Kumar: Did I catch you dancing there Jess?
Jess: A little bit, yeah.
Kumar: Yeah. The music is so catchy. Welcome back everyone to our Agile Shorts, episode, what are we now? 13, I think.
Jess: Ooh, December 13- [crosstalk]
Kumar: Lucky number 13. And in this episode, we're going to be talking about agile marketing with our resident marketing expert, Jess McClean. Jess has been with us for, how long have you been with us now?
Jess: 10 months.
Kumar: 10 months, wow, look at that, it's amazing. [crosstalk]
Jess: Feels like yesterday.
Kumar: Yeah. We're a real company, Agile Meridian, we have marketing people, we got business development people, it's amazing. And she's been a really integral part of our journey, especially the last 10 months being remote and with the pandemic interrupting our normal way of working as agile coaches, we thought it was time to get some expertise in to help us build our brand and that's where Jess comes in. So, Jess, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Jess: Yeah. So, a little bit about me. I'm Jess, glitter enthusiast, coffee addict, dog mom. Virginia native, although I did spend a piece of time over the pond. I've been in marketing now for officially five years, which doesn't sound like a long time but I've been super fortunate and been able to experience so many things. It's my passion, I love doing it and just excited to continue growing as a marketer, I guess, for my team.
Kumar: That's awesome. It's good for us and good for you too. So, when did you first discover agile, either with this company or in your past, in your career?
Jess: Funnily enough, it was my very first internship that I was doing in college and I didn't know that it was Agile that I was witnessing and being a part of when I was in it. But I was working as a social media intern for an ed-tech company and when I first started, they were like, we have these weekly standups that we do. And so, I joined them and we had our scrum master, leader of the group and she would go through all of the open projects and all of the project managers would, kind of, speak to where they were, what roadblocks they had, what deadlines they were working with, what they were waiting on from other teams. The other teams would chime in and be like, this is where I'm at on it but here's where it is on my prioritization list and all this and that.
And for us, as the social team, we were there to, kind of, see where these deadlines were going to fall so that we could work it into our social calendar and announce some of the launches or promote some of the new things coming down the pipe. And so, we were just, kind of, there as flies on the wall to experience it and be a part of it and, kind of, make mental notes of everything that was happening and making sure that, if there was anything coming up, we could then work with the people we needed to work with. But it was a really nice way of, kind of, getting exposure to what everyone was doing, because the marketing department was split into a handful of different teams, like the email team, the social team, product, marketing team, copywriting, creative. And so, it was a really great visualization of how those teams are working together to achieve what they needed to achieve.
Kumar: That's great. It, kind of, reminds me of my first experience with agile because we didn't know we were doing it. I used to run restaurants and we had standups twice a day, once before lunch and once before dinner and the whole staff would get together and in, sort of, the area between the kitchen and the dining room, the wait staff, the kitchen staff and we'd all, sort of, talk about, okay, what are the menu specials? And what's low in stock, that waiters need to be aware of? And what's the entertainment? Because some nights we had entertainment. And we didn't know we were doing agile but it was the thing to do to help keep everyone informed and it sounds like that's what your experience was like.
Jess: Oh, yeah. And it's funny now that... Now that I'm working with you guys and I'm, kind of, experiencing and learning so much about it, I see how it's applied in day-to-day life and people just don't realize it. It's funny the way that works.
Kumar: Yeah. Tell us more about that. What's it like working with a bunch of agile coaches?
Jess: It is fun and interesting and honestly, it's amazing. It's been something that's been really educational for me but it's also been just a lot of fun, you guys are also great and have great senses of humor. And we do our weekly standups and it's never just seriousness and business and agile, it's fluid and it's fun and you're doing agile stuff while just having a weekly conversation with everyone. And it's been eye opening to see, kind of, the way that small business works and having a better understanding of that. But also, it's actually helped me learn how to, kind of, juggle life in an agile way and do a part-time gig and a full-time gig and how you can apply agile methodologies to time manage all of that and be productive and be innovative and creative in everything that you put out.
But also making sure that you're meeting deadlines, that you are staying on top of things, that you're reaching out to the people that you need to reach to when you need to do it and also maintain a healthy work life balance. So, it's been a really good development, both professionally and personally, I'd say, kind of, learning how to juggle all of it.
