playing WoW, and I can prove it!” or “What Chris is doing all day (Hint: It’s not napping).” Of course, I’m just spitballing here ...

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