Inge Vermeesch lives and breathes agile
As one of the Agile Coaches, she’s a true cheerleader of agile - maybe even an agile cheerleader? Inge has found her path within DPG Media’s ever-changing workplace, and she’s eager to help teams and individuals find theirs. So how does she do that? Let’s find out.
How a secret admirer became an Agile Coach
Inge started as HR Business Partner for IT in the fall of 2018. At that time, Medialaan and de Persgroep Publishing merged and became DPG Media. Many HR-related technicalities needed to be arranged with the merger, like harmonizing the terms of employment and rewriting policies. Very valuable and necessary work, but Inge Vermeesch was secretly admiring DPG Media’s agile coaches that got to work on people and culture matters. She saw them organizing workshops all the time, they worked on engagement surveys, made action plans - you could say that Inge looked a little green with envy.
With her organizational psychology background, Inge is trained in how people learn, how to motivate people, how they communicate, how to collaborate, and much more. Along the way, she specialized in change management, learning processes, and facilitation. “I worked a lot with teams in my career as an HR Business Partner. I enjoyed working with people to make change happen - and I wanted back in on the action.”
Luckily for Inge, things change quickly at DPG Media. When she was asked to help create a vacancy text for a new agile coach, she knew this was her chance. Jokingly - but seriously - she asked if she could apply too. A moment of silence followed. Inge held her breath, and she was hired on the spot. Well, almost. Obviously, a few conversations were to be had, and a new HR Business Partner was to be found, but you get the picture. Early summer, the opportunity arose, and by the end of the summer, Inge found herself holding a new position already. “Working at DPG Media is always eventful, especially if you are willing to put yourself out there,” a happy Agile Coach smiles.
Working at DPG Media is always eventful, especially if you are willing to put yourself out there.
“We’re not the agile police!”
Inge is part of the Mission Control and People team, which includes five Agile Coaches. Between the five of them, they get a lot of work done. So much, Inge has to glance over at her personal Scrum board in her home office to remember it all. A personal Scrum board? “I can’t help it; I’m an agile coach,” she laughs.
The projects the team works on can be very different. For example, in the last couple of months, they analyzed the IT engagement survey, created an action plan, prepared communication for it, and will soon be organizing workshops with tech colleagues and IT management to have everyone on board. “We facilitate the workshops in pairs, so with the two other coaches, we take turns. That way, we learn from each other and also have more eyes and ears for the group.”
Now and then, the team has an offsite day to reflect and plan. They discuss topics like talent management, succession planning, and engineering culture. Inge explains: “Take our engineering culture, for example. What is culture? It’s how people interact with each other, which vocabulary they use and what agreements they make. Sustaining a culture takes a lot of effort. If you neglect culture, subcultures pop up - each with its own symbols and agreements. Within a company with the size of DPG Media, there will always be differences in team culture, but we value a shared engineering culture.”
It’s up to the People & Culture team to figure out how to sustain a shared culture while not being controlling or bureaucratic. “We’re not the agile police!” Inge almost screams out. “Our whole culture is grafted on the agile way of working and its framework of methods and techniques. The framework is a given but also evolves as we’re, of course, agile. Within the company, we encourage experimentation, and if an experiment is successful, we always try to see if other parts of the organization could benefit from it too.
Grow, fail, learn, repeat
The Agile Coaches also provide one-on-one coaching if needed. The topics vary, from communication to assertiveness, from leadership to time management. “We have a lot of internal learning and development options, such as the workshops and masterclasses provided by the Academy. But sometimes coaching is the best solution: that way, we can provide a much more personal approach to someone’s challenges.”
There’s always a new challenge just waiting around the corner. DPG Media’s strategy of take-overs results in quickly changing organizational structures. A newcomer to DPG Media needs to realize that the work environment is very versatile. That’s both a promise and a warning, Inge says. “DPG Media offers a great deal of autonomy - which everyone likes. But that also asks for a healthy sense of responsibility. Nobody tells you what to do around here. It’s up to you to decide. You don’t wait around for something to happen here; you make it happen. There’s no need for endless slide decks and proposals; just do it, speak up. Make use of your autonomy - don’t be afraid to fail.”
Follow your own path
The proof is in the pudding: many colleagues have been with DPG Media for years already, thanks to the atmosphere and plenty of opportunities. The office vibe is friendly. Inge’s face lights up: “We have so much fun. In the workplace - just working together and playing the occasional game of ping pong - but also during our hackathons and parties.”
The opportunity to grow within the company is seemingly endless, whether you want to try a new role or take on leadership responsibilities. “A developer could become an architect but could also choose to grow into a Scrum Master role. Although we do want to write up some career paths for inspiration, there is no fixed career path. Sometimes, you will be asked to try a new role. But in the end, it depends on your eagerness.”
It almost sounds like everyone is always on the lookout for the next step in their career, right? “No,” assures Inge, “What I’m saying is that you have the opportunity to advance your career quite quickly at DPG Media, but you don’t have to. If, for you, professional growth is not your top priority right now because you, for example, want to focus on your semi-professional handball career, that’s perfectly fine. If you’re doing a good job, who are we to say that you should aspire to become our next Area Manager, CTO, or something else? DPG Media wants you to be exactly who you want to be. Period.”