2009 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition

WRITTEN BY Mike Cottmeyer

I think that 2009 will go down as a really good year, a turning point of sorts.

Looking Back to 2008

Toward the end of 2008 I was really burnt. It was finishing my first year at VersionOne and in some ways I had taken on too much. It was the first time in my career that I had permission to write as part of my day job. It was the first time that I could do the conference speaking circuit. It was also the first time that travel was built into what I did for a living. The period of time between Agile 2008 in Toronto and Agile Development Practices in Orlando was just nuts. I was doing what I wanted to do, I was accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish, I just needed to figure out how to do it at a sustainable pace.

This time last year I was doing some pretty serious soul searching, trying to figure out how to manage all of this. I was starting to get a pretty good thing going and I didn’t want to mess it up… at work.. or with my family. So, I sat down and did a personal retrospective. I came to the conclusion that I had three major goals for the year. First, I wanted to get off the road for a few months. Second, I wanted to do four big conferences, but that was going to be it… and, I wanted to have the same talk selected at all four. Third, I wanted to have an outline for the book. The idea was to get off the road for a bit, focus on the highest impact conferences, and try to go big time with a book deal.

2009 Off to a Great Start

January got off to a great start. I was fortunate to do a local training gig here in Atlanta that resulted in a 3 month coaching engagement. Coming off of that I had the opportunity to backfill for Maggie while she was on maternity leave. That kept me off the road for another few months. For almost the entire first half of 2009, I did almost no travel at all. During that time I did head down to Miami for the first Lean & Kanban conference and to Orlando for the Scrum Gathering. Both of those I went as a participant and found them intellectually stimulating… rejuvenating even.

During this time my blog writing took off and Twitter became another great way of connecting with people. These connections became more and more powerful as the year progressed. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to do an article and a paper for the Cutter Consortium and was asked to review Alan Shalloway’s upcoming book (published at this point). This was great timing because the Cutter paper ended up being the outline for the book and the connection to Alan’s publisher ended up helping us land the book deal. While actually having a book deal to go along with the outline was not part of the goal, it was certainly a nice way to exceed expectations.

I was fortunate to have a talk selected for the SQE Better Software Conference, Agile 2009, the PMI Global Congress, and SQE Agile Development practices. Where things started unravelling a bit was when I got asked to do two talks at Oredev 2009 in Sweden, the VersionOne Agilepaloozas in Charlotte and Boston, various local user group talks, and several webinars for VersionOne, PMI, and Pillar. All of this was great experience, and great exposure… it just didn’t help maintain balance, and the second half of 2009 got almost as crazy as the second half of 2008.

2009 Exceeded Expectations

It was great to get to start 2009 off the road. That was probably my most essential goal. I needed some time at home to get my bearings back. While the conference travel was a little more than I had hoped, I had some great opportunities that I just couldn’t turn down. The cool thing was that my Agile PMP talk really took off and, even though I was on the road more, I wasn’t preparing new content all the time. That talk got a lot of mileage and I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to spread the Agile PMP message! Lastly, I set out to have a book outline in place so I could have the CHANCE to pitch a publisher on my ideas. Never in a million years would I have expected to be under contract. Awesome!

But, 2009 did not stop there.

Coming into 2009, I had no idea the way it would end. The past few years I have been trying to build presence in the community and a bit of name recognition. VersionOne was a great platform for me and I will be forever grateful to those guys for an awesome opportunity to learn and to grow in the agile community. I started off the year and had no intention of leaving VersionOne, it is an awesome place to work, and I love the people that I worked with. I had a nagging suspicion though that being a product trainer and blogger wasn’t going to be a long term thing for me. I was beginning to miss being in the trenches and delivering projects.

I had met the guys at Pillar a year or so before and developed some pretty strong relationships. Bob Myers and I got to talking over drinks one night, one thing led to another, and here I am opening a branch of Pillar Technology based out of Atlanta. To me, it was an interesting display of emergent outcomes at work. I knew where I was going, I knew what I wanted to do, but this kind of work you don’t just go out and apply for. These kinds of things happen as a result of track record and relationships. To me it is a great testament to doing the right things, doing them well, creating opportunities, and being open to what happens. I could never have told you in 2008 that this was the right next step, but when the opportunity presented itself, I knew that this was the direction I had to go.

Looking Ahead to 2010

Going forward I have three primary goals for 2010. First, I have to build a sustainable business for Pillar here in the Southeast. We are not limiting ourselves to Atlanta, but in general… the goal is to be able to base here and keep people off the road as much as possible. Second, Dennis and I have got to get this book written. We have until December for a final manuscript and the clock is ticking… no pressure right ;-) Third, be able to do the first two things while maintaining some sense of balance. To me, this means eating right, exercising more, getting out on the weekends to do some hiking and backpacking with my boys, and taking my wife out every now and again.

I do intend to submit to the same few conferences this year but won’t be heartbroken if I only get to speak at one or two. Out of necessity, I am going to have to be more careful about the kinds of things I commit to, and only do them if they support my business or my book. I will definitely continue to be present blogging on Leading Agile, posting on Twitter, connecting on Facebook, and participating on LinkedIn. I am excited to see what this year brings. I am thankful for all the people in our community that support my work. I am thankful for those of you that have emerged from Twitter and become friends in real life. I am thankful for the support of my family and the space they give me to make all of this happen.

If 2010 is half as good as 2009… it should be a great run!

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5 comments on “2009 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition”

  1. Kevin E. Schlabach

    You left one thing out (or I missed it)… where is your involvement with PMI (incorporating agile into the PMBOK) going? I'm very curious… who's leading this? When will it have something to show?

    Reply
  2. Mike Cottmeyer

    Yeah, there were a few notable things I left out. The startup of the LeanSSC as well as the Agile PMI COP. Funny, as big as those things were, they were not core to my personal goals and objectives. That was really the focus of what I was trying to write about. In all reality, they probably just didn't pop into my stream of consciousness!

    The PMI thing is not intentionally setup to incorporate agile into the PMBOK but that could be an outcome via a PMBOK extension. It is really a sub-group of the PMI geared toward helping PMI project managers learn more about how to apply agile practices. If you want to be involved, and stay abreast of developments, join the Yahoo! group.

    Thanks for the comment Kevin!

    Reply
  3. Kevin E. Schlabach

    Thanks for the update… I'm giving an agile talk to a local PMI chapter (Delaware Valley) on Thursday and was curious in case they asked. I, like you, am getting overworked and am forced to focus on less… so I'm interested in the outcome, but don't have time right now to add to the cause.

    Reply
  4. Kevin E. Schlabach

    That being said… if the PMI organization needs any local coaching or support in the Philly/Wilmington area… I might be able to help out with that.

    Reply
  5. Mike Cottmeyer

    I usually point people to the Yahoo group. I think we are going to see a few things emerge in 2010. The most visible right now are a PMI agile webinar series and several virtual conferences.

    Reply