Tech Sisters at Big Bank

11 November 2015


Heldin Rikk: Retrospectives are the key to reflect, change and improve!


A country girl who became part of a big city agile mafia in 2009, today Heldin is responsible for Agile transformation in Bigbank. Heldin says that what got her into this job was the only constant thing in her life: change.

She says this is what Agile is all about, and it’s probably the reason why she has now become an evangelist of this software development methodologies.

In her talk, Heldin went through the particular Agile methodology teams at Bigbank use to deliver software: Scrum, which is also the most popular of all the Agile methodologies. She got a bit of a shock when she found out that from the agile practitioners in the audience the majority leaves out the most important of all scrum meetings: the retrospective. In her own words:

“The main idea of Scrum is: Inspect and Adapt. How can you change when you don’t stop and reflect on what went well and what went wrong? How can you change when you don’t make decisions on what to improve? You can never be truly agile if you don’t do retrospectives.”

She also talked about the challenge of knowing if your teams are doing good Scrum when you manage more than 3 teams. For that, she uses a tool called FlowHow: it consists of a game that collects teams data regarding scrum and it’s used for giving points. If a team is doing good in a particular area they get the maximum amount of points, otherwise the don’t get any. The results are assessed every month and the team with more points gets a prize.

Heldin thinks this tool helps teams truly understand what is Scrum. As an example she says that in Bigbank, some of the things that they had been trying to change for a while started to get fixed within a day of using it. To her, the game gives a very nice overview of where I need to put my focus as things are very visible and based on real data.

Her final word of advice is that if you are too busy or lazy to dig in more, there’s one thing you can take from this:

“Do retrospectives and keep on changing!”

Vilve Vene: believe and have courage!

Vilve started her career in the early 90s, a lucky time, she says, as everything was possible back then when Estonia had just announced its Independence. Her first job was with a Swedish company that was particularly interested in recruiting Estonian women to be developers for a subsidiary they were opening in Estonia. According to them, women worked harder, were more diligent and asked for less money. Out of more than 500 applicants, she was one of the lucky 3 to be selected. This year of intense development in the IT sector made her hungry for more, so she decided that it was time for a change. So she went to work with Hansapank, back then a startup that she described as:

“The bank of the new era, founded by young guys who wanted to change the world, build a better and more modern bank than any existing bank in western world – in other words do the real innovation in banking industry”.

Things started to change in 1999 when the company was bought by Swedes. After seeing the company culture and purpose slowly change, she decided to make a new move in 2002. The idea to start her own business with other friends came up while in Rome. She describes this decision as the equivalent of jumping out of a plane not being sure whether you have a parachute or not, since they were basically exchanging a very safe and well-paid job with all the benefits, for the unknown. It was themselves who would determine whether they got paid or not, by making things happen.

What she got from all of this was:

“Believe in yourself and have courage to take next steps! It is never easy and the path is never set for you! If you go to the office every morning and you find yourself unhappy and not really motivated or worse you don’t really accept decisions and behavior then you definitely need to change something. Somehow women often postpone taking action… If you think you can do it better than you boss does and you’re not good in adapting by your nature, maybe it’s time to try to start your own business. Many men do it easily. Very few women do it. Because we, women, we usually think we are not good enough yet, not ready yet. The reality is, that you’re never ready and you’re never good enough. But if you don’t try, you will never get good enough, and you’re never fully ready. You just have to start and you’re getting good enough. I wasn’t an exception, there were so many hesitations in my head and in my heart when I took the step to start my own company…”

Vilve has by now been running her own tech company for over 13 years. In all the changes she has seen in the industry there is one thing she notices remains unchanged: positions women in the IT world. The core problem? She says it all comes down to ourselves as women: we underestimate ourselves. This is good news for us, however, as the solution is in our own hands. We have to start believing more in ourselves and go ahead and do things.

Some interesting data about her company, Icefire: they have 50% of women working in different positions, 2 of 5 board members are also women and half of team leaders and area managers are as well.

Maarika Susi: Be present and be balanced!


Maarika is a person with various facets in life which which she balances like a good dance every day of her life. Her background is in Environmental Management, and she has worked in Sales, advertising, ecommerce and with startups. She currently works as a Customer Success Manager in Pipedrive, as one of the organizers of Garage48 Hackathons and she also teaches Latin Dances.
What is it that keeps her going? The Highlight Reel! In her own words:
“Imagine yourself as an old lady. Think back over your life and recall your “Highlight reel”, the handful of perfect moments and the times where you truly felt alive:
- Was it when you were walking with your dog in the hometown beach and enjoying the sunset?
- Was it when you climbed the vast mountains in the rainforest with pouring rain somewhere in southern Uganda in search of mountain gorillas?
- Or was it when you were at a meeting in the office or stuck behind the laptop handling some budget issues?”
Her answer to this question is very clear, and that’s exactly what keeps her going. She advises people to focus on the present instead of living in the past or the future.
She believes men and women have both different and complementary roles in life, and this is something she applies in her dancing classes but also in other areas of her life. Her Dance philosophy: the woman is like a beautiful painting and the man is like a frame that lets that painting shine.
Here are some books Maarika recommends:
“Naiseks olemise kunst”. Author: Katrin Saali Saul
“The power of now”. Author: Eckhart Tolle
“Sex at Dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality”. Authors: Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
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