How can I or my company have impact on the world? – Some inspiration from Pro Bono Day Paris 2019

The question I have been delving into lately:

And what if I use my professional skills for social/environmental good?


Are these two worlds so mutually exclusive?

Me ^ – Photo by Riette Salzmann of Pixabay

I am just at the start of my journey but so far from my ‘market’ and in person research (lol Product Owner habits die hard)… The answer is:

Yes, it is possible.

Not only is it possible, more than ever, but there are many people out there like me who want to do the same. In addition, companies are awakening to their societal and environmental responsibilities, if only for the reason that their clients desire it and it will increase their employer desirability.

I am increasingly convinced that the economy of tomorrow is one that is socially/environmentally (social good) conscious. It will not be a question but a fact for companies, that they must integrate social good into their DNA to survive. If we look purely at money, the market will demand this even though the environmental doomsday we are heading towards should be motivation enough. But, hey money talks.

So you desire to use your skills to have an impact? In this article I will give you one idea and some inspiration, but to see the full buffet at your disposition that is a post for another day. Though, if you speak french, here are some notes and ideas from a meetup I helped organize on the subject with some like-minded coaches, Nathaniel and Julien. Meanwhile, please reach out to me as I want to meet more professionals on this adventure.

Quick background: How to have an impact without switching jobs? And what is Pro Bono Day?

So in exploring all my options, one option came up called: Pro Bono or donating skills (without switching jobs) to causes that could not normally pay for them. Or for company owners, allowing and facilitating their employees to do this on company time and dime.

Some options for this (some France only): 

This is a great opportunity as not only is it an opportunity to share what we love to do at work but we can develop our skills further by using them in new domains. Also, often it is a write-off for companies providing it on their time, win-win.

Pro Bono Lab organized a day long conference on this subject called
Pro Bono Day with voices from a diverse set of actors and below are some of my learnings and reactions. My notes are not as complete as I would like, so apologies in advance if I do not give credit due. Please email me any corrections, for those who were there. Here is a the full program with all the names of some inspiring organisations and people. Shout out to my fellow coach friend Nathaniel Richand of Permagile who experienced it alongside me.


One of the many roundtables: Flavie Deprez (Carenews) , Anita Kirpalani (Epic Foundation), Adélaïde de Tourtier (PWC) et Emery Jacquillat (La Camif).

Some Big Ideas

On a personal level…

  1. All skills can be used for the betterment of society. We need all our minds on the issues at hand and not just our “best” minds. You may think your skills are unique to your job but often if you break them down into general know-how areas they are easily applicable elsewhere. Example: A project manager who manages CRM software system deployments knows: logistics, time management, detail orientation, systems thinking, interpersonal skills etc. So despite being quite specialized in their daily work, this person could share their knowledge with a charity that needs help structuring their supply chain or deploying an intranet. Do not forget, this arsenal of skills includes those acquired in your personal life. This same project manager organizes family meals for 15 people every Sunday?  Logistics and people wrangling again! This time for nonprofit…
  2. You are your greatest masterpiece, with no completion date. There is no expiration or prematurity of your skills. We tell the young they are not experienced enough to share their skills to help others… The old, too much experience or not relevant. The middle-aged too irresponsible… Must earn money, no? Enough, we all have something to share and gain. Often just a different perspective alone is an asset. Resource: Mélissa Petit of https://www.mixinggenerations.com/ is doing a lot of work to help us understand the unexploited power of our elder generations (a.k.a. us one day!).
  3. The best way to learn is to do and create, working on the causes that you relate to. Programs such as Toukouleur and Enactus believe in this power of learning and gaining confidence via launching projects from A-Z, especially for adolescents. So why not create your own local project or Pro Bono help someone with theirs? In addition, it is recommended to focus on the causes that motivate you most personally as they will keep you driven. There is enough diverse interests out there to cover our most pressing issues.
  4. The best way to gain understanding of others is to do alongside them. To do Pro Bono is to not subjugate your help on others but to come to the table to see how you can collaborate and elevate each other’s efforts. Those we are “helping” have key essential knowledge that must be taken into full account.
  5. There is no “too little” and each cause their merit.  Any drop of help is not too little nor should be shamed. Some can give an hour a year, some dedicate a whole sabbatical to helping, and that is fine. We are also not all motivated by the same causes and all enter this journey at a different time and from different places. What counts is we take a step and open up to and grow our spirits thanks to social good.
https://twitter.com/TheRialMichelle/status/1164644109081907201

