The Agile For Agilists Podcast

Balancing Chaos and Order: Insights from Adobe Engineering Manager Sina Jazayeri on Delivering Customer Value

March 13, 2023
Is it possible to maintain a high-level flow in the absence of a scrum master? Can teams maintain focus, clarity, and collaboration without this key role?

Join hosts Brad and Drew for a thought-provoking conversation with Sina Jazayeri, an engineering manager at Adobe’s Frame.IO, as they explore how customer centric organizations are able to maintain the balance between chaos and order when delivering working software without a scrum master.

In this episode, Sina emphasizes the importance of creating a culture where everyone in the company is focused on building the best version of the product, regardless of the absence of a scrum master. He provides practical tips on how to foster values of customer collaboration, and customer centricity, and highlights the benefits of embracing change and unpredictability while maintaining a structure that allows for continuous improvement and autonomy in teams. Sina emphasizes that maintaining an agile mindset becomes everyone’s job in environments where scrum masters aren’t present.

Is this a taboo subject? Absolutely! Will we get hate mail for even discussing this as a subject? Without a doubt! But, if you’re in a situation without the support of an official scrum master or working in a low agile culture environment then this podcast is a must-listen for inspiration, valuable insights and actionable advice. Tune in now and discover how to maintain the perfect balance of chaos and order in your agile practices, drive innovation that improves customer value in your teams, and maintain a high-level flow, even without a scrum master.


S02 – E02 Sina Jazayeri

Drew Podwal: [00:00:00] welcome to another episode of the Agile for Agile Agilists podcast. I am Drew Podwal Today I am here with my co-host Brad Nelson.

Brad Nelson: Hello everybody.

Drew Podwal: Hey, Brad. And, uh, we’re really excited for this episode. it’s been in the planning stage for probably about a month now.

We’re joined with Sina Jazayeri, am I saying your name right? I’ve realized, like all this time I realized I don’t know how to say your name exactly perfectly.

Sina Jazayeri: Dude, that was perfect.

Drew Podwal: Is it

Sina Jazayeri: That was, yeah. That’s how a kid I grew up with would say it. So that’s the bar

Drew Podwal: Okay. Well, you know, Cena and I haven’t spoken in probably about three or four years now. Like, I mean, I know we’ve touched base, but we’ve never like really had a conversation like this.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. We’re going pre Covid. This is, yeah, yeah,

Drew Podwal: I think it was 2017 or 2000, 2016, 2017, uh, Cena and I worked together at, [00:01:00] uh, at MasterCard and, um, you know, Cena, that was a really, like, you don’t know this yet.

I’ve been like so chomping at the bit to have this conversation with you. Um, but uh, actually, you know, before, before we get into that, I wanna pause. I want to allow you some time to introduce yourself. You know, tell us a bit about who you are. Tell us about the drunk web. Tell us about what’s been going on.

 You know, so let me, let me hand it over to.

Sina Jazayeri: Cool, man. Yeah, I’ll, I’ll do a quick one. So, hey everyone, my name is Sina. So Drew, and Brad were kind enough to invite me here. So any opportunity to, to chat to any audience, if it’s three people, that’s, that’s good enough for me is, uh, is, is an honor, you know, cause somebody wants to sit down and hear you make words with your mouth.

So that’s, that’s, that’s great. So I appreciate that guys. , I am currently an engineering manager. At Adobe, uh, I work on a product called Frame io. Uh, we got into Adobe through an acquisition, uh, exactly [00:02:00] a year ago, well, a year in change. , I oversee four teams at Frame io and it’s, it’s been quite a journey.

It’s, it’s amazing. , but like Drew said before that, I was at MasterCard for about five years, five years and two days. and yeah, before that, it, the story continues, goes back to 2000, probably three when I first wrote, uh, my first production, code, aside from that is the drunk web that Drew touched on.

Uh, the Drunk Web is a podcast I host that is kind of inspired by Drunk History, where. Uh, I, at some point, I, I worked at hbo, which was one of the, one of the cooler jobs I had. And when I left HBO I knew I was gonna miss so many of the total rock stars I worked with. So I thought, you know what? I’m just gonna start a podcast, so they have to talk to me now.

So that was kind of the, the reason why I started Drunk Web. And so, yeah, we would grab a [00:03:00] drink or two or or five and then start talking about technology. Started with, with programming, with engineering stuff, but then, uh, it moved to project managers and Scrum Masters and eventually, uh, some YouTube people had nothing to do with technology.

So Drunk web, kind of spiral outta control. and I am sad to announce that Drunk Web is gonna be, uh, wrapped up by episode 50 in about a couple weeks. But the good news is, I have this other project called Color Code. So I have this, uh, tiny YouTube channel called Color Code, where I teach programming in ways that is hopefully approachable to everybody and not just, not just those who’ve who’ve taken three years of computer science.

Uh, and the reason why I know it’s approachable is because, uh, I make, um, is this a clean show? Are we allowed to curse?

Drew Podwal: You can curse

Sina Jazayeri: Okay, well, it’s not really a curse, but I make dick jokes when I talk about code. So it it, it [00:04:00] kind of separates the, the color code from the rest of the YouTube channels. It teach you Java or whatever.

So that’s kind of my world. And the reason why color code is, uh, relevant to drunk web is that everything is moving under color code. So no longer are we gonna be tipsy slash drunk to when we talk about code. It’s just gonna be a much more civil and, uh, mature conversation. And so that’s kind of the, the, the

Drew Podwal: but the market, but the market differentiator is the Dick jokes

Sina Jazayeri: Dick Chokes. Yeah, exactly. So take that as you will. I mean, if you go to color code that io uh, you have been warned with that said, there aren’t really that many chs anyway, so,

Drew Podwal: That’s

Sina Jazayeri: anyway, yeah, that’s, uh, that’s, that’s kind of a high level.

Drew Podwal: That’s awesome. Yeah. And you know, you, you’ve always got such great energy, right? Everywhere you go, everything you do that, that Sina energy like just pours out, you know, which is actually like the, the root right of [00:05:00] what I wanted to, to talk to you about today with MasterCard. Right. Um, you may have realized it, you might not have realized it.

Right. But for me, that was such a pivotal point in my career. It was the first time I’d ever gotten to work at an organization that was, was high Agile maturity, uh, or high Agile culture. Um, you know, I feel like Bob and those guys had already done. At least like six or seven PIs maybe. they, they’d done a few rodeos.

Uh, they weren’t doing everything perfectly, you know, but there was inspection, there was adaption, and, uh, there, there was stability and predictability, ? Which, which gave way for innovation , and code quality, and so for me, I learned so much in that short year because up, up until that moment, Agile and Scrum this, that was like this unicorn that it, that maybe didn’t even really exist anywhere.

Maybe all the training that I had had like wasn’t real, right? Like, [00:06:00] uh, cuz I had never seen it in play to that degree of maturity. , And then the other thing was like coming in and partnering with you. , I, I was on the backside of like 12 years of being a project manager where, your voice didn’t matter, right?

Nobody, nobody cares about what the project manager says. We have to fight for time with the team. And, you know, you, you had such a great way of framing things like a real, not just like an approachability, but like a, like a charismatic attraction that, that Drew everybody into the room around you. And you were just such a great leader to both of the Scrum teams.

And the thing that really stood out was, I dunno if you remember doing this or not, but. You know, we would go and sit in one of the pod rooms like once a week and just sit and talk about like, what was going on. And and I learned a lot about like, leadership from you in that regard, right? Because [00:07:00] from prior to that, like I was still in that place of corporate America’s, um, miss misguided management leadership hybrid thing where, you know, I’m your leader because I’m also your manager.

and I learned so much from you in that. And, and I never really got a chance to like tell you, that I’ve been carrying these stories with me and talking about them for years. So, thank you for that. Like really thank you for that.

