If you’re invited to a “stand-up meeting” at work, don’t panic — you won’t be asked to perform stand-up comedy. However, you will be briefly put on the spot to provide a status update on your work to the rest of your team.
Stand-up meetings are a way to quickly share what you’ve been working on, what you plan to tackle that day, and any roadblocks that are keeping you from completing your work.
The concept of a daily stand-up meeting is part of the Agile approach to software development, a methodology that was created by a group of software engineers in 2001 and is still used by engineering teams today. Other industries besides tech have embraced the meeting format because it allows groups to efficiently touch base and talk through pain points.
Here’s how a typical stand-up meeting in tech works, what you need to prepare for your first one, and more tips for making the most of the short amount of time.
What a stand-up meeting is and how it works
For starters, they’re called stand-up meetings because you’re supposed to literally stand during the meeting. Standing is supposed to help eliminate distractions and keep people engaged with the conversation, according to Jeff Sutherland, one of the creators of the Agile Manifesto.
Plus, since everyone is on their feet, it means meetings have to be concise (usually lasting 15 minutes or less) so folks don’t get fatigued, explains Calla Feucht, Codecademy Engineering Manager. If people need to have follow-up conversations, those usually happen outside of the meeting so they don’t interrupt the pace. Stand-up meetings are also held at the same time every day to ensure that everyone can get together face-to-face at least once during the day.
Obviously, with so many people working remotely on distributed teams, a stand-up meeting can look different depending on the organization. For example, remote teams might not stand up when they’re on a Zoom call, or teams might opt for asynchronous Slack-based stand-ups instead. Or if your team uses the Scrum software development framework, you might call stand-up meetings “the daily scrum.”
What to say during a stand-up meeting
Typically, the team leader (whether that’s a Product Manager or Scrum master) will facilitate the stand-up meeting, call on folks when it’s their turn to provide an update, and keep everyone on task. It’s a good idea to think about what you’re going to say during your turn so you’re not caught off-guard and can keep the meeting moving.
There are three things that you’ll need to briefly speak on in a stand-up meeting:
- What did you do yesterday (or the last working day)?
- What are you doing today?
- What, if any, blockers are getting in your way?
Here’s an example of what someone might say during an engineering stand-up meeting:
“Yesterday I pushed some unit tests to GitHub to cover the code added in Feature A. Today, I’m focusing on code review for the pull requests created for Features B and C. I could use someone’s help with figuring out the best way to query the database for users who haven’t filled out their profiles yet, since I still don’t have access to the database.”
Tips for effective stand-up meetings
Though a stand-up meeting is quick and to the point, “it can definitely be a bit intimidating,” Calla says. You might get caught up comparing your productivity to other team members’ or feel too nervous to bring up an obstacle, for instance.
The best way to approach these meetings: “Just give an honest status update,” Calla says.
If you’re stuck waiting on another stakeholder, it’s okay to say that you don’t have updates and are working proactively on something else. Or if you’re brand new to an engineering team and don’t have assignments yet, you might say something as simple as: “I’m not sure what I’m doing today, but I’d love to shadow anyone who’s willing to have me along,” Calla suggests.
Remember that the point of these meetings is not to flex on your teammates or call out folks who are having trouble with a project. Talking openly about whatever’s standing in your way gives people an opportunity to offer suggestions or resources, and hearing what others are working on can spark new ideas.
Getting used to stand-up meetings is just one of the hurdles you’ll encounter in your first job as a developer. Still looking for that dream tech job? Check out these job boards for tech positions and be sure to keep these tips for applying to entry-level positions in mind throughout your job-search process.