On a company level…

  1. Pro Bono or social good programs should never be used as a band-aid for bad HR and unethical practices or to sway public opinion. (Anita Kirpalani – Epic Foundation) They should be done with the pure intention to inspire our employees and enrich their lives and skills. You may try to fake it but this is a type of “greenwashing,” where the intention is only to hide faults, will easily be recognized as false from within and around.
  2. True intention? With time people will tell. There is a lot of public apprehension when money enters the social good sphere, but be consistent in all actions and persistent and with time your intention will be clear. Even if you have to take breaks at points to rethink your approach, that is more than fine, it does not mean people will not understand in the long run your intent.
  3. One way to embody this intention is for the direction or company leaders to go out and move forward their social-good goals. This could be as simple as the leaders taking part of a Pro Bono or nonprofit initiative themselves. Lots of social good organisations or nonprofits may need your experience! As mentioned above on the personal level, this is an opportunity not only to share knowledge but grow and better inform the leadership of the company. It is valuable time spent.
  4. Set your intention… have a mission statement that is clear and guides all actions and products on all levels. This mission must be co-created, owned and referred to constantly by everyone involved and surrounding you. Perhaps this means reconnecting with an old mission statement or emerging a new one. This mission statement can be the driving force to go from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Find or refind your mission’s pulse regularly by seeking the opinions of your employees, clients and society at large. They are the true meter and not your own opinions. Do not just stop at your clients but take in consideration the opinion of those in the locations where you produce and the localsphere of your clients.
  5. As often… When we build a product we think: will it work and can we scale? But we are missing an essential 3rd question: and how does it effect our society? There is no private-only sphere of influence… Everything has a societal effect. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau
  6. Forget the “perfect” model, we must all find our own “pertinent” model. Our strength is in our diversity. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau on finding the perfect social-good model. This principle can be applied to so many other situations! Best is to be inspired by others but in the end build a model to fit our, our clients’ and our localsphere’s needs and unique motivations.
  7. So that means… As organisations we must break down silos between government, public and charitable organisations. What was once a small microsystem is rapidly expanding and now an ecosystem. We can harness this power by collaborating and doing business between all types of social good organisms. Also, as consumers we must vote with our money.
  8. It bears repeating: Companies must engage or die. Impact + profit, not just profit. Consumers want sincerity and social awareness. And our children will (and already do) want even more.
Green Revolution – Photo by Michael Gaida of Pixabay

One last big question…

  1. “No, the question is not how can tech save us… But how can the Probono and sharing our skills for a societal impact save tech?” – Charlie Tronche of HelloAsso

Pandora’s Box

In the end the gift I got out of this conference and my recent adventures into this new world, is hope. Easy to be fatalist until you go out and see the doers. And we are amassing an army.

So go out there and do. And don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss in the meanwhile. If you live in Paris, our next meetup for social good curious and doers is November 20th. Join us! Allez-y!

What is a Coach? + Agile for small brands and UX research for all …

Part III is out of my sit down with my friend and research design extraordinaire, Nikki Lavoie (and overall inspirational BOSS). She is founder and CEO of MindSpark International and the UX(r) Factor vlog.

Part II in case you missed it is here, though it is ok to jump to this part. Part III focuses on: Agile applied to smaller brands, what in the heck I do as a coach and how qualitative UX research can help my clients (or anyone).

Would love to know your thoughts and questions. How did you apply Agile to your small brand? What are your unique needs? Have you worked with a coach before? What are the best practices for UX research + Agile? Discuss.

On the run? This series is now available as one full episode in podcast form here.

An American Agilist in Paris perspective: French vs USA agile motivations, what is the future of Agile and how can I get started?

Part II is out of my sit down with my friend and research design extraordinaire, Nikki Lavoie (and overall inspirational BOSS). She is founder and CEO of MindSpark International and the UX(r) Factor vlog.

Part I in case you missed it is here, though it is ok to jump to this part. Part II focuses on: Agile motivations in France vs USA, a little bit of the history of Agile, what is future and what is a small step forward if you are interested in implementing Agile.

Pst: the full article on first babystep towards Agile and the Agilist I reference around 10:00 is Nicolas Kalmanovitz.

Shortly the final video in this series will be released, which will focus on implementing Agile and it’s mindset in small companies.

Would love to know your thoughts and questions. What is your experience in Agile in other countries? What do you think the future is (Agile or other)? What did you do first in your Agile journey? Discuss.

On the run? This series is now available as one full episode in podcast form here.

Final vlog is out! Check it out.

Agile? What is it? All buzz? UX Research plays what part?

