Alia Rose Connor: Agile Coach Manager
Alia works as an Agile Coach Manager in our New York office. But right now, she’s 150km away – working from her house in the Hudson Valley and navigating a non-stop schedule of Hangout meetings.
Usually, I live in Brooklyn and start the day with a 45-minute commute to the office. But at the moment, things are very different – my partner and I are holed up at our little place in the woods near New Paltz, so now I just start the day with some yoga before jumping online for my first meeting. When we bought this house last September, we had no idea what a refuge it would turn out to be. So I feel very lucky – even if working from home does bring its fair share of challenges!
As an Agile Coach Manager, I work with my fellow coaches to help teams improve how they deliver value at Spotify. What that means can really run the gamut – everything from coaching an individual team on how to work better together, to helping them with their process, planning and road-mapping, or facilitating them through their working agreements or expectations of one another. Right now, one of the things we’re helping teams improve is asynchronous communication in order for them to work more effectively remotely. And we also work at the leadership level – helping leaders to better communicate, strategize or road-map, and ensuring they have the tools and processes to enable a short feedback cycle of learning and improvement.
The biggest challenge for me at the moment is that collaboration is so essential to my work – the way I do my job well is by being in tight communication with many other people across the company. Now that I’m working fully distributed, I’m in Hangout meetings pretty much all day long – it’s great that we have the forums to do this, but sitting at my computer for hours is so different to having face-to-face meetings and moving around the office as usual. I’m trying to make sure I take breaks or finish meetings a few minutes early, so I can get up to stretch or grab some fresh air. And I always block out at least half an hour in my calendar for lunch, because I really need to get my breath back after a morning of non-stop meetings.
To make life easier, we usually cook double portions of dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. We’re lucky enough to have a geodesic dome greenhouse and be able to grow some of our own vegetables here – we now have kale, beets, broccoli and carrots coming up, which is really exciting.
In the morning, I tend to have lots of one-to-ones with members of my team, but the afternoon is when things like all-hands and tech leadership meetings happen. Also, I might get a bit more focus time towards the end of the day if I’m lucky, when I can make progress on some longer-term projects. For instance, I’m currently working with a colleague on the career development framework for coaches – traditionally, we’ve fallen under the same framework as engineers, but our jobs are quite different, as you can imagine! So together, we’re thinking through how best to articulate the accountabilities for a coach, what are the areas where a coach should have impact, what does it look like when there’s really solid impact, and so on. We’ve been working regularly on this framework in the afternoons and it’s coming together really well.
Another of my projects involves a team that’s sprung up because three separate product areas have been combined – there’s a lot to figure out in terms of what forums and rituals make sense for team members, and how we help them form a group identity. The thing about coaches is that even when we’re solving a current problem, we’re always looking for sustainable ways to improve in the future too. We’re always wondering what we can help teams put in place – or take away – to work more effectively going forwards.
That’s why I’m so thankful to work at Spotify, where improvement is a huge focus. I don’t know any other company where that mindset is quite so ingrained. Everything we do here isn’t seen as a final version – it’s a step along the way to learning more and working better. We’re always trying to evolve and grow, and improvement really is in the company’s DNA.
Now that we’re all working remotely, meetings seem to be wrapping up a little earlier, but I always spend another half hour at my computer and go over the actions I have for the day. Then, I step outside – now that it’s springtime, the garden here is coming alive and new shoots are popping up every day. It’s wonderful to see the seasons change in a way you never notice in the city. Sometimes, we take a walk in the woods before it gets dark. We’re cutting a trail back there to make it more accessible for our friends and family when they come and visit – hopefully in the not-too-distant future…
Published by Spotify Engineering