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Not Your Usual Meetup

Hannah Willis // May 21, 2019
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One Friday evening each month, a small user group named Troops N Tech begins gathering in the Improving-Dallas common room. Those here have a major commonality in that all are military veterans or veteran spouses interested in learning how to gain employment in the world of IT and Agile.

 

The 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization Agile for Patriots, and its meetup extension, Troops N Tech, is the brainchild of Greg Gomel, of the Gomel Group, and Ravi Verma, of Smooth Apps. Patriots' services allow participants that have either recently separated from the military or veterans who have been retired for decades gain the skills and experience needed to become great Agile coaches. The Meetup is a less formal gathering space for Patriot graduates and newcomers alike to sharpen skills and stay up to date with the larger Agile community. 

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A Patriots discussion during a recent Troops N Tech Meetup

Friends and Scrum-enthusiasts, Greg and Ravi began Agile for Patriots as a way to support their local veteran community and give back. “If we could take the knowledge we have of training people to be Scrum Masters and apply that to veterans and their spouses, we thought that would be wonderful,” explained Greg. They teamed up with another local veteran focused organization, Allies in Service, that focuses on job placement for veterans. Allies now serves as a pipeline for Patriots, making “sure that people are qualified to come into the program…we’ve been working with them for the last four classes.” 

 

Greg and Ravi found one of their biggest supporters in Don McGreal, VP of Training at Improving and Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. “When Greg and Ravi approached me about the Agile for Patriots program, it was an easy decision to provide them with space to work with and access to our own expert consultants," Don said. " I'm an immigrant to this country, and the Patriots provided me a unique opportunity to give back through my passion for training and agile.”

Don’s involvement led Improving to provide training facilities, financial support, and consultants to support participants growth. Don also currently serves on the Agile for Patriots board.

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Don't let the Legos fool you, Scrum exercises require high amounts of communication and team work.

The path to becoming an Agile Coach through Patriots takes less than two months, though many would say Scrum practices take a lifetime to master. The program begins with a one-day introduction and then a two-day Professional Scrum Foundations course often taught by Don McGreal. 

 

The cornerstone of the program is the two-week practicum hosted in the Improving-Dallas office. Each practicum group is assigned a project in which they complete within the two-week timeframe. This real-time deliverable allows a Patriot graduate to say “yes, I have my PSM Scrum.org certification and yes I’ve actually done something with it,” explains Greg, making them much more hirable. Agile for Patriots then works to place as many new graduates into internships as they can. Two practicum graduates have interned with Improving and subsequently moved into full-time contract Scrum Master roles with a local staffing firm.

 

Let's Meet the Graduates!
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Valerie Williams is one of the many veteran spouses involved in Agile for Patriots. While preparing for a product management certification, Valerie began volunteering for Allies in Service and learned about their partnership with Patriots. “With veterans, you can just tell the leadership. You can just see it in how they stand and in their heart to serve others,” said Valerie. Volunteering led to actively participating and growing her own personal Scrum skills. She has since earned her Scrum Master certification and participated in Patriots’ most recent practicum in March 2019. “My background is in chemical engineering, so I am very process oriented, very process focused, and conscious… Scrum helps you to be more flexible, faster to market but doing all the right things because there’s a system and process in place.”

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Adrien Galarza served in the Unites State Army for six years and in the National Guard for an additional four. Before Agile for Patriots, Adrien had become increasingly curious about Scrum. “I had been doing project management in more traditional ways and I kept hearing about Scrum. How it’s a faster, and more people friendly way to do things.” Much like his experience in the Army, with Scrum Methodology Adrien realized, “ultimately everything that you’re doing is trying to build the right thing for the right people so that they can provide value to their businesses and jobs.” Adrien participated in the first practicum class and is now working as a Scrum Master with Ravi’s firm Smooth Apps. He recently joined the board of Agile for Patriots.

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Tim Dickie spent 25 years in the military, both active duty and reserve, before retiring in 2016. “I wasn’t tired of what I was doing, but it was at a point where Dad needed to be home,” Tim said. Shortly, after moving from Miami to the Dallas area for a new job, his company was faced with layoffs. “Because I was a senior manager, I knew that I had a pretty short time on the clock (with that organization).” Anticipating down-sizing, Tim began looking for new opportunities and found Patriots. He participated in Patriots’ fourth practicum in the Improving offices. “One of my challenges in corporate America,” he explained, “was I wasn’t looking for the conventional solution. I was looking for the solution that was good enough to solve the problem and that’s what Agile is all about. Let’s get the work done now to solve the problem.”

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Trophenia Kineard retired from the Army after eight years of service. A counselor at the Veterans Women’s Center told her about Allies in Service and through them she quickly discovered Patriots. “When I was a full-time employee at AT&T previously, I learned a little about Agile, not much, but a little,” Trophenia said, “When I attended the one-day Foundations course I was really excited to learn more... In the military, your job is not only just to listen and take orders, the job is to understand what those orders are, how you can fulfill them, how you can teach your co-workers, the other soldiers, to do the same. Help guide them in a path where they can take the vision and actually implement it.”

Trophenia shadowed Nick Jule, a Scrum Master at Improving, for her internship. “Trophenia exemplified being self-empowered, self-motivation, and self-organized with a high-performing Improving Scrum team,” Nick said. “She quickly obtained trust with the scrum team and built relationships that would allow her to continue on her journey of being a Scrum Master.” Trophenia is currently working as a full time Scrum Master.

Want to learn more? Contact info@agileforpatriots.org or go to https://agileforpatriots.org. Information on the Troops N Tech Meetup can be found at https://www.meetup.com/Troops-N-Tech-Plano/. All events are free and open to veterans and veteran spouses of all branches, duration, and experience.

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