Reama Dagasan, CEO of PastaBiz, an Emilio Miti company and Executive Producer of the Agile in Action podcast
About this podcast episode
In today’s podcast, Reama Dagasan shares how she interprets agile in her role as CEO of Pastabiz. Reama is also our executive producer and shares some lighthearted stories about the Agile in Action podcast in a 2-year retrospective with Bill.
(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity) Reama Dagasan: I learn really well from parables like Aesop’s Fables or the Greek myths. A lot of those are parables and they’re there to teach you lessons. And I feel like when we get somebody that is applying Agile and talking about it, I’m not sure if it’s exactly a parable, but it feels that way to me.
Bill Raymond: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest. It’s Reama Dagasan, CEO of PastaBiz, an EMILIOMITI company, and also the executive producer of the Agile in Action Podcast.
Bill Raymond: Hi, Reama, how are you today?
Reama Dagasan: I’m good, Bill. How are you?
Bill Raymond: I’m doing great. I’m excited because you’re going to be sharing with us some of the things that you’ve learned about Agile in your personal career. And we’re also going to have a little two-year anniversary retrospective of the Agile in Action Podcast.
Bill Raymond: Before we get started, can you just talk a little bit about your background?
Reama Dagasan: Yeah, I am a high school dropout who later went on to get her Bachelor of Science in International Studies and later, a Master’s in Business Administration. And I have spent the last 16 years of my career helping small companies get bigger. And I have been with PastaBiz for, gosh, 13 years now. And I have taken some sabbaticals and done other things. I’ve had a couple of interesting side-gigs through my career, but my one constant has been helping companies to grow.
Reama’s Work at PastaBiz
Bill Raymond: Can you talk a little bit about what you do at PastaBiz?
Reama Dagasan: Yeah. So my current title is CEO, and I really just think of myself as the General Manager, but I absolutely wear a lot of hats there at the company. I help with everything from operational things, such as purchasing, procurement, forecasting, getting machines onto the boats, handling finance, HR, accounting. There’s really no aspect of that business that I haven’t been involved with in some way, short of packaging crates to leave our company or repairing machines. I leave those to people that are better qualified than myself.
Bill Raymond: And when we talk about machines, when we say PastaBiz, we really mean pasta as in Italian pasta, right?
Reama Dagasan: Yeah, exactly. So people think that we make pasta, but the reality is, if you’ve eaten at a restaurant that has a pasta machine, there’s a really good chance that we’ve sold them that machine. Or if you have purchased fresh, locally-produced pasta at Whole Foods or Sprouts or another similar market, there’s a good chance that’s made on a machine that we’ve brought here to the States.
Reama Dagasan: All of our products come from Italy, with the exception of two specialty items that we source from elsewhere, but there’s a very, very strong Italian connection.
Bill Raymond: What are some of the types of equipment that you sell frequently?
our most popular items are extruders, and those are a lot like the Play-Doh sets we had as children. And you fill the thing with Play-Doh and you put on a disc and you push it and out comes a star or a square piece of Play-Doh. That’s one of our most common things, but we also have machines that will make fresh pasta sheets that you can cut into Tagliatelle or Pappardelle, but also Ravioli and Cappelletti machines.
Reama Dagasan: So it’s really, it’s pretty neat. What I really like about the job is, it’s a great product and you’re helping people to produce really beautiful food.
Bill Raymond: There is nothing like fresh pasta.
I’m a fan. I actually finally broke down and bought my first extruder a few months ago, and it has been way too fun to play with.
Agile Techniques Reama likes to use
Bill Raymond: Since you’ve been the executive producer of the Agile in Action Podcast, you’ve had some takeaways. I think It would be cool to hear what you might be using Agile techniques for in your business.
Reama Dagasan: We’re based in San Francisco. I was living in San Francisco and our town was one of the first that decided to lock down in March 16th, 2020. Now, as a company that supports food production, we’re absolutely an essential business, but we then had to quickly pivot, which is a really heavily-used word, but we all had to.