Sina Jazayeri: thanks Drew. Yeah, no, thank you for, for saying that. Uh, you know, I just said this on another podcast, and it’s, uh, it’s a quote from Tony Soprano . I’m, I’m kind of giving away the, uh, how much time I spent, uh, at HBO on HBO shows. And, uh, Sopranos was definitely one of those that, that always stuck out to me.

And I remember this one quote, so well, uh, there were just two guys who are at the restaurant with these two girls, and they’re trying to, one of the guys is trying to impress the girls, and he’s like, you know, and in the, in the good [00:08:00] old days and back, back then, you know, me and Tony would do this. And then Tony’s the other guy, he’s sitting at the table and, and, uh, he keeps saying, telling these stories and the good old days and good old days.

And, uh, finally Tony gets up and he is. The good old days is the lowest form of conversation and, and just storms off with his girl. And, and, and that’s it. And I told the story on, uh, on another podcast, uh, a couple weeks ago because I feel like I am in the good old days right now. I feel like I will look back at, at today and, and think about this project that I’m working on and go, wow, that was, that was so good.

But I will say the time you and I spent together was definitely the good old days. I don’t care if it’s the lowest form of conversation or not. It was, we had so many things right. We made so many right decisions and it just created such an environment that everybody just wanted to be in. And so I take pride in saying that we were able to do that and use the word [00:09:00] partner and we, we did partner up and that was really cool.

And so thanks for saying the, those awesome words. I appreciate it

Drew Podwal: Yeah. You know, it was just great. And like the Nerf gunfights and , I keep on talking about it from a standpoint of like, you won’t believe that I got to work at a place like that, and uh, like the coolest thing was like, I just remember, Ian and, uh, and Harshel and, uh, who was the guy on your team from who, who went back home for a period of time?


Sina Jazayeri: Khaled

Drew Podwal: Khaled, right?

Sina Jazayeri: DJ Khaled.

Drew Podwal: DJ Khaled, and Mike, but, uh, you know, these guys would, work on code and either get a little burnt out or they would check something in, or they would be done with a code review and they’d get up and play some ping pong or, uh, whatever that was.

And you know, I knew I didn’t have to go find them to bring them back. Right. the environment was so trusting and so respectful that like we could just go [00:10:00] and play ping pong for however long we wanted and, and come back when we were ready and, and we were all diligent, you know? , it was, it was really great.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah, I think the way I would describe it, that hopefully some of the listeners would be able to replicate that. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s okay to just talk about all the things that were great, but the one thing that we had the recipe that anyone can apply to their own environment is that we. This is the way I like to, uh, I like to think about it.

We had a, the closest thing to the perfect balance of chaos and order. It was chaotic because you could just storm off and play some ping pong, but there was enough order that would, that there was checks and balances and you knew that no one was gonna run away for three hours and play ping pong. Right.

So we had that flexibility, but at the same time, we had discipline and that was fantastic. It’s very hard to get right for long periods of time. yeah.

Drew Podwal: In, in video game design, I once heard the story of, uh, video game [00:11:00] designers. they want you to be able to explore the universe, right? In a way where, where you’ll never find the walls, right? Like you’ll, like the Truman Show, you’ll never find the, the edge of the Truman show, but they also need to create carrots along the way so that this way if you go off on a side quest or, you know, whatever that is, that you’re periodically from time to time reminded of your, your primary quest and, and so that you get back to it and, and stay on the story arc.

And I feel like that’s the culture that we had there, right? Where, they were invest. In us as people and trusting in us as people. And as a result, we never actually saw the, the edges of the Truman Show universe. Um, I don’t remember any time anybody ever needed to have a sit down and talking to, uh, I do remember one time, but let’s not bring that up.

But, um,

Sina Jazayeri: I was gonna say

Drew Podwal: yeah,

Sina Jazayeri: There were a

Drew Podwal: there was, [00:12:00] there was somebody who took time off and just never came back.

Sina Jazayeri: something along those lines. Those, yeah. I mean, given enough people and given enough time and space, that will happen. So

Drew Podwal: yeah. Um, yeah, he never came back . Um, that was so weird. but, uh, but yeah, it was great. It was, it was great and, and I’ve got to like know everybody personally. It was a great time. Learning how to be that, that Agile coach, that, that got to know what motivated people, what were their fears, what were their ticks, what were their interests?

And, and you kind of helped me in, in realizing that, right? Because you, you treated me that way. You were there before I was there, and I was the new guy on the block. And, and I didn’t like you at first. I, I thought you were so nice. I’ve talked about in this, in a previous episode. I thought you were so nice that I, I didn’t know how to [00:13:00] understand that. Right. Because I’d never been treated that way before. Um, yes. Especially as a project manager. And, and it took me a couple of like, maybe like a sprint or two to realize, no, he really is just a really nice guy who is interested in, in all the people who, you know, work with him and for him and that’s just that.

And I could let my guard down and be vulnerable and, and learn while we did our job. So, , you’re a great person. Sina. You were really a great Yeah. Um,

Sina Jazayeri: Keep, uh, true. I, I, I don’t keep going. . This is good.

Drew Podwal: Well, so tell us a bit like, about like, you’ve had many, many trips around the sun since MasterCard, right? Like, and, and now you’re, you know, a leader, you said, of three, three teams, Engineering manager of three teams, right? Like, what are the things that you carried with you from that experience?

Or maybe it was another experience, you know,

Sina Jazayeri: [00:14:00] No Mastercard was pivotal because you, you are touching on something that I was heavily experimenting with there, which was what happens when you get to know people on, uh, an individual basis on a what, not just what motivates you, but what do you listen to on Sunday morning when you wake up? Like, what, what songs do you like when you are not in the mood, like at that level?

And it was, it was an experiment and it was something that I, I got the idea from a bunch of people I was following online and they were like, this, it’s, this game is about treating each other like human beings. And that, my interpretation of that was the people that report to me, I need to look at them more than just story points.

And, you know, I’m lucky that my DNA kind of goes that way anyway, so I didn’t have to push the heart to, to get to that. But, uh, But that was the, the thinking was, you know, let me find out [00:15:00] what not just makes this guy tick, but how can I create an environment where I love saying this, I use this at work all the time, where you can’t wait to come to work Monday morning.

Like, can you imagine a world where everybody was so excited Monday morning to, well now log on to teams or whatever, but at the time to come to the office thinking, oh, I can’t wait to see my friends. Uh, the problem with that approach is, Uh, if you, uh, I, I like the example of Mama Bear. Like mama bear is all cute and fuzzy and, and, and amazing and huggy and all those things, but try to get close to the, the baby bear and mama bear, all the empathy and niceness and, and all the, uh, cuteness goes out the window.

Mama bear will tear you apart. So the, the challenge is to, to find that balance between being nice. So I’m glad, I’m glad you, you’re, you’re saying I was, you know, I came off as, as nice, but it really needs to be balanced with [00:16:00] discipline and accountability, right? Because I can be nice to you all day and if you.

Uh, or you gimme that. Let me reverse it. You can be nice to me all day, but if I’m an asshole and I just take advantage of your niceness, then no one’s gonna, no one’s gonna benefit at the end of the day, even me, even me taking advantage. Uh, so that was the balance that I, I feel we got pretty, pretty right there.

So I try to emulate that a lot and thank, thankfully, frame io really rewards this. We, we index heavily on this type of philosophy where you get to know somebody and you, you invest in them. Um, I used to work with a guy, um, who, who his pitch to candidates was, uh, I want to train you, uh, to, for your next job.

Like, I, I want you to come here so you can leave as soon as you, you, you grow so much with us that you, you find your next job. Yeah.

Drew Podwal: Yeah. There’s a great quote on that where, uh, what is it a good leader, hopes to, to train you [00:17:00] well enough, you know, so that you’ll get your next great job. A great leader, knows that you’re gonna get your, your, I don’t know, I screwed it up, but it’s something along those lines, right?


