Welcome to this Spotlight on Essenters! Today we will be speaking with Ilse van Baardwijk, Agile Coach at Essent IT.
NICE TO SPEAK WITH YOU TODAY, ILSE! CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
Hi, I am Ilse and I coach one of our IT departments and their leadership on their collaboration, communications, behavior, quality, and way of working. I am a real ‘small town girl’ and love going into nature to relax and recharge, preferably with my husband and 1,5-year-old son (and my camera).
Sometimes I am more active and go to the office by bike; and play badminton. Other times I don't 😛
I'm passionate about birds, chocolate, and ice cream. In no order, and preferably combined!
CAN YOU BRIEFLY SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED IN IT?
After high school I started studying Psychology at Tilburg University. Although intrigued by people, behavior and group dynamics, the very theoretical type of learning was not my cup ‘a tea. That is why after a year I went to ‘HBO’ to study Communications and Multimedia Design in Den Bosch. That is where I learned some technical stuff as well, which I found an interesting combination.
My first job was at a large Dutch bank as a Webmaster (copy pasting in a CMS), but there I grew in distinct roles and ended up being a Scrum Master (in a marketing department...).
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK AT ESSENT?
After 5 years at the bank, I was ready for a new job. I wanted to work in software development because that is where Agile truly makes sense. Next to that I wanted to work closer to home, back to Brabant!
I found the perfect vacancy which checked all the boxes, and Essent fount their wished colleague in me 😊
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE HERE?
I began my journey at Essent as a Scrum Master. After 2.5 years, I transitioned into the role of an Agile Coach, which has been my focus for the past 2.5 years. I coach a department of about 70 people: developers, data scientists, leadership. I help them facilitate/organize bigger events that overarch teams, I give them feedback on the way they work together, I train new Essent IT joiners on our way of working and next to that I lead the community of Scrum Masters.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING ASPECT OF YOUR JOB SINCE YOU STARTED?
That it is constantly changing. Each team I join presents its own unique challenges. Every department and team are on a different level and needs a different approach to things. Every department and team operates at a different level, requiring distinct approaches. The advantage is that we take the initiative. When the environment calls for a specific direction, we reorganize ourselves to meet that demand.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CULTURE WITHIN YOUR TEAM OR DEPARTMENT?
At Essent, we cultivate an open and transparent culture. Throughout the company, there's a familial vibe; even if you don't know someone, you'll find yourself greetings each other. While there are periods when everyone is deeply committed and working tirelessly, there's also room to relax and have fun together.
Moreover, honest conversations are at the core of our interactions. We prioritize giving and receiving feedback, something I actively advocate for as a coach.
WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU THINK ARE MOST IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS IN YOUR ROLE OR TEAM?
Having compassion and empathy and being able to understand situations from different perspectives is very important in my role. I'm not deciding what others should do, I make sure others align and come up with ideas that work for both parties. In that sense I spend quite some time connecting people to reach consensus and co-create.
Next to that it's useful to be good at organizing events and have the courage to advise management on how they should or should not act.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE EVOLVING IN THE FUTURE?
Firstly, I anticipate the team of coaches expanding over time. As we transition more towards being a tech company and scale our IT department, the demand for proficient Agile Coaches will undoubtedly increase. Our role is also evolving. We are currently emphasizing the hiring of experienced internal Scrum Masters. They will address more team-level concerns and support the RTE (Release Train Engineer) with specific tasks, allowing us to concentrate on varied topics.
WHAT ARE SOME PERSONAL HABITS OR PRACTICES THAT YOU FEEL MAKE YOU MORE EFFECTIVE IN YOUR JOB?
I think it's all about the mix! I feel I'm very strong in structuring, planning and preparation. That only benefits our group because there are colleagues with other capabilities. Generally, I believe it's vital for Agile Coaches to quickly adapt to new situations and individuals, adjusting their communication styles to meet the specific needs of those contexts and people.
ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE ASPIRING TO WORK IN YOUR FIELD OR IN A ROLE SIMILAR TO YOURS?
In my view, having firsthand experience with various facets of a job strengthens one's expertise. For example, I currently lead the Scrum Master Community, but before becoming an Agile Coach, I served as a Scrum Master. This background allows me to empathize with their perspective and understand their challenges more intimately. While it might sound straightforward, it's often beneficial to start from the ground up. Complement this hands-on experience with theoretical knowledge and remain receptive to new, even if slightly daunting, experiences.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of feedback. Regularly seek it from those you've collaborated with recently. It provides invaluable insights into areas of improvement and strengths worth preserving.
We would like to thank Ilse for the time she took to speak to us, and for the insights she shares.
If you have any lingering questions for her, do not hesitate to drop a comment below. We will ensure you are promptly connected.