Reama Dagasan: And I sent as many of our people who could work remotely home as possible in order to allow for distancing, et cetera. So we really struggled with that initially, because it’s a very different way of working when you lose those in-person interactions. We had a guest, Sarah Shewell, and she referred to them as I think, “water cooler moments” where you have those brief exchanges of ideas that just come about organically. And so that was definitely a big change for us.
Reama Dagasan: As I have produced this podcast, it’s actually been really helpful to me in my day to day role in that company. It’s Helped me learn better ways to create team cohesion. It’s taught me or refreshed my memory about avoiding communication silos, which was something that I learned in business school back in I want to say 2006, 2007, 2008 were the years that I attended while working. And Agile reminded me of this, you know, how important it is to have clear communication with the people you’re working with. And we’re a small company, so there shouldn’t be silos. But we all have to work together, and I think that’s one of my big takeaways from Agile, and that’s a very high-level perspective, but it’s been a nice, consistent reminder that I’ve heard from our guests each week.
Bill Raymond: That’s a big focus of our podcast, that kind of stands us out a little bit. And I know that you play a big part in that, in that we don’t just have a bunch of people talking about how to do software development. We do, but we also talk about how you can run your business more efficiently. We talk about how teams can work together and collaborate together in a better way. And you’ve really been a key element in making sure that happens.
Reama’s perspective on agile
Bill Raymond: So I think from working on this podcast for a while, you have maybe developed your own personal perspective on Agile. And I’m curious what your takeaway is from that term.
Yes, that I feel well equipped to address. So, no,I’m not an Agilist or an Agile practitioner, but for me, the things that I’ve learned from this podcast, from producing and listening, are applicable to anybody that’s running a business.
**Reama Dagasan:__ **And so I feel like the podcast is a lot more than just about Agile. It’s about how to successfully navigate an ever-changing business landscape. **
Reama Dagasan: For example, it’s taught me to ** **communicate better. It’s taught me to hopefully be a better leader with a clear direction, you know, because that’s one of the most important things that I think I’ve learned from this podcast, is that clear sense of like, well, we are here now and where do we want to be?
Reama Dagasan: Agile helps to bring you to that where you want to be.
Reama Dagasan: Like, in our instance, we started with, we want to have a podcast and now it’s, you know, maybe our future goal is we want to have a podcast with 100,000 listeners. So we can use Agile, even in the context of producing a podcast, to help us get there. On a daily level, I think that one of my fun takeaways from Agile has been keeping meetings short. I am now the world’s biggest proponent of a standup. And it’s really interesting because in 2019, before I had started working with you on this podcast, I did a 10-minute meeting every morning with the team to talk about, what is on your plate today? What do you have scheduled? What support do you need from the other people that are here?
Reama Dagasan: And it was the coolest thing when I realized this thing that I had just started was actually, it had a name, it was a standup in Agile. And it was amusing because we would stand up during these meetings to really connote that it wasn’t meant to be a long, long discussion. But it was a chance for us to work, to support each other in our tasks that we had that day.
Bill Raymond: That’s really cool that you had adopted that, and then you were able to connect a name to it after.
Reama Dagasan: Yeah. It’s, you know, this is a real thing. This wasn’t just something that, you know, Reama pulled out of thin air. It’s a very efficient way to cover communication with your team, and a very efficient way to make sure that you guys are aligning what you’re trying to do. And that was the whole purpose, that meeting was to align what we were all working on together that day to make sure that we were supporting and being effective and able to leave, you know, at five o’clock, because we had worked in an efficient andcoherent fashion together.
Bill Raymond: That alignment piece is actually really important that’s the one thing that I always feel very strongly that you do best. You always manage to take a bunch of words that, I mean, someone like me might say,and if it’s not clear, you drill down and you drill down and you do it in a very nice and personable way.
