In my company’s October 2020 newsletter, we launched a new segment called “Fresh Agile Voices”. Increasingly, I have begun to recognize that as a white male I am privileged and I have had advantages others have not had. And being in that privileged group is like the water in the fish tank – the fish can’t see it. I hadn’t seen it.

So we launched Fresh Agile Voices which feature brief interviews of agile coaches that include people of color, women, and others who are experts in agility. I want to do what I can to amplify the voices of those experts in our field who weren’t born into privilege.

Our second installment of Fresh Agile Voices is an introduction to Agile Coach Raven Cashaw. I have known Raven for a few years and had the opportunity to work with her starting one year ago. Please watch my brief interview with Raven to learn more about her, how she got into coaching, and how she approaches her client engagements.

Check out the video of our discussion here:

Transcript Fresh Agile Voices with Raven Cashaw

Anthony: Hi and welcome everyone. And I’d like to introduce you to Raven Cashaw, my guest this morning. And Raven, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you.

Raven: Yeah. Hello everyone. Hey, Anthony, my name is Raven Cashaw. I reside here in the good state of Illinois. And a little bit about me as I’ve been an agile coach and on my journey for a little bit over 10 years now.

Where I’ve been mostly working in the financial sector, but I have been shoved off into a manufacturing and other areas. I am excited about what I do for a living. It really makes me feel good to be able to wake up in the morning and know that I’m doing what I love and that is to support, helping change people lives.

Anthony: Wow. I love your energy and passion. Raven, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got started? You said 10 years experience. Tell us a little bit about how you got into agile ways of working.

Raven: I kind of fell into it. My education expanded at first in criminal justice. And then I figured out, ah, maybe that’s not for me.

And so I got out of criminal justice and then my mother introduced me to project management. She said, you know, I think you’re really detailed oriented and you’re task oriented. Maybe you’ll do very well in project management. So I did just that. I found a mentor. Then I went and I went to grad school and I studied project management.

And then when I got there, it got to the point that I wanted to interview for jobs. They were asking me for like 15, 20 years of experience. And I said, I can’t do that. I mean 15 years ago. I was 15 years old. I can’t, you know, I can’t drum up this type of experience. And so I was trying to think of other areas.

And so finally, I got an entry-level project manager job. And one of my managers says, hey, why don’t we just try this agile thing? And I said, what is that? He said some new ways of working. I really don’t know, here’s a book, go figure it out kind of thing. And so that’s what I did. I read that book, which furthered my interest to go ahead and take some training and find some mentors.

And I just said, this actually works for me. The accountability of the work does not fall all on me, it’s a team. I have actual support. And I said, this is exactly what I want to do in the workplace, but not just in the workplace, what I do in my personal life as well. So that’s how I tend to run my life in a very agile, very flexible way. And it tends to work for me very well.

Anthony: That’s awesome. When did you first consider yourself an agile coach? So you are a practitioner, you went from project management to agile. At what point did you say now I’m a coach.

Raven: I figured out that I was a coach once I realized that I would never be an expert, that I would not ever know everything that there was to know about agile.

And once I got comfortable with understanding that it’s okay to not be “an expert”, but to continue to live and have experiences, that’s when I became comfortable with being a coach. So I’m going to say that the idea of coaching is truly just like agile, a mindset and from your experiences and from the things that you have figured out that you need to improve upon, you figure out. Hey, yeah, I think I’m a coach now when I can actually support someone in their journey and they say, you know, that was a good idea, Raven. And what do you think about that? I’m like, yeah. Oh, that can actually help me too. So being able to put yourself in a position to learn from others constantly, that’s when I figured out I was a coach.

Anthony: Oh, that’s awesome. And how would you describe your style of coaching, or your stance as some people would say.

Raven: I’m going to give that consulting answer, Anthony. I’m going to say it depends. Because it does depend upon the organization. It depends upon the team, it depends on the department and it just depends on the situation, right? So I always take a collaborative approach to everything. So where I’m going to share knowledge, and I’m going to hope that I also learn from the next person. You know, I tend to find myself learning from people that’s only been on their agile journey for weeks, if not months. You know, I learned from them as well.

I learned from people that have been in this game, you know, for over 30 years. And so it never ceases to amaze me that it’s not about, add agility and being an expert, it’s about being open to experiences and learning from each other.

Anthony: Yeah. That’s great. I learn a lot from my clients, especially the questions from new people. I’m like, Oh, I never thought about that. Or I see how that’s a challenge for you. So as a coach, what do you find most difficult? Is there anything you find difficult?

Raven: I say challenges. As a coach, you have to ask powerful questions to your clients in order for them to figure out their own solution, right? But sometimes I, Raven wants to get in a way and Raven, as not the agile coach. Raven just wants to just give that solution, right?

Because, oh, I’ve seen this and this helps. This might help you. And it’s really to have to just pull everything back and say, you know, and you’re, and I’m just like this. I’m like, I really want to tell them, but no. It is holding yourself back and allowing them to have their own experience as they’re doing, they’re all solutioning in their head and then that conversation.