Sina Jazayeri: You got it. No. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. Yeah. And it, and weirdly enough, you find that people wanna stick around when you, when you treat them like more than story points and more than just my designer, it’s like, nobody’s your designer, this is your partner. Right. And nobody works for you. We’re all working together.

Drew Podwal: Yeah, I struggle with that because, you know, I, I still call people my team, you know, and I know that that is not Agile culture, right, to say my team. But, when I use the word my, in my head, it’s kind of like when I say you guys, and, you know, we might be a mixed company, and to me it’s growing up in New York guys just means people or folks or whatever that is.

But, uh, when I say my team, I mean it in the same sort of way as like I am on that team. Not like I have ownership of that team, but I belong to this team and they belong to [00:18:00] me and we belong together. And, uh, now I’m gonna sing a Pat Benatar song, but, um,

Sina Jazayeri: I’ll with you. I I, I don’t mean to pick out the specific word. My, I don’t think the intention is really there to say, yeah, like, you work for me, or, and guess what? In reality, we all work for someone, so that’s totally fine. but it’s, it’s this idea that somehow, somehow we’re at, uh, just because we’re at different levels of experience and let’s be honest, pay grade.

And uh, it also comes with the accountability, right? If I say, if you say my team right, and your team doesn’t deliver, chances are like, you are going to have to answer some questions. So it’s totally okay to say, you know, my team, or, or your team, Or, you know, use, use those words. The point I’m trying to make, it’s just that we are, we’re all human beings. If we can start to see that, a lot of things will just take care of themselves.

Drew Podwal: Absolutely.

So with the companies that you’ve worked at, tell me a bit about some of the agile and scrum experiments that you’ve tried.

Sina Jazayeri: Uh, [00:19:00] so specific, uh, the, the short answer is depends on the team. Depends on the project, and even within the team, from project to project, it changes. And, , what , I do wanna call out one system that is really, uh, that is, that’s really helped deliver in a way that I haven’t seen before. And that is kind of a, uh, twist on what base camp came up with called Shape Up. Uh, so some people might be familiar with ShapeUp. We don’t really do shape up, but there’s, there are, there are concepts in ShapeUp that I have, adopted.

And the really, the, the TLDR is a sprint is too short and six months, or a years too long. So what is a happy medium where we can try. , um, time box ourselves and say, what is our appetite when it comes to feature X two? Again, two weeks is too short to build anything [00:20:00] meaningful. And to say that the next version of iOS is in a year is way too long to say how much I can do in a year.

So what Shape Up does is they take, they have this concept of cycles and cycles are eight weeks long. there are three sprints of two weeks, which is six weeks with one week in front, one one week at the end. cool down at the end and warm up, the front. And that is really interesting because you have.

You have this time-bound, system, and you can say, all right, every eight weeks I’m going to have to deliver something meaningful. and it’s not too long that, that you can’t really estimate with any level of accuracy. Right? So it it’s kind of a nice, happy medium. We don’t do this religiously. And, and you know, some companies like Basecamp, I think they, they did, uh, shape up very religiously and it comes with 17 different rules and Shape Up.

You can actually read it on their website Is a good read, is an interesting read. The PDF is free. so it’s a [00:21:00] hodgepodge of things. But what is there for all the teams, which I absolutely love, is the target, the end goal for everybody is the exact same thing, and that is something that I haven’t experienced before, depending on what team and what person within the team.

You ask. In most companies, the end goal is different, right? For sales, it’s number of dollars for engineering is the best. Engineering practices for QA is the least number of bucks, and so on and so forth. For Frame io has, has always been my experience that everybody’s pointing to the best version of the product they can build.

And I know that’s a little bit of a lip, lip might sound like a lip service, but it really truly, on a day-to-day basis, on an hour to hour basis, we’re all constantly asking ourselves what is the best product that we can build? What do our customers need? So it starts with user insights, teams where they talk to, our, our users of our product.

[00:22:00] it is a very short distance from the. The customer’s mouth to code is a very short distance. And so, and I, all the things that happen between that, like planning and, and writing briefs and, and doing your due diligence as far as, you know, all your process go. So the shorter that process can be from taking feedback and actually building something and shipping it.

that’s one of the things that has blown my mind, um, working here. And now that we are part of Adobe that has continued. and it’s part of the reason why I love going to work is we get to see the, the result of our, I, I always thought about what it would be like to work at Apple, uh, on iOS, but to wait a year to see the next version, that just seems like torture to me.

So anyway, I went all over the place with that one.

Drew Podwal: No, it, it, I, what I’m hearing is, is you’re working at my, my Next Unicorn, which is a product driven organization. Right? Like the difference between, uh, we just had somebody on last week that [00:23:00] we talked to this guy Diego, you know, he works for a product driven organization and everybody is focusing.

Delivering the best possible version of that product, um, every increment. And, and that’s, that’s a rarity, right? Like when you work in an organization where, where everybody’s pointing in the same direction and it’s at, um, at the customer through the products, right? Then, then there’s so many of these other headaches that, that Scrum and Agile are, frankly overcompensating for, right?

Like a lot of, like, we wouldn’t need a manifesto if we worked at companies that were, people centric and customer focused right through, through the products. So, um, that’s awesome. I’m

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. And it’s easy, easy to say. It’s easy to say we’re a product, a focus company, or where you care about the user. Everybody can say that, but are you able to say no to almost everything and [00:24:00] just say yes. To not just say no to bad ideas, but say no to good ideas. Are you able to say no to so many things that you could be building?

I mean, if you take any slice of Frame io as a product for anyone who is familiar with it, if you take any corner of Frame IO as a product, you could argue that an entire company can spend five years making that slice better. So there’s so many things we could be doing. Uh, so the question is how do we say no to all these great ideas and really focus on what truly does bring value at and at the end of the day.

Um, and that’s hard. That’s very hard. But at least we’re all looking at the, at the same goalpost, right?

Drew Podwal: Well, the other quote I love is, is the measure of a great product manager or product owner is not what they say yes to building. It’s what they say no to building, right? cuz you can’t build everything and uh, and all too often, you know, like I’ve been at many companies where the product [00:25:00] manager doesn’t have the authority to say, no, that’s not what we should be building.

stuff is still chucked over the fence at them and they gotta catch it all. It’s just their job to figure out the sequence and uh, and try to cram in in as much of it as they can. So, that’s pretty awesome.

All right. So tell me, have you worked with any great ScrumMasters recently?

Sina Jazayeri: Uh, I haven’t worked with the scrum master in a long time. and that is, that’s not to say that, uh, the ceremonies and all the benefits of having someone dedicated to the process. Isn’t there, but as an individual, uh, person on a team with that title? I haven’t worked with someone like that, uh, probably since you, so it’s, it’s been a while,

Drew Podwal: Well, you know, I mean the, the end goal for any Agile coach or, you know, great scrum master is to get their teams to that level of [00:26:00] collaboration and maturity where they’re no longer needed. Right. It’s like one of those jobs where, where if you do a great job, you lose your job. You know?

 So in these instances where you don’t have scrum masters, what is it like for your teams to continuously and inspect and adapt on their work and develop new ways of working with each other?

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. I mean, uh, retros. Yeah, I would be alarmed if, if anyone told me we don’t take a moment to look back at our 2, 3, 4 weeks and talk about it. That is very alarming. So that in the absence of a scrum master that has, that is something that I personally have felt really strongly about anywhere I’ve, I’ve worked, um, especially when you have personalities that aren’t the best fit to work with each other and we can’t make any changes right this moment.

We have to learn to play nice with each other, so let’s talk about it. So yeah, retrospect is no matter what you call it or how long it is, and as long as it happens, that, that is definitely part of the [00:27:00] process. I like that part.

