Getting Involved with Agile20XX and How You Can Join the Team as a Track Chair or Program Chair

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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. Now we’ll examine what’s involved in the roles of Track Chair and Program Chair.

If you would like to be involved in helping to shape future AGILE20XX conferences, please leave us a comment below, find us at the conference, or complete this form.

Track Chair

As a track chair, you generally work with another co-chair to devise the scope of your track, consider its name, and put together an initial track description aimed at attracting submitters.  You invite people to join your review team and socialize that submissions are open. You then work with your review team to determine the best means of working on your track, be that pairing on reviews, ways to provide feedback, and coordinating the efforts across the track.  With the continued support of your review team, you evaluate the submissions and make your recommendations for the program.  You attend the conference and continue to look after your track and help resolve anything that may come to light, all the while having the opportunity to see your track come to life, engage with some talented and interesting individuals, and expand your knowledge.  This role comes with free conference attendance, hotel for the duration of your stay, and some compensation. After three years as a Track chair, you have to roll off so that we can invite new voices into the role and continue to widen the perspectives of the team, allowing people have been reviewers to move into this role.

Here’s what one of our track chairs has to say about his experience:

I first spoke at Agile2007 where i presented an experience report on scaling product ownership, shortly after that i moved to New Zealand. Unfortunately the cost of traveling to the conference from there was prohibitive. I volunteered to become a reviewer as a substitute to traveling to the conference. I found reviewing the submissions very rewarding, I learned about new trends, got new ideas to try at work, and tried to imagine being there. I have reviewed on four different tracks over the last 7 years Coaching and Mentoring, Culture Collaboration and Teams, Leadership, and Enterprise Agile. Aside from learning many new things I have made some great friends and mentors along the way, recommendations from those mentors finally led to me becoming a track chair. Co-Chairing a track is even more rewarding than being a reviewer, you get the benefits of reviewing new submissions, but you also get the rewarding experience of helping to create a great team.” – Mike L.

Interested in becoming a Track Chair for Agile20xx? The easiest way to get started is to complete this form.

Program Chair

This is where you get to be privy to some of the inner workings of event planning, and be grateful that they are in someone else’s very capable hands. Who knew to remove 10% for AV equipment to room numbers? 🙂  On a more serious note, as a program chair you get to look after a particular theme of the program; be it people, process, or technical.  You get to work with track chairs on track descriptions that encourage submitters and help guide them to the most relevant track.  You also work with the other program chairs and the conference chair to continue to improve the focus and content of the conference.  The role requires you to attend face-to-face meetings twice before the conference (around December and March) and attend the conference itself.  Throughout the year, you will also have regular remote meetings with the program team and some meetings with the track chairs at various times during the year (e.g. track chair kick off meetings, check in meetings, etc.). You also need to connect and be available to the track chairs under your program.  During the conference, you continue to work on making it the best conference it can be and helping out where needed. You also have the opportunity to attend some sessions.  This role also comes with free conference attendance, hotel for the duration of your stay, and some compensation.

Please note: To be considered for this role, candidates must first work in the other conference roles – those of Reviewer and Track Chair – in order to understand the inner workings of the conference.

Here’s what prior program chairs have said about their experiences:

I originally became involved in 2013 when I was approached about being a reviewer and Lisa Crispin offered to co-speak with me.  This engagement helped me understand what made a good submission and allowed me to be excited by all the new topics that were being submitted. Lisa helped guide us to a submission that was accepted, and I attended the Agile2014 conference as a speaker and although intimidated at first by the caliber of people and size of the conference; I gained so much out of the experience.  I moved on to the role of track chair and program chair and have enjoyed each of the roles in different ways and have learnt so much and being able to influence changes along the way. – Emma A.

I joined Agile20xx conference in 2007 as a volunteer. Becoming a part of this high-performing team, working together to make a massive annual gathering of Agilists successful – that experience has truly changed my life. Forever since, one week in August has always been the time I spend at Agile20xx. I’ve volunteered for many years, co-led the team of volunteers with Sarah Klarich in 2016, as well as started getting more involved in helping shape the program as a reviewer and a speaker (2015, 2018). I’ve learnt a lot about crafting good proposals by helping others fine-tune theirs. I’ve contributed 2 years in a track co-chair role and enjoyed immensely co-leading reviewers teams with Sam Laing and Tamsen Mitchell.  2019 is my first  year in program chair role and I am learning a ton from Emma, Brandon, and Christina.  I am excited to contribute in this new way and support all passionate, hardworking, dedicated and caring people we are fortunate to have in our community. – Dana P.

I have been volunteering to help out with this conference since the late 2000s. The experience has helped me grow both personally and professionally due to the relationships I’ve built as an active participant in the community. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to connect with so many interesting and talented people and receive the gift of their experiences if it weren’t for helping organize this conference. – Tracey M

Being a reviewer for Agile2019 was an exhilarating and committed experience. It allowed me to learn from my fellow reviewers about how to write well-formed feedback and also how to improve my own submissions. To have an opportunity to critique and provide well-intentioned feedback is never easy, especially in a community of respected peers. The role definitely is challenging from that perspective, but I feel I walked away gaining more from the insights and thinking process of thought leaders trying to bring attention to provoking and change-generating topics. Truly a privilege to be a reviewer especially for a track being introduced for the first time! – Brandon C.


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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