Getting Involved with Agile20XX and How You Can Join the Team as a Conference Chair or Volunteer

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In part one of our series about how you can get involved in the AGILE20xx conference, we took a look at the role Reviewers play. Next we examined what’s involved in the roles of Track Chair and Program Chair. Now you’ll learn how to become a conference chair or a volunteer.

Conference Chair

As the Agile20XX conference chair, you are the face of the event. You need to put together a program team to assist you, find engaging and entertaining keynote speakers, and work with the program chairs and track chairs to create the best program possible. In this role, you have the ability to propose new tracks for the conference and set a tone for the event. You also act as a program chair for the Special Tracks. You have the immense joy of sending the acceptance notifications out to all of the speakers participating in the conference, and also the challenge of communicating to the submitters who are not part of the program this year. You will engage and work with the program chairs, track chairs, event planners, speakers, and Agile Alliance staff and board members. During the week of the event, you’ll be on stage to provide valuable information to the attendees and introduce the keynote speakers. Your main goal is to create the best conference experience possible for everyone involved.

This role requires strong communication skills and significant amount of time and dedication. This role comes with free registration and accommodation plus some compensation.

Here’s what several recent conference chairs say about their experience:

Starting in 2007, I have attended every Agile Alliance 20xx conference.  I’m incredibly honored to have participated in pretty much every role possible – attendee, volunteer, reviewer, open jam participant, speaker, track co-chair, program team member, and as Agile2017 conference chair.  When David Hussman asked me to be a submission reviewer in 2010, I immediately said yes; simply to give back to a conference that had helped me grow.  As the years continued, my desire to give back intensified while I found myself constantly learning in unexpected ways.  Looking back, I’m proud of elements that I was able to influence, such as creating the Audacious Salon track as an experiment to help with creating an advanced space for immediate collaboration and growth. Yet, what I’m most grateful for each of these roles is formation of new connections, deepening existing relationship and an overwhelming appreciation for the Agile community. – Tricia B.

I’m a 2-time Agile20xx Conference Chair (Agile2016, Agile2018). These two years have some of the most exciting and rewarding years of my professional life! I’ve been in the Agile world for almost 20 years now, and I owe a good bit of my success to the Agile community. Being Conference Chair of the largest Agile conference in the world is my way of giving back to the community and paying it forward to those who are just beginning. These two opportunities have been the culmination of a lot of work over the years. I definitely rose up through the ranks, starting by speaking at the conference, then moving into volunteering to review submissions from others. That grew into being a track chair for several years, then a program chair a few times, and finally conference chair in 2016 and 2018. Along the way, my conference involvement has allowed me build friendships with many of the leading names in the Agile world, be exposed to new ideas as they are forming, and learn from many of the best in our field. But best of all, being Conference Chair has allowed me to play a big part in ensuring 2500 of my closest Agile friends can come to a single event each summer, build their own friendships and relationships, see new ideas for themselves, and learn from the best. – Brian B.

I first became involved with the Agile20XX conference for the Agile2012 event as a reviewer. I saw getting involved with the conference as a great way to learn and engage with the larger Agile community. With support from my track chair, my employer supported me attending the event in 2012 and it was truly a life-changing event. I found my people!

Over the past 7 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited back as a track chair, program chair, and finally conference chair. Each role provides new and amazing ways to engage with the community, influence the conference, learn, and grow. This journey has had a significant impact on me as an individual – I’ve made incredible friendships, developed confidence in my own ability to speak and share ideas, and learned so much from all of the people involved in the event. It’s been a lot of hard work from everyone involved in the conference, and I hope that all of the effort and care shines through for Agile2019 in Washington, DC this year. – Christina H.


The greatest difference between being a volunteer and filling another conference role is that a volunteer is committed to serve 25 hours during the actual conference as opposed to prior to the conference.  Volunteer work starts early on the Sunday prior to the conference, where the team assembles and designs a process to pack the approximately 2500 swag bags for handing out to attendees; this includes sorting all those t-shirts.  It is at this time that all volunteers receive the mandatory Code of Conduct (CoC) training, which ensures they are able to support the CoC throughout the conference and act as a safe zone for attendees.  The volunteers then man the registration opportunities with Alliance staff for distribution of the bags and shirts on both Sunday and Monday.  Once the conference starts, our volunteers, armed with their purple pride t-shirts, are distributed throughout the week to various stations in support of the conference needs.  They will perform activities such as venue guides, party guides, extra hands to assist when a runner is needed, session help for each speaker.  Occasionally, the team will have an “off the cuff” need and the team will adapt. The team will have standups twice a day, meeting at the their Kanban wall to review where they volunteered and to self-form with their teammates.  The team will round out the week with a Respective session and team picture.  The team pride formed throughout the week has been the greatest gift most volunteers have taken away at the end.

If you would like to apply to be a conference volunteer, please complete this form.

