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Sep 11, 2023

Unveiling new insights with the RTE of the Year 2022

In today’s fast-paced world, adaptability and collaboration are key. Because of this, the role of a Release Train Engineer (RTE) is extremely important, enabling organizations to successfully implement Agile ways of working. Every year, the RTE Summit brings these Agile orchestrators together to share their experiences, learn from one another, and immerse themselves in the wider RTE community. Every year, an “RTE of the Year” is also chosen, highlighting an individual at the top of their game within the RTE role.

We caught up with Michael Steffen, the RTE of the Year chosen at last year's event, to find out more about his approach and learn what he sees as the future direction of this critical role.

An RTE’s Day-to-Day

When asked about the most enjoyable aspects of working as an RTE, Michael shared a deep appreciation for collaboration and building personal connections: "I enjoy working together with the teams, the people; helping them on a daily business and seeing the progress they make". This is hardly surprising, as the RTE role thrives on nurturing a culture of teamwork, continuous improvement, and collective success. It’s important to keep in mind that emphasizing people and interactions above processes and tools is at the core of working Agile.

Michael translates this enthusiasm into his day-to-day activities, whether it be actively engaging in sprint reviews or staying aligned with scrum masters through sync meetings. He is also involved in the development of an “Agile Academy” initiative, where team members meet regularly and discuss day-to-day problems in order to for collective learning to take place, sharing best practices and discussing challenges with one another. Indeed, it is incredibly valuable to foster community and create opportunities to understand others’ experiences.

The Evolution of the RTE

Like many other roles and professions, RTEs have had to adapt and evolve (not least because of the COVID-19 pandemic), particularly in finding how to make the RTE role work entirely remotely. Nowadays, coming back to onsite work has presented even more changes in trying to translate both styles of working into a hybrid setup. Michael talked to us about the struggles of trying to strike the right balance between physical and digital components in an onsite PI planning, to get “the best of both worlds”. Doing this meant quite some trial and error, seeing how new equipment could be implemented and forcing him to consider new and unexpected factors like acoustics and noise pollution between teams.

“How do we connect the teams remotely? How do we do the presentation? Does the team work with so many participants and so on”

Beyond these, the RTE role has also been gradually changing over the years. For his part, Michael sees Release Train Engineers evolving towards more people-oriented responsibilities. With the aim of nurturing team members' growth and well-being, RTEs may increasingly step into coaching roles, supporting Scrum Masters in personalized mentorship and guidance. Additionally, he believes RTEs will increasingly bridge the gap between Agile teams and upper management, helping bring about a full cultural shift towards Agile practices and create continuous improvement across their organizations.

“Normally the teams are quick to understand what's it all, but you also have to work on the other side: the management and the mindset up there that is sometimes still fixed on the old ways.”

The journey of an RTE is not without its twists and turns. As the Agile landscape continues to evolve, RTEs stand as central figures in bringing about change, fostering collaboration, and guiding organizations toward successful transformations. Their role has extended beyond the realm of processes into that of cultural catalysts, and their experiences continue to inspire the Agile community year after year. The RTE Summit continues to be a platform allowing RTEs to connect, learn, and contribute to the advancement of Agile practices in organizations across various industries. Join us at the RTE Summit 2023 for more insights and networking opportunities this November 7th and 8th. Find out more about this incredible event here, and secure your spot now!

Onwards and Upwards

Having been previously immersed in a well-established company framework were everyone was already well aware of the roles and processes, Michael felt ready for new challenges. Being chosen as RTE of the Year gave him the final push he needed to take the risk, and figure out the next step in his career. Michael now finds himself in a company whose Agile transformation is growing at a rapid pace, aided by a great growth mindset. While not all individuals or teams are on the same stage in their transformations, this only creates more exciting challenges and opportunities for our RTE of the Year.

For Michael, transitioning to a new company and business sector, meant that “everything was new, totally new”. Adapting to a different landscape, making new contacts with relevant people around his ART, and understanding the many nuanced differences led to some initial hurdles. While certain things may not be done the same way, Michael feels it important to understand why they are done that way: “It doesn't have to be wrong, you may have just not seen the reason yet.” But reflecting on his journey, the universality of Agile principles became clear for our RTE of the year. Despite working in vastly different industries, the approach and core principles remained intact across both contexts.

There is a world outside and there are a lot of other companies also working in this way. It works between contexts
Michael Steffan

RTE Summit NYC 2024

Due to the success of the RTE Summit in Europe, we decided to expand with the RTE Summit to the vibrant city of New York in February 2024. This event is designed for RTE's by RTE's. As we gather to amplify the impact of Release Train Engineers all over the world, this is an unique event where you can connect with a fast growing community.

Written by Gladwell Academy, but most of our content is created by trainers and partnering experts!