Humanizing Work First-Time Participant Guide

Humanizing Work 2016 is just 6 weeks away, and we want to help you prepare to have a great experience there. Beyond the basic info on the Humanizing Work website, here are answers to some common questions we get from first time participants…

How is this different from other conferences and workshops I’ve been to?

The first Humanizing Work event emerged as we asked ourselves a few questions in late 2012:

  • What would we cover for ScrumMasters and Product Owners if we could assume everyone already had the basics (and some practice)? I.e., what would go in advanced SM and PO classes?
  • What if we did advanced SM and PO training at the same time with multiple facilitators and made it modular so people could attend the most relevant bits for them?
  • What if we took the things that make the highly interactive, brain-friendly style work and applied those to this conference-like setting?
  • While we’re at it, what if we take our favorite things from conferences (e.g. great hallway conversations), make them central instead of peripheral and accidental, and push them to the extreme?
  • What if we get some of our favorite fellow trainers and coaches to help facilitate sessions?

What we ended up with was sort of like advanced training, sort of like a conference, sort of like a retreat with a community of awesome colleagues.

So, how is it different?

  • Everyone has been in an Agile For All class. You’ll have a common language and experience with every participant. Every session can go beyond the basics because there’s no need to get everyone on the same page first.
  • Everything is intentionally interactive and brain-friendly.
  • You’ll learn as much (or more) from your fellow participants as you will from the session leaders. We’re there to make the space for learning, not necessarily to be the source of all the learning.
  • The venue is different from the typical conference. It’s up in the mountains and doesn’t feel like the typical conference center.


What should I know about the location?

Humanizing Work is intentionally away from the city. It’s meant to be a time to get away from work, to connect to a community of practitioners, to learn and recharge, and to come back with new ideas and new energy, so we chose a beautiful location away from most people’s normal routine. People who participate every year often refer to Humanizing Work as a “retreat,” and that’s not an accident.

Beaver Creek Summer
Beaver Creek in the Summer

Of course, this makes it a little more difficult to get to than Denver. We’ve arranged an easy ground transportation option from Denver International Airport with Colorado Mountain Express. Or, you can get a rental car and explore the mountains yourself. Most people don’t realize how nice the Colorado mountains are in the summer because they typically only come here to ski.

Be aware that Beaver Creek is at high altitude—7,400 feet. Make sure you stay well hydrated, and go easy on caffeine and alcohol, which can affect you more in the thinner air. When you’re outside for more than a few minutes, use sunscreen; there’s a lot less atmosphere filtering the sunlight, and you’ll burn faster than at lower altitudes.

How do I dress? What should I pack?

Dress at HW is casual to business casual, jeans and the like. The important thing is to be comfortable. In Colorado, that means layers. The average temperatures in Beaver Creek in July range from 40° to 75°F. Conference rooms can be warm or cold depending on where you’re sitting and what the air conditioning is doing. So, we recommend having layers you can take on and off to stay comfortable.

Trying to stay dry in an unexpected thunderstorm
Trying to stay dry in an unexpected thunderstorm
Afternoon thunderstorms are common, and the weather changes very quickly, so a light rain jacket can be useful. Some of us got soaked last year when an unexpected storm rolled in during dinner and we had to walk back to the hotel in the pouring rain.

Most HW participants choose to take advantage of the location. They hike or run in the morning before sessions start; they play lawn games, sit around the fire pit, or relax in the hot tub in the evenings. Some people go golfing or mountain biking before or after the event. You’ll probably want clothes and shoes you can do that stuff in.

How do I decide which sessions to attend?

The biggest complaint we get (if you can call it that) about HW is that there are so many good sessions at the same time that it’s hard to decide which to attend. We can’t make the hard decisions go away, but here are some ways to think about which sessions to attend.

Some HW participants have been in one of our Agile for Teams classes and would like to get a CSM or CSPO certification but don’t want to go to a public class and sit through the basics again. So, we’ve created certification tracks at HW, where your intro class plus particular sets of sessions with advanced content tailored to that role makes you eligible for the certification. This removes some of the choices. If, for example, you want to get a CSPO cert, you’re going to need to take the sessions we’ve designated for that track. Check out the program for more details.

Participants at HW are usually (though not exclusively) ScrumMasters, Product Owners, or leaders. We’ve made sure each time slot has content relevant to each of these groups. So, even if you’re not going for one of the certs, you can use the track info to get a sense of who each session targets.

Beyond those easy certification- and role-based heuristics, the best way to choose sessions is to know your goals for the event. What do you want to be able to do that you can’t do today or do better than you can today? Look for sessions that will help with that goal.

If you know your goals but can’t decide between two sessions, talk with one of us. We can probably help you decide.

Sounds like there’s a lot of interacting with other people. I’m an introvert, and that wears me out.

discussionIf you’re an introvert like me, plan ahead to manage your energy. Allocate time to exercise, go for walks alone, read, journal, whatever you need to do avoid getting burned out by the intense interactions. I find even 15 minutes of exercise in the morning and a 5-minute walk on a break is enough to keep me going. If nothing else, give yourself time after the event to rest, recover, and process.

It won’t be natural, but do plan to engage. As a previous participant wrote, “You aren’t coming in to sit and be lectured to. You are coming in to interact, engage and learn by talking to everyone from the presenters to the other attendees.”

That Guided Reflection session looks unusual. Should I really stay for that?

notesThe first two and a half days of Humanizing Work can feel like drinking from a fire hose of learning. You’ll be having deep conversations, taking lots of notes, and discovering things about yourself and your work.

Meanwhile, the email is still piling up in your inbox—there’s not likely to be time on Friday or Monday to process what you learned.

The Guided Reflection session is the bridge between HW and your work. You’ll process what you learned, relate it to the change you’d like to see at work, and put together an action plan for when you get back. You’ll likely find patterns and connections between ideas you encountered in the previous three days but didn’t realize at the time were related. Many participants tell us this is one of the most valuable parts of the event.

So, we strongly encourage you to plan your travel so you can stay through the closing session. Better yet, plan to stay in the mountains for a day or two and do something fun before you head home.

I got an invitation to an online community. What’s that about?

The Humanizing Work online community serves two purposes. First, it’s a way for participants to connect and coordinate before and during the event. We use it to arrange biking and golf outings, ride sharing, and dinners. We discuss (and even modify) session content. Second, it’s used as an extension of the community that grows out of the event. Humanizing Work participants from different companies continue to interact throughout the year, asking questions and sharing advice.

The online community is based on open source software called Discourse. The Discourse project is trying to do for online communities what we’re trying to do for adult education—emphasize what works and eliminate what doesn’t. It helps avoid many of the negative communication patterns common to online communities.

One side effect of this, though, is that it doesn’t send much in the way of email notifications by default. So, we recommend you log in and modify your notification settings during the weeks leading up to the event so you don’t miss anything important. There’s a pinned topic with instructions once you log in.

If you haven’t received your invitation yet, don’t worry, you will. It’s a manual process, so it doesn’t always happen right after registration.


What other questions do you have? Share in the comments.

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