Bill Raymond: You don’t feel like you’re being grilled. And then all of a sudden, we’re in agreement as to what needs to be done, and I’ve always appreciated your ability to do that.
A softer approach to asking questions
Reama Dagasan: Thank you for saying that. I don’t like being put in the hot seat with questions, and sometimes our first answer is not our best answer. And those are things that I try to remember. As much as Agile is focused on doing things in a quick way, by following these iterative processes so that you don’t go all the way back to the drawing board at the beginning, at the same time that speed is important, I’ve also learned that sometimes giving somebody the day to get back to you, ** **or maybe a couple of days, if it’s really important, is actually going to be better because you’re going to have the right information.
Reama Dagasan: You want to make sure that you give whoever you’re working with time to get the right answer that’s the right version, and not rely on their memory when they’re feeling very pressured.
Reama Dagasan: And that’s why I’ve adopted more of ** **a softer approach when asking questions, having a disagreement or trying to get information out of somebody. Fear has no place in the workplace. And so if somebody isterrified because of how I’ve delivered a question or a statement, that becomes a barrier to communication.
Bill Raymond: I really appreciate that thought process that you go through. And it’s hard too, because sometimes when you’re leading an organization, of course you want your fingers on the tip of everything and you always want to know what’s going on. So it’s important to be able to create that space for people to continue to innovate and do what they need to without putting so much pressure on them.
Reama Dagasan: Yeah, or you know, you can make a mistake and it will not be forever held over your head or it won’t be weaponized, because that I feel would crush people’s sense of ownership over work or crush their willingness to think in a new way. And that’s not what we want? It’s like, yes, we sell machines, we work with artists, and we need to be creative to support them.
The Agile in Action Podcast
Bill Raymond: Let’s talk a little bit about Agile in Action, the podcast. I don’t think we talked about this before we started the podcast. It’s got to have been at least five years that we’ve been working together now, right?
Reama Dagasan: Yeah, I want to say it was 2017. I was on somewhat of a sabbatical. I was working part-time at PastaBiz. I just needed a little bit of time to kind of slow life down. And yeah, so I started working with you in 2017. And for those that don’t know, I was originally helping Bill with his accounting, because it’s, one of the many hats that I wear. And so that’s how I came to know Bill.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, and I think that’s putting it lightly. I’ve always looked at you as a business partner, because you didn’t just I’m doing air quotes on the screen right now, you can’t see them, but you never just did the books. You were always making sure that this company was successful and you put in that extra work that I actually didn’t have an expectation of, but I’ve always come to appreciate it and still do to this day.
Reama Dagasan: Well, you’re welcome. And that’s one thing I think that’s been true in my career, is I’ve had people who, the company is so new, not necessarily in your case, but I’ve really been able to come in and define what my own position is, and really like take ownership. And that’s been a constant for me and it’s been something I’m really grateful for.
Reama Dagasan: I’ve never really worked at a corporate job and maybe I would have those opportunities there, but the small companies that I’ve worked for have always let me sort of blaze my own trail and create my own systems and structures to help them, and been really receptive and happy about it. So I’m super lucky in that way.
Bill Raymond: We formally worked together as partners on the Agile in Action Podcast for two years. This is actually our two-year anniversary this month. And we have published, I think we’re up to something along the lines of 72 podcasts now. We started off bi-weekly, and now we are at a weekly cadence, just taking breaks for holidays and periods of time when we know people are traveling with family and things like that. But we’ve been going weekly and I just, it’s amazing the breadth of guests that we’ve had.
Reama’s role on the podcast
Bill Raymond: But before I get into that, could you talk a little bit about your role that you’ve played as the executive producer here at the podcast?
