Communicating With Teammates When the Horn of Gondor is Not Readily Available

A blogger is never late, ladies and gentlemen. Nor is she early. She delivers content precisely when she means to. [I was sick one week, and lazy another].

“How important is strong communication between teammates, Alex?” 

The answer? It’s more important than the time Frodo was asked by Gandalf to keep the ring secret, to keep it safe.

 In a time where worlds are colliding and we are working with each other all over the world, it is more important now than ever to keep a line of communication that is both open and honest.

 For instance, I work with people (hey friends!) in Chicago, North Carolina, Alabama, and Russia on a daily basis. That means we are working with each other in three different time zones, one of which being over a 10-hour difference from everyone else.

We are fortunate enough to have tools for communication, unlike Frodo and Sam when they abandoned the fellowship for the greater good and could no longer communicate with Aragorn. Do you know how wild that is? Sam and Frodo didn’t even know Gandalf is alive until the end of the movie!

Let’s just continue before this becomes an LOTR forum. I mean, it kind of is already. But I digress, you should be in constant communication throughout the development process. Are you part of an agile team right now? Yes? Great! You rule and everyone else drools. No? You should be! [And I was kidding about the ‘you drool’ part].

But what does being agile mean? Well my fellow readers, if you don’t know, I would direct you to Google – the search engine, not the company…but also the company. Simply put, working in an agile environment means working in teams that consist of developers, software testers, product owners, UI designers, and, sometimes, others. These team members work on a project in sprints, creating and testing pieces that will be released in time to production. One of the major ideologies of agile teams is an open and honest line of communication throughout the entire process, as well as delivering functionality and bug fixes on a regular schedule. Think of Gandalf like a Product Manager –  knowing the stakes of the project and trying to keep everyone organized and on schedule while going through the Caradhras passage. And think of Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir as testers, all wielding their unique skills to successfully protect the ring (product) from mishap.   

I, personally, attend at least two one-hour long meetings with the developers and the product manager each week. While we do go off on tangents like how ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ sounds like a Hanson song if it’s played in a major key, we also go over the story tickets that are created and agree on acceptance criteria. Not only does this meeting give me time to rant about my passion for LOTR while my weary teammates pretend to listen, it also gives me a chance to tell the developers things I will be on the lookout for when I test the ticket. This helps prevent bugs from being introduced into the system from the start. And for me, this is equivalent to the feeling of swatting a power forward as he drives in for a lay-up.

Now, being remote also means being out of the loop on some things like quick side convos between decision makers, and maybe even missing out on some office gossip. Now I get my fill of gossip by forcing my boyfriend to watch the Bachelor with me every Monday at 8/7 Central on ABC. But as far as getting involved in those decision-making side convos, I would recommend forming some tight bonds with your co-workers, wherever they may be. I’ve built some strong relationships with friends in Chicago, and we can now talk pretty much anything! They will keep you in the loop if you ask them too. But for the record, there are some things that I just won’t know about until later, and as a remote team member, I will have to accept that. Of course, those things won’t be as big as the news of the return of GANDALF THE WHITE! Seriously, guys. Frodo and Sam didn’t know Gandalf was alive until they woke up in Rivendell after the destruction of the ring [Spoiler-but old spoiler that shouldn’t even be a spoiler at this point].

Now here comes the part where I promote Slack, our messaging tool. Slack is basically AIM for work. It’s awesome. You can see when the other person is typing back. THAT’S RIGHT, JEFFREY. I KNOW YOU ARE IGNORING MY FOUR-PARAGRAPH EXPLANATION ON WHY IT WOULDN’T MAKE SENSE FOR THE EAGLES TO CARRY SAM AND FRODO TO MORDOR FROM THE START. But actually, it’s a really effective tool, and if you have Slack or something similar, I suggest you use it to its full advantage. I have built a full friendship off this tool alone by messaging a co-worker of mine who shares DND as a similar interest. Our paths have actually rarely touched on work related stuff, but when they do, we will already have a good foundation to work from.

“So tell me again. How important is strong communication between teammates, Alex?” 

Heckin’ important.

Next up on Lord of the Test Things…

It’s a surprise! So surprising that I don’t even know what it is yet!


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