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Reflections from Agile 2013 – Part 3: The Importance of a Learning Culture

Agile 2013 is considered the premier Agile event of the year, and provides a week-long opportunity to engage in a wide-open interaction, collaboration and sharing of ideas with peers and colleagues within the global Agile community.

Last month, Dana Pylayeva, Rakuten Marketing Manager of Shared Services, attended the Agile 2013 conference as a volunteer.  She is sharing some of her takeaways from this conference in a series of blog posts.

One of the most important takeaways from Agile 2013 for me was the significance of a learning culture. As any culture cannot be developed in isolation, one must strive for building a community of like-minded people who can challenge and inspire each other on the path of continuous learning.

In my seven years of volunteering with the Agile conference, I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of that supportive, energetic and inspiring community. They say you become an average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Spending five days attending sessions and workshops, interacting with speakers, attendees and volunteers at the Agile 2013 conference, without a doubt, has that transformational outcome!Agile1

The importance of continuous learning was emphasized in many conference sessions, but perhaps the most powerful message was delivered by Andrew Clay Shafer in his presentation “devops…what is missing? what is next?

“You are not your job; you are a unique being with an amazing capacity for learning.”

Rakuten Marketing is very focused on continuous learning and holds monthly knowledge sharing sessions called ThinkShares.  These ThinkShare sessions are very effective at cross-training people in the technology organization and expanding people’s horizons beyond their current job titles.

Sharing the spirit of the Agile 2013 conference and the energy of the Agile community was the main focus of our August ThinkShare session hosted on 8/27/2012 in NYC. The technology team learned about the inspiring sessions in the new DevOps track, multi-national nature of conference attendees, speakers and volunteers; competitiveness and hard work that go into preparing a conference of this scale as well as synergy and collaboration that peaks on the conference grounds.
The best part of this ThinkShare was the live participation of Bryan Beecham from, whose 75 minute hands-on workshop on “TDD and refactoring with LEGO” was presented at Agile 2013 to 111 participants and had rave reviews all-around. In this very energetic 30 minute version our technology team was able to grasp the concepts of test driven development, write tests, build software products and “ship it” – all using LEGO blocks! Only about 20% of the 34 people in the room were developers. Others were QA, DBA, PO, management, but everyone understood the idea and enjoyed the workshop. Bryan was able to make TDD fun to learn!

Running the ThinkShare sessions and enhancing continuous learning practices at Rakuten Marketing is always a very gratifying experience for me.  This month’s session, however went beyond simple knowledge sharing – it really triggered transformation in people, stimulating their creativity, bringing in new ideas, building synergy and opening new possibilities. It reinforced yet again that learning together as a team, as an organization, takes the learning experience to an entirely new level where everything is possible!

To find out more about the innovative technology platform that empowers global expansion visit the Rakuten LinkShare Technology Pages.

Dana Pylayeva
Manager of Shared Services
Rakuten Marketing