Hi Reddit! I’m Lisa Cockrell, Director of Development at Issuetrak, a ticketing software company. I’ve been in development for 17 years and have worked remotely from Colorado for the last 7 years - well before Covid. I’m a member of the Senior Leadership Team at my company and would be happy to answer any questions you have about dev, working remotely, or what it’s like to be a woman in tech leadership. Ask me anything!

Here’s my proof:

Comments: 105 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

kmc30713 karma

Hi Lisa, did you find that organic/spontaneous collaboration, ideas, etc. were lost or became less frequent following your move to remote work?

If so, how did you replace that?

Issuetrak7 karma

I'm not going to lie, it was not easy for me at first. However, at this point in the journey, my company has taken several measures to ensure that I can be and can stay involved in the organic/spontaneous collaboration with my team.

One such measure is our use of Zoom. My team and I use an "All Day" Zoom meeting that allows us to collaborate in real time. We've also made use of our chat client, Slack, in order to publish relevant ideas that can be shared with everyone at the same time.

Floomi11 karma

What does it take to get tech organizations to actually make the Scrum Master role worthwhile?

I have seen multiple dev cultures where the SM essentially acts as a glorified admin. Responsibilities include:

  • Running standup: i.e. saying the name of each developer in turn every morning
  • Running retro: i.e. drawing a plus and a delta on a board
  • Running refinement / planning: i.e. clicking on each ticket in JIRA and reading the title
  • Organizing team lunches, i.e. putting in a reservation at some local restaurant once a month

Frankly, this is demeaning and ridiculous. It doesn't help anyone to hire - typically - a 23 year old young woman with little tech experience to do tasks that everyone knows could be done by developers. Developers are not so important that they must be waited on, nor are they above doing the necessary work to maintain their own team process. Indeed, the original Scrum book specifically says that the SM role can and should be taken by a developer. When the SM role becomes a separate hire whose job is to do the bullet points above, developers often (rightly) don't understand why this person is a necessary part of their team at all - which can bring out some cranky and toxic behaviour that can be hard to deal with for a young woman in a field that's plenty hostile already. (To be clear: developers being jerks is not acceptable, and is also a cultural issue that needs work. [additional edit:] It is also extremely not-ideal that the SM role is as gendered as it is.)

What I'm getting at here is that the role as I've seen it implemented in many software organizations is at best superfluous and at worst leaves everyone unhappy.

I'm convinced it doesn't have to be like this. I've had the pleasure of working with an SM who correctly identified that the job description bulleted above was a waste of everyone's time. Instead, she made it her business to pay close attention to intra- and cross-team relationships, listen for what wasn't being said, provide feedback, and consistently push the team outside the lazy developer comfort zone towards better things: essentially a high-touch, ever-present team coach. Working with her was fantastic and she continues to get rave reviews from everyone she works with. This is a definition of the SM role that provides meaningful value and truly helps make teams better.

But that's not what most SM roles look like; without careful effort they seem to trend towards the "team admin" role instead. How do we push back against this? Is there a way we can shift software engineering culture towards a better definition of the role? Sometimes I think the term "Scrum Master" has become too poisoned, and we should scrap it in favour of Team Coach or something. Curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Issuetrak3 karma

Wow! This is an incredibly well-written and well-thought out post. Thank you so much for your contribution.

I have to say that I agree 100% with what you wrote. At the same time, I can say that this does not apply to my experience as a Scrum Master. I was a developer on the team when I became Scrum Master, and not hired as a Scrum Master.

Instead, she made it her business to pay close attention to intra- and cross-team relationships, listen for what wasn't being said, provide feedback, and consistently push the team outside the lazy developer comfort zone towards better things.

Yes! This!

If your Scrum Master is merely a glorified admin, she's not doing her job correctly!

Floomi3 karma

Thanks for the response!

If your Scrum Master is merely a glorified admin, she's not doing her job correctly!

I agree, but this seems be a cultural issue, not an issue with a few poor SMs. I've seen multiple organisations where SMs are expected to be the team's admin. I don't have enough data points to say for sure, but it seems to happen in orgs that are product-led, distant from customers, and heavily focused on reporting. So SMs end up being the people who wrangle T-shirt sizes into reports, or secretly turn points into time estimates for the business people to use when talking to customers.

