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Annika Vatsa


ScrumMaster, Choice Hotels International

Location: Phoenix, AZ


Certified Scrum Professional
Certified ScrumMaster
Certified Scrum Product Owner


Groups I belong to

Phoenix SUG


Annika Vatsa My interest in technology and a desire for efficiency have been strong drivers throughout my career. After completing a four year degree in business and computer science in Germany, I moved to the US and obtained a M.B.A. with Management Information Systems Specialization. I have always enjoyed working in a team environment as the different perspectives and personalities enable the groups to solve problems more creatively. For much of my career I have worked as a software developer, interacting closely with marketing departments to shape solutions collectively. In 2009 I first had the opportunity to work as developer on a scrum team. Many of the team members enjoyed the collaboration and appreciated the business being more involved. The team continued to hold daily scrum meetings even after the initial 9 months project was completed. Over the years that followed all IT teams transitioned to scrum. The desire to further facilitate the collaboration between the business and IT while fostering an understanding for the different perspectives and priorities was the main reason I pursued the role of scrum master that I had first come to know in 2009. Since April 2013 I have worked as a scrum master for teams in data warehousing, reporting, devops, and more traditional software development. Aiming to scale based on the SAFe approach our organization has adopted the practice of holding large, multi-day release planning events to scale our agile approach. I have facilitated story mapping/visual mapping sessions for many teams during these events and organized planning events for individual teams on my own. Since April 2014 I have hosted the company’s internal monthly scrum improvement community meetings that focused on maturing our agile practices.

Work experience

Choice Hotels, Scrum Master
April 2013 - November 2015, Phoenix, AZ, United States
I joined a team of scrum masters which was originally grouped with a project management team and a centralized product owner team. I took on the role of scrum master for two data warehouse/data integration teams and later a reporting team. After several months I convinced one of the innovation teams to officially adopt a scrum approach and started acting as scrum master for that team as well. Over time team structures changed multiple times due to organizational changes. My focus was to build cohesive teams despite geographical challenges. We repeatedly created team specific "Definitions of Done" to help mature practices. When the organization piloted “feature teams” I held joined story writing sessions with the team that included a first-time product owner to bring all required expertise together. I subsequently trained several new product owners in scrum practices and increased awareness of the impact their role had on the team. Removing blockers as quickly as possible was always my priority and my contribution to being accountable. Disagreements and disappointments were addressed respectfully in sprint retrospective meetings. The teams and myself encouraged the business sponsors to engage by ensuring that sprint reviews did not require extensive technical knowledge and left time for questions. When the organization moved from component to feature teams for most of the organization we started holding 3-day release planning events using the visual/story mapping technique. We drastically increased awareness for business priorities. At the same time business got more insight into complexities and dependencies on the IT side. I have facilitated eight release planning events, trained multiple product owners and developers in the scrum methodology and held monthly scrum improvement community meetings for a year and a half. It has been a very rewarding experience working with such a large variety of personalities on a great variety of systems that due to their age required different approaches. While we were able to automate most of the environment creation and deployments for our cloud based systems some of our legacy systems require manual deployments and testing. Striving for continuous improvement while acknowledging the current state has helped many teams not feel overwhelmed and appreciate their accomplishments. Building the sense for pride in your work and being part of the team while being open and honest about shortcomings have made this work experience particularly enjoyable.

Choice Hotels, Team Member (Developer)
January 2006 - April 2013, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Joined the software development team implementing features for the bi-weekly mini-releases and larger releases 3-4 times annually.


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