Reama Dagasan: Yeah. My first task really was to help find interesting people that could share their knowledge, that would be willing to do this with us. And it started with some keywords in Agile, like, product lifecycle management or SCRUM but it started with a list of keywords and me looking at people and finding articles and people that were, speaking and sharing ideas or authors of books. And over time, my knowledge of Agile has deepened and we’ve gotten at sometimes, a little deeper in the weeds with people that we have on the show. One of my very favorite things to do is like, Hey Bill, this person’s talking about Agile and supply chain management, can we have them on, can we have them on? And you’re thinking, I’m not really super sure about supply chain management, that’s not my field. It is part of my field day to day, but you’ve always been game to go with it and be like, let’s talk to them and see how they’re using Agile in this new and exciting way.
Reama Dagasan: How are people using Agile for information management, for example? So my role is like finding these interesting people with great ideas so that we could share it with the broader world. I had initially anticipated that it would be really tech-heavy, and I’ve been grateful that we’ve brought it out to things that are not directly related to technology, such as the supply chain management, and that’s let me feel like I’ve got to make my own sort of path here in some ways.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, we’ve gotten into it with human resources, marketing, sales, any number of different areas of expertise. And one of the things that I appreciate about what you’ve done with the podcast is, you do put me out of my comfort zone, and I like it. At first, I was a little worried because I thought there were some topics that I was saying, I don’t know how this connects with Agile, or I’m worried that people are going to use words I don’t understand. But it turns out, when you’re just having a conversational podcast like this, it’s pretty straightforward, and people recognize that they have an audience that may not know their business.
Bill Raymond: And it’s pretty rare that we get someone that starts throwing a bunch of acronyms out without explaining them first. And it makes it easy for all of us to have a good conversation, and it expands our minds as to what Agile can do for people outside of that pure software development world.
Reama Dagasan: Absolutely, and I think that is something that I would like to let our listeners know is that, you know, yes, the title is Agile in Action, but I firmly believe that a lot of the topics that we discuss are applicable to any company. There’s lessons that I’ve learned on the podcast that I take with me and we are in no way, shape or form an Agile organization, but the tips, the ideas, the concepts, the information have a thousand percent been transferable over to my day to day life at work.
The podcast editing process
Bill Raymond: Yeah, absolutely, and I feel the same way, to be honest with you. It is interesting because we do have this editing process where we have to sit down and listen to the podcast, and then we just find things like, we do the initial thing, right? Which is listen for dogs barking, babies crying in the background, because everyone’s doing this from home, and then we have to kind of clean up some of the general conversation that doesn’t, you know, work inside the podcast. And there’s a lot of editing there, and I know you spend a lot of time going through that.
Bill Raymond: But one of the things that I’ve always appreciated was the end product, when it’s finally done and you’ve sent it through, to the sound people, and you’ve sent it through all of this editing and we’ve kind of gone back and forth and collaborated on that. When it’s done, I sit down and listen to the podcast. Usually, I listen to it with one pod in my right ear, on a bike ride while I’m in the park and I put it on, and then I learn something. I don’t always learn something in the moment because you know, there’s this sort of drive to keep the conversation going.
Bill Raymond: And it’s amazing how much after having listened to each podcast, four or five times before it goes public, where then I can sit down and say, Wow, look, there’s actually some really good content here.
Absolutely. When I’m editing podcasts, I don’t learn anything, because I’m more focused on, where is the strange sound? But once I’m done with that process and we would get it back from the sound engineer, then I could listen to the whole thing. And then I could take that 30,000 foot view that our listeners are also able to take. And that’s when it all kind of sinks in. Because I had been fretting over words and pauses and little things, but then you get to listen and see the whole thing, you get to step back and see why, this is a great podcast and a great lesson that was not as clear when I was worried about phrasing and ums and uhs.
Finding podcast guests
Bill Raymond: I’m curious, you’ve spent a lot of time helping to find the guests and, I love the range of topics that we have. How do you look at finding guests to make sure that it’s a well-rounded podcast?
Reama Dagasan: I always like to find people doing Agile a little bit different. One of the things that I’ve tried to find, are people that are using Agile in non-software development ways. I like to find people that are practitioners. I’m always very grateful when we can find somebody that is there where the rubber meets the road and is practicing Agile day to day, and can provide us with concrete concepts and concrete application of this idea of Agile. Because I believe that applied Agile is a great way to present this information.