Here’s how some volunteers describe their experiences:

Volunteering has given me the opportunity to be involved in the professional community, where people come together in a more cordial way and where life-changing stories and ideas flow into the air. Having the chance to interact in this type of environment with so many people at this level, helped me to move further with my career, when I was on the point to give up and switch to something else. – Emanuel M.

My key takeaway as a volunteer is the strong sense of community within the volunteer group. As a returning volunteer, helping the 1st time volunteers and attendees really gave me a great sense of satisfaction and purpose. Two of my most powerful moments were discussion with 1st time presenters; we reflected on the importance of both the fears and successes in their sessions. I realized that I made an impact in their experience as a speaker. The impact it had on me was having an aha moment of understanding servant leadership.  – Jane B.

I must say, the benefits of volunteering are not for the AA organization so to get work force. As a volunteer. I feel so fulfilled when this help me connect with others, make new friends and learn new skills. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” This is a powerful quote and personally, I get so much satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the Agile community. Great thanks for giving me the opportunity to make a difference! – Cherifa

I am part of the Agile Alliance New Zealand and have organised and facilitated Agile Tauranga for 2 years and was also part of the crew of the first Agile on the Beach New Zealand this year. I volunteer because I am passionate about improving team work, working practices and outputs with the implementation of Agile practices. So what was next – America and a world class event! I have volunteered for Agile Alliance 2020 for the same reasons – wanting to help build a community of people who are passionate about all things Agile – but also so that I can learn and then help improve the delivery of our local and regional events. -Carol M

Volunteering has meant fulfillment for me
Extremely proud and happy for the opportunity to volunteer at Agile conference. Probably, best way to experience the Agile conference
Conferences are an excellent source for networking; Serving in the volunteer increased my opportunity to expand my network by at least 10 folds
On a personal level, I see it as a friend & family reunion

– AnkurA.

Having the privilege and honor to be part of the Purple shirts has meant several things to me.

First being part of a team that works together to make sure every attendee has what they need gives me the greatest satisfaction in a servant role.  Knowing doing something so small can make their day go smoother and the conference more satisfying makes me feel that I have the best job!

Second, it has given me the opportunity to increase my Agile knowledge in a way I would never get anywhere else.

Lastly, the bond and friendships that last long after the conference ends can’t be found on any other team like the Purple shirts.

Sorry way more than a few sentences…but purple runs through my veins and gets me excited! – Patricia G.

About the Authors

Agile Alliance is a nonprofit organization with global membership, supporting and serving the Agile software community since 2001. We support people who explore and apply Agile values, principles, and practices to make building software solutions more effective, humane, and sustainable. We share our passion to deliver software better every day.

Emma comes with a degree in Computer Science many moons ago and chose to work as a test engineer, starting out as a compiler tester in the semi conductor chip industry. During this time she became familiar with both hardware and software and used many languages to develop and enhance automated testing against a suite of tools and enable developers to be able to initiate their own builds and determine the status of these and allow them to investigate build issues early.
This good grounding in the development lifecycle and the varied development activities form what is now called DevOps, develop build and test through to release was invaluable to the rest of her career.
She has continued this career path under different job titles and in different methodologies and varied languages but always believing that it is important to consider the whole cycle from conception through to value delivery, support and maintenance. This led to a feeling of affinity with agile and she now works as an agile coach. She has been actively involved in training and coaching internally throughout her career but stepped out of her comfort zone to reach a wider audience within the community. Being part of the BBST training team, speaking at conferences and running workshops and continually learning.

Christina is the Director of Agile Learning at ICAgile. In this role she's working with the ICAgile team to advance the state of agile learning globally. Christina's worked in some fascinating businesses including government agencies, oil and gas companies, and policing. Over the past 15+ years working in IT she's held roles in testing, development, management, business analysis, product ownership, and guiding organizational change.

A self-proclaimed nerd, Brandon Carlson works for Lean TECHniques, Inc., an IT consultancy that helps teams deliver high-value, high-quality products to market. Since starting his career in 1995, Brandon has held positions from development and architecture to management - and he's still learning. Passionate about developing both people and products, he and his team at Lean TECHniques have helped countless organizations from startups to Fortune 100 companies improve their product development and delivery systems. Brandon can be reached won Twitter @bcarlso and pretty much everywhere else on the web as "bcarlso."

Dana Pylayeva is an Agile Leadership Coach, an international speaker, author and Agile games designer, and creator of “DevOps with Lego and Chocolate” simulation, “Fear in the Workplace,” “Safety in the Workplace,” and “Dependency Game.” Dana is an ICF Credentialed Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach(CEC), and Training from the Back of the Room Certified Trainer (TBR-CT).

She is passionate about unleashing leadership potential in individuals and teams. She brings a powerful combo of multiple coaching styles (Co-Active, Positive Intelligence, Executive Coaching), facilitation with Liberating Structures, deep knowledge of Agile and DevOps space as well as a breadth of experience working with remote teams and international clients (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Japan, India, etc).

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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