If I'm right, then my question isn't really about SMs but about how to change organizational culture, potentially at a fairly senior (i.e. director or VP) level. Is close contact between customers and developers in large, corporate organizations truly possible? Is that desirable to folks outside developer circles? Agile isn't only a developer practice: if developers are doing agile and product/business folks are writing contracts with deadlines, there'll be conflict sooner or later. But pushing agile all the way up the org chain is a huge transformation. How do you achieve it? Is it realistic? Or are we doomed to a hard-to-manage boundary between developers needing flexibility and the business needing certainty?

Issuetrak1 karma

Great points, again.

Some might find this unusual, but my company offered the Scrum Master training to about 70% of the employees, so not just developers. Our marketing team uses a KanBan board and plans sprints as does our Custom Success team.

To your point, Agile must go higher than the development team for it to be effective in any organization. While my CEO, VP of Operations and Product Owner are all Certified Scrum Masters, we still struggle at times with that hard-to-manage boundary that you describe. The difference for us is that we can pull out our training materials and argue back. It doesn't also come out as a win, but more often than not, we can find a compromise.

Renzetii-chan7 karma

Hi, Lisa! I’d like to ask what drove you to work in development?

Issuetrak12 karma

I'm going to be brutally honest here -

I was a single mother making less than $30K a year without a college degree. I had completed all of my major course work and all of my general education work for my degree, but I still needed to complete a minor in order to graduate.

I had friends in the IT field at the time and I bought into the "You can be whatever you want to be" mentality and chose to pursue a minor in programming - not because of a passion, but because I wanted a well-paying, sustainable career.

I do not regret my decision! It's been a wonderful ride so far.

KerrieATulett7 karma

I really enjoy Issue Trak at my firm. I do all the programing, quickpics etc. We are on an old version and looking to upgrade, what do you feel is the most effective improvements in your tool for the latest version when looking at the Agent user side and in connection with Forms, macros and talking to other programs? thanks!

Issuetrak3 karma

This is so exciting to have an actual customer join this AMA! Thank you!

We have made and continue to make great improvements for all of our user types! For more information, please consider joining our LinkedIn User Group and/or reviewing our Release Notes. We would love to show you our latest release! If you are interested, please reach out to our [Professional Services team](mailto:[email protected]) and a member will walk you through any differences from your current version.

InterestingBeach7386 karma

What did you do in the dev world before becoming a Scrum Master?

Issuetrak4 karma

Oh wow. What didn't I do?! In my 17 years, I've been a QA tester, a QA Manager, a junior, mid-level and senior developer and I've managed a Development team.

BasroilII6 karma

Hey Lisa!

If you were going to start over again learning coding and development, what would you say is the best starting point?

Issuetrak4 karma

Free, free, FREE!

There are so many free resources available online to learn coding and that's where I would start and have suggested this path to anyone who asks.

Coding is not for everyone. If you aren't sure if it's for you or not, why spend money on a college course? Try it for free first!

hel1125706 karma

Hey Lisa,

Do you think that agile\scrum is a development style that is practiced in a mostly cargo cult fashion and thus it very difficult to apply because nobody truly understands it and often conflicts with the information the business leadership requires to make projections on 'when something will be done'?

If so doesn't that hurt it's credibility? Should we find something that actually works?

Thanks

Issuetrak3 karma

Great question. I do not feel that Agile/Scrum is fad that will fade away any time soon. When you juxtapose the Waterfall software development methodology to Agile/Scrum, many of the frustrations that software developers experience are greatly lessened.

With my opinion given, I'll tell you we practice what we call "Issuetrak-flavored Scrum" as we don't / can't follow each rule to a T.

Software teams have to decide what works for them and abandon what doesn't work. Sprint Retrospectives are a great tool for determining experiments for the team and reviewing the results and effectiveness from said experiments .

John__Nash5 karma

What's your #1 interview question to ask when hiring a scrum master?

Issuetrak5 karma

Funny story. While I am the Director of Development, I am also the current Scrum Master and have been since we adopted Scrum. So, I've never interviewed for a Scrum Master.

But, I'll say I would ask "Do you have any experience motivating a team?" as I see being a motivator as the most important quality of a Scrum Master.

thewildrosesgrow2 karma

A friend of mine got a job as a scrum master. I didn't understand what that is so I looked it up and STILL don't understand what that job is. Can you explain in plain English?

