Engineering and Product

Tanya Colvin, Agile Lead Coach at Plexure

From flight attendant for the US Military to helping individuals and teams improve the way they work together, Tanya Colvin has had an interesting jounrey into tech!

As someone that prides herself on staying calm in the midst of chaos, Tanya has built a broad toolkit acrross her career that translates well into a high-paced tech environment.

We caught up with her to learn more about her current role at Plexure, where Tanya shared more about the importance she places on values alignment which made Plexure an easy choice and much more!

Thanks for sharing your story, Tanya.

Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?

I’m a coach. I help individuals, teams (and the company as a whole) improve the way they work together. I help them notice and remove problems that get in their way so they can perform at their best. This helps them build trust and enjoy working together and that results in higher performance and a stronger company culture.

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

There are a lot of meetings to be sure. I usually start off the day with my own team’s standup then I join in the team standups for the teams that I coach. The rest of the day is a mix of 1:1 coaching sessions, team agile events (such as sprint planning, refinement meetings, reviews and retrospectives), training/ teaching, and facilitating workshops and other events as needed.

An Agile Coach differs from a professional coach in that we don’t purely remain in the coaching stance. To be effective, Agile Coaches must be able to read the room and move seamlessly between many different stances depending on the need.

These stances include coaching, serving, guiding learning (teaching & mentoring), facilitating, advising, leading, transforming (guiding organisational design and change), and being an Agile/Lean Practitioner with deep knowledge of Agile frameworks and practices.

What are some of the common misconceptions about working in your role?

Some believe Agile equals Scrum and think of Agile Coaches as Scrum Masters who are there to facilitate Agile events and help the team remove blockers. That is only a small part of what an Agile Coach actually does.

Our purpose is to cultivate a learning organisation, enabling business agility and to build high performing teams and organisations by partnering with and coaching leaders at all levels in the business.

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

Not really, although the Jetsons was my favourite cartoon, because I loved the futuristic technology and day-dreamed of a future world where technology enriched our lives and made so many tedious chores easy. Flash forward more than a few years and much of the Jetsons’ tech is part of our daily lives now. When I was a child, I wanted to be an architect and build amazing buildings. Now I’m committed to helping build amazing teams and organisations!

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and, ultimately, about how you ended up working at Plexure? 

My career journey has most definitely not been a linear or direct path. It has been a meandering trek full of interesting twists and turns guided by a sense of adventure and eagerness to learn and try new and different things.

I started my journey as a flight attendant for the US Military, flying to remote and often quite dangerous locations all over the world. Through that experience, I learned that I had so much more to learn from the rest of the world, and to have empathy and see things from others’ perspectives.

I also learned how to choose courage over comfort every day. Later I became a Yoga, Pilates and Meditation teacher and did that while my daughter was very young. This was perfect as I could also be a stay at home Mum and teach my classes in the evenings and weekends when my husband was home.

With this experience, I learned to love and value myself and how to stay calm in the midst of chaos which helps me keep a level-head. I then went to work for ACC where I had a number of roles including Serious Injury Support Coordinator, Injury Prevention and Management Consultant and Business Customer Relationship Manager.

Here I learned so much about New Zealand culture, business, mental health and disability. I left ACC to join a start-up, The Accessibility Tick, as Programme Lead. This was my fist introduction to Agile and after working for a Government Department where nothing moves fast, I loved the nimbleness of the start-up culture. To this day I am incredibly proud of what my team built and the legacy that lives on.

From there I went to The Warehouse Group as Head of Team Member Wellbeing, where I looked after injury management and return to work plans (for injured employees or those with chronic health, mental health and disability-related challenges), wellbeing strategy and wellbeing response through Covid as well as leading Accessibility and Diversity and Inclusion for the Warehouse Group.

When The Warehouse Group decided to go Agile, I threw my hat in the ring for an Agile Coach role and there has been no turning back! I first went through an intensive 3-month training programme with McKinsey & Co and I was also mentored by experienced Agile Coaches before being released into the wild where the real learning began. After several years at The Warehouse Group, I was open to a change and I was introduced to Plexure.

I immediately connected with Plexure’s friendly and authentic recruitment team and keeping with the theme of being guided by a sense of adventure and an eagerness to learn and try new and different things, this role at Plexure just felt right. I’m so glad I once again chose courage over comfort as I am very happy to be part of the Plexure team!

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

It is hard to choose one so here are a couple:

  1. Always assume positive intent, listen more and stay curious longer.
  2. Humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive. A good leader needs to be both at the same time.
  3. It’s hard for anything to matter to someone who doesn’t feel that they matter.
  4. As a leader, speak last- after hearing from everyone else. ** What are the core skills required to be good in your role?**

Humility, genuine care for the people and teams you support, courage, growth mindset, eagerness to learn and good self and social awareness and flexibility (e.g. the ability to read the room and pivot when necessary).

Lastly, as Plexure continues to grow and evolve, what are the key traits and characteristics of people who will be well-placed to work there?

As Plexure grows, we want to maintain our amazing culture and we need people who share and live our values in order to do this.

Here they are with my take on each:

  1. Be Authentic (No mask wearing here. This requires vulnerability, which takes courage!)
  2. Stronger Together (No politics or individual kingdom-building. We are one team and we support and help each other, always).
  3. Respect for all (We value and respect each other and this is evident in our behaviour, the way we interact with each other and the way we collaborate and work together. We are a diverse and inclusive workplace where every person is respected, matters and we hope feels a strong sense of belonging).
  4. Better each day (We are a learning organisation made up of smart people who are eager to learn and improve every day. We don’t aim for perfection. We aim for better each day as individuals and as teams in all that we do. This means we must have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. We are learners who are empowered to test and learn so we can improve in all that we do).

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