April 8, 2021
Bob Galen is a well-known name in the agile community and it was my pleasure to host him for the latest Fresh Agile Voices interview. One of the first things I wanted to tackle with Bob was his commitment to helping individuals who lack the advantages he and I enjoy. Like me, Bob is an aging white male. Bob and I had privileges and an easier path than those who are black, brown, non-male, or in other ways missing out on the advantages he and I took for granted. I am inspired by how Bob has been proactive in finding ways to do something about that.
Check out the short video below and learn what Bob is doing about BLM and other causes and what he recommends that others do to help. Enjoy!
Anthony: Hi I’m thrilled today to have, as my guest, Bob Galen someone who needs very little introduction. I’ve known Bob for about three years now. We’ve had the chance to collaborate on a number of different projects. I always learn a lot when I’m working with Bob and I always laugh a lot. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome Bob and Bob, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Bob: Hey, Anthony. Good to see you. I agree I have fun with you as well. You’re one of the good ones. So I enjoy working with you. I’m Bob Galen, everyone. I’m an agile coach. I live in Cary, North Carolina. Been doing coaching for a little while. You know, it would be a few, a few decades in the agile space and doing coaching.
I do some training as well. I probably have areas of specialty, if you will, or interest. Product ownership is an interest area of mine. Agile leadership is an interest area of mine. I just started, I’ve written a few books, but what I’m excited about now is I have a new project. I’m writing a book on agile coaching.
So that’s a new area. I’ve been whining about agile coaching and some of the aspects of agile coaching in our industry. And I’ve been whining for several years about it. And then it dawned on me like Bob Galen. And I talked to myself that way. I’m like, Bob, you need to stop whining and start doing something about it.
So I’m going out. I’m hoping that the book will maybe make a difference, a little difference in the world. So that’s enough about me.
Anthony: Awesome. Well, Bob, you don’t look like the other people that I’ve interviewed for the Fresh Agile Voices series. An obvious question is why are you here today?
Bob: I’ve been asking myself that same question Anthony so I mean, yes, I may, I’m a 60 something white guy, grandfather but who’s very passionate about it, it’s not just black lives matter. Several years ago, George Floyd impacted me, and the, you know, or the protest impacted me. And I’ve been talking to my daughter about it for several years. I’ve been trying to create more diversity in my workshops that I give.
And a few years ago, I was talking to my daughter Rhiannon and she’s a social worker. So she’s much more tuned into this than I am. And she has a very diverse group. She’s a director of training and organizational development and a social worker, child social work from in New York City. So very tuned in to this and she does training and I was complaining about one of my workshops and I was, I was complaining about it. The audiences in diverse, the classes in diverse. And she asked me what I did about it. And I’m like, I sent out an email and I invited everyone and she’s like, well, what else did you do? And I’m like, I sent out five emails, but what do you want for me?
And, and, and this is what I got, I got, you know, basically white folks like me or whatever. I mean, there was some diversity in the room and she’s like, dad, you have to work for it. And that was really an epiphany for me. She’s like, you can’t, there’s a. There’s a key point. You could be trying to attract diversity link, trying to support it, or you can be complaining about it.
There’s a theme here, everyone. Or you can actually take, you have to take action if you want to make a change. And she’s like, it’s not just good enough. I remember it like it was yesterday. This is probably two and a half years ago. She’s like, you have to, if you want a more diverse crowd, then you have to reach out to, to you know, African American women.
If you want more women, you have to reach out to women. You may actually have to ring like direct. You have to invite someone. You may have to offer them a discount because they can’t afford it. You may have to change the time. So it’s a more approachable time for them. Otherwise, they can’t come. And I. And I, I actually was, I was argumentative with her initially.
I did. So I don’t always take correction for my children very well. So, but, but after a few days, it like, it dawned on me and I’m like, you know, you’re right. I need to get off my butt and I need to get my, if I want, if I care about this, then I need to change what I’m doing. And then a year or so ago, you know, just the events really galvanized me.
So I realized that I have a platform. I podcast, I blog, I’m pretty, well-respected in the agile community. And so the thing, and I do training and coaching. So I’m like, what can I, what, how can I use my platform to make a difference and not just talk about it, but I got to get off my butt and I got to take action.
And that’s, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Yeah, I want to get to some of those specific steps. Cause I think that’s, that’s the main reason I wanted you to come today is to share what you’re doing and hopefully inspire other people. But just a quick personal note, my, I have a daughter who’s also a social worker and it was through her actions that we were out supporting the black lives.
