Since starting out in merchandising 11 years ago, Sarah-Leigh has honed her communication and management skills, found a passion for Agile, and now works her magic as a product owner and facilitator at Nona.
I initially wanted to become a violin teacher…
Instead, I began working with an aunt who imported Christmas products. I did this for 5 years, starting as a merchandiser, then running the office and liaising with buyers and suppliers based in East Asia. I picked up a lot about communication in this role.
My introduction to digital work and development came when I worked at a loyalty rewards company. I was an account manager, but gained a lot of exposure to the process of working with developers and designers, and I enjoyed it enough to want to continue. I built on this when I moved to a company that created SMS and USSD marketing campaigns, and this is where I got my first taste of Agile and Scrum.
I then started working on websites and various digital projects at a marketing agency. I really grew in the time that I spent there, gaining a better understanding of the challenges that dev teams face, while looking for the best ways to tackle them. We tried to introduce Agile from the bottom up, which was hard, but I saw how it improved our work and helped us deliver solutions to clients at the end of the day.
My interest in Agile led me to Nona…
After quite a lot of research on Agile, I came across Nona in 2016 — the same year they implemented Agile — it was a perfect fit! I was an account manager at first, but this soon evolved into a product owner role.
The idea of running discovery workshops came about during our Agile training. Since I enjoyed representing the team to clients and vice versa, we realised that I was in a good position to help people exchange ideas in these sessions. This was a challenge for me because I didn’t like public speaking, but I wanted to face it head-on. We had one training session, followed by a mock discovery workshop, and then I ran our very next discovery for Rekindle Learning!
It’s just continued to grow from there — I’ve run about 12 discoveries since then, and I love how the sessions bring ideas together so effectively (and I love working with stickies). My challenge is to get more comfortable with public speaking — something I tried to tackle by hosting a Geek Girl Dinner. I was petrified but it didn’t go too badly, and it connected me to other women in tech.
Working in tech means making people’s dreams comes true…
That’s what excites me about this industry — we have the knowledge and skills to create things, and I love being part of that. Finding the middle ground between what the client wants and what is possible, while maintaining the relationship, is something that I’m passionate about.
I’d like to keep on learning. I’ve completed the product owner course, and recently got my diploma in digital marketing — something I wanted to do because I didn’t have any certification and felt I needed a general understanding of the industry. My long-term goal is to become a scrum master, which involves coaching individuals and teams. Helping people is something I’m very driven to do, and in this space, whether we’re building a product for a client or looking after the team, we’re ultimately helping people reach their full potential.