Reama Dagasan: I learn really well from parables like Aesop’s Fables or the Greek myths. A lot of those are parables and they’re there to teach you lessons. And I feel like when we get somebody that is applying Agile and talking about it, I’m not sure if it’s exactly a parable, but it feels that way to me. And it’s easy for me to take that in and I hope that for our listeners, when they can hear how people are using Agile day to day, they understand the appeal of it, but they also feel more empowered to apply it to their day to day. Maybe the whole org doesn’t undergo a transformation, but maybe they change one little aspect of their career and at their workplace, and it’s beneficial.
Bill Raymond: We also have a pretty diverse guest list anyone from a practitioner to someone using it in their own personal work life, executives and team members. And it’s great to have all of their perspectives.
Guests that stood out for Reama
Bill Raymond: Are there any particular guests that really stood out for you?
Reama Dagasan: Yes. I would say that one of my very favorites, because her words resonated so strongly with me was Sarah Shewell and her discussions about supporting people as you go remote and creating those opportunities for people to speak, for them not to be silenced in Zoom meetings, and actively soliciting feedback from people who might otherwise be quiet during a meeting, was really profound.
Reama Dagasan: And as I now work remote from my team three weeks out of the month, her lessons are something that I use day to day, to work effectively with the people that I work with.
That’s really cool. Of course, I think I told you this when we were first starting the podcast, my dream was to have two people on that got me started and interested in this. And that was Mary and Tom Poppendieck who are the authors of Lean Software Development.
Bill Raymond: Of course, I come from a technology background and I am a consultant, helping organizations run projects, and I also help organizations do Agile transformation. And one of the things that helped me clarify, especially when I was working on a really large technical project was this book, Lean Software Development. And I was so excited when you were able to get them onto the podcast. And so I,still to this day, appreciate your work to do that.
A diverse guest list
Reama Dagasan: My pleasure, you know, I am very excited about our guest list, and so it’s been very exciting to have a lot of women that are in technology on the show, to show that we are all out here and we’re all running our companies successfully and playing really valuable roles, and either doing Agile, sort of by the book and you know, having sprints and retrospectives and following this framework really firmly and religiously, or just kind of touching on Agile, but using it to make things better.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, absolutely. I think if you just scroll through the AgileinAction.com podcast, you could see, we have a very diverse list of guests. And I absolutely adore that we have that. And I do give the praise to you for having made sure that that happens.
Reama Dagasan: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. I mean, the world is, we’re at what, 7 billion people, and we’re all very different, but we all have a lot that we can add. And so it’s just up to us to go find those voices that have a fresh and exciting new message to share with us and with our listeners.
Bill Raymond: Absolutely. Reama, I’m so glad that you were able to take the time to share your own personal experience and how you use Agile in your own life.
Bill Raymond: Plus also, celebrate this two-year anniversary in this special edition of the podcast. I really appreciate your time today.
Reama Dagasan: Yeah, thank you for having me on and thank you for letting me be a part of this podcast. It’s been interesting both to learn some new technical tricks, you know, I can now produce a podcast, but it’s also been a very exciting way to learn something new each week.
Bill Raymond: If anyone wants to reach out to you, how might they do that?
Reama Dagasan: So you are welcome to reach me via the contact link on the website. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. And those are really the best ways to reach me. I have a low social media profile, so those are the routes I would suggest.
Bill Raymond: I will make sure that your LinkedIn profile link is on the AgileinAction.com podcast website.
Bill Raymond: And also of course, if you’re in a app right now and you want to reach out to Reama, just go ahead and go to the show notes or the description, and you’ll see that LinkedIn link there as well. Thank you for your time today, Reama.
Reama Dagasan: Thank you, Bill and listeners, I hope that we’ll be hearing from you. We’d love to speak with you. Cheers.