[E4] Adjusting Scrum Methodology to Meet Aggressive Scaling with Dory Weiss of nCino

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Dory Weiss, VP of Engineering at nCino, joins the AppChat to talk about embracing the Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) methodology in developing cloud banking products on the Salesforce platform. Other subjects include her unusual start as a writer of code, maintaining company values amid growth, “pollinating” ideas across teams, and a way to show off sprint work while having fun in the process. Here are the key topics, with timestamps, as well as the full interview transcript: Key Topics 0:00-2:25: Introducing the AppChat and our guest, nCino VP of Engineering Dory Weiss 2:26-9:23: Weiss’ early career as a graduate student in English, her transition to coding, and the similarities between the two languages and ways of thinking 9:24-15:00: Scaling personally and professionally by sticking with nCino’s culture and core values 15:01-19:02: Giving out football helmet stickers in recognition of core values, and the tight alignment between nCino and CodeScience that stems from culture 19:03-24:29: How to hire, onboard and train a good culture fit -- making it “emotionally safe” for development and growth, and weighing technical and culture qualifications 24:30-30:20: Moving from agile to large scale scrum (LeSS methodologies) and dividing teams while prioritizing the right work to get done for clients 31:21-38:56: Managing scrum relationships and integrating work responsibilities to balance speed needs while reducing silos and “pollinating” across teams 38:57-42:01: The “review bazaar” process for presenting and evaluating sprints like a science fair 42:02-42:50: Closing out and how to get in touch Full Transcript: Brian Walsh: 00:13 Okay, everybody, welcome back to the AppChat podcast, and this week, as our promise is, we're gonna have colorful people in amazing SaaS companies. We have with us Dory Weiss from nCino, who's VP of engineering. Dory, introduce yourself and nCino. Dory Weiss: 00:28 Hey Brian, yeah, hey. Great to join you. I am Dory Weiss, as you said. I'm the VP of engineering at nCino. I joined nCino in 2013, which is one whole year after nCino started in 2012. I started in 2013 as a developer. I was the fifth developer when I joined and I think I was employee number 38. Now a mere five years later we are just over 450 folks. We've gotten really big. We are spanning a couple of buildings now at this point, which is exciting, and we've gone international, so it has been a crazy ride over the last couple of years. Dory Weiss: 01:11 nCIno, for folks, who are not familiar with us, we are the worldwide leader in cloud banking. What we do is we make it possible for banks to originate financial products more easily and with more transparency into what they're doing. Brian Walsh: 01:27 You're built entirely on the Salesforce platform? Dory Weiss: 01:31 We like to say we're built 99 percent on the Salesforce platform. Brian Walsh: 01:35 There's always some little piece that you have to do outside? Dory Weiss: 01:37 There is a little bit of magic that we can't make work on platform and that makes us a little bit sad, but those things that we need to do off platform, we do. Brian Walsh: 01:47 That's pretty amazing, though, that these large banks ... Because your customers are the who's who of the banking industry, right? Dory Weiss: 01:54 Yeah, I think at this point we have 10 of the top 30 banks in America as our customers in terms of asset size, so yeah, but also not just the largest enterprise banks are customers. We have 180 customers spanning institutions of all sizes. Brian Walsh: 02:16 That's amazing. Alright, so, you're the fifth developer at nCino. How did you get there? You had a very different course to get into becoming the fifth developer and working your way to VPE. Dory Weiss: 02:26 Yeah, frankly I never quite know how I ended up where I ended up. I learned a couple of years ago to stop trying to guess what was gonna come next, because every time I thought I knew where my life was going, something would happen to prove me really desperately wrong, but I started out actually ... I was working on being an English professor. That had always been my dream. My undergrad was in English literature. I went to grad school at the University of Iowa in a PhD program for English Literature. Brian Walsh: 03:02 Wow. Dory Weiss: 03:03 Yeah, I was so excited about teaching. That was my dream, and I loved teaching. I always really loved being in the college classroom, but as I got towards the end of my comprehensive exams and towards the beginning of my dissertation, that whole process ... I started to feel really disillusioned and the things that I was most interested in, teaching, were not the things that seemed to be what was most important to my professors and to some of my peers. Academia didn't seem grounded in thinking about, "Hey, there's a group of people who I want to introduce