Drew Podwal: Yeah. I think to me what I always say is that, , I’ll work with any organization, all right, as long and I don’t care how sloppy things are. but we have to have a retrospective. That’s my one sticking point, right? Like, As long as you give me that, that hour per sprint to sit with everybody to talk about like, what’s going well, what’s not going so well, and what are the things that we can do differently?

Like, I know that I have like the hooks in to at least then figure out where we go next and, and, and whatnot. But, um,

Sina Jazayeri: let, uh, let me ask you something. Uh, what do you hope to get out of retros and is it always action, action driven at the end?

Drew Podwal: well, okay, so there’s a couple of things and there’s a lot of schools of thoughts on this, right? Um, my personal perspective is that a retrospective, it’s not just about the team, So it’s things that are impacting the team, whether they’re external factors or internal [00:28:00] factors to a team. and I’ve worked with lots of scrum masters who are like, no, it’s just, just the team.

Just the team internally. And so what I do with my retros is I like using, um, and it’s funny you asking about, this is Diego who was on last week. Uh, he had this tool called Teamwork that was phenomenal. It was a retro tool. It had, uh, NLP AI built into it, um, years ago. And, uh, um, and he since shut down.

But, um, I open up my retro board digitally. so that people can asynchronously put their items on the board at day one of the sprint. So what I tell everybody is, all right, the board’s open let’s you know if you see anything that’s working well or not working well or doing differently, or I always add a fourth column for shoutouts.

put it on there on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, right? Don’t wait until the last day of the sprint and then the day before the retro, I flip it over into voting mode so that this way people can vote. And then when we come into the [00:29:00] retro, it fac it allows us to facilitate a direct conversation on what’s most important and we can have a meaningful conversation.

And so, yeah, you know, if there are things that the team has decided they want to do differently or change internal, like we make that as part of, I always ask like, do we want to make this part of the team’s working agreement? Um, and so we’ll add it to the team working agreement, or do you want me to help you guys to keep monitoring this kind of thing?

Um, and I. if that’s the case, it goes into the backlog. and then if it’s something that is external to the team, then it goes into a team of teams level, impediment backlog that gets escalated to the team of teams level. you know, but I love retrospectives. It’s one of my favorite of the Agile events, and I do a really good job of keeping them fun and um, making them relevant and useful.

And, and it’s because I know that if I’m the kind of scrum master who doesn’t make sure that [00:30:00] the things that are discussed have a place to go and that it’s just not in a backlog that nobody looks at, right? If I don’t make sure that, that the things that we’re, um, working on are, are actioned on that, they’re not gonna value the retro anyway, you know?

So Did that answer your question?

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. So you think the action is is not, that’s not debatable like we, that it has to be an action item at the end.

Drew Podwal: there has to be an action item at the end,

Sina Jazayeri: I like that. Yeah, I like that. Yeah.

Drew Podwal: you know, I mean, or an action, or like a realization that creates self-actualization. You know, like it could be an aha moment that the team has together that maybe just isn’t specifically in action, but, um, now they’ve learned something new about themselves and they’re able to step into that, that new way of working.


Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. We’re all trying to get to know ourselves, aren’t we?

Brad Nelson: Yeah. Uh, [00:31:00] so thinking of retrospectives, I, I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily a hill I die on. I’m pretty, I mean, I feel pretty strongly that you should have retrospectives regardless of your approach, but I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna be the type person that ever is. Like, you have to do this one thing always.

I think it really depends on the team in the situation. If the team is showing signs of inspecting and adapting in some other capacity, I’m not gonna say that you then have to sit down for half an hour, an hour, hour and a half. Whatever it is, as like a event slash ceremony type thing, I do think that it’s important to stop and kind of smell the roses sometimes though. And so as far as action items go, sometimes I have an intent when I go into my retrospectives. It’s not always, Hey, how do we just improve? Sometimes it’s, you know, Hey, we just accomplished something truly meaningful. Like, let’s take a a minute to stop and smell the roses. [00:32:00] Sometimes the team’s going through some really rough stuff. I think we’ve talked about this in the past few, like I’ve done retrospectives where you’re not allowed to say anything bad, which is all positive because the team was just like really low morale and so they didn’t need to be criticized more. And so to me it really depends on what the team needs. I don’t do that often.

I’ve probably only done that, you know, maybe two or three times throughout the years. But it’s, to me, that’s, that’s the job of a strong leader, whether it’s a scrum master, whether it’s a manager, is to understand what the team has going on in their lives and what they need right now.

Drew Podwal: Yeah. You know, I, I think that. , if you have a team that’s able to inspect and adapt on the fly, right? That’s able to, um, have healthy levels of conflict, that leads to resolution, that leads to innovation. I think that’s absolutely wonderful. You know, my experience though is that I haven’t [00:33:00] seen, a lot of teams that are at that point yet, you know, and, uh, I also feel like, and I know I’m tooting my own horn in saying this, is that I’m really good at facilitating retros.

And, um, and I’ve had teams that didn’t want to do retros, and it took me like weeks or sprints to get them to carve out the time to have a retro. But I, but I’ve never had a team that. Experienced one of my retros that didn’t enjoy it enough to keep doing it, that didn’t find value from it. So one of the games that I’ve brought up before, I think on this podcast, but maybe not, is with the Scrum masters that I’ve worked with and that I’ve, I’ve coached is. You know, they have things that they want the teams to see, to focus on and to learn and talk about. And I challenge them to, instead of, you know, one, they’re score masters who work for me. I never tell ’em that they’re not allowed to do something. But I strongly discourage them from going into a retro and [00:34:00] putting their own items up on the board.

Right? It’s not their opportunity to to, to turn that into a teachable moment. It’s their opportunity to facilitate the self-learning and self self-actualization. so what I challenge them to do is when the sprint starts, come up with a, an item that they would like the team to learn a bit more about in the sprint and see if they can influence without going straight to the heart of the matter, one or two or maybe three people to bring that as a topic.

Bring that item as a topic of conversation into retro themselves. Because if you can, through subterfuge, right? convince some of the developers to bring up an idea themselves, well, now it’s their idea. It’s not your idea. And now that’s how, that’s how you get the permission to talk about things that might be sensitive, is if they’ve brought it up themselves, then, then it, it’s now something that can be discussed.


Sina Jazayeri: [00:35:00] Yeah, I like that. And not just in this context, right? It’s, I think, one of the rules in, art of War is like, make sure it’s their idea and then you’re more likely to win, uh, whatever, whatever battle it is. It’s, uh, I think it’s actually a life skill to be able to not manipulate the other party, but help them understand why this could be their idea too.

Uh, that’s, that’s great. Yeah. I love that.

Drew Podwal: So along these lines, back in January capital, one released all of their and released just a bad word. Capital one fired all of their agile coaches and scrum masters. And I think this is kind of the same thing to what we’re talking about.

The idea was they were gonna shift towards a DevOps type mindset.

 And so as I’m sitting here listening to you talk about the experience you’ve had with previous teams. It feels almost as if capital one is saying we want to become exactly like that.

Overnight. It’s it’s almost as if Capital [00:36:00] One like woke up one day and said, this is just who we’re gonna be. We’re gonna we’re gonna be product focused and we’re gonna, not need Scrum Masters and Agile Agilists because we’re just gonna be this way.

And and I think it’s a fallacy, right? Like you can’t just suddenly. Like you said a couple, like in the last episode, Brad, where you said like, change is hard. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide to change and now you’re changed. it, it takes some time and, I, you know, with everything that’s going on in the world right now and in the tech sector and with the state of Agile and I, I think it’s just a fallacy to think that you can just become that because you’ve said that that’s who we’re gonna be, you know,

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. My hope would be that they have someone who is playing that role and they’re doing some other stuff too. Uh, because if you are just saying, well, we don’t need take any, any role in a team, say, we just don’t need that, that, that’s happened quite a bit in my experience in the last, um, [00:37:00] six, seven years to QA people, uh, QA analysts.

