Meet Gez Smith

John-Bergin-Bio_March-2015.jpgCSP-SM Gez Smith lives in Bristol, United Kingdom, and is the director of Bunny Picnic Ltd. He enjoys speaking at conferences, events, and Scrum user group meetups and freelancing as a CSM or Agile coach. 

For you, what is the main difference between where you began as a CSM®, CSPO®, or CSD® and becoming a CSP®?
Where to begin? I’ve learned and grown so much along the path to becoming a CSP, I can hardly believe I thought I knew what I was doing back at the start. I think the main difference is probably that the journey to becoming a CSP taught me how much I don’t know and how much more I still have to learn. That’s scary and exciting in equal measure.

What is your favorite part about becoming a CSP?
It’s an intangible thing, but I think it’s the feeling that you’re making a public statement that Scrum is something you care deeply about and want to dedicate serious time to developing, in yourself and in others.

Give us an example of how the CSP certification has helped you in your career.
Having a goal of 70 hours of learning and development across a wide range of different formats to gain the required SEUs got me out looking for lots of new training sessions and events. Through these I’ve met some fantastic people across the world, whom I can now call on for advice and support as much as they can call on me.

How did you first find out about Scrum?
A place I worked at over ten years ago decided it was going to adopt the Toyota Way, and I got assigned to the group in charge of making that happen. It didn’t really work, but it did turn us on to adopting Scrum, which did work.
My first introduction to Scrum was being told I was now a product owner and left to get on with it, no further information provided. I promptly went out of the office for a couple of days to pitch to new clients, then came back to a very angry team who’d been wanting to ask me questions. Oops.

What do you find easiest about Scrum?
Being enthusiastic about it. When you spot a situation where it could work really well, it’s pretty simple to get people to try it out and see some immediate benefits. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic when you know you can make people’s working lives easier and happier pretty quickly, at least in the short term.

What do you find most difficult about Scrum?
I think over the years I’ve largely suppressed the command-and-control mindset I was brought up with. However, I still find it tricky to find the right balance between letting the team self-organize and yet not being so hands-off that they themselves revert to a command-and-control mindset, or just revert to their old ways of working. Especially when introducing Scrum to a new team — old habits really do die hard.

What’s your best/worst work experience using Scrum?
I’ve been in a few situations where people have been really, really dogmatic about Scrum and have been really angry and aggressive towards other people for “Doing. It. Wrong.” I find that sort of attitude pretty unhelpful, and it nearly put me off Scrum more than once back in the day. It ended up being a positive though, as being shouted at for “Doing. It. Wrong.” spurred me on to learn as much as I could, which then set me on the road to becoming a CSP. Turns out I wasn’t always doing it wrong, either.

One of my best experiences now is when people come up to me after talks and admit they too have been put off Scrum by people shouting at them for doing it wrong — and then they tell me that by sharing my story, I’ve encouraged them to give it another go.

How has using Scrum changed you?
Aside from changing my career path and helping me enjoy my day job, the biggest change has been the fact that Scrum introduced me to the Agile mindset, and that mindset led me to begin following Zen Buddhism. Indeed, I plan to take the Bodhisattva Precepts in summer 2017.

If you could add one thing to Scrum, what would it be?
Crikey! I guess it would be love. Scrum on paper can risk seeming like just another process to follow, but it really comes to life when those practicing it do so with love, compassion, and a real appreciation for how we’re all so interconnected with each other in this world.

Do you use Scrum in your life outside of work? If yes, how?
Definitely. My life runs in sprints, to the point that my partner recently added “Buy Bev something pretty” as a Post-it on my backlog when I wasn’t looking. However, I didn’t risk killing the romance by asking her for some clearer acceptance criteria.

Outside of work, I also help manage the radio station at Glastonbury Festival. It’s a voluntary role, managing volunteers for the week we’re together, but last year I ran the features team using Scrum. From a standing start, with no previous Scrum experience within the team, we delivered far more content than we’d ever delivered before, and at a much higher quality, too.

What advice would you give to someone new to Scrum?
It should be making you happier. If it’s not doing that, something’s going wrong.

What is your favorite quote? And why?
“Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane.”
It helps me remember that we’re all human, all slightly mad in our own ways, and that just because accepted wisdom says one thing, it doesn’t mean the person who created that wisdom wasn’t insane.