Matter movements and protesting last summer, if she hadn’t had a tough conversation with me over dinner, I probably wouldn’t have gotten engaged the way that I have. So thank God for daughters. Exactly. So with that, I, I noticed, you know, on your website now, if we go out to your blog we see a black lives matter.
A link. And I know you and Josh Anderson had been talking about this on the Medi-Cal. Tell us about some of the specific things you’re doing and hopefully, that’ll inspire others and open their minds up a little bit.
Well, one thing that I’m, I’m, I’m doing it, I’m sort of proud of is that, so I teach agile leadership certified agile leadership class and Anthony you, and I’ve actually done that together and I’ve done that for a while.
And so I’m offering discounts, I’m offering diversity discounts, discounts for women people of color I’m really, it’s not just African-Americans it’s anyone. Any anyone military, I, I broadened it to I did a stint in the army and I’m like, I think veterans are underserved sometimes folks who were underemployed and who were trying to get back and particularly get passionate about women who are trying to get back into the workplace and, and doing it.
So, I cut the price to make it almost just. You know, breakeven a little bit more. I don’t want to give it away for free because I want folks to work for it, but I want it to be approachable. So, so the classes I’ve done that and that’s actually, I’ve gotten really good receptions around that. And I’ve my classes.
So I’ll tell you, Anthony. I saw something on LinkedIn, a class, maybe a class one or two or three classes ago. And I have a lot of LinkedIn connections and there was this an African-American woman who commented on one of my pictures from Macau class. And she said, That, that looks like a very diverse class and it just warmed my heart.
It just, and it was a, it was a diverse class. It was like half and half women. Probably five or six of people of color in the class was maybe capped at 12. So, but to get people to recognize that I’m trying, it just warmed my heart a little bit. So the classes are one thing. And I think everyone, if you’re doing something like that to it I’ve actually done two classes just for folks.
I’m lucky that I have some connections who are very tuned into Africa, to Nigeria and to some other countries in Africa. There’s a young lady in Texas, a new Gopal, and she has created this africaagility.org. So everyone can the website’s down now. So don’t, don’t go to the website, but, but and what they did is they did a boot camp for young women in Legos, Nigeria who were trying to get into this what is it? STEM. Who are trying to become more STEM aware, and they ran a bootcamp for them. They did a scrum master. They did some agile classes. They build a website or something. They did graphical design. They were doing web offering and it was like a three or four week bootcamp. And I started contributing to her groups, so a hundred dollars.
So not only do I have discounts, but every, every diversity seat that I sell, I give a hundred bucks to a newsgroup for these girls. And they’re training them. I don’t know if you remember, but the government was shooting young people in Nigeria, awhile back, and it really affected this group.
One of the students was actually killed. So I don’t think we realize how challenging it is. So I’m trying to look geographically. It’s not just African-Americans in the United States, but I’m trying to look as broadly with my connections as I can and to give back. So I continue to give to that organization.
It’s something that I’m really sort of passionate about, so that’s that. So giving some sort of sponsoring some groups, I’ve done some CAL classes that are directed purely to African Americans too, and then some general classes. The other thing that we’re that Josh and I do is we just try there’s a local group here in Raleigh Durham who’s trying to do reach out to students. To minority students before they get into college to influence them. So it’s sort of high school students, or very early in college to help sort of explain to them the advantages of going into technology and agile and to do a modicum of training. It’s called standout.
Camille Spruill she has a company down here, a woman-owned company, agile coaching, and she’s sponsoring that. So I guess what I’m saying is I’ve raised my hand and said, and maybe the good news is I’ve raised my hand and the bad news. Good news is a lot of people have reached out. I’m almost tapped out, but, but people were reaching out to me to help in these areas that I can use my platform to help.
And I’m particularly. I’m just proud of it. Josh and I talk about one of the biggest problems. I think the black lives matter movement almost it’s sort of sputtered a little bit. It had that energy and he and I are trying to maintain our energy towards the action. And I think that’s one of the things that’s hard sometimes is you can have an immediate reaction, but, but I think it’s important to sustain it over time.
So we’re trying to, yeah.
Anthony: Yeah especially for those of us who aren’t don’t have the day-to-day impacts. It’s easy to be complacent. And to get busy with the preoccupations, what my daughter calls the first world problems, you know and we neglect to think about others. So I’m inspired by all of this, and I want to encourage others.
You know, part of this platform is giving voice to some of the people in agile world, in the agile coaching space specifically who might not otherwise have a voice. But what other recommendations might you have for people who have a desire to help or feel motivated, but don’t know where to get started.