It’s like, well, we, uh, we have automation and so we we’re just gonna do that. It’s like, yeah, but also not really because to, to do QA in an automated way. A, you’re gonna need to know how to do that and people. know how to do that. That’s already a skill that needs to be taught. So first of all, you can teach that to your QA folks.

So there you go. That’s number one. . That’s already a hole in, in this logic that we don’t need these people. You do need these people. Uh, it’s actually a fairly sought after role, the role, which is software development and test. so, so that’s one. But, but also, it’s not that you don’t need manual qa, it’s that you’re gonna have your product manager, your EM engineering manager, your, your, uh, ics for sure, your engineers.

They’re all gonna do manual QA now. So it’s not like you are not gonna do it, it’s just that you’re not gonna have [00:38:00] an, uh, a dedicated person that that’s all they do. Right? So same thing with Scrum Master or em, I’ve seen teams that don’t have an engineering manager, but they have a very experienced tech lead that is kind of hiding as a tech lead, but it’s essentially an engineering manager, right?

So I, I think a lot of these teams that are pretending to get away, uh, with it and just eliminate entire roles, uh, they’re just asking other people to do that job. So it’s not gonna disappear.

Drew Podwal: Yeah. And I don’t think that you know, the people that they’re asking to do that job, they’re not supporting them in the way that, that they need to be supported. Or at least that’s, that’s just my hypothesis because,

Sina Jazayeri: it’s an over-correction, right? We saw a world where so much process and with Scrum and Agile kind of exploding as the new, the only way to do things. Uh, the, a lot of companies just went out and hired a whole host of different, uh, people with different skills and they woke up five years later and thought, what, what’s, why am I, why are we doing [00:39:00] this again?

Why does every team need, uh, the exact same number of process steps and process people? And, and so we overcorrected and said, well, maybe we don’t need any of that. It’s like, uh, maybe like most things, the answer is somewhere in between. So I think what we’ll see a, a shift in, in perspective about process, engineers definitely love to complain about process, but.

Uh, you wanna complain now? Uh, wait till you don’t have any process and, and we’ll see who’s complaining.

Brad Nelson: Yeah. This is a really interesting topic for me, uh, because we talk about cross-functional teams all the time, and a cross-functional team. A lot of times people think that means everybody on the team can do everything, and that’s not what we mean, uh, ever, right? If, if you’re rounded and you can fill in, that’s better, especially depending on the type of work you’re doing.

Uh, but what you talked about there, like moving quality left is also great practice, right? Automation using tools where you can, [00:40:00] but that’s something that I see in, in the Agile, uh, space, and I’m starting to see it more in the DevOps space where engineers are like, well, I don’t want to, to do everything.

Like there’s a reason I, I, I do what I do and, and I relate that back to your explanation of the product, how you’re saying like, yeah, we could do everything, but that’s not a good idea. And I think that way is the same for a lot of developers, where if you want, you want people who are able to be really, uh, deep in a specific area because if you try to get them to be able to do everything, you, you’re not gonna have that same level of expertise on your team.

Drew Podwal: so, you know, I’m a veteran and, and I’m still pretty active in the veteran community, and there’s a website called where you could sign up and be a mentor and randomly you’ll get assigned, uh, an hour long phone call. And I was talking to a guy yesterday who, uh, I don’t know how, forget how long he was in the army for, but he’s getting [00:41:00] out in like four or five months.

He’s, uh, got a computer science degree, special warfare in the Army. really smart, really bright guy. And he wanted to talk to me about like, um, what I thought about him maybe taking the path to becoming a scrum master And I said, well, look, you know, here’s the thing is like, you could probably jump ship right now and, and say, I don’t wanna be a developer and, and become a scrum master.

But I said, you should spend at least like three or four trips around the sun as a developer, and you should do that at as many companies that you can, right? Because it’s the patterns of behavior and the different types of architectural decisions that get made that enable you to be a, a great scrum master, right?

Or, or an Agile coach, um, or even a developer, right? Like if you’ve seen those patterns at lots of different companies, then you get to bring that with you to the place where you’re, you’re ready to shine [00:42:00] and. You know, being cross-functional as a developer and a scrum master. And I’m not saying that you should be writing code as a scrum master, but if you’ve walked the walk and you’ve actually stepped in, in the role of, of a developer, and this is, I didn’t real, I didn’t, didn’t do this intentionally, but this is a great segue.

but if you’ve been a developer before, like you instantaneously get that street cred from your developers as a scrum master. And so, uh, I am gonna segue us, right, because that’s what I really wanted to talk to you about. Sena we really wanted to talk to you about is, you know, you’ve worked with Scrum Masters or maybe not for a while now, you’ve worked with project managers, I’m sure you’ve worked with product managers, product owners, you know, to the Scrum Masters out there who have never been a developer before, , who don’t understand, never written a line of code. , Uh, you know, how do you recommend that those guys behave Uh, or develop trust [00:43:00] with the team to show value? what is the value of, of a scrum master to you? if, if you were gonna have a team with Scrum Masters on it, what are your thoughts on that

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah, I, well, I think what you’re doing when you are putting a technical scrum master or, or scrum master that understands code and has written code before, uh, you put someone like that on a team, what you’re doing is you are taking The distance that a message has to travel from one person to the next, uh, for it to make sense.

And you’re making that shorter. You’re saying you two speak the same language. So, uh, the fact that you know how to code and you know how to code, that puts you in a better position to understand each other. So things translate easier from one person to the next. and if you take a step back and look at that statement, it comes down to communication.

It comes down to us understanding each other. I was on a, [00:44:00] Uh, I was on a, uh, talking to some customers recently and we were doing a retro, we could go off afterwards and everybody had their own insights about, you know, how, how their conversation went and what they thought, uh, the customer needs.

And the customer was there too. And they were talking about, you know, how, how, how they felt, and.

Drew Podwal: insights.

Sina Jazayeri: Literally every single person, after they gave their their insights, it came down to communication. It came down to one human wanting to tell another human a thing and how much trouble they had to go through to make that work.

Whether it’s a product like Photoshop, uh, or a product like Facebook or a product like what Instagram, whatever it is, you’re, you’re looking at an exercise in communication. And so when we’re taking technical people who are not gonna write code, but they’re technical enough, they can sit with engineers and do a whiteboard session, you’re making that barrier to entry [00:45:00] so much more easier.

You’re making that pairing session so much easier. So it’s not that. I understand what you’re saying with the street cred. I totally think that’s true. There’s something to that that engineers almost immediately give somebody a bigger, bigger chance, uh, more of a chance to shine if they think that they understand their language.

But that you could almost make that case for anybody. You could make that case for product managers. If I’m a, if I’m a product person, if I’ve done product development before and now I’m going to a, I’m gonna be your, your scrum master, let’s say, let’s just use the same role for that, that product manager probably feels a little more at ease working with me versus somebody who has never done that.

Right. So I think at the, at the core of it, we’re talking about. How much bullshit do we have to go through before we understand one another? And if it’s, especially if it’s something technical and difficult, uh, how much time are we gonna save [00:46:00] by just having somebody there who I don’t have to explain what is backend versus front end , you know, something simple like that.

So I think that’s, that’s really the bulk of the, the issue there.

Drew Podwal: You know, and you bring up a good point, and I think that’s something that MasterCard got right as well, was all of the product owners at MasterCard, you know, did understand code, right? At least at the s SQL level, you know, they, um, I forget the guy’s names. Uh, do you remember the, their names? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Sina Jazayeri: Uh, well, I’m gonna give a shout out to Ryan Crow. He was definitely, yeah. You were thinking about, of course, we were talking about right Crow.