Issuetrak2 karma

Take a look at this post: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/qhqtxh/comment/hieodu4/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

I feel like OP captures the essence of a Scrum Master in the anecdote.

Angdrambor5 karma

Has there been any research into the impact of scrum/agile on neurodiverse individuals?

I've got ADHD and Autism, and I find that an agile environment allows me the flexibility to work around my limitations without ever needing to disclose the underlying neurological reason.

Issuetrak5 karma

That is wonderful! I am so glad that you've found a way to succeed despite the challenges that ADHD and Autism present.

Angdrambor2 karma

It's been a challenge. In general I feel that I'm super lucky in that my first job in this career was extremely patient and friendly, as well as being deeply invested in Scrum. I was able to keep it together long enough to start understanding the industry and developing the techniques and practices that I need to function. I don't think I could have done that if I had started at a less welcoming shop.

Do you know of any initiatives to try and understand how we can create working environments that are more friendly towards neurodiversity?

Issuetrak5 karma

You were very fortunate to find a supportive environment in order to succeed. I'm not aware of any initiatives, but I'm now interested in finding some. Perhaps if there aren't any, we were meant to create them. I'm on board!

nachisimo5 karma

What's the best way one of your employees asked for a raise?

Issuetrak2 karma

The best way was with a verified list of recent accomplishments and average salary data from a site like salary.com.

Don't wait for someone to notice you. Advocate for yourself!

revocer5 karma

How do you deal with people not seeing things eye to eye?

How do you deal with clashing personalities?

What’s the TL;DR of a Scrum Master?

Issuetrak6 karma

Cage match, typically.

Seriously though, I'm fortunate enough that I work with a team that has a high level of respect for each other. We don't see eye to eye on a daily basis, but we have the communication skills necessary to talk out our differences and come to mutually agreeable resolution most of the time.

dadofbimbim4 karma

Hi! First of all awesome accomplishments. Currently I have a female client, a founder of her own startup. How likely will she be able to get funded? Because I read all this stories where female founders are less likely to get funded compared to males. Is this still an issue right now?

Issuetrak4 karma

Thank you! I'll be honest - I have no experience with venture capitalists or with angel investors (and if that's not what you're referring to about funding, I apologize!).

HeadedToTheLoop4 karma

Do you ever get to work with customers? How do you like that? Is it a pain, or do you find it satisfying?

Issuetrak1 karma

I do get to work with customers rather often and it's one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

I am the POC for the team for our Data Services and our Webforms. I handle discovery calls for both and in some cases, I complete the requests myself.

Within those roles, I have been able to turn unhappy customers into Issuetrak supporters and I've also made some strong networking connections.

develop_designs_4 karma

Hi!! Long time lurker first time poster! Thanks for doing this AMA.

How has the tech/development landscape changed since you started your career?

Do you ever miss being in the office? Is it ever hard to communicate with your team?

Edit: Oh one more! What are some of your favorite food spots in Colorado? I'm visiting soon and would love some ideas!

Issuetrak2 karma

The Tech / Development landscape changes daily! That might be hyperbole, but that's how it feels! New libraries, packages, APIs, etc. are constantly being released as well as new programming languages, frameworks and tools to make our jobs so much easier than they were just 5 or even 2 years ago.

I do sometimes miss being in the office. Pre-COVID-19, my company paid to fly me to VA every 6 weeks so that I could get interface with my co-workers. At this point, our office has been closed since March 2020, so there's no reason to travel. As I mentioned in another response, I have no problem communicating with my team as we use an "All Day" Zoom meeting to communicate in real time. As a matter of fact, my team is behind me today, watching me and helping me answer these questions!

Casa Bonita! It's a must-visit :-)

Jamacus14 karma

Do you have any tips for starting a team remotely? It seems like once you’re in the work flow remote work goes fine but starting is so much harder.

Issuetrak2 karma

Yes, I do. I apologize for repeating this information in several of my replies, but my team has found a system that works really well for us:

First, I must disclose that all of my team lives in the same time zone (except for me, but I keep east coast hours). These suggestions might not work for a global team.

We use an "All Day" Zoom meeting in order to communicate in real time. Yes, it can be distracting if you are not directly involved in the current conversation, but at the same time, you are made aware of your co-workers' challenges. Most of us wear headphones while we listen to music or podcasts, but will "tune in" when our co-workers' need our attention.

