What Studying Literature Taught Me About Agile Coaching

Photo by Tim Geers

Photo by Tim Geers

I studied English in college.  Many people wonder what someone does with an English degree, and I never gave it much thought since I was also studying computer science and math.  English was my ”frivolous” degree.  The one that fed my creative, side.  As an agile coach, I find that my English degree is enhancing the work that I do in the software development world.

Studying English meant reading a wide variety of literature, picking it apart, and exploring connections.  Discussing and writing about a work on its own and connecting it to larger themes.  Understanding characters’ motivations.  Learning how to convey ideas concisely and clearly as well as how to develop rich stories that evoke a reaction.  You develop abilities to analyze word choices, examine rhetorical devices, and ask questions about the author’s intentions.  Curiosity is encouraged.

As an agile coach, I read individuals, teams, and organizations to understand motivations and how things work.  I explore connections between people and larger themes like behavior, governance, and culture.  Teaching practices so they are clearly understood and applied; sharing my experiences through mentoring in a way that enhances comprehension and creates an emotional connection.  Coaching also involves articulating what’s going on in the moment, asking powerful questions to evoke new thinking, reframing a problem or situation to encourage positive action, and using metaphors to explore abstract concepts and feelings.  Studying English committed me to becoming a lifelong learner—a valuable quality in agile coaches.

How did your education contribute to where you are today?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.