to really incredible ideas and have the sort of meeting of the mind sort of exchange about how do we make the world better and how do we come to understand the world more deeply?" That wasn't the focus of being in academia. Brian Walsh: 03:55 Right, almost like the values that you held for why it was pushing you there were different than those values that were already existing within the educational environment. Dory Weiss: 04:02 Exactly, exactly, and not that academic research isn't incredibly important, but it's not where my heart was leading me, and so there was the sort of moment of, "Oh, wait, this isn't what I thought it was and I don't think I want to do this other thing, so, crap." Brian Walsh: 04:24 How many years in were you at this point? Like 10 years in? Dory Weiss: 04:26 I was five years in. I was five years in. It had been a big investment and I had just always ... My self-concept had been built around this idea that I was gonna be an English professor someday, so that was a really destabilizing moment. I ended up leaving grad school and just had no idea what I was gonna do next. I ended up in Austin, Texas and found out through a friend of a friend that the University of Texas had a software developer training program. What they did was they looked for folks who had strong aptitude, technical aptitude and really strong people skills. Ideally folks who had graduate degrees in something, anything. Brian Walsh: 05:12 You mean like non-technical background people. Dory Weiss: 05:14 Yeah, like no requirement for a technical background at all. The folks that I went through the training program with, they were folks who had PhDs in mathematics and biology and chemistry and music and painting. It was just like ... I used to call us the island of misfit grad students, because it was a whole bunch of us that, I think, had similar experiences, that had found something lacking in academia and just didn't know what they wanted to do next. Anyway, the training program was really incredible. It was a six month long training program. You got paid to do it which was just incredible, and if you made it through the training program, then you were guaranteed a job on campus at the University of Texas. The university is a state institution, so once you've been there for six months, you're tenured as a state employee, so if you could get into the program and make it through those six months, it would- Brian Walsh: 06:16 Then you've got a job. Dory Weiss: 06:17 It was an incredibly sweet gig. Brian Walsh: 06:19 Wow. Dory Weiss: 06:19 I had no idea what being a developer meant when I applied. I remember ... Brian Walsh: 06:19 Had you ever written any code at all? Dory Weiss: 06:28 I knew HTML and CSS. Brian Walsh: 06:30 Okay. Dory Weiss: 06:32 I knew that that wasn't like really what coding was, but I didn't know what coding really was. I had the sense that I was missing something, but I didn't know what. Yeah, I remember the hiring manager for the training program called me one evening. It was actually on a Friday evening. It was probably like 6:30 or 7 and I had already had a whiskey on that Friday night. The hiring manager called and he said, "You know, we all really liked getting to know you, and the one question that we had that we're just not sure about is if you're gonna like the work." I said, "You know, I don't know if I'm gonna like the work either. I don't know what this is gonna be, but I want to give it a try." Luckily they hired me and gave me a chance, because it turned out that I just absolutely loved it. Brian Walsh: 07:25 That is such a cool story. I was at the women in enterprise tech conference and it was amazing how many of those speakers, and it was a fantastic conference, how many of the speakers had no technical background and yet ran global companies in technology. Leyla Seka from Salesforce, and Hilarie Koplow-McAdams from New Relic. She's a VC now, and Meredith Finn who's a VC, Jessica Lynn, all of them, same exact background, like, "Hey, I'm just gonna somehow get into this," and then they excel and become amazing leaders of these organizations. Dory Weiss: 07:56 Yeah. Well, I think for myself at least, on one hand a language is a language is a language. The things that made me a good writer of the English language are the same things that made me a good writer of code. It's a matter of trying to communicate an idea as simply as possible, as directly as possible as you can to an audience, and I think that that sort of focus on how to organize and present ideas really helped me understand the beauty of writing simple code, which I think is a real strength. Dory Weiss: 08:34 I think that's part of it and I think the other part is, for me at least, was this idea that a lot of the skills that attracted me to the classroom are the same things that I think make you a good teammate, make you a good member of a scrum team, let you be thoughtful in terms of thinking empathetically about your customers and what their needs are