We use a company-wide chat client. This can be game changing, especially with the whole company working remote. Honestly, I don't remember the last time a company-wide email was sent as it's much easier to reach everyone via our chat client.

dev-tran20213 karma

A survey conducted by Microsoft in Europe found that young girls gain interest in STEM subjects at age 11 and then lose it again by age 15. One of the reasons sited is lack of role models. What do you think is the most significant barrier to women in STEM based on your experience?

Issuetrak4 karma

I agree with a lack of role models. Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr and Grace Hopper are the only ones that come to mind and none of those three were connected to modern day software development. Where are our girls at?!

foolishpheasant3 karma

Hi Lisa! I'm another woman in tech - been a Project Manager for two years now. My company is fairly small, and here the PMs wear many hats - we're the QA testers, we design the wireframes, we write the specs, we meet with the clients, we write the tickets, etc etc... I enjoy the work but I also feel like I'm becoming burnt out and having trouble balancing all the duties on my plate.

Any advice for a PM working in an Agile/Scrum environment wearing all the hats who's starting to struggle with task prioritization and time management while working remotely?

Issuetrak5 karma

Nice to have another woman in tech join us here! Thank you for posting.

This might not be the advice that you're looking for, but, prioritize self-care. Burn out is a real problem right now in any industry and it's very important that we all take care of ourselves and our mental health.

While I understand the needs of small company employees to wear many hats, I would recommend discussing your challenges with leadership. You are currently acting as QA, Business Analyst, Product Owner and whatever else you haven't mentioned. That's a lot of responsibility for one person / team. I hope you can delegate some of this to new hires in the near future!

hellocaptin3 karma

How much could a person who just graduated with a CS degree expect to make at their first development job?

Also, do you see things returning back to the office anytime soon?

Issuetrak2 karma

It depends on where you live. I'm in the US and I know that a Developer in NYC will make more than a Developer in say, Alabama. Since I haven't started a new job in 17 years, here's some data from salary.com: https://www.salary.com/tools/salary-calculator/software-developer-i.

I do see things returning back to the office, I just can't say if it will be soon or not. I have co-workers that absolutely never want to go back to the office and I have co-workers that can't wait. As a part of my company's leadership, we need to do our best to accommodate everyone. I predict we'll see more hybrid models of office/remote work.

Reidoc3 karma

As a scrum master how do you handle people who are resistant to the process and ceremonies?

Issuetrak3 karma

Can I say "Cage Match" again?

I honestly haven't had to deal with this with any member of my current team. Trust me, we have challenges surrounding Scrum practices and procedures, but we discuss them in our Retrospectives and come to a consensus on how to move forward.

With that said, if I were to start a new position as a Scrum Master and encountered new team members who were resistant to the process and ceremonies, I would work to discover the "why" of the resistance. In my opinion, the basic tenants of Agile/Scrum work and they work to make our professional lives easier and more successful.

_Aiedail_3 karma

Hi! I have 3 questions:

  1. What advice would you give to young women entering tech?
  2. What changes are still needed to increase representation in tech?
  3. What steps should I take if I want to go fully remote eventually?

Issuetrak6 karma

Great questions!

  1. When I was studying CS in college, I was typically the only woman or one of 2-3 women in a class of 30+. At times, it was intimidating. My advice to young women entering tech is to not let anyone or anything intimidate you! You've got this!
  2. A couple of years ago, I attended a local Dev conference and one session that resonated with me was titled, "I'd hire more women if only they'd apply!". The many points were: If your company's website portrays a "Boys Club", it could turn women away from applying. Examples of portraying a "Boys Club" were only men in leadership, listing perks as "a kegerator in the breakroom" and no mention of family leave/time off. Another important point from that session was the research statistics that show that a man will apply for a job even if he doesn't meet all of the listed requirements, while a woman will hesitate if she doesn't meet all of the listed requirements.
  3. Now that we've all lived through 1.5 years of COVID-19 with so many companies keeping their workforce remote, I think the possibility of working fully remote is much less challenging than it was in the Before Times. I'll tell you a few things that have made my experience much more successful - A chat client such as MSN Messenger, or Slack and a video client such as Skype or Zoom.

Extension_Ok3 karma

Coffee or tea?

