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I see job requirements such as 'Experience working in an Agile environment.' Given that about 1% or less of my working day will be concerned with the details of the design/development methodology in use, how important is it for someone coming from a traditional waterfall development model environment to have had experience with agile methodologies?

If the answer is that it is important, then what aspect(s) of Agile are at issue here that they require prior experience?

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, alroc, AffableAmbler, Cronax, Draken May 28 '18 at 9:23

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Most of the postings I’ve seen list this as a non mandatory skill. I see no reason why this would be a blocking point, although I think that agile can’t be properly done with developers being involved only 1% in the process. There are quite a few ceremonies already taking some time, backlog grooming also, that would require some involvement, the goal being to become a self-organizing team. – Laurent S. May 27 '18 at 11:05
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    I've worked for three different companies that claimed to use agile methodologies, and all three did it differently (and probably all incorrectly, per textbook agile.) I think as long as you know the buzzwords and understand the basic concept of "a sprint" then you'll be fine. – Steve-O May 27 '18 at 13:00
  • This is going to depend entirely on the company and what they are looking for. We can't answer it here. – Seth R May 27 '18 at 14:44
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    There are many different ways to work, Agile is one of them. Unfortunately (and ironically given the precepts of Agile), Agile fan-boys tend to be ultra-dogmatic and rigid in their thinking (example-- someone went through and downvoted almost every answer below even though there's truths in each of them). Whatever the case you won't know if a "requirement" is actually "required" until you proceed with the application process. In other words, most descriptions are loose enough to allow for someone not meeting each "requirement." It's all about how you compare to the other candidates. – teego1967 May 27 '18 at 18:21
  • When I see Agile on a job requirement, I do not run, I flee – Rui F Ribeiro May 28 '18 at 21:55
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"Experience with the agile methodology" sounds like something that would be listed among the skills the employer considers "nice to have". But even if it's listed among the "required" skills, if it's the only missing skill, you should apply anyway.

The agile workflow is not that difficult and if you're not the one who has to organize it (don't apply for the position of Scrum Coach, for example), it should be easy to pick up.

Depending on how strictly you followed the Waterfall model before, it might take some getting used to that development requirements are not set in stone before you start working. That doesn't mean there's no planning at all, but that the initial roadmap is comparatively rough ("we need feature A, feature B and feature C, and each will take roughly 3 months to implement").

A more detailed planning takes place when the time of implementation approaches, and the feature is then "broken down" into smaller portions that can be easily estimated and completed in a much shorter time frame. That means that you'll usually spend several iterations working on the same feature, but again, each iteration is only planned in (even finer) detail shortly before you'll start working on it. The idea behind this is to avoid wasting time planning something that might end up on the cutting table when requirements change in response to already delivered features.

That said, as others said, not having experience with the agile methodology does mean that you don't know whether the agile workflow even suits your style of working. Whether that's a problem is up to the employer to decide. And it certainly can't hurt to read up on the theory and the pros and cons of the methodology.

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Given that about 1% or less of my working day will be concerned with the details of the design/development methodology in use, how important is it for someone coming from a traditional waterfall development model environment to have had experience with agile methodologies?

It is important, mostly because your "given" is wrong by a factor of 10+. Agile is a lot about you doing work. It's no longer the boss telling you exactly what and how to do. It's you, planning, estimating, communicating, collaborating. That takes time. It requires certain traits that are not required and actually despised by most traditional project managers. And it follows certain rules. Rules you don't know (yet).

If the answer is that it is important, then what aspect(s) of Agile are at issue here that they require prior experience?

Everything? I mean look at your programming skills. Would you say "why would I need experience in that language"? Experience means you don't have to be trained, you can adjust faster, hit the ground running, whatever your favorite term for it is. You will also know if it is for you. Maybe you won't like Agile? It's better to have a candidate who did it and liked it instead of a "maybe". There is no such thing in Agile as leaning back, letting the other folks do it and tolerate it. You are in... or not.

