Speaker interview: Malie Lalor

Speaker interview: Malie Lalor

Malie has been working as a ScrumMaster since mid-2015. Her love of Agile dates back from the years she worked as part of the product team that piloted Scrum for relaunching OxfordDictionaries.com at OUP. Malie’s interest in helping offshore teams gel stems from her work at Pearson, where her team members are located in India, Sri Lanka, and the UK. She uses Scrum and Kanban to help the team deliver software that accelerates students’ learning and makes schoolteachers’ lives easier. A Certified ScrumMaster, she is constantly inspired and daunted by how much there is still to learn about Scrum.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As I young child, I wanted to be a teacher. I did have the opportunity to do some teaching once I left university, when I discovered that it’s an extremely tough job! That experience left me with a lasting respect and admiration for teachers who face the challenges of the classroom every day, and an abiding love of nice stationery.

What’s your favourite aspect of your current role as ScrumMaster?

I love taking care of the team, interacting with them, and seeing them succeed. I enjoy quickly sorting out small problems that hamper the team’s productivity and happiness, and working together to devise more sophisticated solutions to complex challenges. Facilitating a good retro, where we talk about the stuff that matters, and where everyone’s voice is heard, is where I feel all of these aspects are beautifully combined.

What do you find to be your biggest work-related challenge, and how do you approach that challenge?

One of the biggest challenges in my role at Pearson is the physical distance between team members - most of our development team is based in Chennai, India. In removing the obstacles to good collaboration caused by this distance, there are the physical / technical aspects to consider (wifi connections, timezones etc.), and then there are the less tangible elements, such as building the trust, openness and respect needed for successful collaboration. The technical stuff is very important, but trying to foster strong team relationships is the cornerstone of my approach.

We’re thrilled to have you at the first ever Ground Control! What made you want to be a part of the conference?

In the past I’ve gained so much from conference talks and meetups, where I’ve learnt from others’ experiences, and the Ground Control conference felt like a good chance to offer the benefit of my own personal experiences in return. I think many people are daunted by the idea of developing software with an offshore team, and I’d be very happy if I could inspire someone in the same position with the optimism to make it work.

Finally, what piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started out in the field?

I’ve been in my role for less than two years, and I feel like I’m still starting out - so any advice on a postcard, please! Seriously though, I’ve had the benefit of some great mentors and support at Pearson and the wider Agile / Scrum / DPM community. One of the pieces of advice I took to heart early on was from Sam Barnes in his talk “You can do well, or you can do good”. He emphasised the importance of humility, empathy and integrity - and not forgetting that teams are humans. Sound advice for working in any field, and a creed to live by.

Don't miss Malie's session on Scrum success tips: Dos & don'ts for distributed teams!

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