Issuetrak2 karma

My caffeine of choice is Dr. Pepper!

Mloesje882 karma

Hi Lisa, I am a woman thinking about switching to a tech job. Currently learning about the different “paths” that are possible in IT.

What made you decide to take a job in tech?

Issuetrak3 karma

I was looking for a well-paid, sustainable career. That's the short answer.

The long answer - and I won't tell the entire story here - is that in a prior career, I was thrown into a help desk situation as a normal end user with no tech experience. I discovered that the majority of the problems that I was helping to solve stemmed from a poorly developed web form. At the time, I had no vocabulary to describe what I felt were the problems. But now, 17 years later, I can tell you exactly what the problems were with that poorly developed form. In short, I wanted the knowledge to be able to complain :-)

zqmbgn2 karma

Hi there! I'm finishing a bootcamp on webdev because I have always dreamed of living in a house in the middle of nature and I thought this would give me the opportunity to achieve it. I'm loving coding and I expect to get a job when I finish it. I'm more than willing to work from home and I don't really care about working on a country with a different time zone. What would be the best path I could follow to achieve my dream?

Issuetrak3 karma

Obviously, you will need excellent internet access if you're living in the middle of nature.

The best advice that I can give you is to build your portfolio before looking for a job. You can do this in several ways. If you don't already have a personal GitHub/GitLab account, start one now! Another way is to buy a domain name and demonstrate your development chops with your own website.

If you can, try to get an internship with a software development company before you finish the bootcamp. It can be difficult proving your knowledge without something to show for it.

Watermelon_Salesman2 karma

Hi Lisa, thanks for doing this!
What are some of the best resources to keep yourself up-to-date regarding market and tech trends?

Issuetrak2 karma

I've got a few suggestions:

  • Join local tech communities: Meetups, Slacks, User Groups
  • Following tech evangelists (Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, etc.)
  • Subscribe to leading tech publications like PCMag
  • Subscribe to tech related subreddits!

Issuetrak2 karma

That was fun! Thanks so much for the thoughtful and engaging questions. I thorough enjoyed this experience.

p.s. I purposefully avoided the Agile/Scrum thread so that I could diligently get to all questions, but I would love to participate when I'm not trying to answer all of the questions in an AMA. What would be the best sub to continue that discussion?

StuckHiccup1 karma

Hi Lisa, I'm part of a project management team at a big major bank in their global markets tech division

I have 2 questions, one what is going to make me a more valuable employee over a wide variety of types of tech projects? I want to be flexible and certified, I am thinking about a PMP. Do you have any recommendations for this and who I can get guidance about the test and the requirements?

Second my manager is female and has been continuously relied upon for major projects and knowledge but has also been given promotions and status by a begrudging and boys club. How can we best support her? Entire swaths of the tech division feels similarly.

Thanks!!

Issuetrak3 karma

Oh, I like the idea of a PMP certification. I do think that certification makes one more valuable. While I don't have any experience with a PMP certification, I would recommend browsing Project Management Institute. The site seems to be full of good information and resources.

Great question about your manager, and how wonderful for her that her people are asking how to support her! Besides any advice that I give, I recommend pulling her aside and asking sincerely how she thinks you and the rest of the team can support her. Her response might surprise you.

Now, my advice. My team and their accomplishments make me look good. As a manager, I feel like my most important responsibility is to the well-being and success of my team. When they win, I win (and I get noticed by my superiors).

I'm realizing that I haven't said this enough, but communication is key. If a project is about to go sideways, make sure you tell your manager as soon as possible. Don't wait until it's already gone. Remember to communicate about the good things as well. Let your leadership know that you agree with and appreciate X decision. Remember to celebrate successes, too!

ApprehensiveCard11051 karma

Hi Lisa. Thanks for your time!

What recommendations do you have for a dev team that has an enormous backlog (probabably 2 years behind)?

Issuetrak3 karma

Ready for an extremely controversial answer?

Throw out the existing backlog and have the Scrum Master and Product Owner dictate the priorities for the next sprint / quarter / year - whatever makes sense. It can be overwhelming to work from, much less search, an enormous backlog.

Of course, if leadership won't allow that, I would somehow segregate the items to define the priorities and ignore the rest.

Your team can only accomplish a sprint's worth of work each sprint. There should be no other focus.