Drew Podwal: Yeah. Like Ryan. Ryan was that product owner, that he was the trifecta, right? He was the, the triple threat. he understood code. He understood the business needs. And not only that, he understood how to use Agile, To manage a backlog and, work to create, features and stories with the teams.

Like all too [00:47:00] often I see companies that they put somebody in the role of a product owner or product manager who only has industry experience, They’re the. The number one leader in the industry for, for that subject matter. But they have no idea how to communicate with engineers and they have no idea how to write a feature or story.

and it’s just a disaster, I think that in those kinds of instances, the role of a Scrum master, and I think a scrum master is a therapist for a team, They’re not a project manager, they’re not a product owner, they’re not a developer, an architect. Um, they’re the lubricant that helps everybody come together.

But in those kinds of instances where you’ve got that product owner that is just an industry expert and doesn’t really know how to work with, technologists and doesn’t know. Craft a backlog, a good scrum master can partner with that product owner and, and help them grow and draw them in, right?

[00:48:00] the scrum guide says that a scrum master’s responsibility service to the team, service to the product owner, and service to the organization. And, and I think that in that use case, that’s what we’re talking about is service to the product owner and service to the team at the same time. So, um,

Sina Jazayeri: and you’re also, what that scrum master is doing is, is translating things from one person to the next. So it really, it comes down to the, the, these two people aren’t really great at talking to each other. So when, when he says this, he means that. So, uh, sit down and do a pointing session, uh, with each other.

I’m gonna be here in case anybody misunderstands each other. And that’s why the, the role is so important. And that’s why I think sometimes you can replace a, a scrum master with like a really good engineering manager or something like that, because the, the gap in communication isn’t large enough to warrant an, an, an entire person dedicated to that,

Drew Podwal: Well, and that’s what I said to this guy yesterday on, uh, the veteran I was talking to is, uh, you know, I said the the best thing that you [00:49:00] can do, right if is ahead of becoming a developer is, is work on your, your soft skills, right? Because if you can be a great dev leader, right?

If you have the ability to communicate with your developers as well as your business stakeholders, your value just went up like big time, right? Because like 10, 15 years ago, the, the common standard was developers were, craigy old dudes who let them sit in a dark room by themselves cuz they had bad hygiene and, and bad communication skills.

Sina Jazayeri: Ouch. Drew.

Drew Podwal: Well, okay, maybe

Sina Jazayeri: I am that old. I am that

Drew Podwal: you were not that old and stop kidding everybody. But, um, , you know, that was just like what you looked for in a developer that was like the, the litmus test for a great developer was, you know, how craggy were they? And that’s changed now, right? Is that we don’t lock developers away anymore.

You know, we’ve realized that [00:50:00] we want developers who have that level of, of communication skill where we can bring developers into a room with our customers on a regular basis, and the customers will get value out of that. The developers will get value out of that. Everybody gets value when that happens, you know?

Brad Nelson: Definitely. Yeah. And you, you brought up the, the product manager, I think you said. a, a product person who’s really good at their job is very instrumental in the way we work. I actually gave a, a talk last year at Cinci Deliver all about that, how your product person is your best Agile. And so I, I definitely see that correlation there.

I don’t know if you quite were saying that, but you’re kind of touching on the importance of being cross-functional even as a, a product person for a team and that, you know, they, they’re able to introduce change into the system and influence things without trying to change people. Right? So like a perfect example is how, like Drew you mentioned like being [00:51:00] able to create a backlog in an Agile way.

If you provide requirements to a team in an Agile way, they’re gonna work those items in an Agile way. They don’t have a choice, But if you, if you provide them b r d a big, like, you know, i e e book a requirement, so they’re gonna work in that, in that way. And so I, I think it’s so important for your organization to truly be, I’ll say mature cause have a better word.

I know that’s been hit or miss with people this to say mature, but.

Drew Podwal: not, we’re not supposed to say that one anymore.

Brad Nelson: Yeah. Uh,

Sina Jazayeri: what’s wrong with mature?

Drew Podwal: uh, it’s a tricky one because maturity means that there, there’s also immaturity, you know, and, uh,

Sina Jazayeri: Well, there is

Drew Podwal: yeah.

Sina Jazayeri: has to be a one, so there is a zero.

Drew Podwal: We’re, yeah. Yeah. There’s, there’s a lot of Agile words over the years that we’re, we’re, we’re no longer allowed to say. The biggest one, and I, I kind of agree with this, is, um, you used to call it backlog grooming.

Um, [00:52:00] well, and in the US like when we say grooming, it sometimes has a weird connotation, but not always. But in the uk, if you use the word grooming it, it always means that bad, you know, definition of the word grooming. And so we’ve taken that out of our vocabulary. Now we, that’s why we don’t say, that’s why we call it refinement.

Sina Jazayeri: wow. And Scrum Master is still in there.

Drew Podwal: we are, there’s definitely lots of people talking about changing the name Scrum Master. Yeah. Um, so, uh, which, you know, I’m like, well, here’s the thing, Cena, like, I don’t care what we call it. Right. All I care is that people understand the role. The responsibility, And the activities that we do together.

And if we want to call it, Jim, Bob, Fred, Then let’s all agree that, that’s what that means. , it’s like a DNS record, We just need a, a DNS record so that we [00:53:00] as humans can remember that, you know, 365, 4, 4 3 or whatever it is, you know, equals, because we can’t remember those numbers.

So I don’t care what we call it. And that’s always been for me, like the hill that I never want to die on. Like, people don’t want to call it a ceremony. Fine, let’s not call it a ceremony, all right? They don’t wanna call in an Agile event. Let’s not call in an Agile event. Tell me what you want to call it and let’s come up with a shared definition for what that means, and let’s move on from there.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. Again, when it comes to words, uh, I’m the wrong person to, to talk to cuz I’m gonna, I’m gonna talk for the next two hours about it. I do wanna say you, uh, gave really good advice to your friend, uh, about, uh, soft skills, about working on their soft skills that because, I mean, the product I work on is incredibly complicated as far as its, uh, user experience.

It’s extremely sophisticated, but it’s very complicated. It’s not a simple [00:54:00] form, and so it takes a, a lot of engineering power and experience to be able to ex execute well on this product. But even so, I absolutely, 100% of the time speaking to candidates or, potential internal moves to any of these teams.

I optimize for communication and attitude versus technical abilities, even though I have every reason to bring in the best engineer who, who is a complete asshole, who, who doesn’t wanna play nice with others just because of the technical requirements I have. It is not worth it. It’s just not worth it.

Cuz you can’t, you can’t change them. But you can teach good engineering practices, right? So if someone has your, like your friend who, who, if they can grow their soft skills and have the ability to deal with people in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad and, and well not [00:55:00] necessarily bad, but that doesn’t make them feel like they’re, they are, um, they shouldn’t be there.

Let’s say, cuz sometimes you are gonna feel bad and that’s okay. Um, that is a skill that they can take to any role and people are gonna pay. I actually, while we were talking, I, I brought this up cause I wanted to read, uh, a quote from John d Rockefeller, arguably the greatest American businessman, uh, the ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee.

And I will pay more for that ability than, than any other under the Sun he was right.

Drew Podwal: Yeah, I hadn’t heard that one before, but I, I wholeheartedly align with that.

Brad Nelson: Yeah, I like that one. I haven’t heard it either. That’s awesome.

Sina Jazayeri: John d Rockefeller. Shout out to you. Good sir. I don’t know when he left. Uh, 19 something My information is Incomplete Boys and Girls

Drew Podwal: Well, look, this has been great, right? Cena, it’s so good to catch up with you. I’m sad that the drunk web is going away, but hopefully there’s a [00:56:00] spot for me on, on color code. I’d love to, I definitely want to talk to you about, uh, what you brought up of when is Agile right? When is it not right? And, and all of that.