and how to best serve them. The combination of analytical thinking and empathetic thinking. For me, I got a lot of that from the same axis as reading books and doing the imaginative work of looking at a character and trying to understand what motivated them and why they made the choices that they did. Brian Walsh: 09:23 You know, when I look back at your background, less than a year, for every year that you've been in nCino, you've gotten a promotion. Is that driven by moving that language and being able to move from being a hands on individual contributor to now running those teams and the communication and now having a team of managers under you? What has driven that unbelievable rise for a company that's growing so fast? Dory Weiss: 09:51 That's a really good question. I think that it's about ... I think obviously that I bring some degree of technical understanding and technical ability, but I do really think that part of what allowed me to move out of management and part of what I've really enjoyed about moving into management, part of what I've really enjoyed about that, is thinking about the group of people that are around me and thinking deeply about how to make sure that they all understand what we need of them, to make sure that I understand what they need of us. In some ways it's sort of classroom management, in terms of looking around at a group of people and thinking, "Okay, how do we make sure that everybody is starting from the same place in terms of understanding what it is that we're trying to accomplish," and we can all see that goal really clearly and then work together to articulate what we need to do in order to achieve that end. Brian Walsh: 11:00 Got it. I think that pivots beautifully into the topics you're touching on and one of the things that has always attracted me to nCino, which is you live and die by your culture and values. Everything about the way you communicate, the way you engage when you walk in your office, it's tangible. How did you transform the organization to have that? Was it always there? At what point did that become this cornerstone for you? Dory Weiss: 11:24 Yeah, it was always there. It was certainly there when I joined in 2013, and it's something that I've always found just really exceptional that Pierre, our CEO, and the other members of the executive team had such foresight in terms of really making that the cornerstone of the company. Pierre loves to talk about the Peter Drucker quote, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." He loves that. It shows up in all of his culture decks, but I think that that has really been a cornerstone, and for us it's all about the fact that if we make sure that every person at nCino is empowered to do their best work, and that's both having the resources and the tools that they need, having the support and the encouragement that they need, that they understand clearly what our goals are and how we want to treat our customers. Dory Weiss: 12:28 If everyone has that sort of foundation, then you've got ... If we've got 450 employees, then you have 450 agents of change who can go out and make the right decisions for our customers who can have great ideas that move the product forward and in ways that we couldn't anticipate. If we tried, as a leadership team, to just hold on to ... Brian Walsh: 12:55 Hierarchy, straight downs ... Dory Weiss: 12:57 Exactly, exactly, and so from the very beginning, Pierre used to talk about things ... Like for instance our answer to any question is supposed to be "yes, if ..." Brian Walsh: 13:10 Oh, that's an awesome one. Dory Weiss: 13:12 I mean, and it's just such a small, simple thing, but if you take that thought exercise seriously, it opens up all sorts of thinking, so rather than, "No, because," it's "yes, if." Brian Walsh: 13:27 That's fantastic, so you're looking for almost the noble intent of, "Of course we can meet that, if we hit this criteria, if these things fall in line." Dory Weiss: 13:35 Exactly. Exactly, and so, for me, that's a lot of what I understand our culture to be. There's obviously the kegs and the paddleboard lessons on Friday mornings and those sorts of very superficially obvious elements of culture, and I'm glad that we have them, but when I think about our culture, it is exemplified by things like "yes, if." Brian Walsh: 14:01 Do you separate, then, culture and values? Dory Weiss: 14:05 No. Brian Walsh: 14:06 Is there a separation that's one thing altogether? Dory Weiss: 14:09 Yeah, I mean, for me, they are the same thing, and if they are not in concert with each other, then everything's gonna fall apart. Brian Walsh: 14:20 Right. How do you define it? How do you communicate it? Like you're bringing on, you're growing so rapidly. Your development team's doubling, right? Dory Weiss: 14:27 Yep. Brian Walsh: 14:28 How do you bring people on and explain that culture without just having to experience it? Dory Weiss: 14:32 Yeah, so, the company at large has six core values that we talk about in