As a product manager, when I go to networking events I often get asked, “What did you do in the past?” Most people are not surprised when I tell them I served eight years in the Marine Corps. What is surprising for many is when they find out I served in the infantry. Many people have a preconceived idea that the infantry does not provide transferable skills to the tech world. In this article, I’m going to explain reasons why veterans make ideal team members for the Agile process and benefit your organization as a whole.
Veterans Know Their Team
Being a scrum master or product manager is a lot like being a fire team leader. A fire team leader is usually in charge of 3-4 other teammates. Each member of the fire team has a unique skill. It is the job of the fire team leader to know how to maximize each individual team’s skills and exploit their capabilities to crush their objectives.
Similarly, a scrum master is part of a small team of people with unique skills. Whether it’s a frontend, backend, or quality assurance engineer, a scrum master needs to know the unique capabilities of each member and how that role affects the team. Knowing how each team member approaches problem solving from their unique perspective allows the scrum master to execute better sprint cycles, reduce stress on teammates and allows them to perform at an optimal level.
Veterans and Scrum Masters Excel at Removing Impediments
In the military, I was occupied with the concerns of my team’s welfare and the three B’s: Beans, Bullets, and Bandages. Beans meant you made sure they were well fed, paid and that their basic necessities were taken care of. Bullets meant a person was well supplied with the right tools for the job. Bandages refer to a member’s health. If a member was sick, I made sure they went to medical. The concept that was drilled into me was the necessity to take care of your people and help them remove the roadblocks from their life.
In an Agile environment, scrum masters are also obsessed with similar concerns. For example, when my team works overtime for weeks on end, it is my responsibility as the project manager to make sure they get the breaks they need to recharge. If a teammate has an issue with their pay, I will stop everything I am doing and resolve it right then and there. I do this simply because they would be preoccupied otherwise. Having distracted workers who cannot focus on the ticket in front of them brings down the whole team.
Veterans and Agile Team Members are Adaptable
Veterans were trained to be adaptable in any environment and under extraordinary situations. The field phrase often used is “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” The Agile process is designed to be flexible to adapt to the complex and ever-changing environment of the market and stakeholders. Given a two-week sprint, most teams can accomplish a lot of work. If a change occurs, the team is well poised to regroup and begin work on the priority almost immediately. Adaptability for an agile team is a key skill needed to survive in any environment, especially in the hostile free market.
No is not an Option
Military members are trained as a group to understand the concept of mission first. Once the goal is clear, the finish line will be crossed. This means they will stop at nothing to do what is necessary to succeed. Often in the military plans go wrong, and it is up to the fire team to make sure that plans are executed.
Recently, my software development team worked 70+ hours a week for several weeks through the July 4th holiday. It was necessary to launch our client’s web platform. Military people understand this concept and experience of grit at a level that most do not. Sacrifice during critical times may make the difference between success and failure.
I’ve only discussed a few of the things that make a service member an ideal teammate in an agile process. In my experience with careers in both the military and in the software development world; knowing your team, removing impediments, being adaptable, and having grit are the transferable skills that most employers want in all of their employees. It just so happens you don’t have to look far for a veteran, even if their background is from the infantry. Oorah!
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