In this interview by Dave Prior, Vivek Angiras describes his great experience as a volunteer at Agile2015 — the Agile industry’s premier event — which attracted more than 2,300 attendees from over 40 countries to Washington, D.C., August 3-7, 2015.
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Hi. This is Dave Prior. This is a post-Agile2015 podcast interview. One of the interviews that we recorded during the show that actually got corrupted when we were transferring data back and forth was with Vivek Angiras and Aakash Srinivasan. Vivek is going to teach me how to pronounce his name right in a second, but I am doing the best I can for a guy from Oklahoma. Vivek was there for a number of reasons. One of them was to volunteer. First, can you teach me how to say your name right and then can you talk a little bit about what led you to want to volunteer at the conference?
[Vivek Angiras] Actually Dave, you were almost spot on. I mean, I am really happy that you were able to pronounce my name. It’s Vivek Angiras. You were pretty close. As you mentioned, I was there at the conference for a couple of reasons. Primarily I was there for volunteering and this was my first time volunteering at such a big event. We had more than 2,300 people attending in different capacities, from speakers to sponsors to attendees, so it was an amazing experience from a volunteering standpoint. Also, based on your suggestion, we also did I would say a mini-version of the video podcasts that you guys did – I would call them video snippets – just to get an overall perspective of not just the speakers and the attendees, but to also look at from the perspective of sponsors, to a program chair, to a volunteer coordinator — how they were looking at this conference and what was the feedback so far. So, it was an amazing experience altogether.
[Dave] Cool. We’ll put this video up when we put this interview up. What they did were “man on the street interviews”, so a costumed Vivek walked with a camera and stopped folks in the hallway and asked them a bunch of questions and they were very kind in giving some really cool answers and they put it together in a nice short film that kind of gives a good representation of how people feel about the Agile Conference. Or at least some of the folks they talked to.
[Vivek] That’s pretty spot-on. Yes, that’s what we did and like you said, the answers were really interesting. We got a whole range of emotions from “Wow. This is really amazing! This completely blew my mind” to “Yes, yes.” and suggestions for Agile2016. So I think there is something that everybody can take out of the short conversations that we had with a lot of folks.
[Dave] So for folks that might be interested in volunteering next year, how did you guys find out about it? What was that process like for you?
[Vivek] The process was very straightforward in terms of reaching out to Agile Alliance and inquiring. I think I inquired about 4-5 months ago just to see if they were looking for volunteers and any form of help that I could provide. I mean, for this time around, it was much easier for me because I am local to D.C. and the conference was in D.C. So I think that also weighed in as one of the factors, but the process is quite straightforward. You reach out to Agile Alliance and they would get you in touch with one of the volunteer coordinators and you start off those initial conversations just to see how many people they are expecting for the upcoming conference and according to that, they would try to see how many volunteers are required for the conference.
[Dave] Okay. So you guys were able to go to some sessions or at least you had time to go to some sessions as well before you were pressed into service doing video interviews?
[Vivek] Actually we were fortunate to attend a few sessions, one by Jeff Patton on user stories – that was pretty cool. We also attended one by Lyssa Adkins. So, actually, the sessions that we attended as volunteers were pretty packed up. The sessions were sold out and I think we had more than, I would say close to 150 to 200 people in the room. So the sessions were very well-attended.
[Dave] Cool. So when you’re volunteering, everyone sees the purple shirts walking around and asks some questions, but what kind of specific things do they have you guys do?
[Vivek] There are a bunch of things. One of the things is to see if the speakers have all they need for presenting in terms of the logistics working. For Lyssa Adkins’ session, she had some specific around how many people could be there for that particular session. So she was specific that we can only have 100 people and we would need the chairs in a certain way. Different speakers have different needs. So, one would be to cater their needs. The second thing is that we also had to look from the perspective that a lot of times people come into these sessions and they intend to go to some other sessions, because one time an attendee was mentioning that there was a morning session on Day 3 when in that time slot there were 17 sessions going on at the same time. So you can imagine that there could be times when people intend to go to a certain session, but they end up going to another one. So we were also helping folks out with that and we helped them in trying to identify where should they go for their intended session.
[Dave] So it is a lot of work, but you get to go to the conference for free.
[Vivek] That is true.
[Dave] I also want to plug the video. You guys also came to the Scrum Gathering in Phoenix a couple of months ago and you are both working on your CSCs and you shot a bunch of interviews with CSTs and that was an effort to try to give back to the community a little bit, right?
[Vivek] That is correct. It was in terms of paying it forward to the community because, especially for me, I have been an Agile coach and trainer for a while so I think I would look at this from two angles. One is, yes of course, we want to make sure we have been working in the Agile space for a while and how we can pay it back. But also on another level, going to the conferences and gatherings like the Global Scrum gathering or Agile2015, this is also a sort of validation of what we do as Agile coaches and trainers and when you see the number of people who are coming in, it’s like wow— this is something that people are really interested in— and it’s a good feeling.
[Dave] If people want to see the videos, where would they go to look for them?
[Vivek] We have the videos on YouTube for the Global Scrum Gathering and on our Twitter handles, if anybody wants to go my Twitter handle which is @vivangiras or Aakash Srinivasan’s Twitter handle, @AakashKvs, they will be able to find those videos there as well.
[Dave] Thank you so much for taking the time and I apologize that things went wrong earlier. I really appreciate you being willing to sit through this. And I would encourage anybody out there to take up volunteering. In all the professional organizations that I have been lucky enough to be a part of, with volunteering I feel like you always get back way more than you put into it because you get to meet different people and you build your network and it’s also cool to be able to do something for the good of the community.
[Vivek] I think you are absolutely right. I mean, you build different networks, you get to meet a whole bunch of people that you don’t even expect to meet when you come in, especially when, as you said, you are wearing a purple t-shirt. You get to interact with so many different people so, yes, the experience is really amazing. I would certainly say if someone is thinking about volunteering, they should certainly give it a shot and try it out for themselves.
[Dave] Thanks—I appreciate you taking the time out for this.
[Vivek] No problem. Thank you very much, Dave.