My SPCT Journey and Appreciation for Deep Work

Agile 23 Dec 2020
Ashwinee Kalkura

The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. - Aristotle

When we travel to a new destination, now mostly based on the experience of fellow travelers; we care for the experience of the travel itself and not just the destination. Sometimes, it’s the travel and the company we have along the journey. This is one such story of reaching that destination and explained from the point of view of the traveler looking outside the window throughout the journey with amazement.

The chance encounter with SAFe ® started around mid-2015 when a discussion about a generic topic with a mentor of mine turned into Agility at scale and his experiments at their organisation. The chance favors the connected minds! Fast forward 2 more months, few of us took that jump with Leading SAFe course. Never miss an opportunity to learn something new. Always helps in the long run. And, learn it through an official way which also gives the credibility of certification.

My mentor also forced me to dig deeper into the framework and that lead to searching for an SPC class in Bangalore. I waited for someone from Scaled Agile Inc. (SAI) to teach the class, and it happened in early 2016. Look for the trainer and their experience, not just the certification. I felt connected with SAFe® and that’s the key for any learning. Make sure to have your "purpose" clear on something new you are about to learn.

The opportunities always knock on the door. It was by way of coaching opportunity for a SAFe transformation and a teaching assignment for me. One training became many and they didn't come easy. Unless you have a good instructor feedback, doors close early. Take every class or a consulting assignment as your first. This also helped me to self-assess, whether I will like teaching in a longer run. One situation is very specific to India, where I have seen maximum participants pay from their pocket and attend the session. They prefer to attend over the weekend. In this part of the world, be ready to sacrifice your weekends, it will be worth.

By mid of 2017, again with the right mentors suggesting, I set my eyes on SPCT. The criteria list itself can put most of us away and rightly so when I look back. Learning, Perseverance, Community Contribution, Mastery are expected along with the Gravitas. At every step of my journey, this list kept me sincere and helped in course-correcting. The part played by the Partner Network, Scaled Agile Partner Managers is something you can’t really quantify. Make sure you recognise and appreciate the effort of sales and marketing of your Partner organization too. Submit your application through a Gold Partner only when you are sure of your credentials. If accepted to the program, you have a year to complete all the requirements, and it’s not easy unless you are half way through or more.

I will not dwell on the process part from application to SPCT too much as it’s better to take one step at a time. If you submit with all the evidence and clear the interview from SAI SPCT or Fellow, you will become an SPCT Nominee. Then you have to go through Immersion Week, which checks your Training/Consulting and Presentation skills along with other nominees and judged by SAI representatives including Dean. (I was part of the first online class, and hence in the Asia/Europe/Australia class which didn’t include Dean and others from the US). Once you successfully finish Immersion week along with an SPC master class from Dean, you are an SPCT candidate. You will be assigned a guide and can now submit the requirements. The last step is a pairing test with SAI SPCT on an SPC class. Along with your knowledge and facilitation skills, very good class feedback matters too.  And, wait for the feedback and result from Scaled Agile!

I had always thought the line "And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it" to be overrated. The above monologue proves my thoughts were pleasantly wrong. At the same time, be worthy of the help you receive and make sure you don't put the collaborators/mentors/teachers of yours down. There are no free meals, you need to work or pay for it. At the same time, you would see a lot of help and guidance from your community and SAI too. While I don’t agree completely with “10,000-hour rule”, SPCT is one such program which requires the kind of dedication this rule talks about. Skimming the surface of SAFe® won’t do and you would need some serious Deep Work to pass through. No short-cuts to success.

Many peaks are just like Mt. Everest. You need that hard work, perseverance and maybe a bit of luck with the weather. Once at the top; take a view, cherish and thank, then it’s time to move on. The next person is waiting for that quick view. Staying longer will be FATAL! Back to basics and practice for the peak again. With a humbling experience like SPCT Program, and when you are grounded there will be more opportunities on your way! I am greatly indebted to following authors whose books have been referenced in this writeup. They have changed the way I look at few aspects of work.

“Deep Work” by Cal Newport
“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
“Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Note: These are my views and not a path endorsed by SAI. It may or may not work well for you, if you are planning to take this path.