Meet Mimi Agile Coach: Danielle Luffman

To celebrate International Women’s Day and kick off our week-long Women in Tech blog series where we will be showcasing some of the fantastic women working in the team here at Mimi, we spoke with one of our Agile Coaches, Danielle Luffman. Danielle is originally from North Carolina, and joined the Mimi team back in 2016 in the role of User Researcher.

1. What is your role at Mimi?

Danielle Luffman - Agile Coach, Mimi Hearing Technologies

Danielle Luffman

Agile Coach, Mimi Hearing Technologies

I work as an agile coach, which means I focus on how teams work together. When a team works well together, the sum of individuals can make up more than the individual parts.

My part in enabling this involves conflict resolution, making work transparent, and resolving blockers. Day-to-day this includes the facilitation of regular standups where the team raises blockers to complete work, followed by addressing them in the morning and concluding the afternoon with facilitation of workshops (introduction to agile methods, clarification of roles, project kick-offs) or sprint rituals.

There are many agile frameworks out there that can help teams work better together, but at Mimi, we use Scrum and Kanban frameworks at Mimi or a mixture of the two called Scrumban. For example, our infrastructure team benefits from Scrumban as they have urgent work that pops up for which Kanban is more suitable, but they also have larger projects which need refinement, for which Scrum is more suitable.

2. What influenced you to join the Mimi team?

When I first joined Mimi around 5 years ago, we were a B2C company. We were developing an iOS hearing test app with the hope of one day developing it for Android (which eventually came true!). It was really inspiring to me that one day people could take a hearing test easily anywhere in the world, only needing a smartphone and pair of headphones. Of course, acquiring the devices to take the hearing test would be the second challenge but I still saw it as a great step forward as it removed the transportation barrier to a medical professional. 

I also love music and listen to it daily. Therefore, I understand what a pain it must be if someone cannot enjoy music in its purest form. Now we have switched to a predominantly B2B company, selling our hearing test and processing so that more people can listen to music with the clarity the artist intended.

3. What is it like to be a woman working in technology for you? What are the challenges in your role as an Agile coach and how do you overcome these?

In my role, I try to get to know every person as an individual and understand how they think first. As a result, this allows me to communicate in a way that best suits their personalities. Although every individual is different, I do find some commonalities in how I address males in comparison with females. I find that with females I typically first build an emotional connection by providing context, whereas with males I usually appeal more to the analytical side, trying to be as concise and to-the-point as possible. In a male-dominated industry, I find myself having to adopt some male tendencies, such as being stringent, in order to get my point across. 

A huge benefit of being a female in tech is that we are naturally inclined to have empathy for others. Empathy helps set you apart from others in a male-dominated environment as it helps you relate to others, even if you haven’t experienced the same situation yourself you can share in their emotions. Having empathetic people in an organization boosts the overall understanding of others’ situations in the team. This in turn helps bring everyone to a common understanding and mutual respect for one another, improving communication and morale. 

4. What advice would you give to a woman considering technology as her career?

Know your limits and boundaries. If someone is pushing against your limits, don’t be afraid to speak up. At times I’ve assumed someone knows that they are offending me or pushing my limits, but over time I’ve realized some people are only aware when you speak up. In a male-dominated industry where limits can often be tested, it is important to speak up and be direct with your counterparts. At the end of the day, we are one team and regardless of personal tendencies, we are there to support one another.

5. What do you like the most about working at Mimi?

The best thing about working at Mimi is the people. The people are the top reason why I have stayed with Mimi for the last 5 years. The team is so supportive and wants the best for you, both in your professional and personal life. 

What makes a Mimi employee to me is someone who cares about others. I have found that when someone needs help, everyone will volunteer to assist even if they haven’t done the task themselves. The main reasoning is that the individual who is stuck is not alone and they can work together to find a solution. The team is creative, likes to think outside the box, and challenges the way things are done. As a result, this helps us grow and thrive as a company. 

6. What have you learnt about yourself working at Mimi?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or to challenge a decision. I learned I am in charge of my own development path and to always ask for new responsibility when I need a new challenge. At Mimi growth has always been self-directed and it is important to know not everything is handed to you. I always keep in mind, “Why not ask?”, the worst that can happen is that you might be told no.

7. What could you not live without?

Traveling. I love to travel and this is one of the main reasons I moved from America to Europe.  I really enjoy being in a new environment, immersed in different cultures where people speak a different language, as it forces you to get out of your comfort zone and interact with humans in a different way. It has been hard not being able to visit new places due to the pandemic, but I’m hoping things will soon start to improve.

8. Soundtrack to your life?

Sweet home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd