Fireside Chat: Software Delivery Management
Vibha Joshi, Software Delivery Lead in Everledger, discussing good case practices, trends and challenges for a software company.
Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us here today at Cloudflare TV. Good morning or good afternoon depending on where you are.
I'm Alex. I'm the Lead Delivery Manager here at Cloudflare and I'm joined by Vibha who is the Senior Scrum Lead at Everledger.
So thank you so much Vibha for being here. We're going to have a half an hour fireside chat about software delivery management.
Again thank you so much for joining me.
For everybody Vibha is actually the Senior Scrum Lead for Everledger which funnily enough is a company that I used to work for in a different life and she has had a very rich career in engineering scrum and delivery in various banks, well financial institutions and now she's working for Everledger which is a tech company well started here in London.
I'm going to let you Vibha introduce yourself to our audience and then we'll kick it off.
Hello thanks for this such a nice introduction Alex.
It was really sweet and thanks everyone and thanks for having me here.
So Vibha tell us a little bit about what is your role and how did you come to lead the delivery for a company like Everledger?
So it's really interesting like I am working as a Senior Scrum Lead.
I'll start from my background literally.
I am a software engineer. I started working as a developer as a Java developer.
I worked for like five six years as a Java developer then gradually I looked into a place where I started looking like what's next, what should I do next after this and when I started looking outside like what is it that I am more interested in.
Of course I am a software person. I was not looking for something going in creative direction but at least in software what is next for me.
When I started thinking about it I actually realized that I am getting more interested in the things that how things are managed rather than technical stuff that is like coding, learning new languages.
It's just I was maybe I was not that much geeky but I started getting into more interested into how the management section happens, how things are managed and a funny story I started working and I was always working in Agile.
Frankly I never realized that okay I'm working in Agile and all then when I started thinking that what I am doing then at that time I started okay we are following Agile because it's not 100% best ways it's always hybrid everybody follows their own hybrid structure so I thought okay let's this Chrome master position this work looks really interesting so I don't get into it why not learn this and this shift gradually happened in in this way that okay this is really interesting why I should I should explore it more this is really interesting I should explore it more and within I think like three four months I just realized okay now I'm really interested in switching I am really interested in switching from the from the technical section to this so that's that's how I got into software delivery management and Scrum Master and like totally out of the geek section but not that much still management section.
Yeah and ultimately in your day-to-day life you still interact and work with engineers primarily right so you still having this background of software engineering I think is so valuable because then you are you're able to speak the same language and you automatically have much more credibility in front of the engineers because you can you can definitely challenge but also support different approaches that they're proposing in addressing a challenge.
Totally like every time when I'm working with my teams if there is some issue I can I can quickly get it like okay this this is not a front-end issue this is a back -end issue this is back-end sometimes it's like I think that's this cannot be done by this way we need to find a better way here which which helps out because like my team usually feels like okay she is she's not just giving me different instructions I'm just asking me to finish the job she's actually understanding where what is happening where where I'm stuck and it also helps in my role as a Scrum Master where you help out your your main job is to solve the impediments that your main job is to be a problem solver where they are having issues they're having problems you understand it then only you can help them out and find the right person if not yourself then find the right person to help them out so it's really good and it's really exciting role to work so yeah it always helps out being being a software engineer helps out there.
Yeah and thanks for that for that overview Vibha this is also my my assumption when I when I try to look at candidates and obviously while it's not a requirement I think it brings a lot of value to have this background or at least to have curiosity in in how the engineering mind is is structured and how things work.
Vibha I wanted to ask you because I know you've had experiences basically you were you worked for a bank so you work with Barclays you work for an insurance company for AXA and so you've you've had a couple of moves in your career and you've you've done this role in various places so I wanted to ask you kind of what are your lessons learned and how has your actually role evolved as you moved from from from one position to another?
I think there is there are lessons with every step that's that's a very good question so there are lessons with every single step I have been through when I started initially it was like okay now how to manage the team how to manage this team how to work with the team that was my main focus and that's where I started learning gradually when when I started okay this is something that I've got a bit a bit of hold at it so next step next company you get to know okay what is the stakeholder management how you have to manage clients how you have to manage client behavior and how to how to manage their expectations gradually you move new new roles or new projects there you learn more like okay now we have done not done really but still you know a bit of steps okay this is done this this is something that you you can use your thought process over there now new things now how to get a new business which is which is also interesting so it's it has a lot of challenges it has a lot of learnings where you with every step every project you learn new things and basically with every project you get a lot of new challenges that makes you learn it and that's that's really exciting thing it's it's something that you you usually like it's it's a behavioral thing you you usually go in the problem solving section where okay this is the problem and now this is the solution we need to find out this this way you learn and gradually I think the best learning over the years that I can think of is I try to predict what is going to next what is next what is next and somehow I got into a thought process that if yes this is where we are okay now this is going to come next what is going to come next where it's not like I'm predicting something but it's like you have to be prepared of what is coming this is this is a basic learning that okay when you're working you need to be more prepared it makes you more comfortable or more prepared for any any kind of circumstances yeah so it might be the good learning for me.