I recently sat down to discuss Agile and UX Research with my friend and research design extraordinaire, Nikki Lavoie (and overall inspirational BOSS). She is founder and CEO of MindSpark International and the UX(r) Factor vlog.

This video is a great little intro into Agile (or my view on it) ;p and also some of the pitfalls. Check it out!

This is the first in a series. Next we talk views of the international community and our experiences working in France. EDIT: Part 2 is here.

Would love to know your thoughts and questions. Agile all buzz? How have you applied UXresearch in your agile practices? Do you like superheros? Discuss.

On the run? This series is now available as one full episode in podcast form here.

Tuto – Animer Une Réunion – Et les réunions à distance ? Quels son vos règles ?

Réunions à distance ? L’horreur ! Je reviens sur ScrumLife avec quelques astuces pour aider installer la culture et l’engagement à distance. Beaucoup des règles peuvent appliquer même aux réunions en personne ! Autres idées ? Dîtes-moi !

Cliquez ici pour mon autre vidéo sur des équipes distribuées et ma présentation.

But wait ! Un exemple pour la route – règles de fonctionnement … cocrées

Commencer de mettre en place des règles de fonctionnement des réunions au sein de votre équipe (à distance ou en personne !). Pour faire, juste brainstorm en groupe (les gens à distance aussi) et voter. Puis placer les règles dans un endroit en ligne et visible pour tout le monde à voir. Tester et puis les revoir après un mois ou deux. Voilà !

En bas un exemple des règles de fonctionnement, mais tout dépend sur votre problématique et votre contexte :

  • Une personne parle à la fois
  • N’hésitez pas à clarifier : Faire un signe/boîte à Moo/bruit/function sur le logiciel … quand perdu pour signaler de la mauvaise connexion d’internet ou si vous avez une question
  • Coupez le micro pendant vous ne parlez pas
  • Utilisez la vidéo
  • Assurez tous les locaux ont de la bonne connexion d’internet, logiciel réunion à distance et capacité pour vidéo
  • Soyez à l’heure sinon prévenir l’équipe
  • Commencer à l’heure même si tout le monde n’est pas là
  • Toujours décrivez qu’est-ce que vous montrez pour eux à distance (sportscast)
  • Envoyer l’agenda en avant de la réunion (24 heures). Tout le monde doit le lire avant.
  • Toujours quand vous avez des supports, les envoyez en format digital à tout le monde au moins 24 hours avant la réunion
  • Utiliser des rôles délégués, tournant, les coéquipiers à distance incus
  • Fin de réunion, le scribe envoie les notes à tout le monde/placent sur le wiki/etc.
  • Quel d’autres ? Dîtes moi dans un commentaire



The New Worker

NOTE: I wrote this for a writing competition hosted by USI. It was originally posted June 2017 on this blog. I have left the content the same except removing one dead link.

I wanted to reshare this as more and more I see this article coming true. Are you a New Worker? Please share in the comments your experience with this “new breed.”


It is clear that a new type of developer has emerged, as described in Github’s Paul Saint John’s 2016 USI talk, but what truly inspired me is his hint that this new breed is also sprouting up in other domains. And that this rebirth was made possible thanks to the very platforms and applications created by the New Developer.

What is this New Developer… err…. Worker?

My view of the anatomy of the New Worker.

The New Worker thrives in a self-feeding cycle starting with a drive to innovate and differentiate, but no longer is this conception done in a vacuum. As Paul Saint John describes for the New Developer:

Learn > Code > Work Together (wash, rinse, and repeat)

Replace “code” with “create content” and you have the New Worker. Continuous learning and social collaboration is key to their success, often harnessing the power of the internet community. 

But where to find these creatures?

Here are just a few of the many examples of these New Workers outside of the development domain:

Science and Engineering

  1. Collective Intelligence initiatives are emerging in the sciences, such as Climate Colab which hosts contests in everything from land use to energy supply with the goal to “open up the elite conference rooms and meeting halls where climate strategies are developed today and allow anyone with a good idea to contribute.”
  2. An online forum of industry experts created to share trade secrets in order to innovate in renewable energy has enabled the founder Doug Coulter to advance towards creating a nuclear fusion reactor.

Medical Field

  1. While opening up clinical data so that the global community can work on it is still very taboo, there have been some initiatives which have already improved patient treatment. Such as a contest from the New England Journal of Medicine concerning blood pressure that was won by a team at Clalit Research Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  2. Communities of medical professionals are forming for those who want to share their expertise, find fellow trailblazers and create partnerships to navigate a world bogged down by bureaucracy. One of these communities is Health Innovators, which has gained 1,600 members since its founding three years ago.