And I think knowing where you’re coming from now, really give some clarity to that discussion. I think that’s gonna be a wonderful one to discuss with you. So happy to do it here. We’re happy to do it on your podcast, but I definitely want to have that discussion and I will absolutely save it for you. So,

Sina Jazayeri: Thank you. No, I, I definitely do think the type of people that show interest in color code are folks that either don’t have a. Full-time job yet as programmers. Um, in which case they can definitely benefit from speaking to someone like you or hearing from someone like you, uh, or they, uh, they are in a position that they’re not happy with, they wanna go somewhere else.

So understanding the, uh, scrum master slash project [00:57:00] manager slash product owner side of things is really important if they want a better job, cuz they’re likely trying to end up someplace where there is someone with your skills. Uh, and, and that they have to be able to understand how to work well with them.

So I think color code is a great place to talk about that. Uh, so yeah.

Drew Podwal: So, you know, um, I have a friend of mine who, uh, who has a nonprofit called Fall In Today, uh, it’s Fall hyphen in today, a guy named Jamil Matine. He, uh, Talent acquisition at Zencaster is also a developer himself. And, uh, former Marine Corps, um, I forget what rank you are, Jamele. I’m sorry. But, um, he runs Fallen today.

It’s a, every like three months they do a hackathon for, for veterans and they bring people in. And that’s how I found it. And, you know, one of the things that I realized is that in these bootcamps, , they’re all focused on teaching veteran or veterans, uh, [00:58:00] people, right? Whether it’s a veteran bootcamp or, or a non-veteran bootcamp, they focus almost a hundred percent on teaching them how to code.

And that’s it, right? And the reality is, is that at the end of that bootcamp program or the even computer science degree, I’ve heard the same thing. Those people are gonna now need to be on a team and likely it’ll be a, a scrum team, Or at least work on a team in a waterfall world. And. They don’t teach that, right?

They just teach whatever the stack Deur is and call it a day. And honestly, I think that what I’ve been trying to actually pitch a couple of these boot camps is what we should do is, is structure these coding boot camps in a way where where you’ve got product manager who’s a teacher, aspiring product owners where you’ve got an architect or a chief engineer, who’s a teacher that is teaching the developers and you’ve got a [00:59:00] chief scrum master or whatever title you wanna call it that is teaching the Scrum masters.

And that these pools of scrum masters, uh, engineers and, product owners, they get broken down into Scrum teams and that their assignments are given to them in the form of a feature. And the feature has acceptance criteria. And it’s their job to work with the scrum master and the product owner to break those features down into the stories and develop against what has been assigned to them.

And then, you know, they do their. at the end of each sprint to the chief scrum master product manager and, and architect or chief engineer, whatever you wanna call it. And that’s how they get created and they learn together. Right? And then at the end of this bootcamp experience, now they’ve got the experience of not just being a developer, but they’ve been on a developer, on a team with a product owner and a scrum master, and they’ve learned how to collaborate and [01:00:00] communicate to solve problems and deliver innovative solutions together.

So, um, yeah, totally off topic, but, um, something I’m super passionate about.

Sina Jazayeri: No, that’s really well, just like the real world, right? Imagine that like we teach people what it’s like on the outside, uh, or on the inside. Depends on how you look at it. I, I don’t know if I told you I went to New York Film Academy and at the end of the, the course they would pair up actors with, with directors.

And so you would go and um, and they wouldn’t force parrot, they would just put you in the room and say, find your partner, and you would just go on to make films with each other. And it was the best part of that program was that was what happened after the course. And this is very similar to that, what you’re talking about, which is, okay, we dump all this coding knowledge on you.

Even if you’re get to keep all that knowledge, which you can’t . But even if you do, what are you gonna do with it if you don’t know how [01:01:00] to be on a team? Like, that’s almost useless. It’s almost useless. So I love that.

Drew Podwal: Did you know I worked at New York Film Academy for two weeks?

Sina Jazayeri: No, what, what year was

Drew Podwal: was that? Uh, it was probably 2008 or 2009 and it It was the shortest job I ever had. I, um, I worked. , for Jerry Sherlock, Who was the executive producer of and of Hunt for Red October, and also the president slash owner, I guess, of the film academy.

And, after a week of working there, I realized it was the worst job I’ve ever had, And uh, and I pretended that I had an offer from another company that was cuz I was too ashamed. I was unexperienced at the time and I was too ashamed. Step up to the plate and say, I’m sorry, I just have to, this is not the right job for me.

And so I had to come up with an excuse, and I told Jerry, uh, I actually got a job for $40,000 more a year, and my, my wife [01:02:00] would be really angry at me if I didn’t take it. And Jerry said, I’ll give you $40,000 more, like right there on the spot. And I was like, oh, I, I already said yes to it. And , it was so, so bad, so weird, so awkward.

And he pulled out a, a bag of, you know, the, like, everybody had the, the track jacket and New York Film Academy, uh, hats and shirts. And he like, opened up the closet and gave me like all of his swag, like everything. And uh, and I was like, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it.

Sina Jazayeri: uh, Jerry. Now Jerry knows what really happened.

Drew Podwal: Yeah, Well, So, alright, let’s get back to it real quick and then, then we’ll wrap up. what last licks do you have? What, what advice do you have on leadership, or what tips do you have for Scrum masters or aspiring developers? Like what’s your, your meaningful insight, um, even though you already gave us that deep Rockefeller cut.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. Learn [01:03:00] to learn to play nice with others. That’s, that’s a really good one. but a little bit more seriously, uh, whatever is your craft, you have got to be spending time on it at the least, at least, uh, 20 minutes a day. That is my personal, standard I have for myself. Uh, I’m not gonna impose it on anyone, but if you don’t do that, somebody else is doing that.

And not to turn this into a competition all the time, but the truth is, um, a lot of jobs that, uh, are lost, are not brain surgeons. They’re not, people who are in need and people who are in need are usually very good at what they do. so. Get really good at what, what you do. And if it’s, if you don’t have the desire to get good at what you do, you’re doing the wrong thing.

Find out what that thing is and spend time on it. If you’re a developer, you want to become a scrum master, just become the learn everything you can about what the intersection of developers and, and scrum masters. [01:04:00] Cuz like Drew said, when you end up on that team and you’re talking to developers, they’re gonna feel closer to you and they’re gonna, they’re gonna wanna work with you, right?

So invest in yourself and not in a woowoo Instagram quote kind of way. Really invest in yourself, right? It’s, it’s really important to get that one thing right. Just figure out what that is. If it’s being a scrum master, fantastic. Be the, be the best, coolest, most honest, most accountable Scrum master.

You can be. no matter what you do, if you do it well, people are just attracted to you and they want to, they want to be around you. Yeah. So, That’s, that’s my 7:00 PM after 18 meetings day kind of wisdom I, I can come up with. So I hope that’s hopeful.

Drew Podwal: no, that’s absolutely gold man. Totally gold.

Brad Nelson: awesome. I do wanna call, so you, you touched on that you’re using Shape Up. I think that’s fantastic. I love Jason Fried and d h H, uh, any of their writings, [01:05:00] they, I don’t agree with all, everything they say for sure, but the things that they do and they say are, When, when we think of like an Agile Agile way of working or an iterative way of working or building a learning organization or a change or how, whatever word we’re gonna use this week, the things they’re doing are those things.

But it’s so different than the way everyone else is doing it, that it’s always so stimulating to read the way that they’re going about things, the things that they’re against or for. Uh, so I’m very, I’m surprised, I was very surprised to hear you say you’re actually trying that, and I think that’s awesome.

That’s very, very cool. and the other thing that I wanna call out is, The, the exchange at the beginning where you, where Drew was, was complimenting us. That’s, that’s so awesome. And that’s something that I think we don’t do enough in our, in our culture, in our companies, uh, especially those of us who are raised with, uh, I’ll say a toxic masculine background where you can’t show affection [01:06:00] of any kind to other guys.