all sorts of contexts. They're on the website, they're a big part of our recruiting materials, they're part of the onboarding experience for all new employees, so you get those as soon as you walk in the door, and when I walked in the door in 2013, there was artwork on the walls that had ... Brian Walsh: 14:32 Had that. Dory Weiss: 15:01 Had the six values on them, and then in PDE, we have layered on top of that our own manifesto. We call it the PDE manifesto. Product development and engineering is what we call our department, so, PDE, the shorthand. That manifesto circles around four additional values that sort of compliment the six core nCino values. That manifesto, we show it to people when they're interviewing with us. It's also part of the onboarding experience. It is posted all over the office. We give out stickers during all of our sprint retros, so for the core ... The four values of the PDE manifesto are courage, craftsmanship, community and fun, and for each of those values, we have a little image that goes along with them, and then we made stickers of each of those images. I had been thinking about the helmet stickers that football, college ... Brian Walsh: 15:01 For football? Dory Weiss: 16:09 Give out ... Exactly. Brian Walsh: 16:10 Ohio State whatever? Yeah. Dory Weiss: 16:11 That's exactly it, so we decided that we were gonna do helmet stickers, and so at the end of every sprint, each team has the opportunity to give a helmet sticker for each of the values to somebody in the department, or wouldn't even have to be in the department. Somebody at nCino or CodeScience. Some of you guys have won those. Brian Walsh: 16:33 It's been a fantastic thing, actually. They talk about that. Our team brings back like how much our organizations are so aligned and how we recognize each other as one team, and it's just so natural. Dory Weiss: 16:45 Yeah, I mean that's one of the reasons why we love working with you guys so much is that it does just feel like we're one team, but I try to make sure that we're really intentional about going back to those core values all the time in the way that we talk about things, because they need to seem truly like the center of something and not just this incidental, like, "Oh yeah, values are cool. We've got some." It really has to be a drumbeat. Brian Walsh: 17:14 Driving that culture and that value, does that become almost monotone? Does it hold back diversity at all? How do you ensure you're getting diverse viewpoints or diverse attitudes? Gender, races, like how do you ensure you don't become just the way you always were? Dory Weiss: 17:29 Yeah, I think that that is an incredibly important conversation to make sure that we're having. That first value is courage and for us, what courage means ... One of the things that courage means is honest introspection, so I'm just gonna read what this sort of description of courage is, if you don't mind. Brian Walsh: 17:58 Yeah. Dory Weiss: 17:58 We say what we think even when it is unpopular. We share all that we know. We ask for help as soon as we need it. We own our weaknesses and our strengths. We question the status quo and our product, our process and our software development practices. We take smart risks and implement new ideas. We are always open to change and are quick to adapt. We own our mistakes and we don't hold others' mistakes against them. We accept failure, learn from it, and we do not give up. If we are doing courage right, we should be ... Brian Walsh: 18:32 Questioning why not. Dory Weiss: 18:34 We should be continually being like, "Alright, are we becoming too insular? Are we not questioning if the right voices are in the room and if we're being critical enough of what we're doing?" Brian Walsh: 18:49 Well, I have to say, the organization has a huge advantage to have someone with such great English skills help write that out. Dory Weiss: 18:58 Thank you, thank you. It was actually one of the other dev managers who wrote that draft, so ... Brian Walsh: 19:03 Now, taking from your background, do you hire for people who don't perhaps have deep technical experience? Do you hire based off of sort of culture and curiosity and train them up? How have you applied your background to that? Dory Weiss: 19:15 Yeah, so, we definitely don't require a CS background, and one of the things that we know that we want to do as we get bigger, as we get more mature, as we have more resources ... As a young company, you spend so much time in the early years being so focused on just getting product out the door that it's difficult sometimes to do much more than that, and it's been over the past two or three years that we've been able to slow down a little bit and be able to say, "Hey, we will intentionally not go as fast as we possibly could because we need to slow down and invest in dev ops. We need to invest in whatever, making our scrum practice more thorough," whatever that is. Dory Weiss: 20:09 One of the ways that we want to continue doing that is we want to be able to take on people that we are hiring just for aptitude, just for mindset, and really provide more training for them. We're not as far along there as we would like to be, so right now we need ... We are looking to hire folks that have at least a basic understanding of object oriented programming, for instance, or at least some experience with thinking about code in the sort of structural ways ... Brian Walsh: 20:56 They just understand the logic of code and how to put together an application. Dory Weiss: 21:01 Exactly, that understands sort of fundamentally why reuse is important and how you design for that, so that is a mindset, I think, and you don't have to have ... I don't need everybody to be able to produce a perfect class diagram to prove their ... Brian Walsh: 21:20 Here, come co-program with me and I will watch you. Dory Weiss: 21:23 Exactly, exactly, but there needs to be that sort of facility for that way of thinking. Brian Walsh: 21:30 How do you make a safe environment for those new people to come on, then, right? Like, you have high performers. You're a high performing organization. There's tons of stress on, the board's pushing, closed an amazing D round, and I'm not talking like physical safety, but you make it emotionally safe for them to learn and to become efficient and proficient. Dory Weiss: 21:50 Yeah, I think we try to do a couple of things there. The first is, is that during the interview process, one of the things that we're really up front about is that we're hiring folks who have incredible technical ability, but that's only half of what we're hiring for. The other half is that we're hiring good human beings who want to be part of a team and want to work collaboratively and understand that that work is gonna be challenging and wonderful and hard and all of that stuff sort of all at once, so we try from the very beginning to say, "Okay, what you're signing up for is this wonderful ride that is going to be uncomfortable sometimes, and that's a good thing, because uncomfortable is not the same thing as unsafe." Dory Weiss: 22:42 So, we try to set that expectation, that that's part of the job, is you're gonna be stretched. You're gonna be on the edge of what it is that you already know how to do, and we know that. We understand that. You're not alone in that. We're all gonna be here doing that together, so we try to just say that. I think sometimes people forget to just say clearly what it is that they mean or what it is that they anticipate happening, so we try to say that up front. Dory Weiss: 23:18 Then I think we try internally to really make sure that we all remember that we feel those ways too, and that we need to create space and empathize with other people who are also going to feel those ways. I think we have realistic expectations of what to expect from someone for the first six months that they're with us and they're getting up to speed. Brian Walsh: 23:45 Right. What do you think is the harder one to hire for, the technical or the emotional quotient, the EQ, that curiosity, their natural values? Dory Weiss: 23:58 I think it's the person stuff that's harder to find, and it's more important. Honestly, looking back to my own experience in the training program, that's why somebody hired me. I didn't know anything, technically, but somebody saw in me a good person that was capable of learning, and I think that was the right decision. It was certainly the right decision for me, and so that's the decision that as much as possible I want to pay forward. Brian Walsh: 24:30 Well, whoever that was had genius insight, because they saw sort of into the future. I want to actually pivot a little bit to talk about a change that happened, I think it was almost 18 months ago, 24 months ago, where you've always been an agile shop, but you moved into actually taking on large scale scrum or LeSS], as I think some people call it. What is that? How do you define that? What prompted your change there? Dory Weiss: 24:53 Yeah, so LeSS is a framework, a large scale scrum framework. What prompted it, really, was that as we were growing, we got to a place where we ... I'm trying to think of ... I think we maybe had 10 scrum teams when we decided to first try LeSS, and of those teams, they were divided into what we called portfolios. A portfolio for us is just a collection of teams that are all working on a major feature set of our product. Really, those feature sets for us tend to align with types of organizations in a bank, so commercial banking versus retail banking, for instance. Brian Walsh: 25:42 So everybody's separated off into those different groups, working on sort of their problem set. Dory Weiss: 25:48 Exactly, exactly, so we had already divided ourselves up by portfolios, but then within each of those portfolios, every team would have their own backlog, and often times what would happen is we'd be doing release planning and we'd be looking at the types of new features that we wanted to develop. We'd sort of just divide