Arts, Animation and Video gaming

  1. Twitch, a platform for gamers to showoff their skills live (45 million visitors per month as of 2013), has now branched off into live streams for artists. Not only did this platform further legitimize the ‘professional’ gamer and gaming coaches and boost indie video game designers, but now it is allowing for artists to real time create, transparently demonstrate their skills, and garner new clients. 
  2. Two student animators got the attention and job offers from Disney and Pixar despite no professional experience due to their animated short The Present shared at festivals and on Vimeo.
  3. DOTA which started as an open free mod created by a fan for WarCraft III now has over 10 million players as of 2015. This first mod was improved by several community members before becoming a sponsored game.

As for a personal example, as an Agile and organizational coach, I am starting to see more and more Agilists open up their tools for free use and feedback, such as Ajiro and Funretrospectives.com. John Saint Paul’s USI talk inspired me to continue to push forward and give my knowledge openly, even enable others to do “my job,” (much like the new developer who creates applications for others to create applications) as I am certain it will only open new opportunities and promote innovations in my field.

One final correction

Photoshopped ;p Strike out code and enlarge it to content

So, I would suggest one minor change to John Saint Paul’s last slide, to expand it to fit the New Worker: 

Those who enable the creation of content, whether by contributing or creating the space to do so, have the power. Numbered are the days of silos and CVs because the worker of the future needs to be part of a community to ensure their success.

Much like the communities initially pioneered or literally constructed by the New Developer. 

Product Thinking et toi (and you) – Why everyone should use it and apply to their professional and pro life + Best Practices of Product Management

(English below or jump there)

Les “best practices” de Product Owner comment est-ce que vous pouvez les utiliser pour améliorer votre propre vie ou vie profesionnelle ? Les découvre dans mon atélier j’ai fait hier à Agile Paris by Night de Agile Tour

Les diapositifs : https://lnkd.in/dXvRd58

Le feuille d’exercices : https://bit.ly/327AK0b

Chapeau à Agile Paris by Night … toujours un événement formidable et inspirant. Merci encore. C’était mon honneur d’anime mon atelier avec autres orateurs supers. Grand merci aux participants pour votre énergie, votre participation et vos éxchanges.

Svp, si vous les utilisez m’envoyer du feedback comment ç’a passé 🙂

— ENGLISH —

Yesterday I reawoke the workshop “Everyone is a Product Manager (Yes, even you!)” but did it completely in French. Just in case it may be of use to you here are the slides in English from when I did it at LeanKanban and AgileNord in 2017.

It goes over the best practices of Product Management PLUS how that can even be applied to your personal life. I crave your feedback!

Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/…/everyone-is-a-product-manager-…

Worksheet: https://goo.gl/YtNwt4

Please be sure to let me know if you use this, how your results were or any feedback! Thanks.

[Try this!] Introduce yourself with what you are currently learning and build your Learning Ecosystem

Image by Gunter Ladzik from Pixabay

I have been testing a new way of introducing myself, especially when at professional conferences and meetups. Though, I feel strongly you can use this throughout your life.

How many times have you talked for a long a while with a new person only to at the end realize there is a connection or opportunity to learn or collaborate? You then scramble to exchange emails and hope to connect and talk more later. You spent most of the conversation dancing around subjects or worse talking about the weather, when what most people want and need is connection and true exchange.

Let’s be frank, there is too often than not a lot of blah blah Rainy Outside blah that no one enjoys.

So I propose:

Instead of introducing ourselves by just our expertise, we should say what we are currently learning.

It is a bit of a way to create a skills matrix adhoc. It also engenders the mindset that we all (Yes, even consultants!) have something to learn.

Example (and a currently true one):

Hello, my name is Sheila. I am a business coach specializing in lean, agile and product vision. Currently I am delving into Lean Startup, working on my writing and practicing my Spanish. How about you?

Better yet ask them, “What are you passionate about?”

And perhaps, the person will respond, “Actually I am fluent in Spanish! Want to meet up practice? I could pick your brain on agile. I am passionate about…” Or, “I am also learning about Lean Startup! What books are you reading? I found this great one…”

Thoughts? Please, let me know your feedback if you try it.

Être agile avec des équipes distribuées, offshore ou en télétravail + l’importance de choix des mots

J’ai passé au ‘tube … Youtube! Scrum Life est une série formidable sur l’agilité avec un vrai esprit de partage et de communauté. Abonnez-vous ! Ils m’ont invitée pour discuter des équipes distribuées.