Kumar: Tell me more about that, the personal stuff, personal, how you've applied agile techniques to your personal and professional life. I'm sure people out there... Because I still have trouble juggling everything that's on my plate, maybe I can learn something from you. I know you've been able to, sort of... you have a lot of different things going on in your life, both professionally and personally, I imagine. How has this helped you?
Jess: It's still a learning process, I'll say that. In no way, shape or form, do I have the secret formula hidden away somewhere but it's been really great. I have a habit tracker, like an agenda weekly thing and at the beginning of the week I, kind of, take a look at it and, kind of, map out what we need to discuss during our weekly call, what the goals are to achieve that week and, kind of, make sure that I'm not putting too much on my plate that I'm diminishing my downtime, my relaxation time but breaking those larger projects into bite size pieces that I can do. If I'm working on a landing page, one day of the week will be creating the layouts and the next day will be focusing on, what images should go on the page. The next day will be SEO and copywriting and then, final touches, final reviews, things like that. And so, I break it out into each day to make sure that I'm not- [crosstalk]
Kumar: Yeah. So, it sounds like you're doing a bit of iterative and incremental delivery of the work that you've tasked yourself to do, right? Whether it's creating a landing page or some copy for social media, whatever it might be.
Jess: Yeah. So, our social calendars, I'll build out any large campaigns that we want to do and then, I work in bi-weekly increments to, kind of, build out the foundation of what will social involve. And then, on a day-to-day basis, it turns into any additional pieces that we find interesting. And then, from a personal standpoint, it's been really great. Ask my mother, I have a really hard time with overwhelming myself with plans. So, I've become really dedicated to my habit tracker and writing things down. You've committed to something, you have that time booked and that intertwines with what I do professionally. So, Thursdays, I don't do any additional work because I host trivia and I like to dedicate the whole evening to just hanging out and hosting trivia night and being present with my friends. And it's helped me being more agile and the way that I think about everything has really helped me, kind of, develop this being more present with people and my work, which is important.
Kumar: It's a really good insight. It's actually one of the things we teach in both our leadership and facilitation course is that, presence is such an important skill and characteristic to nurture, right? Being present for the people that you work with, being present for your family members, being present, fully present, in the activities that you do. You get so much more accomplished, for one thing, and it's also a lot more rewarding for you because you're not distracted by a whole bunch of other things. And so, a lot of the stuff that you're talking about, limiting the number of things that you're doing at one time, limiting the work in progress, for instance, these are all agile and lean principles that you've, sort of, just picked up, which is really awesome to see. Picked up either from working with us or maybe just because it's common sense, natural things to do, probably a combination of both.
Jess: Yeah. It definitely has been and it's been great.
Kumar: Yeah. That's awesome. So, speaking of your fellow marketing professionals, if someone was to ask you, hey, Jess, I know you're working with this Agile Meridian or I guess they're an agile company. And I read something online about this manifesto and the principles of the manifesto. What principle would you say, Jess, is the most important for me, as a marketing professional?
Jess: All of them, honestly. When looking at them, it's really hard to just pinpoint one because they all bring something really valuable to the table. But if I had to choose one, from a marketing standpoint, it would be responding to change, over following a plan, specifically because you can't control the world and there's so much that's happening and there's so much that matters that's out there. And so, as a marketer, you can have plans A through Z, to- [crosstalk]
Kumar: That's your across the pond pronunciation, love it.
Jess: You can have all these plans and fail safes and everything but at the drop of a dime, something can change and you have to be able to respond to it. A perfect example is the pandemic and how it's affected things. At the time, I was working at an agency and I had a client that did product launches and their product launches were really heavily entwined with the market shows, the trade shows, that they had. And so, we had, kind of, built this strategy around the concept of the release and reveal of everything being at these shows. And a lot of other companies had the same mindset like, we'll bring all of our new product lines to the shows and we'll release them there and it'll be a first glance and launch of them and then, we'll have all this digital stuff, kind of, follow.
And the pandemic shut everything down. And in the blink of an eye you had to go, okay, we know when launch is going to happen and we have 10 minutes to... not really, but a really short period of time to completely rethink and readjust our plan and how we can bring that trade show aspect and that reveal aspect to the digital realm. And you have to be able to think on your toes and collaborate with your team members on, what is the best route of action and what can we do and how can we think innovatively to make this all that it can be and then more? And so, it's definitely being able to react to those scenarios.