So that’s a challenge for me and I think it’s only human, right? And you know, even as parents, we find that we want to tell our kids what to do, but sometimes we have to take a step back and allow them to figure out what is best for them, right?

Anthony: Completely agree. It takes a lot of ego strength and humility to step back and get out of the way and let them figure it out for themselves.

Raven: Yeah, absolutely.

Anthony: And that’s what they’re going to remember and that’s what’s going to stay with them. More than you protecting them from some sort of mistake or a decision rather just letting them learn from it and grow.

Raven: Right. I’m reminded about, how I used to tell my family and friends and colleagues. I said, people never remember the materialistic things that you give them, but they always remember experiences. So if someone gave me a gift five years ago, I’m not going to remember more than likely.

But I’ll always remember that I hadn’t experienced with a mind-provoking conversation that led me to think a different way, right? So it’s good not to just hand over the solution but to allow them to experience it along the way. Absolutely, to what you were saying.

Anthony: Well, I’m grateful to have the pleasure to have worked with you in the past. And you’ve been a very successful agile coach. And I’m just wondering, what kind of advice would you give to other women or people of color or others who are trying to make it as agile coaches or aspiring to be a coach? What kind of help would you provide them or advice?

Raven: I would say don’t. First thing, don’t let (your)self get in the way. Don’t think because there are ideas or negative energy floating around that you can’t do something because of your particular age or race or ethnicity or gender. Step outside of that, don’t accept that.

Own your own energy, own your own strength and then build upon your skillset. This is truly a skillset to be a coach. And to build on that is to look itself and constantly figure out how can you change to be better for you to be better for the community and to be better just in general for the universe, right? Cause we’re all operating off that good energy. So I would say that those are the things to do to keep trying to learn that there is no moment in time that you should not be learning. And constantly perfect your craft and inspect and adapt, of course.

Anthony: Yeah, you have to be ready to constantly learn and evolve. I mean, COVID was a huge monkey wrench this year for everybody.

Raven: Oh yes. And you know and I’m learning there like, you know, cause we’re used to so much face to face interaction, right? And I have all these good activities that I can do face to face and agile games and things like that. And it’s like even with my experience, it’s a challenge. And so I’m still in the seat of learning. How can we get this agile journey to these organizations virtually and it still holds the same impact or close to it?

Anthony: Yeah, I totally agree with you on the challenge. So Raven, you recently launched your own company. Tell us a little bit about why you did that and what you’re hoping to accomplish? What kind of clients you serve? That sort of thing.

Raven: Yeah, well, I’ll tackle that first question, how I got started. It was kind of like, I’m not going to say an accident. It was a forced to situation where Anthony, you came up and you said, Hey Raven, I have this fantastic opportunity, you want to help? And I said, okay, well, do you do it on W2 or, how is it going? He’s like, well, at this moment for this particular engagement, it’s just C to C. So you’d have to get your business.

I said, I would have to get my business. And I said, Okay, well, let me work on that. Give me a couple of days and I’ll get back to you. So that’s how it kind of transpired. So you were the catalyst for me, to help me. And ever since, you’ve done that for me, and I really appreciate it.

My business has been going and taking off ever since. I mean, even during this pandemic, I’ve really been fortunate enough to keep Ravve Technology going, in a way that services, not just myself, but for everyone that wants to participate with me. So yeah, that’s how I got started.

And I’m sorry, what was that last, the second part of that question?

Anthony: So who are you hoping to serve with this new business?

Raven: I’m hoping to serve any organization that is seeking change and flexibility in a change, people who are open to experimentation and not just rolling out a full-fledged process. Like I said, I’ve been working with a lot of financial institutions, right now I’m with a major liquor distributor, which that is going fantastic.

You and I have worked together, from a healthcare perspective, the client there. So it all depends. I’m really open. I’m open to small businesses, startups, I’m open to large organizations. I’m just open to people who have that mindset to want to learn and wants to experiment and get to the right options for them.

Anthony: So, Raven, how would people get ahold of you if they want to connect with you or if they want to do some work with you, what’s the best way to reach you?

Raven: Ah, yeah, definitely. I have a website

Anthony: Like that name by the way.

Raven: I just kind of expanded my first name and kept it going kind of that. So it’s I’m always on LinkedIn. You can look me up under Raven Cashaw that last name is C A S H A W. And please feel free, if you have questions where if you just want to have coffee, if you just want to have a conversation, because remember it’s not just about agility, it’s about our, our human wellbeing, right? And so I’m open to positive conversations and I’m open to helping others in the agile journey as well, organizations and individually.

Anthony: Well, thank you Raven, for taking the time to meet with me this morning, and I hope this helps connect you with the kind of people that could best use your services.

Raven: Yeah, likewise, I really appreciate that. Thank you for having me on and I look forward to another interview with you in the near future.

Anthony: Sounds good. Maybe we’ll circle back in about six months or a year and see how things are going.

Raven: That will be great. Anthony, have a wonderful day and a great weekend.

Anthony: Thank you!

This article originally appeared here and has been republished with permission