Uh, I I think that’s, that’s awesome. And that’s something that, uh, a couple episodes ago I had shared some feedback on one of my team leads. He listened to it and he was one of the guys I ran into yesterday and was saying how much he appreciated it. And if we’re talking about controversial things, kind it off and on Kanye West, I know it’s a controversial person right now, but he has amazing one-liners, uh, at least he used to.

And, and one of his, his thing quotes that I love is, if you admire somebody, you should go on, go on ahead and, and tell ’em. Right. People never get the flowers while they can still smell ’em. And so if you think about that, we, we wait until people are dead to compliment them and tell ’em how we really feel about them, but it’s kind of too late.

So, so that would be my, my encouragement for everyone listening is suck it up if it’s uncomfortable and just, you know, let people know how you feel.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah, probably look into it why it’s so uncomfortable for you. Like it shouldn’t be

Drew Podwal: That’s really good too. Yeah, definitely. it’s our [01:07:00] thoughts and feelings that leads action and inaction and so if’s a feeling of discomfort. That’s a great place to start looking,

Sina Jazayeri: but Drew what you said to me earlier. And thank you Brad for bringing that up cuz I, yeah, I was thinking about the, a bunch of things when we started, uh, Drew, obviously I appreciate everything you said, but, but look at the impact that we had on each other so many years ago. It’s now. Seven years ago, I wanna say maybe more.

Yeah, seven years ago that I don’t think either of us did anything magical. I don’t think it was, it was more difficult for us to work well together. Uh, and it took more effort. It it, in fact, quite the opposite. It was just letting go and saying, you know what? We’re in this together. Let’s just figure it out.

I thought, I always thought you were cool. I didn’t not like you in the beginning. Like, like you said, you didn’t , you thought I was too nice or like putting on some kind of, uh, Some kind of, some kind of face.

Drew Podwal: I was just so jaded, . I was so jaded.[01:08:00]

Sina Jazayeri: dude, I hear you. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of bizarre and it’s sad to, to, to see how how little it takes for people to, to just relax. You know? It’s not, it really is not rocket science, but we’ve, we have forced this. Terrible culture that somehow because you’re in an office, you have to become a robot and not show any emotion to your point, Brad, and you can’t be friends.

And that you can’t just ask personal questions because you’re going too far. It’s like, how do I know if I went too far? If I don’t ever go there? Like you are setting a standard for me without knowing my circumstance. So my circumstance was, this Drew guy looks cool and I’m gonna be friends with him. because first of all, we don’t have a choice.

We we’re stuck here together. But also he looks like he, I could learn something from him. He looks like a normal dude. And, and we did that and look how far that that went, right? Seven years later we’re talking about it. So if that’s not a, a moment of inspiration to just [01:09:00] be normal and, uh, look at people as humans, uh, and have a little bit of empathy, I don’t know what is.

Okay. I’m off the soapbox.

Drew Podwal: No, that’s great. I, I concur wholeheartedly again. yeah, I mean, it was just a great time and, uh, and not only that, like I totally forgot you were the one who introduced me to Rohit at hbo, which then got me the job at hbo,

Sina Jazayeri: Oh, that’s right. Yeah. How was H B O? Did you have a good time

Drew Podwal: i, you know, H B O was, culturally, it was great in many regards, you know, uh, we spun our wheels though, you know, like we were, we were building out, um, everything as a project and it was so siloed and, They just were, what was wild was you were on the max side of the house and Max was looking at it, developing a product.

And I think that, they weren’t looking at it. Project based, and I wasn’t on the Mac side of the house. I was over, uh, on the mainstream part of the house, and it, it was just everyone [01:10:00] was fragmented, right? There were like tech teams over here, and tech teams over there, and everybody reported up to different, like SVPs.

And so if there were discrepancies or dependencies that crossed silos, like the project manager had to escalate it to the director who then had to escalate it to the SVP and, had to hope that they cared enough to talk to the other SVP so they could duke it out, come up with the decision, and then, you know, spilled back down the silo chain again.

And you’re, you’re there kind of like waiting with your hands out, hoping that, the decision is in your favor and spoiler, it resulted in nobody’s favor. So, , but, uh, it was really meaningful work to be that close to A streaming platform is great as hbo, uh, max, um, the amount of data that we were dealing with was just tremendous.

And the amount of permutations for how that data needed to be stored and served up was just, it was a massive, [01:11:00] massive effort. And so it was great to be a part of that. But I will say that, I’ve pulled out a lot of my hair, because it just could have been so much easier and we could have gotten so much further, had we just adopted a product based mindset as opposed to, uh, project based mindset.

Sina Jazayeri: Well, you still have plenty of hair, so

Drew Podwal: Yeah, well it’s cuz I’m doing the swoop. I’ve actually, you know, but, um, yeah, man. Well look, this has been great. We’ve uh, we’ve definitely been on for a while now and, uh, um, these things get. Get long as, you know, your, your podcast, you try to keep it to like 30 minutes, I think, right?

Sina Jazayeri: Oh, I tried for a few episodes. It just, once alcohol is involved, you look down and you’re like, oh, three and a half hours later, this is gonna take a week to edit. Cuz I don’t know what we said , so, but I think our mark is, I don’t know where we are by the way, but an hour mark is, is good [01:12:00] if we’re past that.

Are we past that? We’re

Drew Podwal: Well, I realize we’re, we’re in an hour, 25 minutes, but we started hitting record and we didn’t get started right away. So, but well, um, look, Agile for Agile Agilists dot com is the website. We’ve got our, uh, memo FM voice record. widget in the sidebar. Leave us a message. Let us know what you liked, let us know what you didn’t like.

Tell us what you’d like us to do differently. Tell us that we are, uh, to use, and I’m gonna quote you tonight. Tell us that we’re just a bunch of dicks, you know, . So

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah. Ironically, there really aren’t that many dick jerks on there. So I, if, if I turn anybody off, uh, if that’s not your thing, still go to there are no dick jerks. Uh, so I don’t, now I’m gonna be known for the guy who they think they’re gonna show up and it’s all gonna be, it’s not . So

Brad Nelson: Oh, it’s the dick joke guy.

Sina Jazayeri: Yeah.

It’s the, [01:13:00] and also a little bit of coding. Okay. That, that’s that guy

Drew Podwal: nice. All right guys. Thank you very much.

Brad Nelson: Thank you.

Sina Jazayeri: Thanks.

Drew Podwal: So with the companies that you’ve worked at, tell me a bit about some of the agile and scrum experiments that you’ve tried.

2 Responses

  1. loving this episode! As a non-technical Scrum Master I also give the advice to new hires at my firm to work on a team before trying to become a Scrum Master. Here’s a great quote (tweet) from Kelsey Hightower (he’s be a great pod guest!!) “I got news for all the ‘I’m not technical’ people out there. You most likely are and I love how humble you are.”

    Additionally, I can 1000% relate to the Product Manager discussion. My new Product Manager is very experienced, but she does not know what what SAFe is, and has never taken a SAFe class, so while she is a wonderful human, I think she’s a product manager in title only — I can’t go to her and say – I think the team is building the wrong thing… hopefully we’re just not there yet!

    1. We really appreciate your engagement, Emily!

      I have recently started calling it “Technical Awareness” and “Technical Ability” based on what someone else mentioned on LinkedIn. I think that summarizes it really well. We’re looking for Scrum Masters to have technical awareness, not necessarily the ability to do the things.

      That is a good quote from Kelsey. I know I have struggled with not feeling technical myself because we know how deep the rabbit hole goes, but technical ability is a spectrum. To a parent or grandparent that you are helping to use their smartphone, you’re very technical!

      Putting on my coach’s hat, are there questions you could ask your Product Manager to get her to start thinking about the concerns you’re observing?

      Thanks again for the feedback and the quote!

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