Bonne séance ! Attention : Il y a des commentaires / partages supers sur le vidéo donc ne les rater pas. Continuez en bas de cette poste pour une pépite extra.

Il était inspiré par mon talk en 2018. Il y a des diapositives.

Les mots sont importants, même les petits peuvent avoir un grand effet

Pour moi, une grande partie de l’agilité … Oubliez ça … Une grande partie de la vie est la communication. En fait, elle est la partie la plus importante.

On pense que notre choix de mots a aucune importance si le message n’est pas méchant mais ce n’est pas vrai. Même les petites gouttes de l’eau sculptent les grandes pierres avec du temps.

Souvenez la première fois vous êtes appelé(e) “mon petit ami” ou “ma petite amie” ? Et puis vous êtes devenu(e) “mon bijou” ou peut-être “mon coeur”, …. Comment est-ce que vous avez senti ? Que vous apparteniez ? Souvenez une fois qu’une personne rigolait et vous a appelé(e) “bête.” Pas super, non ? Et si dit plusieurs fois ?

Le choix de mots est important pour tout le monde, même comme on parle de soi-même. Mais les personnes qui souvent commencent et entretiennent tout sont les chefs et les leaders. Ça inclut le sujet des équipes distribuées, en particulier les gens “pas chez-nous” (pays ou entreprise).

Ma liste des phrases d’éviter:

  • offshore
  • nearshore
  • équipe centrale
  • équipe principale
  • équipe externalisée
  • les contracteurs / les consultants
  • l’équipe de [Boîte X]
  • les [ethnicité ex: Indiens]
  • les esclaves / les robots (Vous pensez que c’est évident mais ce n’est pas vrai pour tout le monde ! On rigole jamais sur ce sujet, même des petites blagues ont leur effet.)

Quelles d’autre phrases pour vous sont interdites ?

Puis vous dîtes, “Donc on utilise QUOI, Sheila ? Vous interdissez tout !”

Utiliser :

Notre Équipe

C’est simple mais efficace ! Quelles d’autres phrases évitez-vous actuellement et pourquoi ?

Checklist: Do I have the Agile/Learning Mindset?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

In a series of mini-blogs I will be sharing some checklists and anecdotes, mostly based around the Agile Mindset or as I call it, the Learning Mindset.

I am a very nondogmatic coach for everything (meeting structure, scrum/kanbanban/scrumbanaFeLess?, roles)… as for me it depends on the context and unique needs of the business and market.

Well, I am nondogmatic except for the Agile/Learning mindset! For me and many Agilists it is the #1 prerequisite in work and even private life. This is especially true for the management calling for any Agile transformation. There needs to be at least the self-awareness and desire to adapt, change to, and invest in the Agile/Learning mindset or the “transformation” is dead in the water.

So… Let’s do a self-check quiz. As you strive to be the change you want to see in the world! Or at least around the water cooler.

Do I have the Agile or Learning Mindset?

  • I can tell you my big-picture vision and “Why” (raison-être) and that of my team and our product. I let this drive me versus the “What” (how we do it) which is flexible.
  • I seek to take small iterative steps that deliver value (end client functionality or service quality), but keep in mind the mid to long term vision.
  • Despite having set my vision, I revisit it often and always leave room to challenge and change my preconceptions and end goal.
  • I am driven by continuous improvement. I believe in testing, learning from my “failures” and adapting. In fact, I believe there is no such thing as failure!
  • While change and questioning is good, I still know I must also decide universally with others, implement and fully test before changing again.
  • I know that every person in my life and team have their own unique skills and point of view. I strive to understand them, empower them and learn from them.
  • I believe in clear communication, including the definition of roles and needs. I seek to express my needs and listen to the needs of others.
  • I work alongside others. I understand I cannot control others nor should I try.
  • I admit when I am wrong and apologize if necessary. It is my strength not my weakness. I feel the same for others when they apologize and I listen to them.
  • For me, it is more important to have a functional product then a beautiful or “perfect” product.
  • I think in terms of a living product that continues to live after it is released versus a project that ends. I understand change and evolution is a constant and not negative.
  • I desire to get to know my customers and create a partnership.
  • I test my product with real customers as soon as possible. Best yet, I test a prototype before building or releasing it. I do not stop there, but continually seek client feedback.
  • As well, I seek feedback on myself, as it allows me to grow.
  • I respectfully give feedback.
  • For me, documentation is “living” meaning it changes often and is light enough to be usable and maintainable.
  • I believe: No process is immutable. We, together, question and adapt processes and how we work.
  • I go into all situations, even “old” ones with an open mind, ready to collaborate and progress.

Any to add?