Melissa Boggs: “Be kind to yourself and your family”

This too shall pass. There will come a day where all of this is a distant memory. One of the most daunting things about this crisis is the lack of a “finish line”. Yet, we do know that we will overcome it. We will never be the same, but there will be a day that […]

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This too shall pass. There will come a day where all of this is a distant memory. One of the most daunting things about this crisis is the lack of a “finish line”. Yet, we do know that we will overcome it. We will never be the same, but there will be a day that we look back and say, “Remember back in 2020, when we lived through a global pandemic? Man, that was a long time ago.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Boggs, Chief ScrumMaster for the Scrum Alliance. Together with the Chief Product Owner and the exceptional staff, Melissa seeks to fulfill the Scrum Alliance’s vision of transforming the world of work.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I didn’t have the most straightforward or traditional path. It’s funny how a story unfolds while you are not even noticing, and the winding road we are on leads us from one significant moment to another. When I look back, my story reads a bit like the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s or 90s. There are many crossroads where one different (or perhaps safer) decision could have led me down a very different road.

I graduated from Western Governors University with a BS in Information Technology and again later with an MBA in IT Management. But my career path definitely has not followed a straight line. I’ve been everything from a receptionist, trainer, stage manager, process analyst, salesperson, software tester, consultant, project manager, product manager, ScrumMaster, Agile Coach, and now, I am Chief ScrumMaster (co-CEO) of Scrum Alliance.

Professionally, I was a bit of a late bloomer, not finding my true passion until I was several years into the workforce. I remember being apologetic about my resume because it read a bit like I was a job-hopper. I would spend a year or two in a job, then be enticed to try something different. I was definitely searching for something deeper, that I connected with better. It was a pivotal moment when a female leader admonished me for apologizing and commended me for my kaleidoscope of experience. It was then I realized how each of those experiences wove together to provide me with something unique to offer.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

We’re living through extremely interesting times, and I would definitely say the most interesting story from my time at Scrum Alliance related to the global pandemic. It has changed the face of business forever, nudging all of us to better understand our abilities as a business to pivot and change with the world we live in.

Truly, business agility has never been more important than it is today. While navigating business relationships, disruption to business, and economic downturn, I have been keenly aware of the personal impacts it has g on our employees and their families. It’s a constant balancing act of communication, priorities, sensitivity, and business acumen.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

With the pandemic forcing conferences and other gatherings online, my latest “project” has been sharing stories at online conferences. It is incredibly powerful to be able to speak with people all over the world that I would, under normal circumstances, not necessarily have the opportunity to visit in person. I hope that sharing some of our stories will help them feel less alone and give them ideas for their own organizations.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am fortunate enough to have had two such people in my life.

The first is my husband, Wendell. We’ve been on this journey together for a very long time, and I’m so grateful to have a partner who is so incredibly supportive. He’s made sacrifices, going above and beyond as a partner and a parent.

Second, I have a very dear friend who happens to also be an excellent agile coach. This is a person who knows me deeply, flaws and all, and believes in me no matter what. They have had occasion to tell me some hard truths, but are also my biggest cheerleader, constantly reminding me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

We are very fortunate that our family has not encountered any health-related challenges during this pandemic. We are staying vigilant and mostly in our home, so as not to take risks or expose others to risk. But, as we have all experienced, quarantine comes with challenges. I have two older children; my daughter is a teenager and my son is a pre-teen. It’s challenging to keep us all connected, despite being stuck in a house together. It’s very easy for everyone to retreat to their rooms, alone and sedentary. We are also reaching the point where the kids are becoming (understandably) restless, missing their friends and pushing to go out more.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

From a connection perspective, we’ve recently purchased new bicycles and have made an effort to schedule family rides. We’ve limited screen time and made sure we are having family dinners at the table. When it comes to social interaction with friends, we are being very cautious, but twice now we have met friends at parks wearing masks, etc. It’s a difficult balance to keep, but it’s so important that we stay the course on this until our entire country is safe.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

Zoom fatigue is real, and yet so is the real need for human connection in an organization. Balancing those two things is so important for organizations to sustainably continue their work during this pandemic. It’s been a challenge to do that, as well as make sure we are continuing to deliver value to our members during a time when they need us most.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We recently did a “sustainability workshop” as an organization, where we brainstormed different ways to keep us moving forward while maintaining the right mental space, physical environment, social connection, and mission connection. It was really helpful for us as leaders to see what we might be able to help with, and I think it created a sense of control and contribution for our team. I’m looking forward to implementing some of their ideas!

