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26 October 2020

From Engineering to Agile….


If you told me 3 years ago that I’d been working as a Delivery Manager for a digital consultancy, I wouldn’t have believed you. I graduated with a Masters in Engineering and I was convinced I was on a one-way path to becoming a chartered engineer. Making planes stronger, lighter and more sustainable was every grad engineer’s life goal, right?!

This was until I tripped and fell into digital transformation…

Rather than managing technical engineering projects, I had the opportunity to manage the delivery of my first digital project. This involved the design and build of a new document management system that the business would use to store and access important documents (policies, processes etc.). Instead of creating a large, rigid, Microsoft Project plan that I was traditionally used to, I researched and practised agile delivery techniques and was immediately hooked on this new way of working.

Agile gives you the scope to fail fast and overcome problems before the molehill becomes a mountain. From sprint planning to daily standups, it became clear that a role in the digital world had to be my next step. I quickly began searching for digital consultancies in the North.

I’ve just completed my 3rd week as a Delivery Manager at Hippo. This role is responsible for building and maintaining agile teams, ensuring they’re motivated, collaborating and working well together. This involves coaching and leading teams in agile practices and traditionally, running the agile ceremonies (sprint planning, stand-ups etc.). I’ll also be there to identify and overcome obstacles and risks, making sure the team can focus on the delivery of the service for our clients. Finance, commercial and stakeholder management is also part of the DM parcel!

I’ve had the pleasure of spending my first few weeks in the Leeds office with a great group of colleagues (socially distanced, of course). Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful — Hippo’s sociable, ‘family’ like culture was apparent from my very first day. The set-up in the office is great too, it’s extremely central to Leeds with the shops and train station just a stone’s throw away. Not to mention the bar downstairs…

Whilst getting to grips with my new surroundings, I’ve also been exposed to the different job roles that make up Hippo’s consultancy offering. User Researchers, Business Analysts and UX Designers are a handful of the job roles I hadn’t worked with before starting here. It’s been fascinating to learn how these roles contribute to the agile delivery of our services. This coupled with an overview of Hippo’s user-centred design approach put me in a good position to hit the ground running with my first client-facing project this week!

Over the past 3 weeks, it’s become apparent that there are a few things I believe Engineering Research and Development (R&D) can learn from the digital world. Traditional waterfall management has its place in large, rigid programmes of work. Nevertheless, with R&D projects where the route to the final ‘product’ is unknown, I believe an agile driven approach could prove beneficial.

‘Agile Engineering’ would divide large R&D challenges into shorter, measurable chunks of work. Sprints provide a clear focus on outcomes in a short (usually 2 week) period, allowing teams to quickly iterate, test and gather feedback on product development — there’s scope to fail fast and get better, quicker. Rather than starting with clearly defined requirements, requirements can flex as the product develops but will constantly be tied to user/customer value. Daily stand-ups improve meeting efficiency, retro’s allow people to raise concerns before they’re too big to handle, show and tells provide a constant feedback loop and most importantly, agile drives full accountability in the project team. To all the Engineers out there, I encourage you to research into agile principles and see how you could integrate them into your product development lifecycle!

In summary, Hippo is a consultancy full of talented people that delivers solutions that people really need. Their culture empowers you to celebrate successes, be held accountable for your actions but encourages you to enjoy yourself in the process. I’m starting to think the jump from Engineering to Agile was in fact, a good one.

If you’re interested in becoming part of the Hippo herd, whatever your background, head over to our career page for more information — we’re always on the lookout for new talent!