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Danny Ryan: It’s Thursday, May 16th and today I talked with you Ulenda Pickett, both about her professional background and also personally what she likes to do. If you’d like to learn more about her interests, this podcast would be a great one to listen to. Thanks for listening. Welcome to the Work Together Better podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan, and today I am here with Ulenda Picket. Hello, Ulenda Pickett. I’m using formal first name and last name. 


Ulenda Pickett: Hello, Danny. 


Danny Ryan: How are you doing? 


Ulenda Pickett: I’m good, how are you? 


Danny Ryan: I’m doing wonderful. I love doing these things because it’s just gives a … gives me a chance to sit down with wonderful people who work here at ThreeWill. And just gives me a chance as well and everybody else a chance just to get to know you a little bit better. 


 Let’s get the whole thing started off with talking a little bit on the professional side of things and would love to learn more a little bit about your initial project and some of those things. But let’s start off with your background. So you have a bachelor’s of science degree from University of Southern Mississippi in business administration and then you also got management information systems. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yes, but that was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is not more than an hour and a half from where I grew up in Bay Springs, Mississippi. But yeah, USM was really nice and I actually technically started out in computer science and ended up transferring it into business to get a combination of both business and computers, which worked out really good with the MIS major. 


Danny Ryan: That’s awesome. And then over time … It sounds like over time you’ve been moving over more into project management and you’re a, you’re a certified scrum master as well. 


Ulenda Pickett: Sure. 


Danny Ryan: Awesome. And so previously before you came to ThreeWill, you were at where at Accenture, did I see that? Or where did you work before you came here to ThreeWill? 


Ulenda Pickett: Oh no, that’s a long story. But yeah. 


Danny Ryan: It’s fine. I got plenty of time. I’ve got my coffee’s filled here. I can listen to a good story. Go ahead. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. I did work for Accenture for sure, but technically like out of USM, I ended up going through their co-op program and my junior year I ended up taking a position with Bell South during the co-op period. And that was back in the day before it was like AT&T. 


Danny Ryan: Oh my goodness. I co-oped with Bell South. 


Ulenda Pickett: Did you really? Oh my goodness. 


Danny Ryan: Yes, I … Absolutely. I went to Georgia Tech and I co-oped Bell South. So every quarter, we’d switched back and forth. So yes. 


Ulenda Pickett: Wow. Okay. Well that’s pretty cool. So I started off many, many years ago and- 


Danny Ryan: You do have a bell-shaped head. That’s what we always used to say about Bell South employees and people who worked there. 


Ulenda Pickett: Very good experience there. Those were some good days. 


Danny Ryan: Yes. 


Ulenda Pickett: But I started off with them as a co-op I and I remember the first assignment I got there and it was, they have … This is back in the day when they had like the tape drives and everything that you had to mount the tapes and all. So I remember I was there and I was thinking, “Wow, did I really go to college for this?” Because I was literally during when … this was during the three week period, I literally was getting them out and you would like look at the screen to see the tape come and you have to physically go to the bee and get the tape and put it in there. And it was like three hours one night where it was like really tiring. You didn’t realize how tiring that is. 


 Yes, but it was pretty cool cause that was, I went through that for three weeks and then you would sit in the room where you could visually see everything going on. So it was like a whole process you get a chance to get integrated with what was going on at the company. And that was during my first co-op period. And during the second cycle I got a chance to work with them for a little while in the end. Went through their whole program and which is basically training class, which is a 13 week program, which was a pass/fail course where you would get like three opportunities to see ultimately if you passed because if you passed you would end up having an opportunity a long time to potentially have a job. 


Danny Ryan: So to work there after school. Cool. 


Ulenda Pickett: But if you failed … Like the people that we’re trying to get jobs if they failed, they wouldn’t keep their job. So I, it was nice having to go through it as a co-op since I was still in school. So I ended up passing, they’re pass/fail course. 


Danny Ryan: Good, good. I like this story. It started off very positive and I have to share a story with you before we move on from Bell South. I have to share a story with you. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. So that was a good experience. I mean, I met so many, just so many wonderful people during that opportunity. So after the co-op and after I passed it, I just went on, finished school, and they offered me a job before I graduated. 


Danny Ryan: Nice. 


Ulenda Pickett: And then I started working with Bell South. So technically that was, well, a long time ago. 