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

So many of these have been shared many times, but I have found them all to be true.

Regarding just working from home in general:

1) Make sure you have a dedicated space for “work”

2) Take a lunch break and get outside!

3) Have a ritual for checking “in” to work and another for checking “out” of work. It really does help your brain and body understand that your mindset is shifting.

Regarding homeschooling and family needs:

1) Have the kids follow some of the same advice as above. They too need a dedicated space, breaks, and a ritual.

2) Have a weekly family meeting where you discuss the upcoming week. Talk about specific things you need to accomplish, times when family members need quiet or help, and make any parental arrangements necessary.

3) Be in frequent email contact with your kids’ teachers about their progress. Monitor the tools provided to see that they are submitting assignments, etc.

4) Be kind to yourself and your family. This is all new to all of us.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

I’m reading so many books and completing so many home projects. Yet some weekend days I am also just hibernating and watching Netflix. Both of those things are okay. In everything, balance. I appreciate my family for understanding that I am an introvert who does require “alone time” every so often. In exchange, I make sure we are also spending quality time together, bike riding or watching movies. Balance.

My other secret weapon is gratitude. It sounds cliché, and it’s not always easy, but there is always something to be grateful for. When I can find that one small thing, or the many big things, it is a reminder to me that this is just one moment in time. We will get through this!

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  • Being hopeful can only help us

It’s easy to get sucked into the bad news, the loneliness, and the dismal outlook. But the fact is, hope can only help us. It’s hope that has driven scientists to a vaccine. It’s hope that keeps doctors and nurses fighting hard. It’s hope that keeps us all at home, doing our part. We have to cling to hope in order to keep moving forward.

  • We have seen the best of humanity

From the cast of Hamilton singing to one little girl (see “Some Good News” with John Krasinski) to Italians singing from their balconies to our healthcare workers and grocery store workers… This crisis has shown us that there really is an incredible amount of good in the world. We just have to look for it. When the crisis is over, we will still have these memories to hold close to our hearts.

  • We will never be the same

This crisis has challenged how we view work, social connection, parenthood, and friendship. We will not forget these lessons. We are more human with one another now. We’ve been forced to drop the facade of perfection and just be ourselves. That will stick, and I believe we will be better for it.

  • You are not alone

Quarantine may be lonely, but you are not alone. For the first time in recent history, we are globally experiencing the same thing — together. Technology allows us to stay more in touch than ever, and the most important way that we can help one another is to share our stories. When you share your experience, it helps others to know they are not alone. Together, you can potentially come up with new, creative solutions!

  • This too shall pass

There will come a day where all of this is a distant memory. One of the most daunting things about this crisis is the lack of a “finish line”. Yet, we do know that we will overcome it. We will never be the same, but there will be a day that we look back and say, “Remember back in 2020, when we lived through a global pandemic? Man, that was a long time ago.”

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  • Make a list of your loved ones that do not live with you. Reach out to them via text, Facetime, or call, even when you have nothing specific to talk about. Just let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Set up group Zoom calls with your professional and personal “tribes” to just visit and catch up.
  • For those who live with you, set aside “no news” blocks. While it is important to understand what is going on, it’s also okay not to be glued to the 24-hour news cycle.
  • Familiarize yourself with professional resources for those battling anxiety. There are many types of therapy and help that are offered virtually.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In Frozen II, there is a moment where Anna is overwhelmed by her circumstances and the journey before her. She sings a song titled, “Just Do the Next Right Thing.” In executive leadership, and in life, it is easy to become so overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, fixed, or accomplished that we become frozen in our tracks. That certainly has been the case at times this year.

Anna’s advice to “Just do the next right thing,” has served as a reminder to me to prioritize, focus, and take the first step. We can’t do everything at once, but we can always do the next right thing.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Twitter at @HmngbirdAgility, and Scrum Alliance and on Twitter @ScrumAlliance

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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