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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Stephanie Stewart on Organisational Transformation and Joining the Board of the Agile Alliance

Stephanie Stewart on Organisational Transformation and Joining the Board of the Agile Alliance


2. You and I have met – we met for the first time this week, but our audience probably don’t know you at all. Would you mind very briefly introducing yourself?

Sure. My name is Stephanie Stewart, as you mentioned. I actually work for a company called Valpack. We are a coupon company – we help people to save money through print and digital products. We are actually part of a larger company called Cox Enterprises, so we are part of a large enterprise in that sense and I am an IT director there. My official title is Director of Agile Leadership. It is sort of a self-made unique title, but it fits pretty well with what I do there. What I do there is I manage two groups. One of them is the Agile product leaders – Agile product leaders are basically Scrum Masters and Kanban Leads and project managers. Then I also manage the IT business analysts. So, that is what I do for IT and then I take on special projects as well. But, what I do for the enterprise, we are going for the whole Agile enterprise vision and so, I have a role in that in evangelizing, and nurturing and the care and feeding of it throughout the organization.

Shane: Great. One of the things that’s happened recently is that you were elected onto the Board of the Agile Alliance.

Yes, indeed.

Shane: Tell us a little bit about why you put yourself forward or allowed people to put you forward for that position.

Yes. I didn’t really put myself forward right away. I had a couple of friends and colleagues that saw the e-mail as well as I saw the e-mail and said “Hey, this is you. You should go for this” I thought “Well, OK. I will give it a shot”, not thinking I would be here today with you. And I did and I am actually very honored to get to be a part of the board and I think I have a lot to learn from everyone on the Board, but I equally think that I have just as much to contribute, so I am really looking forward.


3. That is great. So, you are quiet engaged with the local Agile community here in Florida. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what’s happening there?

Sure. Yes. So, Valpack, in the Tampa Bay area is actually quite a role model example of an Agile transformation so, we work with a lot of companies locally and throughout the United States. We will give them tours of our facility – and what that means is we bring them into our office and we show them “Here is the process we go through”. We take them all the way through our portfolio Kanban Board all the way down to the Scrum Boards of the Agile teams and just talk to them and really relate to them what our experience was like. I am also the organizer for the Tampa Bay Agile Meet-up group and so far, we have 600 people which is a pretty big number for the area and most recently, Tampa Bay Agile Meet-up Group in corporation with Agile Orlando and sponsored by the Agile Alliance, through one of their programs, put on the first ever Agile Open Florida – so that was pretty cool – and that happened in June. So, that will be a usual thing we continue to work on. Then we have a lot of other different ideas - the Florida Agile Community - on things that we are going to work on and try, just to help raise the Florida community.

Shane: One of the areas that we were chatting about earlier is that you are passionate, concerned, interested in building good things and having fun doing so. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Right. I really do have – not only passion for Agile – but a passion for helping and leading people to build cool things and to have fun while they are doing it. It should not be a painful process to innovate, or to create or to develop and I think that is the perspective I come from, you know. And I have a lot of passion for it.


4. How do we – and maybe we can use the story of Valpak’s transformation as a hook – how do you make that happen for people?

A lot of care and feeding. I mean it really does come down to just taking small steps, little at a time. I think it was one of the great speakers and authors that are here who has said that “Everyone has their own, individual, Agile journey” and the individual does, the team does, the organization does and the company does. So, just trying to continually get all of those different elements to move forward in their journey in whatever way possible is really what it is all about, I think. I mean I am kind of known to – there would be a situation that comes up and I am known to be the person who says “Oh, yes. Well, by the way, this relates to this principle on the Agile manifesto. See – the answer is right here” I think that has helped because, for any company, I think when you are first starting out with Agile, you get into the “Here are the steps we have to follow and that is great – stand-ups and sprint planning and all that stuff – and here are the roles you have to have” but I think that what is important to understand is that at the core of Agile is the Agile manifesto and those four values and those 12 principles and if you look to them, they can guide you. I think that is what truly embodies all of this.


5. What is your vision for the Agile Board? You are on that Board now and they are an interesting group and taking forward events like this conference, but where should they go and what is your vision for the Agile Alliance?

Well, I won’t admit to having a full fledged vision yet, since I have only been on the job for like four days, but I will tell you that I have a lot of ideas and I have been jotting down a lot of ideas all week and just from a tactical perspective, I have ideas about the Conference and the web site and the programs, but from a more strategic perspective, I would like to see the mission of the Agile Alliance broadened to go beyond those words – software industry – because I think that a great example in my case, is that Valpack would not identify themselves as being part of the software industry, they are part of the advertising industry or whatever, but we are an Agile IT shop and we are an Agile enterprise so I think there is a lot of opportunity there. I also think there is a lot of opportunity with the Agile Alliance to bring the Agile Alliance closer to the local communities and what is going on there. So, seeing that is one of my strong points, I hope to really help, to contribute in that Agile local aspect, if you will.


6. Do you blog and tweet?

Yes, I blog at and I tweet – my handle is @iamagile- and I do it as frequently as I can. My blog is pretty much about Valpak’s transformation story and I will talk about things that come up there or I will speak to you about things that I am hearing in the community, as well.

Shane: Great. Stephanie, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to InfoQ today. We really appreciate it and good luck with your journey with the Agile Alliance.

Thank you very much for having me.

Dec 21, 2014