Kumar: Yeah, certainly. If you'd followed a plan, you wouldn't have gotten anywhere, right?
Kumar: The pandemic changed everything and it changed everything for billions of people around the world overnight, right? So where people couldn't do what they were able to do before. And so, they had to change and certainly, I felt it, you felt it, we all felt it and how we deal with it is indicative of our mindset, our adaptability to change and all those things. So, in many ways, the pandemic forced a lot of companies to be agile, because out of necessity, they discovered their agile muscle that they had this ability to pivot and change and respond, because they had no choice they had to.
Jess: And then, from the employee's standpoint, it's taking the time to... you're all working from home and it's so easy to fall into that trap of, I'm working from home, so my work life balance just meshes together and there is no work life balance. And so, that was one big thing for me, it was like, okay, I'm working from home full-time, how do I deal with that? And it was carving out specific time points throughout the day to do something for me and making sure that I shut off at a certain time and making sure that I had my to-do list of all of the big goals I wanted to achieve that day. And so, it's applying those tiny things, as an employee, as well as an employer, to make it work- [crosstalk]
Kumar: Yeah. That's great, that's great, that's a really good learning. So, for other people out there, marketers out there, independents or people working in an agency, what would you tell them in terms of adopting agile?
Jess: Do it, honestly- [crosstalk]
Kumar: And what's the benefit?
Jess: So, as a marketer that's done a lot of in-house marketing< as well as agency marketing and experiencing it in-house without knowing that I was experiencing it, it was wonderful. There was so much fluidity across the department and it gave that valuable insight so that you're not sitting there going, well, why am I not getting this done? Why hasn't that team responded to me? You have insight into a little bit of what their prioritization looks like, where your task for them falls on the list, that transparency, cross department, cross teams. But also, as an agency person, it just makes your life so much easier because, at an agency you may be handling anywhere from one client to 10 and you have to juggle everything. You're juggling their email development, their creative development, their social or strategy or web stuff.
And when you're that main point of contact, it can get really jumbled really fast, you're like, I have 10 big campaigns this month for five different clients, how am I going to get this done? And it's sitting down and breaking it into those sprint setups where you're like, okay, well, these are the most time crucial ones and these are what needs to go to that team for that deadline. But you're also having the transparency into where that falls on the to-do list. And I think it just makes an agency work so much better and just provides the transparency that may be missing. And it makes it just really helpful and easy to then communicate back to your clients and have that open line of communication with them. And in turn, you're getting the job done but you're creating this foundational relationship with your clients that is so important and critical for the success of the partnership between agency and company. And so it, kind of, sets the foundation for success across the board.
Kumar: Excellent. Well, I think we have a viewer, couple of viewers, and if you have any questions, please get them in now. Any parting thoughts that you have, Jess, to share with our audience, live or after this broadcast is completed?
Jess: Yeah, absolutely. I was, kind of, a novice, agile person, I would say. I was doing it before I knew I was doing it.
Jess: And it can seem really intimidating. The first time I looked at the agile manifesto, I was like, oh my gosh and I was really overwhelmed with it all. But in the grand scheme of things, when you look at it and you take the time to just sit down and read through it and understand it, you start to realize that there are things in your day-to-day life that you're already doing that are agile and then, it's not so scary and intimidating. And it's not a heavy lift, it's starting with taking... at least for me, it was starting with taking those small things and making those small changes and then, seeing how it developed and then completely reshaping, by doing those small things, it completely reshaped how I was working as a person, for the better, I will say.
Kumar: That's great.
Jess: So, if you're new to it and it seems scary, it's not, you can do it.
Kumar: That's really good insight and good advice too. It's like, a lot of times when we go into organizations, we go in as coaches and someone says, okay, we're going to go agile and they employ us and they come in. We're actually working with the people in the front lines that are doing the work and they didn't know they needed agile. In many cases, they don't really want the help. But getting to know them, getting to work with them, I think there's a realization that, oh, well, a lot of the stuff that we already do. So, awesome, you're just helping us do it better- [crosstalk]
Kumar: Which makes it easier. All right then, well, if there's nothing else, we can end our broadcast. This is, after all, an Agile Short and we're a little bit over 21 minutes. So, we will see you in a couple weeks. Thank you all for watching.
Jess: Thank you.