A Day in the life of an Agile Coach at Cancer Research UK
Written by Julia Godinho and Taruna Robinson, Agile Coaches at Cancer Research UK.
Describe your role in three words?
Collaborative. We work with individuals and teams across the whole organisation, enabling them to work better together.
Experimental. Cancer Research UK is a learning organisation. We are open for experimentation and want to foster an environment where it’s safe to fail — we’re interested in resilience and our ability to bounce back. We learn from both our successes and failures.
Diverse. No one day is the same!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Agile Coaches at Cancer Research UK work across different products and initiatives in the Technology department and beyond. And, as mentioned, no one day is the same!
We typically start the day with team stand-ups, an opportunity for team members to update each other on our progress and agree on what we will work on next. If there are any blockers, we will help the team to remove them so they can get on with their work.
Twice a week, the Technology department come together for a stand-up. Individuals and teams present what they have been working on. Topics are varied and have included results from trialling remote demos to finding out about emerging technology experiments with artificial intelligence.
The rest of the day is varied and can include coaching individual team members about ways of working or development opportunities, and preparing for and facilitating workshops for our product teams or other non-tech teams — we especially enjoy running team vision and values sessions! We also facilitate the regular Agile events for our teams, such as planning, refinement and retrospectives.
The Agile team also have different meetings throughout the week focused on the team’s development. Every two weeks we hold a remote Community of Practice session for people across the organisation who are interested in Agile. We either facilitate them in a Lean Coffee style, or people present projects they have been working on. Topics have ranged from non-violent communication to exploring tools for distributed teams. Either way, it is a great opportunity to find out more about Agile ways of working across the organisation, especially in non-tech environments.
Regularly, the team provide training for anyone in the organisation who wants to learn more about Agile. We have two core training modules, but also offer ad hoc training such as user story writing and estimation and planning.
What is the best thing about working in your role?
The thing we most enjoy about our role is that we get to work with such a diverse group of people. It is gratifying to see them develop, achieve their goals and do such meaningful work for a great charity. We take pride in being part of this, supporting and motivating these people and their teams to work well together to create things that help the organisation reach its mission of beating cancer sooner.
How did you begin your career at CRUK?
Before working at Cancer Research UK, we both were already working as Agile Coaches in other organisations. The rest of the Agile team have held roles, such as a Scrum Master, Agile Delivery Manager or Product Managers. There isn’t one single pathway to become an Agile Coach, but key skills such as empathic listening, facilitation and problem solving come in handy!
What is your greatest achievement since joining CRUK?
When teams are willing to try out something new and embrace an experimentation mindset. When it pays off for them (even if it means learning from a failed experiment), it is always gratifying to hear “thanks — that’s really working for us!”.
What Advice would you give to someone who is looking to join the team?
Embrace the sense of community! As a team, we are always open and willing to help each other. From co-designing sessions, coaching the coach, and filling in when needed, be prepared to help.
Be bold! Be open to trying out new things even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
Honesty is the best policy. As Agile Coaches, we want to mirror the behaviours we want to see in our teams. To encourage safe and trusting environments, we believe it is crucial to have open and honest conversations. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions — we all are working towards the same goals!