Your best bet is to get a book and familiarize yourself with Agile. Most companies I know will accept somebody who says "I always wanted to do that, I read about it and heard about it on conferences, but my old company won't do it". That's fine. It's really not up to you do decide what your current company uses, and your potential employer knows that. However if you interview and say wildly uninformed things like your first sentence here, that will probably mean they will go with a candidate who, even though they have zero experience like yourself, have at least some book knowledge.


"Not having experience in Agile" where I live also means something else: that person has never visited a conference. Because you cannot escape it. Whether you like it or not, whether your company does it or not, you will have heard of it, you will have had multiple chances to have workshops and talks about it, people will give you cards to free online courses... there is no way to not at least get basic knowledge, except you actively chose to not get informed. And personally, I would doubt a persons ability to stay on top of software development if they don't take any chance to learn something new.

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There are plenty of books available on agile - and for very little money. They aren't even thick! In this day and age, any developer who doesn't know about agile doesn't deserve a job.*

Instead of discussing the need to have worked in it before, given you have not, why not buy a book and read it and get a feeling for what agile technically is.

You'll be so much more useful in the job, as typically most places don't implement agile just a daily standup, and most places haven't thought what agile means.

It's really more a philosophy - the realisation that estimating IT projects is a non-trivial task so changes must be made to make the process more reliable.

In the interview, when asked about agile, assuming you've read about it, you can respond enthusiastically with what you're read, and discuss how they've seen it work.

  • Why? Because it shows such a lack of initiative and curiosity that it would be hard to justify the existence of the core qualities needed to be a useful contributor.
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    There are also plenty of resources online which provide an overview over the agile methodology and its application in the work place. – Llewellyn May 27 '18 at 16:40
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The "Agile" method means different things to every company that uses it. Quite often, it's the same workflow they've used for years, but they now decide to put a label on it. Read a book, or maybe even a few websites about how "not to document a system" (which is why Agile is not used in the military or large engineering companies).

In short - you'll be fine, as long as you match all the other requirements.

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Well, Agile is not really rocket science. It is just a model of working. For the regular developer, there isn't a huge difference. But if your tasks include client-facing work and planning, then you must have knowledge of the Agile model. Otherwise you risk promising things to the client that are impossible to accomplish, or at least at an unrealistic schedule.

The main difference to Waterfall is that things are not locked into a fixed plan from the beginning to the end. Priorities can be changed and things WILL (often) change during the process. Specifications and requirements are iterated through time. Those would be a no-no in Waterfall.

  • Ideally it's not just that priorities and specifications may change frequently, but as a developer you at least should be working closely with those making the changes so that they can use learnings from the development done so far to help guide the changes to make. – bdsl May 27 '18 at 11:07
  • Isn't it time to stop talking about the "Waterfall"? In 30 years in the software business, I've never seen a project that strictly adhered to a waterfall approach. – GreenMatt May 27 '18 at 16:36
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    @GreenMatt I'm guessing you never worked in defense contracting? The way government contracts are set up is basically a codified waterfall method. – user812786 May 29 '18 at 13:12
  • Actually, I've worked on what I'll call a couple quasi-defense contracts (other agencies let the contracts, but defense was involved enough that I had to have a clearance on one). A waterfall process was (sort of) specified on one of them (25+ years ago) ... but not adhered to, as changes were being requested, accepted, and implemented right up to delivery; anything else would have caused friction with the customer. The other was more recent and might have been called agile if they'd had any coherent approach beyond "We need a program to do X, go write it." – GreenMatt May 29 '18 at 13:29
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'Experience working in an Agile environment'

Lets take that at face value. Lets assume that it is important to them, and they are one of the places that uses agile well.

That means that they expect that you have done it before. They will not take the time to train you on the basics. They expect that on day one you will be expected to know how to step right into the process.

True agile methods are completely different than waterfall. If you think that you will spend 1% of your time on agile and then 99% of the time will be the same as every other project, then they will discover your lack of experience during the interview process.

  • But most places that say they use agile well don't – Neuromancer May 27 '18 at 12:26
  • If the employer knows what they're doing, they'll know they can't really expect everyone to know everything from day one as every teams will follow the process slightly differently. After all, the methodology is supposed to cater to the teams, not the other way around. – Llewellyn May 27 '18 at 16:39

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