Danny Ryan: You don’t want to give me years, do you? Well, this will date me, which was I when I, when I was co-oping for Bell South, I worked in their, but basically the training, so the IT training, but the classes I taught, you know, some of them were more complex like there was a Norton utilities class and some that back then it was Windows 3. This was … this is aging me. I don’t know how bad it is that, but it was early Windows and one of the classes I needed to teach was called Mousing Around. It was teaching people how to use a mouse. So this is the way that the mouse goes and people would come in and it was in backwards. So yeah. And by Bell South was that … it was a people that I stay in touch with to this day from my experiences there. So it’s good to see another Bell South co-op. So then, so tell me more after than you worked for Bell South afterwards. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. So, I started, yeah, they offered me a full time job. So I started in offering development. 


Danny Ryan: Nice. 


Ulenda Pickett: So I was in software development for many years. I mean, that was back in the days when they had COBOL. 


Danny Ryan: COBOL.I was waiting for the C word. 


Ulenda Pickett: So I used COBOL, CSQL, things like that for a long period of time. So it was many, many years that I worked in the end development and later on they outsourced their IT department back then to Anderson Consulting. Now they’re are known as Accenture, but it was Anderson Consulting back then, that was in like ’98. I think in January of ’98, they outsourced their IT department. So that’s when I first got the opportunity. I was working with Accenture but still on the Bell South account. So our time was bridged. So it was still working out really, really well. 


Danny Ryan: Gotcha. So, because they transitioned the whole like IT department over to Accenture at a certain point in time. 


Ulenda Pickett: That was in 1998. 


Danny Ryan: So, you were given the option at that point in time to … Yeah because I remember going up and we, I worked in the what was called the Southern Bell Center and there were whole floors that I used to work on that were now Accenture that everybody … there was- 


Ulenda Pickett: Totally converted. Yeah. 


 So Accenture in 1998 but we were still on the Bell South account, which is really good because our time was bridged so it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all. 


Danny Ryan: Was it the same? What’s the … What was it … Was it … 


Ulenda Pickett: The same location. 


Danny Ryan: Same location? What changed about that? What changed when you started besides your paycheck came from a different company? 


Ulenda Pickett: You were working for different resources. 


Danny Ryan: Okay. 


Ulenda Pickett: But still on the account. Went back and we were working in Birmingham. We were were at the Colonnade area and it was like, there’s two big buildings there. One is a red roof building, one’s that green building. And we were in the red roofed building and a lot of representative’s clients were in the green roof building. And during that period of time when I was working for Accenture, this was my first opportunity to get the opportunity to work with Agile methodology. This was probably like around 2001 or 2002 because we had this big project that came up. 


 And one of the applications that I got to work on for a good period of time was BCM, Bell South Construction Management. And that was one that we’d start utilizing the Agile methodology with. And we back in the day where we physically had the boards and then he had the story cards on the board. So when you came in there, I mean you could physically see where everything was, any stage of development of what we were working on … 


Danny Ryan: Nice. 


Ulenda Pickett: … on the boards, literally boards. I know a lot of … 


Danny Ryan: Your boards were physical. They weren’t virtual. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, physical. Not automated. I’m serious. But it was really good. I mean, and our client was over there. Everybody was literally in the same little space and all. It was good exposure. It was, it was really good. 


Danny Ryan: So this was your first taste into Agile. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. 


Danny Ryan: So was it new to … it was something that you were developing? 


Ulenda Pickett: It was new to Bell South. It was new to us period. 


Danny Ryan: So it was new to everybody there. 


Ulenda Pickett: It was new to us. It was almost like a- 


Danny Ryan: Did you have to take some training for it or what did … what, how did you yeah. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, we did. We had all of these books of some of the same books that I see on Pete Kelly’s desk right now. 


Danny Ryan: Yeah. 


Ulenda Pickett: I mean, those are books I have right now. I have so many scrum book. Agile development books. Just yeah, there was quite a bit of training that we had to do to be able to utilize that process. Especially getting to the point and trying to totally understand the velocity and the story boarding and all. And our client was getting from me with that process. So it worked out really well. 


Danny Ryan: Very nice. And then what … So after, so you were at Accenture and then what happened after Accenture? 


Ulenda Pickett: Well, technically in 2007 is when AT&T took over Bell South. 


Danny Ryan: Gotcha. 


Ulenda Pickett: Okay. So when AT&T took over Bell South, AT&T no longer needed a lot of the resources that were on their account at that point in time. So and, oh wow, and I remember that day very clearly actually. I think we, I mean, we may have gotten like a day’s notice that we were going to have a meeting at our Big Wynfrey hotel, which is right there in Birmingham at 3:00 and technically we were in the meeting at 3:00 and they gave the notice like if you get an email by 7:00, you’re impacted by this. And technically you may have within a couple of weeks and your project, your time, here is going to technically end. 


Danny Ryan: Gather the stuff on your desk. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yes, yes. Oh my goodness. Yeah. That was the sad part because I really thought I would have retired with the company because I mean I had like 23 years at that point in time. 


Danny Ryan: Wow. 


Ulenda Pickett: And it was, yeah, pretty crazy. But anyway, that day my kids, they were doing like year round swimming for a long period of time when we were in Alabama. So we were at a swim meet that night and 7:00 … I mean, I did not get the email at 7:00 so I thought I was safe. 


Danny Ryan: You were safe. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. I literally thought I was safe and, and we were all so busy and we were just really having a good time. But by 7:15 … it was a delayed transmission and I did get the email at 7:15. So that ended that extent of things at that point in time on that account. 


 But prior to that, shortly prior to that, my husband’s job had transferred him to Georgia. So me and the kids were still in Alabama and he was like, you know, coming back and back and forth … 


Danny Ryan: He was back and forth. 


Ulenda Pickett: … and stuff. So really, other than the fact that I would have used that time for retirement and all, it was an opportunity for us to sell the house and all of us move up here and get him off the road and it ended up working out. 


 So when we moved up here, which I think was maybe January of 2008, I think that’s … I took off just for a small period of time. And then I started searching out the job market and oddly enough, one of the resources at AT&T, she was just really nice. She was one of the people that interviewed me. So I started really started contracting with AT&T at that time. 


Danny Ryan: Gotcha. 


Ulenda Pickett: And I contracted with them for quite an extensive period of time. My husband kept on saying, “You know, you need to go on and just get like the full time job and all.” 


Danny Ryan: Get a real job. But contracting is, it’s real. It’s legitimate. 


Ulenda Pickett: Really, it was like I would be working on these projects. I mean because I, by this time I was in, project management, program management for a period of time in 2000 … it was in 2005 when I got my PMP certification. 


Danny Ryan: Nice. 


Ulenda Pickett: So I was working on that for a while, but I was on one project after another and I would never want, I mean, I never wanted to leave in the middle of a project or anything and the projects just kept on coming. And so you know, 10 years later I was still contracting out on projects, 


Danny Ryan: You were still contracting. That’s great. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, still contracting. And then I started contracting via Accenture with the AT&T account. 


Danny Ryan: Gotcha. 


Ulenda Pickett: And you know, occasionally toward the end of the year is when the funds would dwindle and the account, it may and for a period of time. And with probably I think it was at the end of 2017 and instead of just project management, I had been managing like a blended projects where I was managing a lot of Agile and a lot of Waterfall projects. 


 So during that small little break I thought I’d go and get like really scope my scrum certification and get … and delve into it a little more. And so I got the scrum certification and came back with them on the next account as a certified scrum master and had a great experience with that with them. I mean, it was, it was really, really nice and we were utilizing a tool back then on that account called AgileCraft where, I mean, everybody was using a tool like our business was using a tool, we used a tools. And so, everybody could see and visually see where we are are at any point in time. I mean, the transparency is as transparent as it is now that I’m getting the opportunity to use it for real. 


Danny Ryan: You’re seeing it too. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. And that’s the good thing about it. That’s the one really, really good thing that I enjoy about using scrum is the transparency with the business and the client working together. 


 Everybody knows what’s going on and the delivery of it. The team work holistically throughout the whole period of time has been like the biggest deal for me. Always teamwork, working together. I mean, I’m never like a me person at all because given the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to work in the development, I’ve had the opportunity, the be down in the very beginning, with analysis, working with the business team, working with the designers the testers, development, just doing all the work. I just know value everybody’s role though because it’s just like a great big piece, you know? So the team is the most important thing. 


Danny Ryan: That’s awesome. Yeah. I’ve got some good and bad news. The good news is we’re really fortunate to work with a lot of great big clients here at ThreeWill. The bad news is we do a lot at where you’re not getting away from AT&T here because we do a lot of work with AT&T. 


Ulenda Pickett: I like them. 


Danny Ryan: I know you’re not on a project with them right now. 


Ulenda Pickett: No. 


Danny Ryan: But we’ve been fortunate that it’s … and I joke around about it because it was like from the get go, I’ve always done things with, with Bell South and AT&T and then, you know, whatever. So, but in their still continues to be a great client to work with. But it’s funny how you have some of these companies that you just, your whole career, whether you’re working directly for them or you know, for us as a, as a vendor or a contractor did, they’re just a, and it’s a great, I think they think they’re a great company to work with. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, yeah. I agree. 


Danny Ryan: I don’t think I’ve had … Again, there’s plenty of people who I stay with in touch with through the years. So, tell me along those lines, you, so you’re here at ThreeWill now and how … what’s the experience been like? I’ve already here heard great feedback. I’ve heard great things as far as your what … what with the kickoff meeting that you led and everything went well. So congratulations there. 


Ulenda Pickett: Thank you very much. 


Danny Ryan: And how was … what’s the experience been like so far as you got started here at ThreeWill? 


Ulenda Pickett: Well, I like ThreeWill in that it is very family oriented and very supportive. You know, it’s everybody’s working together and there is no, you know like in, in some instances you may have people that want to hold onto their knowledge and feel that they don’t want to share it because it might give you an advantage over them. It’s not like that here. Everybody likes to work together and wants to get it done. And it is the team aspect of things which are greatly appreciate. So I mean I actually, I love it here and hoping to work full time here soon currently. 


Danny Ryan: You mentioned that ThreeWill feels like a family. I’d love to get to know a little bit more about your family. Do you mind sharing? 


Ulenda Pickett: Don’t mind at all. 


Danny Ryan: Congratulations. 


Ulenda Pickett: We’ll have our very first this year. And so my daughter Kira, she’s 24 and my son Cameron is 21 so just the two of them. She’s a big traveler and she’s gotten me into traveling. Yeah, I really love that. And my son loves football. My husband loves football. So we’re into football quite a bit. 


Danny Ryan: So what kind of football was it? College football, professional football. 


Ulenda Pickett: Started with probably maybe fourth grade on high school, junior football, high school football, a little college football and yeah, all of it. 


Danny Ryan: Very nice. 


Ulenda Pickett: So still into that. 


Danny Ryan: So traveling, what sort of places, have you guys traveled all across the world or is it United States or a little bit of … 


Ulenda Pickett: Both. 


Danny Ryan: … both. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, quite a bit through the United States and I’ve had the opportunity to go to Germany a couple of times. Italy, London, Spain, Mexico. More recently, Asia. We were in Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Japan. Got back in January that trip. 


Danny Ryan: Excellent. 


Ulenda Pickett: So quite a bit of travel and love to travel. 


Danny Ryan: That is so … and you’re doing this as a family? Are you mainly going going with your daughter? 


Ulenda Pickett: Typically, it’s me and Kira, yeah. 


Danny Ryan: Yeah. 


Ulenda Pickett: Actually since the sixth grade, she’s bought these books from all different countries and multiple books from the country. She’d get the books, she studied the books and want to go and see and do things from the love of the books that she’s seen. And for quite awhile, she wanted to travel. Even like with me when she was like in the Spanish clubs and things such as that and my hubby never would allow her to go on the trip. So when she graduated in 2012, the first trip was that was her graduation gift, a trip to Europe and that was me and her. She planned the trip and that’s when our first experience with Germany, Italy. Where did we go there? Austria. Yeah. 


Danny Ryan: Yeah. What was your favorite place to go to with her? You guys have it- 


Ulenda Pickett: We were in Rome for a while. I really have enjoyed so many. Italy is one of my favorite places and we spend quite a bit of time in Germany because we have some really good friends that are in Germany and we were able to host them early on in life. So we spend quite a bit of time in Germany, but I don’t know, I just love everywhere. [inaudible 00:19:24] Everything is, I enjoy everything. I love to travel. 


Danny Ryan: That’s great that you and her have though those memories together and we’re, I’m looking forward to that with my girls as well. 


Ulenda Pickett: Treasure at all. 


Danny Ryan: Yes, absolutely. 


Ulenda Pickett: They grow so fast. 


Danny Ryan: Absolutely. 


Ulenda Pickett: Wow. 


Danny Ryan: Anything else as far as what you guys like to do as a family or anything that you’d like to share there? 


Ulenda Pickett: As a family? My hubby and son and I like to go to … well, they like to go to a lot of movies and I still like to go to some of the movies with them. And spend time not only with my immediate family but extended family, get the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my dad, my mom. I grew up on a farm. I know … 


Danny Ryan: Really? 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah, I know Tom is not in here right now, but we had opportunity to talk about this briefly, but I grew up in a very small town with no red lights and, but we had so much farm land and we grew everything from peas, butter beans, tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, cucumbers, everything. And my dad and them still grow vegetables now. I did not appreciate it as early on when I was younger because it was a lot of work back then. But now I appreciate eating those good vegetables now. So those are some, a lot of special times and special things we do together. 


Danny Ryan: So you’re keeping an eye on Tommy and what he’s doing with Iron Mountain Organics. 


Ulenda Pickett: Oh, I know, I like to hear about it. Yeah, it’s really cool. They’re very cool. 


Danny Ryan: He loves spending time during that and it’s interesting, growing up I was the one who was the green thumb and I had, we had a little garden at the house. 


Ulenda Pickett: Oh wow. 


Danny Ryan: But Tommy has really enjoyed doing this and being … I think he really, really enjoys being outside as well. So, well to wrap this up, I want to say welcome to the team. 


Ulenda Pickett: Thank you. 


Danny Ryan: And you know, this was really enjoyable, especially hearing more about, I think we’ve got hearing your background at Bell South and being another co-op. So you and I have a special relationship with the background sort of starting off there. 


Ulenda Pickett: That’s pretty cool. 


Danny Ryan: And then traveling. It’s wonderful to hear that you love to travel and I think that it just, you’re going out, it just, it opens your mind and you just, you feel like it’s … I always just come back recognizing such … we live in such a small world and sort of if we get out and get to meet new people and hear foreign languages and taste things that you haven’t tasted before, it’s just so good for us as human beings to do that. 


 And I guess you were mentioning as we got started here, you had this past weekend, you’re getting ready for a big event where you’re hosting a lot of international people as well. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yes. So I could talk forever on that one. But yeah, we do have our international convention here, Jehovah’s Witness, at the Mercedes Benz Stadium, which is open to the public. And the theme this year is Love Never Fails. It’s so much craziness going on in the world and it’s just good to have like a positive message, a positive theme. And we have so many friends from everywhere. Like I’ve just had the opportunity just in preparing for the event for Friday, Saturday, Sunday welcoming some of our friends from some of the friends from Finland, Netherlands, France, London, Russia. I mean, we have friends coming in from everywhere. Some islands that I met from, I can’t remember exactly … Barak Islands. I can’t remember exactly what. 


Danny Ryan: Some island you haven’t heard before. Farrow Islands, yeah. 


Ulenda Pickett: I met so many people. Oh, my goodness. It was really wonderful. 


Danny Ryan: And you’re volunteering as a host for like to help people get around. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. I volunteered on Saturday as a transportation guide where we were able to assist the friends coming from the airport getting to their destinations and the destination guide on Sunday getting … and we were using during some of that part of the time like using the MARTA and get escorted them on the MARTA and getting them from the MARTA directly to their hotel, walking into the hotel, the system getting their luggage there getting … just making sure that they all get here safely and get in safely and we have special activities that are planned for them this week. They are getting opportunity to go to the zoo, the Chattanooga … what is it? Chatta who center? 


Danny Ryan: Chattanooga Nature Center? 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. And the aquarium and just several activities planned for them and all while they’re here so they get a chance to experience a little bit of Georgia and all. 


Danny Ryan: Awesome. 


Ulenda Pickett: Yeah. 


Danny Ryan: We with you the best of luck with that and thank you for taking the time to do this. Hopefully this wasn’t too painful. 


Ulenda Pickett: No, no. 


Danny Ryan: And I just like … this is more than anything, this is a way to share for inside of ThreeWill for other people to get to know you better because it’s just like you come on to projects and it’s, you know, we were so focused in on we’re serving our clients and making sure we’re worrying about everybody else and just getting to know people better as is an important part of this. We want people to bring their whole selves to work and just to encourage you as well. It’s great. Good luck with this weekend with putting this on. 


Ulenda Pickett: Thank you. 


Danny Ryan: And yeah, I can tell the passion in your voice and I think that’s wonderful. And just a congratulations on a great start here at ThreeWill and I wish you the best of luck and come by and see Austin I over in the marketing room every once in a while. Come say hello. We won’t record it as a podcast every time. You won’t have to sit down as a podcast every time, but just want to welcome you to the team. 


Ulenda Pickett: Oh, thank you all very much. I am so enjoying ThreeWill. 


Danny Ryan: Thank you everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Thank you. Bye bye. 



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