So all of these steps and the lessons you've learned in your in your previous career basically brought you to where you are today so let's talk a bit Vibha about what does the life of a of a scrum lead in Everledger look like?
Everledger has been one of the most challenging job of my career I think it is it's it's the most challenging so I'll explain this by giving the example of what we what I've done in Everledger so far so I have been working with Everledger from last two years in last two years I worked with two of the biggest clients of Everledger one was like two different supply chain one was working with gemstones and other was working with apparels which is two different world.
Vibha I wonder now maybe this is a good moment actually to quickly explain to the audience what Everledger does because you're we're talking about gemstones and apparel and that sounds maybe a bit daunting and questionable so we should have started with that so I think okay so what Everledger is, Everledger is a digital transparency company what we do is basically everything that you that you are surrounded with everything that has a small story to it everything is like a small garment a jacket I'm wearing a t -shirt I'm wearing it has got a story to it that where it came from what is the origin and by what happened along the line where it traveled to and then you got it so basically Everledger what we try in at Everledger what we're trying to do is using blockchain and IoT technology we are trying to trace the the story of every object on and give the more transparency to the to the clients which basically is you trust in your products you have a better understanding of what you're doing what what you're buying what you're looking for we we work in totally like whole we work in so many supply chains we're starting from diamonds gemstones to apparels, wine then of course digital batteries and a lot of things that come along so basically at Everledger what we do is try to try to put the data and try to trace the the supply chain on using IOTs and all other different different things so this is this is one of the very interesting like that that was the main interesting thing that got me into Everledger which was like wow it's it's something different I've always been working with a lot of companies like banking and big companies I've worked in BP before and this was something which was totally out of the box so I think that that got me into Everledger and now coming back to the question that you asked earlier that how the delivery management happens in Everledger how what was the journey so it's an interesting journey in Everledger like that's what I was trying to explain we I've worked with two big clients which is gemstones and apparels totally different supply chain totally different world and talking about I'll just talk about the delivery side of it totally different to two different delivery perspectives one was mainly we we had to deliver kind of like b2b and b2c solution basically five b2b customer customers you have to deliver for and then b2c and here it was more focused on b2c apparels and interestingly delivery wise it was it both had a different delivery cycle one was like every month you have to rigorously deliver something and other was big bang launch in six months but that doesn't mean that if you're going with a big bang launch in six months you don't do the iteratively because if you're going with big bang launch in six months and show the clients yes this is what we have delivered and they're like this is what we asked for it goes into a very interesting section so what you have to do is iterative iterative deliveries which is basically is something that I usually is like most am for or I want to go for it everything that whatever it we deliver it should be iterative it should be in a way that okay this part of it is delivered are you happy yes let's move next if this part of is delivered are you happy it should not be just client it should be customer it should be stakeholders it should be everyone who is involved in it and gives you a feedback yes this is what we are doing iteratively decide if you're going on the right direction so that's something that ever ledger I have learned a lot here with where two different supply chains two different world in trying to deliver with of course we are a small company we have limited resources limited time so managing all this is the biggest challenge and very interesting life cycle you have here yeah and you were talking about the idea of iteration cycle whenever we deliver something and of course especially when you have such big stakeholders internally and also externally on the client side and I imagine that it wasn't just working with one person on your client side but based on your progress they could make other decisions and engage with other steps within their supply chain so that also determines the next progress for them as well because this indeed was quite a quite a big project that I've seen I've actually seen quite a lot in the media about it about your launch I don't know if you want to mention it exactly who it was about or not I don't know I think I should I should not that's that's perfectly fine so no worries if anybody is interested I'm sure that if they if they further ever ledger they would be able to to find more use cases and when and what was happening so so coming back to to your life and you mentioned that this was a this is a big challenge and I think this is great because this is how we want to grow in our careers to take on more responsibilities more challenges so that we can push ourselves to become better professionals and what I wanted to ask you about Viva is looking back at your teams at the different deliveries that you've managed so far and what's coming up in your in your pipeline what what what metrics do you do you do you use and I'm not talking necessarily about numbers but how can you ensure that you do a good job and how can you help your team understand what does it mean to do a good job when delivering their work so metrics wise it's it's a very interesting thing like in in deliveries people think that if you're working in deliveries you should have metrics all over the place you should have different metrics it's like burn down velocities like you you should be having the numbers of everything this is this is the number this is how my team is progressing this is how my team is delivering we do I can do that I do that sometimes when when it is needed but frankly I am not a very metrics oriented person I personally think that it it is something that you just go with numbers you just miss the flow of business value that you're delivering you you have to be delivering the right business value or main feature that that will trigger to the to the clients or to the customers or to the world that yes this is what you're delivering has business values this is where it is needed rather than going with all the numbers because I've seen people going with velocity okay last month it was 50 by this month it is 48 where is it two points missing and all uh this is like sometimes it gets into the delivery section where people get confused okay