Mark Gaudlip

  

Technical Lead/Scrum Master, The Nielsen Company

Location: Lancaster, PA


Certifications

Certified Scrum Professional
Certified ScrumMaster

Biography

My name is Mark Gaudlip and I have been in the software industry since 1994 after having acquired a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh.  I am both a Certificed Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Professional.  I've had the Certified Scrum Master course with Ken Schwaber, in addition to the Advanced Scrum Master course with several of the key Agile players in the industry.

I've gained valuable experiences in team and company behaviors from having worked for two companies that had morphed from a small shop to being integrated within a multi-national corporation.  Working through those changes both times has provided an insight into the behaviors and characteristics of a company, its teams, and teammembers as they transition from an entrepeneurial shop to a more governed large corporation.

My latest position provided me a great opportunity to begin working with Scrum, Agile and Lean. In 2004, I had received my Scrum Master Certification and was, at the time, one of the first couple hundred people in the world with the certification. Everything I was taught and had spent time reading regarding Agile and Lean, seemed like "common sense".

Over the 7 years since that certification, our company has endured many changes, integrations, and realignments with different comanies.  This introduced many challenges to our successful implementation of Agile and Lean.

We've learned and adapted continuously through our Retrospectives meetings, a few Pre-mortem meetings, and through some team 'excercises'.

Additionally, I spent time doing presentations and informal talks on our Agile and Lean process for our internal groups as well as a few groups of product owners that we interfaced with as customer proxies. Having the honor of a few instances to speak one on one and gather feedback and guidance with Tom Poppendieck proved to be a wonderful source of growth. Of course, to return the favor, we invited him to help decorate our office for a Halloween party...

Recently, our group has gone through massive changes including losing many of our teammembers and taking on the challenge of offshore co-development.  This came with an increase of top/down process mandates and changes that were in some cases contrary to our processes.  A large effort was now needed to try to implement Agile and Lean principles in an environment that was more hostile to its implementation, and to spend a lot of time coaching and guiding our new teammembers, who had all come from heavily governed waterfall environments, to understand how we function.

We are making progress but have a long way to go to regain our old velocity and quality.  However, going through these times again is bringing us the chance to 'redo' some processes or tools that we would not have realized without this change.

Having a long and varied experience in Agile and Scrum is key to evolving your processes.  And needs change with the experience of your team.  Persistance and honesty will make a huge impact in helping make your processes close to you work the most efficiently over time!

The one 'joke' I have is referring to myself as a Scrum Goat - a mix of Scrum Master and Scapegoat.  It is a cathartic chuckle because the role of a Scrum Master is a unique and HUMBLE role that is hard to 'master'.  You coach, you lead, you guide the team towards success, you help them to recognize and learn to mitigate risks.  You must work with your customers to help them understand not only how we work, but how to learn to "barter" and how to smooth them over if they are upset. Dont forget, you do become a key part of keeping your team's morale afloat with whatever means you can. And the process starts fresh with each new employee the company onboards.  This day to day work that you tirelessly do is rarely recognized because it is a constant job of countless SMALL 'tasks', observations, feedback, coaching, encouragement, issue resolution and prevention, foresight and steering, team conflict resolution, and support to the team reaching their goals for the sprint.  There is no Big Splash that draws attention to the effort being undertaken. 

However, if there is a problem...  you know you'll be visited soon.  :) 

Hence, "The Humble Scrum Goat" title - which I proudly wear!

Work experience

The Nielsen Company, Tech Lead/Scrum Master
May 1999 - Present, Lancaster, PA, United States

I started as a software engineer and eventually became a Sr. Software Engineer working on an ever evolving application contstructed from Java, JSP, JSF, Ajax, Javascript, and xml and residing within a Websphere application server.  This application accesses terabytes of data stored within an Oracle database.

A continuous build process is in place that runs Junit tests to ensure quailty within our system.

My engineering was focused on Java, JSP, HTML, and Javascript. Each developer has Websphere installed on their machines in which we need to understand how to navigate.  Since our application is heavily focused on data manipulation and reporting, I needed to develop a strong understanding of SQL query construction.

After engineering for many years, I turned my focus more towards being a Scrum Master in 2004. I played a key role in getting Agile and Lean integrated into our local office and successfully improve the team's productivity, morale, and adaptation to Agile and Lean and improve their image with our customers through better quality products that were delivered consistently on time.

My title is now Technical Lead/Scrum Master.  It is a unique role as a small portion of my time may be focused on technical work, while the rest of the time was doing the Scrum Master work.  To me this is a benefit - I'm reminded of the phrase "Eat your own dogfood"; meaning, by being active within the team, I can also FEEL the pain or struggle points that the team may be experiencing.  The experience is invaluable since I can then put on my "Scrum Master" cap and help to guide the team to resolve the issues they have.  Empathy and hands on experience in a project are important to successfully lead it and to make better informed decisions.

Currently we are working in an offshore/distributed working model.  This has caused me to need to be more impactful as a Scrum Master, but has also increased the need for my engineering work where we lost skilled labor.

I've had to :

1)  Train and guide an entirely new set of employees in agile

2)  Pick up and learn our technologies again after spending a larger portion of my time in Scrum Mastering.

3)  Spend time outside of work relearning and practicing my skills that use our core technologies.  This includes websites for a few clients, setting up and configuring technical infrastructure within my home such as build environments and source code control, and expanding my java experience by writing a Mobile App for the Android operating system.

Since we function as an Agile team, I've also been focusing my efforts in supporting our build infrastructure and researching and implementing automated testing such as Selenium or Behavior Driven Development.

As needed or when time allows, I dig into our system to help diagnose and fix issues within our Java based system and customizing and enhancing our planning tool XPlanner, an opensource project, to meet our unique needs.  This includes database modifications, java and jsp code changes, and supporting struts configuration updates to support new functionality and reports.

EDS, Software Engineer
May 1995 - May 1999, York, PA, United States

EDS/Ampersand was a small company that focused on developing and delivering an automated banking software package.

My role there started as a Software Engineer providing support for the original DOS based applications written in C.  In addition, my role was to provide phone support, custom coding solutions, bug fixes, and occasional onsite visits to diagnose and fix client issues.

Eventually I moved to new development and coding support for the Client Server version of the software wiritten with Visual Basic and Visual C++.