Agile Coach Profile: Michael Sahota

Datetime:2016-08-23 03:31:46         Topic: Agile Development          Share        Original >>
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What follows is how I came to be a thought-leader and organizational growth guide.

After a few years as an academic (I pursued my M.Sc. in Computer Science and Ph.D. – which I never finished), I took up programming as a career. In 2001, I was the team lead at an internet startup. I did all the things I had seen project managers do: I got estimates from developers, I created a Microsoft Project plan, and despite my best efforts, I saw the project unravel in front of me. It was then that I started exploring eXtreme Programming as a more sane way to run projects. Soon I came upon Alistair Cockburn’s book “Agile Software Development” and that became my deep connection with Agile – all about people.

I used Agile as an important tool in my tool-belt as I worked as an architect, VP in R&D, and in other roles. I learned a lot about bringing Agile to teams – not just as a Scrum Master but as what is now called an Agile Coach. In 2004, my friend and colleague Colin Sampaleanu invited to me to Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training taught by Ken Schwaber. I really enjoyed the clarity and crispness of Scrum.

In 2009, my career pivoted to put Agile on the main stage. Kevin Aguanno introduced me to a client who was looking for a Scrum Master to help them learn Agile and I shifted to Agile as my main focus. It was in this year, that I really started to develop my training and coaching skills. I helped to start the Toronto Agile Software Development Community not-for-profit; this year we will be running our 8th annual conference with 600 participants.

My earlier skills and inclinations as an academic re-surfaced as I started to write copious blog posts to gain popularity as a leading Agile blog. I had a session accepted at Agile 2010 and have had one or more sessions accepted each year at our industry’s leading conference (that’s 7 in a row). In 2012, I published my first book, “An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Agile Culture”. (It’s free on InfoQ and I still have seasoned coaches tell me that they just read it and found it valuable.)

In 2010, I was approved as a Certified Scrum Coach – this was a prestigious certification for someone capable of coaching enterprises. It has subsequently been renamed to Certified Enterprise Coach to reflect this. I was and continue to be very proud of this since this is a rigorous application and review process to demonstrate experience and qualifications.

The next major pivot in my life came in 2011 when I became discouraged with how difficult it was to really help companies with Agile. I wanted to create places where people loved coming to work but we never really got there. I noticed that the leader was the limit; how well the boss (Manager, Director, VP, CEO) got it was how far Agile would go. It depended on their ability to trust, value people and be vulnerable.. I realized that the only way companies could grow was for leaders to grow so that they could establish a healthier culture.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I was in no position to invite leaders on a transformational journey. I needed to work on myself. So I set about reinventing myself. This is a whole other story so I will just touch on some highlights: developing self-kindness, increasing self-awareness, personal growth retreats, meditation, yoga, and developing consciousness in India.

I had a hypothesis that if I changed how I showed up, I would be able to invite leaders on their own transformational journeys. This hypothesis has been proven several times over. I have become the change that I want to see in the world. And at the same time I continue to be a work-in-progress with edges around ego, seeking attention, too attached to ideas, etc.

I model that we are all on our journey, and that we may choose to help each other and travel together.

I am excited to share what I have learned through Scrum Alliance’s new Certified Agile Leadership training program. I was the second trainer to be approved – based on the training I have been developing and delivering over the last few years. And I was the first to deliver this training worldwide. I am delighted to help managers, executives and coaches become more effective in fostering Agile environments.


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