them out across teams and then each team would have their own backlog, which worked fine in isolation, but what would happen pretty much every release is that at some point a team would get in trouble. Something was more complex than they expected or someone got ill unexpectedly or ... Brian Walsh: 26:31 They're slipping farther and farther behind. Dory Weiss: 26:33 They're slipping farther, farther behind. Exactly. So, awesome -- agile accounts for that. Everything is in active re-prioritization, but what we found is when we needed to do that re-prioritization, we would have to then take 10 separate backlogs and try to then get a unified picture of what is most important across those backlogs. That act of trying to get the holistic view of our priorities when the work is divided across 10 teams, that took a lot of time. What I realized sort of as an aftereffect of that was when you have 10 teams and each team has their own backlog, what you're implicitly saying is that each of those teams is working on something of equal value. Brian Walsh: 27:29 Right. Dory Weiss: 27:31 That's probably not explicitly true. If you were going to actually rank things, you probably wouldn't say these 10 things are all equally valuable. There probably is relative merit to those things. Brian Walsh: 27:43 Yet, that's rarely something you would say to those 10 scrum teams because now that devalues them and their work. Dory Weiss: 27:49 Exactly, or it can feel like it does ... Brian Walsh: 27:56 There you go. Dory Weiss: 27:59 ... If you don't then try to frame the conversation in terms of what is most important for all of us is providing the highest value to our customers. That's why we're here, that's why we do agile, that's what we believe in as a product organization, so no one should feel threatened by that because there is enough work for all of us. Brian Walsh: 28:25 Right. Dory Weiss: 28:27 Let's make sure that the work we're doing is the highest value for our customers right now. Brian Walsh: 28:30 Yeah, I mean, at the end, agile is not just stand up and sprints, right? Those ceremonies ... Dory Weiss: 28:36 Those are organizational ... That's like a tactic that we layer on top, right? Brian Walsh: 28:41 Yeah, that's the organization that first comes in and says, "We're agile because we do sprints and we do stand ups every morning." Dory Weiss: 28:46 Yes. Brian Walsh: 28:47 No, that's not agile. How do you take, then ... You're in these separate pods. Your whole team doesn't have holistic knowledge across the product, right? You don't have the engineers working on one module. Very different, don't have the domain expertise of another one. How do you switch? You're in flight. You guys are venture funded. You're flying through. You're moving up market. How all of a sudden do you pull that one out? Dory Weiss: 29:13 Yeah, so then you have this concept in LeSS of these LeSS teams, and that corresponds really well to the portfolios that we already had in place. What you're not doing, actually ... You're not actually sharing the backlog for the entirety of the nCino product across, now, 13 teams with a single backlog. What we're actually doing is we're saying, "Okay, we're going to have a single backlog for the retail product or the retail feature. We're going to have a single backlog for our commercial features. We're going to have a single backlog for our customer engagement platform." Dory Weiss: 29:59 There are still large domain units that hang together and sort of function as a single entity, but within that, all of the scrum teams are all then gonna focus on whatever is highest priority in that little mini-realm. It's sort of this in between scale. Brian Walsh: 30:21 Got it. Does that shift a lot of the work that you had to do, then, really, to the product owners and the management there -- of how they're prioritizing and using the different resources that are available? Dory Weiss: 30:33 Yeah, and I think that that's the hardest part of the transition to less, is particularly for product owners and product managers, because you're asking them to no longer ... I think there's a tendency, at least there has been for us, a tendency, for product owners to think of their scrum team as their scrum team. Brian Walsh: 30:56 Theirs. Right, these are mine. I'm protective. Dory Weiss: 31:00 Exactly, exactly. It becomes a shift from thinking about a group of developers and QA folks as their own to thinking about features and epics in the backlog as their own. They become the expert. I mean, they already were the expert, but we sort of refocus how we conceptualize what they do as being the expert on some number of features that they own, and they drive that deep expertise. They build out the requirements and the functionality for what that's gonna be, and then they sort of carry that knowledge with them as they work across multiple scrum teams, and so I think that that definitely required a shift in terms of the way that they conceived of their work, and it also ... It took everyone by surprise how quickly, when you put three scrum teams all working on the same epic, for instance, that work's gonna get done real quick. So in the past- Brian Walsh: 32:02 Right, so all of a sudden you don't have enough runway ahead of you. Dory Weiss: 32:05 Yep. Exactly. There was some panic early on in terms of, "Oh my gosh, we cannot keep these teams fed with stories." Brian Walsh: 32:15 Wow. Dory Weiss: 32:17 We definitely, the product organization definitely had to relearn how to best feed their teams in the LeSS world. The flip side of that is that devs, there was to a certain extent, a bit of that with devs as well. Making sure that they were comfortable with domain shifting a little more often than they may have before, or maybe not domain shifting but being asked to work on different things than their teams had traditionally in the past. Brian Walsh: 32:17 Right. Dory Weiss: 32:56 So one of the things that defines LeSS, for instance, is that you have this idea of two sprint planning meetings, so in sprint planning one, you've got all of your scrum teams in that LeSS group all together. So, so you've got three scrum teams and they're all in that meeting together. The product owners come in and say, "Okay, this is the top of the backlog. Does everybody ..." Brian Walsh: 33:21 Send us the criteria, here's the stories, boom. Dory Weiss: 33:22 Exactly, and at that point we've already done backlog grooming, so everybody is at least somewhat familiar with the stories, but it's a, "Hey, make sure everybody understand what's going on here, this is the goal, this is what we're trying to build," and then the three scrum teams among themselves have the conversation about of the tickets in the backlog, what team is going to work what. What is nice there is that then you could have conversations with teams about the fact that sometimes there is value in intentionally taking on work that is new to you so that you can break down silos, so that you can have sort of an educational sprint where you're learning new patterns and new parts of the business domain and all that good sort of stuff. Sometimes that's the right choice to make and sometimes it's sprint nine and the release is almost over and ... Brian Walsh: 33:22 "Gotta go." Dory Weiss: 34:21 Exactly. We're gonna take the stories that we are most familiar with because we're the ones who can just churn on these, so we're gonna organize ourselves for efficiency. I think it's nice to actively engage teams in thinking in those ways so that they're starting to sort of take responsibility or start to think in the same way that leadership does in terms of what are the trade offs between going as fast we can or ... Brian Walsh: 34:51 There's organizational theories around ... You know, you want a team size where a single extra large pizza can feed everybody. Dory Weiss: 34:59 Yep. Brian Walsh: 34:59 As I hear it and have slightly experienced it with you, we're asking our teams, even though they're separate, you have three separate scrum teams, to really be integrated. How do you manage all of those relationships without that becoming the overhead for you? Dory Weiss: 35:16 You know, I think it takes strong scrum masters. There are concepts in LeSS that we've taken some advantage of, but I hope we take more advantage of as we go forward. There's the idea of a scout and a traveler. A traveler is a member of a LeSS team that might attend stand ups or sprint plannings or whatever meetings of another team just to get insight into what that group is talking about and learning about, and sending that information back. Brian Walsh: 35:54 Is that just technical pollination or also sort of process pollination? Dory Weiss: 36:00 Either both. Brian Walsh: 36:04 Yeah, everything. Hopefully pollinating at everything. Dory Weiss: 36:04 Exactly, just suck it all in. Just take it all in and share it. Be a pollinator. Exactly, and then there's the idea of the scout, which is when essentially a team can say, "Oh, I see that the team B over there is working on something that I'm gonna need. Either they're establishing a pattern that we're gonna need to implement or they're building some framework piece that we're gonna need to consume, or ..." Brian Walsh: 36:34 Here's your design system that everybody's gonna have to implement. Dory Weiss: 36:37 Exactly, so what team A can do is say, "Alright, it will make us faster later if we really understand this thing that team B is gonna produce for us, so we're gonna give a member of our team to team B. We're gonna, for this sprint or for however many sprints, we're gonna send somebody there to be a scout and to work as a member of that team and get that embedded knowledge, and so then in a couple of sprints when we're ready to use that, scout comes back and has all of that sort of experience with her and then can help sort of ..." Brian Walsh: 37:20 Spread that along as they get the ... Dory Weiss: 37:20 Body of experience. Brian Walsh: 37:24 Alright, so, increase