You are a Technical Program Manager (TPM) and Agile Coach at Quincus. Please share with us what this dual-layered role entails.
As a TPM, my job is to basically be the bridge between the engineering team and the other teams and solve any issues that may arise between them. And as an Agile coach, my job is to educate the Scrum masters and the engineers on Scrum and Agile values, to help our teams become more efficient.
You’ve carved out a career in software. What brought you to logistics/supply chain?
I actually got my start in hardware. But the thing about hardware is, what you see is what you get. You can’t modify it or make it better–you can only buy new hardware. But you can do that with software, whether it’s adding new features, or redesigning the UI, or making other improvements. So I went into software.
Getting into logistics was a bit of an accident. I always thought supply chain was kind of boring. But when I saw that Quincus was looking for a TPM, I thought the role looked interesting–and I noticed that Quincus was a software company. Supply chain turned out to be really interesting. There’s a lot of things you can do in it. And when you add software into the equation, it becomes twice as interesting to work with.
What made you pick up Agile and Scrum? How do they make a difference in software development?
I noticed there was a trend in Taiwan of companies looking for Agile and Scrum masters, so I decided to go in that direction and get certified in it. Also, I like teaching and training people. I like to see people improve and get better at what they do.
I don’t think it’s possible to do software development without Agile anymore. One of the big things about Agile is that every sprint is an experiment–finding out what works and what doesn’t. I think I saw research before which showed that the traditional method of developing software has a 60% chance of failure, while using Agile reduces that to 30%. You experiment, look at the results, and then build on that to get better. Every two weeks. So if that new change you made to your software is not well received by the customer, you’ve wasted just two weeks instead of months. Agile just makes a lot more sense.
Tell us about some challenges you face in your role and how you overcome them.
For both sides of my role, the biggest challenge is communication. When I first started as a TPM, this was very unclear. For example, product owners were not writing user stories in a way that the engineers could interpret them into new features or improvements. I had to establish certain standards of writing user stories. I also set up weekly meetings for the engineers to review the user stories and ask questions like “what does this mean?” and “if I do this, what will happen?”. This helped ensure clear and uninterrupted communication between the people finding out what customers want and the people developing the product.
Agile coaching, at its core, is really about changing the culture, and that’s why in many cases it takes years. And sometimes it fails because changing culture is not so easy. That’s what I do. I try to teach people to take more responsibility for their work. To show commitment, show courage, and ask questions.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about your job?
I enjoy coaching. I find it very rewarding to get people to change their attitudes, work better with others, communicate better, and just get better at doing things in general. I think that’s my unique edge. Years ago, in the U.S, I was a teaching assistant. I taught physics and astronomy to undergraduates who didn’t like science. When I came to Taiwan, I taught English to Taiwanese students. Now I teach people to work better, and I like that. I like seeing people grow personally as well as professionally.
How about working in Quincus? What do you like most about it?
The people. They are awesome to work with. Nice, courteous, patient, and open-minded.
Any advice for budding software developers out there?
They need to be able to be open-minded and learn new things, and not just do things the way they’ve always been doing. Because there’s always going to be somebody who can do things better than you. You need to learn from people who can do things better.
You also need to learn new processes, even if you’ve never seen them before, or you think they are strange, or a waste of time. Maybe they are proven and a lot of people have been using them. Agile, for instance–it’s been in common usage for decades. Who are you to say it doesn’t work? Keep an open mind, and never assume the way you’re working right now is the best way.
Interested in working with Leon on a team you can grow alongside?
Join us at Quincus and unlock your full potential today.