My name is Julia Wester and I live in Seattle, WA with my husband and three beautiful children. I just recently made a job change and am privileged to be an Improvement Coach at LeanKit. I used to say that I was a dev manager during the day and a writer, teacher and change agent in my dreams. Well, now I get to act on those dreams in my day job! I always feel as if there is so much to learn and my blog is aimed at helping people get an easier, everyday perspective on some of the sharp angles of making work easier.
My exposure to the Lean / Kanban world began with a book from David J Anderson called “Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your technology business.” It gave me some tools that were immediately useful in helping me in my first management role at Turner Broadcasting, where I managed the web development team responsible for NBA.com. We began to learn how to stop starting and start finishing. I started to become enlightened in ways that really did help us work smarter and not just harder. That brick wall that we were beating our heads against started getting weaker over time.
Since that worked so well, I decided to go to Lean Software & Systems conference in Boston in 2012. This was my first Lean conference and I was immediately enthralled with the immense amount of knowledge these thought leaders in the field hefted around in their brains. This wasn’t about intellectualism, it was welcoming. This was about people with significant understanding of theory, and genuine experience applying it, sharing their knowledge with others. I felt like I was in graduate school at this conference (and that was a good thing, not a bad one.) I left with new names and faces, a growing understanding that Lean was more than a process and a desire grew within me to learn more and be around these people more.
In the late summer of 2012, I attended a Kanban Masterclass in Port Angeles, WA which was given by David J Anderson and Janice Linden-Reed with Donald Reinertsen making a guest appearance. I also got to meet Russell Healy, maker of the Get Kanban game which I came to love tremendously. This class had a huge focus on not only Kanban, but how to help people through change rather than inflict change upon them. That played to the people person side of me very much and we discussed my team as a case study. I learned a lot more tactical things about how we could experiment and further improve our system on top of all of the change psychology that could help me actually get them done. This trip also showed me how beautiful Washington state was.
Later that year, my best friend was finding herself in need of a job and I helped with her search. As I looked for a job for her, I realized that I could test my abilities with a new team. I figured that if you can help one team, you might just be lucky. But, if you could replicate the experience, much like a scientific experiment, then I might prove that I know a little something about Lean, Kanban, organizational change and teams. Two days before Halloween I got on a plane from Atlanta and landed on my own in Seattle — my husband and kids joining me at Christmas. Arriving on a Saturday, I got to work on Monday at my new job – thus confirming that I’m just a little bit nuts. Part of the reason I moved to Seattle, besides being a Twi-hard (you’ll just have to forgive me for that!) was that I wanted to be near so many of these people that I had begun to hear from and about – Jim Benson, David Anderson, Al Shalloway, Troy Magennis, and the list goes on. This place seemed like a Lean powerhouse! I joined the local lean coffee and kept going to conferences and meeting really great people.
Fast forward to 2015, I’m still in Seattle, I just finished a (nearly) three-year tenure managing web development teams at F5 Networks and am acting on my passion to be a change agent by moving to LeanKit. I’ve learned over time that the process/method/framework/etc isn’t the point, but rather teaching people how to learn from what they’re doing and some tips and tricks they can try to use to improve it and then repeat that loop over and over again. Basically, I want to teach people to be a scientist specializing in improving their own environment and teach organizations how to become learning organizations. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like an expert in anything as I can always see how much ahead there is to learn but I’m learning that everyone has something to share. It doesn’t matter if your ideas are old or new, context makes all the difference and yours is unique.