Interviewing Women in Agile: Laura Powers
02 March 2020
Posted by: Abi Walker
To Celebrate International Women's Day, which was on Sunday 8 March, throughout the month of March, the Consortium are interviewing key women in the Agile Community.
In this interview, we have Laura M. Powers who is the Founder at Powered by Teams – an agile consultancy focused on helping leaders and their teams thrive in the midst of change. She received BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and holds numerous certifications including Prosci Change Management, CSP, and SPC5. Laura is the 2019 and 2020 co-chair for the Coaching & Mentoring track for Agile Alliance. She teaches Agile Foundations and Agile Leadership at Stanford Continuing Studies Program, and was named a “Silicon Valley Woman of Influence in 2019.”
Laura, can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I am an agile coach & trainer, and I founded Powered by Teams – a consultancy specialising in developing leaders and their teams with the mindset, skills and confidence to reinvent how they deliver value to their clients using agile ways of working. I believe there’s no “one right solution” to any business challenge, and often the key is understanding the human dynamics behind the business objectives.
Do you have a female role model who has inspired you over your career?
Looking back – I have had many roles models who have inspired me over the course of my career. I am particularly inspired by Barbara – the manager at Hewlett Packard who first promoted me into management. She told me, “Laura you are absolutely not qualified to do the work you will be managing. You will have software developers, UX designers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers working for you. You can’t micromanage these engineers. In order to succeed – you need to learn how to ask questions, remove obstacles, and find ways to enable your team to succeed.”
As I look back now – I can see that Barbara was modelling many of the key leadership skills and behaviours that are important to leading awesome agile teams now.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting in your industry?
For someone interested in moving into the role of an independent agile coach and trainer – I would advise them not to rush it! Spend the time getting in depth experience at several different employers, in as many roles as you can. Get the business experience and the “war” stories that will serve you as a consultant. And don’t underestimate the value of learning and refining all those important “soft” skills like influence, communication, and conflict resolution. It seems that many business challenges come with “hair on top” – and having the skills to work and lead through interpersonal challenges is invaluable.
What is the worst piece of advice you have ever received?
As I was just completing graduate school many (many!) years ago – a family friend advised me to find employment at a large company where I would have a secure job for the length of my career. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the world was changing, and that the only work security you can count on – is your ability to learn and apply new things that the market place finds valuable. The goal is not to be employed forever – but to be employable forever.
What is one thing that has mattered the most in your career?
People and the relationships!
What is the biggest mistake you have made at work?
It’s a big one – and one that I make over and over. I can have a great idea and then let my “inner voice” question the idea, over-analyse the situation and doubt my abilities to execute. Best case – I waste a bunch of time. Worst case – I have missed the opportunity to try something new & see if it’s something the world wants. As I get older – I am working hard to put a great idea into action before my inner voice wakes up enough to question it.
How do you empower other women?
I empower other women by mentoring women who are interested in learning or practising skills that I have developed over the years. I spend a fair bit of time working with women to practice their communication skills – particularly in proposing and delivering conference talks. I co-founded the Women in Agile – San Francisco Bay Area chapter and have been collaborating with an amazing group of women to build a local community that supports Women in Agile today and helps develop Women Agilists of the future.
Would you like to be interviewed by the Agile Business Consortium? Email our Head of Content, Abi Walker, to find out how you can get your message out to our community - Abi@agilebusiness.org