Today’s interview is with Michelle Wilson, Congress.gov scrum master within the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) of the Library of Congress.
Describe your background. What is your academic/professional history?
I am an Information Technology Specialist with many years of experience developing online systems for both the federal and private sectors. Prior to coming to the Library of Congress, I worked for the House of Representatives and Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as a software developer. At the House, I was mentored by seasoned programmers who taught me to ‘Think twice, code once’. It took a minute for me to learn that habit, but I did learn and it has served me well throughout my career. I picked up other habits from those seasoned programmers, but I won’t go into those.
During my tenure at the Library of Congress, my career has navigated from software developer to quality assurance tester to business analyst to scrum master. I have worked on the following software applications: ACQUIRE, THOMAS, Payroll Analysis Module, Copyright’s Online Service Provider, and Congress.gov and worked on special projects, such as the annual IT investment proposals and MOU’s for Library of Congress service units under the OCIO management.
How would you describe your job to other people?
As a scrum master, I do anything possible to help the Congress.gov team perform at their highest level and meet their delivery goals. This involves helping to remove any impediments to progress, facilitating meetings, and doing things like working with the project manager and product owner to make sure the product backlog is in good shape and ready for the next sprint.
What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?
As a quality assurance lead tester, I played a significant role in helping the team develop techniques, processes and best practices to implement and continuously improve the testing function of Congress.gov.
As a scrum master, I support the team in reinforcing the Agile scrum process and other rules the team has agreed upon. I also coordinate and develop standards and best practices for all story grooming activities.
What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?
Congress.gov offers the ability to set up alerts on saved searches or alerts for legislation, nominations, member profiles, and the Congressional Record. Saved search alerts are emailed to you whenever the number of items in your saved search results changes. Each time there is a new Congressional Record or new activity on a specific bill, nomination or Member legislation, an email is sent to you. To get alerts, you must first sign in or create an account.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?
Congressional committees wield power. I learned that the fate of many bills is determined when they reach a committee. Much of the policy expertise resides in these committees. When a member of Congress introduces legislation, that bill with a few exceptions will be referred to a committee or committees for examination and further action (amend the legislation; vote on changes; hold hearings, etc.). Once the bill is released from the committee and returned back to the House chamber, a number of legislative activities could take place before the bill reaches the President’s desk for signature.
However, if the committee chooses to stop action or “table” a bill it deems unwise or unnecessary, then this is the equivalent of killing it.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I am a fan of country western music. I was introduced to it by a coworker who listened constantly to Reba McEntire. In my opinion, country western and R&B (of which I’m also a die-hard fan) are similar. The songs in each genre have virtually interchangeable lyrics about love, loss, betrayal, and looking for that silver lining. It’s quite soulful music, so don’t be surprised to see me at a Garth Brooks or Shania Twain concert!
Nowhere in the article, or in the links is there any explanation of how the word ‘scrum’ came to be involved. I am a fan of 2 sports, rugby union football, and (having grown up in the Great White North)hockey. Yeah, I know that in most of the world hockey involves people of either gender with short sticks knocking a ball around a field. In reality, hockey is played on an ice surface.
The point here is that in hockey announcing, any melee is often referred to as a scrum. This is WRONG. In the sport that originated the term, a scrum is an organized play, a ‘set piece’.
So, where is the interface between rugby scrums and information technology?
Hi Bill —
I was curious about the scrum reference, too! It became clear after reading further down into the interview under the question about her role in the development of Congress.gov.
She says: “As a scrum master, I support the team in reinforcing the Agile scrum process and other rules the team has agreed upon. I also coordinate and develop standards and best practices for all story grooming activities.” There’s even a helpful link provided in her answer: http://scrummethodology.com/