this is uh this this should be numbered but you have to understand that you're not working just with uh just with numbers you're working with people you're working with people who are really smart people really like you you're working with really smart engineers basically and to give a proper uh delivery you have to have a business value okay this is the plan we have this needs to be delivered this delivery will mean this for our customers rather than this delivery has got 15 story point 20 story points this can be divided into three sprints and all it's it's a bit different of course for planning and all you need numbers but I think it's a personally I go a bit more uh in uh in behavioral and business value uh structure rather than going with exact numbers and all yeah it might be it might be me but it's like my personal opinion I don't want to get the velocity and everything of every month I want to see what feature delivered and how that performed that changed the world something like that I understand and I I reflect I reflected a lot on this on this idea of actually measuring what is the business value that we're ultimately delivering to our customers because at the end of the day any users of Cloudflare or any users of the platforms that you work on won't ask uh how many story points did you deliver this sprint so this is this is also an internal um check that we can we can do only if we put it into context as well as you said we're working with people primarily so um we we provide the trust that we're doing the best um that they are doing the best that they can in order to to actually push and deliver that value so that's also um one of the things that I want to look at um in in my role is um when you put together all of those all of those numbers and also the the human element of it what are we really delivering to our customers and I think this is the the one main question we should answer before we actually break it down into uh into something else um so thanks for that it's it's exactly like that because I've seen uh I've seen scrum masters or delivery managers going with numbers having a notepad saying okay this is the velocity uh now why is it reducing and and basically uh giving a lot of unnecessary pressure to the team which basically should not be on them you are supposed to be a a gateway there you are a person who has to take the pressure and not relate on the team you have to help them out you because the more you help them more they will grow and they'll perform better so you have to be a a gateway they're saying okay you internally have to have the calculations because if you're not doing the calculation then you you will not understand if you're improving or not so you have to have the calculation but that calculation should not be like okay this is two points less why is it two points who is going on holiday for two days why are you planning your holidays in a sprint something like that so I think that's that's very important to understand the human side of everything and not just go with numbers and new journals and metrics I think that's uh that's how I like to live yeah understood and I think you're actually slowly going into into my next question Viva because um I I always wonder what um and and this is this is the first of a series that that I'm planning to do talking to people interacting with delivery with software delivery particularly um so I wanted to ask for your view on what makes what differentiates um a good scrum lead or delivery lead delivery manager from a great one okay oh that's a tricky one so uh yeah means I think I have personally I had got a opportunity to do work with some great delivery managers and uh from them what I've learned and what I've uh seen so far uh with my whole experience with them is um is that uh you have to have a balance you have to have a balance of things uh if you're working with uh with a team if you're working with with a client you have to have a balance where you you need to talk you need to have a build a trust where if you're working with team the team should have understanding okay this is uh what the personally if I say like this is what she's saying and this is uh she's not going to uh put us in trouble if you're going with a client client should have a big bit of trust on you that yes this is uh this is where uh if we are saying that this cannot be delivered then yes it cannot be delivered in this time we really have to give them more time so that they can help deliver uh if you're going with um with any kind of stakeholders the stakeholder should also understand okay yes so if this needs to be done then there are steps before it that needs to be performed and this is how it is going so I think the balance uh the trust and basic basic like management where you have to be very transparent but at the same time you have you are kind of a gateway where you say okay no yes uh you you are saying you're giving us requirements but my team cannot do it right now so this balance needs to be managed somewhere and that's I think is a very important thing that that that actually gives you a makes you a great delivery manager or good delivery manager if you lose that balance you lose it lose it it gets it it all gets uh messed up your your team will be will be worried okay this is not something which is going right your client will be worried okay I don't see these guys are going to deliver so you have to be in a balance of the of the things and that's something I personally see is very important for a delivery manager or software delivery person yeah so it's a tricky balance as you said and it's true that actually um if what I'm hearing from you is something it's confirming uh also how I look at it in in Cloudflare right so is this ability to to wear multiple hats to be able to speak the language of the different groups or the different stakeholders that you're interacting with at any given point um so sometimes you need to to be a negotiator sometimes you you just need to be very technical sometimes uh you need to be creative or push back and you actually touched on that this this idea that sometimes you need to clarify to whoever comes to you that your team doesn't have the capacity so I see it very much in the responsibility of um of whoever leads the delivery for a team to um to clarify what is the roadmap you know to keep the team um accountable for what they're committing to but on the other side there also there also needs to be that limit in which you say you have to push back actually no I need to protect my team because they need to focus on something else that we've we've promised to deliver because otherwise a lot of people will just take advantage um especially actually when you when you make good relationships and for me this is a paradox because one um one trait of a great um delivery person is to build trusted relationships with all of the stakeholders but then when you do that I think that people gain that familiarity with you and then they they might actually try to uh try to try their luck you know and ask for more you know you give them one finger and then they take the whole hand I wonder if this has happened to you before.