Bob: I think you have to be relentless. You have to look, it goes back to my daughter’s comment to me, Anthony. So everyone, if you’re interested, I’ll, I’m passionate, you know, black lives matter, diversity women in agile. Whoo. All right. And then it’s like, but then you’re like sitting there saying, well, they, they need to find me or no one’s knocking at my door and it’s like, no, you need to get up off your ass and you need to like find opportunities.
It really is important for us. I don’t think there’s any magic. I’m finding these, leverage your network. So my daughter and I spoke at a women in agile group in Charlotte about diversity just a week ago. And we reached out to the women in our agile, so I saw something on LinkedIn and I reached out to them.
So I extended my hand and I’m like, can I talk? I invited my daughter to do like a mini panel with me. And she accepted and we scheduled it and it really worked out. I mean, this was focused more towards women, but there were minorities or people of color, the situation with women in Asia.
Right. Asians. And what’s going on in this country now with Asians came up and we were talking about that. And, and so that didn’t land in my lap. I had to create that, that connection I have with the new I had to, I had to exercise that. So a few about a month or so ago, I found scrum masters and there’s a group of scrum masters of African descent on meetup.
Bob: And there’s this, there’s this young guy. Scrum master in North Carolina, but it’s a global group. We had a bunch of people from Chicago from your area attend. Anthony, it was on a Sunday. It was two to four o’clock on a Sunday Eastern time. And I did like an ask me anything session there.
And I connected with this guy and I hit just, it was me waving my hand and then they connected. Then I said, yes, I’ll do it. Now I wrinkled my forehead because it was a Sunday afternoon for goodness sakes. So that’s, that’s not the most convenient time, but you do you know that there were over 80 people attending
Anthony: That’s awesome
Bob: Sunday afternoon. A scrum master and there were some wonderful questions. I actually wrote a blog post that was inspired by like how to find ScrumMaster jobs with little to no experience. And it was inspired by that session. So the short answer, everyone, you can tell I’m a long answer guy. The short answer is I think you have to work for it.
And I would offer if you’re willing to work for it, then you can reach out to me. And I can inspire you with ideas and I can inspire you with connections, but you gotta be willing to work for it. And you gotta be willing to do the sweat equity. I don’t know any other way to say it.
Anthony: I love your examples of reaching out in almost every case. You’re, you’re talking about a partnership, an outreach that you made that resulted in a relationship, and then you’re working together with somebody. I mean, that’s really what it’s all about.
Bob: And I’ll tell you what, it’s the most rewarding thing. No one is, you know, sending you cards or anything, but it is one of the, I find it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to give back. You and I’ve talked about this before. I think we have a responsibility, you know, agile has been very good to us and we have platforms and I think everyone has somewhat responsibility to give back or to pay it forward. But these, you know, I was coaching someone and they were on, I do a moose, her to lean coffee and this guy attended this morning and he’s white, but he’s older. And he did 95 interviews to find a scrum master coach job and he finally landed the job. I think he was experiencing some age discrimination and I did some mock interviews with him. And I tried to provide a little bit of coaching with him.
It matters immensely, the little things that each one of us can do.
Anthony: Well, I’m really inspired by your, your efforts, Bob, and what you’ve done, how creative you’ve been. Before we close, is there anything that we can do to support you or anything that you want to promote today?
Bob: I would like this to result in everyone that reads this and gets inspired, reach out to Anthony.
I want you to inundate him with requests, with energy and spirit, and then Anthony can be a router to me. With a little bit of overflow because I’m tapped out. My WIP limit. Anthony and I were joking about this earlier. So I have to manage by volunteer WIP, but in all seriousness, what anyone who’s seeing this, you, I would like to inspire you to take personal accountability and try to find something small that you can do seriously, reach out to Anthony and seriously reach out to me.
We have to make a difference and that’s not slow down. That’s not having this be one event and five years from now, you know, we’re looking back and it’s like, black lives mattered, but now we’re, we’re not going to change the world if we don’t maintain some energy and we owe that, I think that’s our privilege.
So I’m going to speak for Anthony real quick, everyone. We, he and I are privileged and maybe some of you are privileged. We have to embrace our privilege, not be shy about it, embrace it, be thankful for it. And then part of that action is part of our privilege is extending. I want everyone who’s listening, extend a hand out, extend a hand out to other people and just help where you can.
That’s really how we need to handle our privilege.
Anthony: That’s wonderful. That’s well said, Bob, I don’t want to add anything on there or take anything away from your message. Thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it. Keep that WIP level sustainable.
Bob: I will. I’ll try
Anthony: And we’ll talk again soon.
I look forward to collaborating with you again on some projects.