of velocity. You saw that almost immediately, right? Dory Weiss: 37:24 Yep. Brian Walsh: 37:28 You're starting to crush it. Any other major wins for you? Dory Weiss: 37:33 I do think that the quality of what we've been producing, I think quality has improved. That one's a little bit difficult because our QA team has also grown in size. Our QA automation team has been building out incredible tools, so that's one of those things that's never a single ... Brian Walsh: 37:57 Single thing actually affected it. Dory Weiss: 38:01 I do think that you've got a lot of eyes on something in LeSS, and ideally there's sort of an active reconciliation across multiple teams where you don't end up with isolated teams that might be developing their own sort of sub patterns. Brian Walsh: 38:27 Getting into a hole, or doing their own process that nobody else is gonna follow? Dory Weiss: 38:30 Exactly. Ideally everybody keeps pulling them back, pulling each other back into a really sort of shared way of doing things, so I think that that has been really helpful. One of the other things, and this is sort of not a side effect ... One of the smaller elements of LeSS that has been incredibly popular here, and that's what they call the review bazaar. Brian Walsh: 38:57 Alright, I love the name. Let's get in. Dory Weiss: 38:59 Yep, yep, so instead of doing sprint reviews, or in addition ... Let me put it that way. In addition to doing sprint reviews in the traditional scrum sense, what the review bazaar ads is essentially like a science fair. Every couple of sprints, what we do now is each of the LeSS areas essentially creates a display. It's a hands on station where somebody will demo what they've built over the last sprint or two but also anyone can come and start playing around with what they've built. We invite the entire company. We do it on Friday afternoon. We open the kegs, and everyone will come and we'll just mill around and go from station to station and just see what teams have been building and interact with it and ask questions. The atmosphere is so much fun. It's highly interactive. People ... Brian Walsh: 40:04 It sounds almost like the Google 20 percent time, like here's the extra things we've been working on, and everybody can share and look at that. Dory Weiss: 40:12 Except that it's not extra, it is the sprint work, but it's the sprint work sort of shown off in this very public science fair sort of environment. Brian Walsh: 40:26 Do you get the foam core backing and make it stand up there? Dory Weiss: 40:29 Teams make huge signs and try to outdo each other with who will have the best sign and who can get the most people to come to their displays. People get really excited about it. Brian Walsh: 40:43 It seems like that actually pulls on one of your core values of fun as well. Dory Weiss: 40:47 Yeah. Brian Walsh: 40:48 Of making sure that not only are we solving and having empathy for our customers, we're doing it in a fun way and showing off even. Dory Weiss: 40:55 Yeah, you know, I think sometimes we get so focused on the work that we're doing that we forget to give ourselves time to just be joyful and feel proud of what we've done. I think it's easy sometimes to forget how incredible our product is and how successful we are, because we're just focused on building, and I think for engineers, I think engineers in general tend to spend so much time in the space of, " Well, this could be better and this could be better and this could be better and this could be better," and that sort of constructively critical sort of mindset really good to wrench someone out of that from time to time and just say, "No, you go show off for an hour. I'm gonna make you show off and people are gonna be really impressed by what you did, so you're just gonna have to sit there and listen to people say nice things about you." Brian Walsh: 41:55 Take the applause, take the applause. Dory Weiss: 42:00 I think that's powerful. I think it's powerful. Brian Walsh: 42:02 That's fantastic. Well, Dory, I want to thank you very much for being on with us today. If people wanted to get in touch with you or look at careers at nCino, what's the best way to get ahold of you? Dory Weiss: 42:12 Well, I would say always check out our website, nCino.com. That's N-C-I-N-O. NCino is also on Twitter and on LinkedIn and we might even be on Facebook. Then you can find me on Twitter as well at Dory Weiss. Brian Walsh: 42:33 Fabulous, and that's D-O-R-Y W-E-I-S-S. Alright, well, Dory, thank you very much. I truly appreciate this and our partnership has been spectacular. Dory Weiss: 42:42 Likewise, likewise. We love working with you guys and it has been a real pleasure. Brian Walsh: 42:48 Thank you very much, Dory. Dory Weiss: 42:48 Thank you, Brian. Outro: 42:50 Thanks for listening to this episode of the AppChat. Don't miss an episode. Visit AppChatPodcast.com or subscribe on iTunes. Until next time, don't make success an accident.

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