I really agree I I cannot deny that it has not happened to me definitely is something that keeps on happening happens with everyone and uh I think that's where the transparency comes in like if if you are uh if you're saying if you have are very good friends with someone and someone asks you you you internally want to do it because you're friends with that person and you you've got a very good relationship with that person and uh somehow you'd think okay yes what they are suggesting might be a very good idea but uh just because of that you cannot put start putting pressure on that and you cannot actually start saying this will give a unwanted advantage to someone which is which is something you have to manage very smartly and it's it's something that you have to um which will come with experience and and basically sometimes with the people's uh attitude that uh ability to say no and and ability to be extremely transparent leaving your personal things aside and say okay yes I I love you but sorry I can't do that which is which is very tricky and that that is one of the biggest challenge for a delivery person which is you you cannot let your personal uh relationships hamper your team or your role model yeah yeah I think this is this is very well said uh uh I love you but I have to say no um so Viva we have a few minutes left um and even if I still have a lot of questions for you uh perhaps if they're they're going to happen in a different segment because clearly we have a lot to to talk about together um but I thought for for our viewers who um who are interested maybe or who are curious about a career in delivery management or in in scrum um in working with uh with with engineering teams which who deliver products to to users um I wondered what would you recommend to somebody who is curious um about this what should they do what should they start with what kind of questions should they ask um I I basically um if I think people uh should actually like this is what I did I think I can tell by my experience I basically try try to understand uh why you want to get in this what are the challenges in this stream of work and are you up for it and up for it in the in the sense you have to have a attitude where you you have to be very understanding because you uh you cannot you cannot just lash out on everyone saying okay I cannot do that you have to be very understanding and you have to be very resilient in things when while you're doing it so I think uh if you're up for it like I think this is this is something that I personally am very happy doing but if you're up for it you have to have the patience to do uh and to accept uh the things that are coming to your way you have to have a patience uh for for this particular job I think patience is one of the very important thing I always said I try to test whenever I'm trying to interview for someone I always think okay are you patient enough because I've seen people failing in this just because of the patience issues and not other things it's like they are good at what they are doing they are super when they are what they are smart at what they understand and doing but the small things is is that that you have to be patient to understand what is everyone trying to tell you yeah sometimes people just want to lash out on you or try to tell you that okay I mean I I'm uh feeling pressurized at that time you just have to sit there and understand okay yes I can understand you're pressurized like how can I help yeah and show that empathy exactly and that attitude getting to that attitude is a very difficult thing for everyone so if you're up for it that's perfect and that's that's the key I think it's will take you a long way over here yeah so it's already a step to um to to do that to do that self-assessment for yourself uh can you do you do you have the needed curiosity for that do you have the patience can you build that empathy so that sometimes you either provide direction or sometimes you just sit there and nod and actually just ask people how are you what's what's happening how can I help even if there isn't an action you can actually take uh or something that you need to follow up on um but just being there and providing the people um or your team with the opportunity to talk through a situation might also relieve that pressure on them and then they can just move on I've seen that happen sometimes all they need is someone to listen to hear to hear and just to speak with so like sometimes if I uh see someone fixing a bug and someone is a bit nervous that they're happening and just sit with them okay let's let's talk through it let's talk along with it which will which eventually ends up with them for finding the bug and solving it but I think this is our time thank you so much Viva you