31 Jan 2024

Know Your HBS Staff: June Dever


By Shona Simkin

HBS Online’s June Dever isn’t one to rest on her laurels. On workdays you can find her managing scrums and startups, and in her spare time catch her acting in a community theater show, teaching a Zumba class, or training for a half marathon. We talked with June about her role, the mentor who recognized her potential and jump-started her career, and conquering her fears.

What is your role at HBS?
I’m a technology project manager/scrum master. Scrum master is a term from agile project management, which promotes adaptability and process improvement. My primary role is managing the ceremonies part of the agile and scrum piece, which are daily standups, retrospectives, backlog grooming, and sprint planning—I facilitate all those meetings with two different teams: the learning experience team and the learning platform team.

What sort of projects do you manage?
One set of engineers are working on the front end experience part—a recent project was creating the calendar for the new course platform dashboard, making sure it was on the right spot on the page, that it was the right color for accessibility. The learning platform team are on the backend, writing code and fixing bugs. There are a lot of different projects and project managers, and we each see a project from start to finish; from kickoff meetings to check-ins and demos with the stakeholders, incorporating feedback and making sure there’s enough time before the launch date of whatever piece we’re working on. I facilitate the whole project and make sure it stays on time and report any issues that might come up.

How many years have you been here, and what was your path to HBS?
I’ve been with HBSOnline for about five years and Harvard for 18. I started at HBS in Baker Library, and then I moved to Harvard University Information Technology as a staff assistant. I progressively took on more responsibi lities and about eight years ago a new CTO told me that I had great project management skills and asked if I had ever thought about that role. I hadn’t, and when one of the project managers needed help I took on some of their responsibilities. I jumped right into it, got my scrum master certification, learned as I went along, and received more training. It was a twist of fate, someone coming in and seeing my potential.

I was promoted from staff assistant to project manager and was there for about a year and a half. Then this position at HBSOnline came up and I thought I’d give it a whirl and here I am. I don’t know that I would be on this path now without that former CTO. It’s very hard to change from a union staff assistant/administrator job to a non union job at a professional level. I was already at the glass ceiling, so I’m very thankful to have met him and have him push me and value my input though I wasn’t at management level.

What does your work look like day to day?
It’s a mix of routine and new things that come up. Every morning at 9:30 I facilitate our standup meeting, where two teams totaling about 20 people give an update on the status of what we are working on during the sprint, checking with the engineers to see if there are any blockers and if so how to clear them. To start the day off in a positive note, I play a song. We have engineers from all over the world so I like make sure to include everyone. Before the holidays I played some Croatian holiday music and when our Croatian team member signed on and heard it they were so happy. It’s something to make people smile.

We work in two week sprints, so every other week we do a sprint planning of the work that’s coming up—timelines and who is assigned and committed to what, and we reiterate that in the daily check ins. It’s a lot of checks and balances to make sure that things are getting done when we say they’ll get done.

There’s always an element of the unknown—like a bug that needs communicating to the content team. Our work always affects other teams. For example, we might release something that could shut down the ability to take exams, so if we don’t communicate what we’re doing it can turn into a hot mess.

What do you love about your job?
I like working with different people—different cultures, different personalities. I like problem solving. One of my strengths is making people feel included, so I like doing simple things that make them feel that they’re a part of the team no matter what part of the world or country they’re from.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to progress professionally and I enjoy the team I’m on. The good thing about being a project manager is that there’s still a lot for me to learn. I'm looking into getting more technical training—it’s good to not feel stuck.

Where are you from, and what do you like to do outside of work?
I was born in Ohio and lived there for about 20 years. I decided it was not the place for me and have pretty much been in New England since. I live in Salem, which is nice except for October, when it’s overrun by Halloween tourists.

I act in community theater shows, I teach Zumba, and I just ran a half marathon. I wasn’t able to attend college, so I’ve been chipping away at doing my bachelor’s degree. All of that makes me happy. I like to do things that I wasn’t able to do growing up. I almost drowned when I was 20 and swimming has always been a fear, so I’ve been taking swim lessons and I’m getting over it. I like to overcome anything that’s held me back.

How did you get involved in acting?
It was always something that intrigued me. I had a strict upbringing and wasn’t able to do any extracurriculars or develop any interests, and I always thought acting would be cool. About 10 years ago I was living in Fitchburg and drove by a community theater that was doing Annie. I thought well, give it a whirl; the worst thing that can happen is they’ll say no! I auditioned and thought that my knees were going to buckle, but I was cast in the ensemble and had some walk-on speaking roles and was bitten by the bug. I’ve done shows in Fitchburg and Worcester, one of my favorite shows was Doubt; I was nominated for an Off Broadway Boston award for that.

What's the time commitment for community theater?
Rehearsals are usually three nights a week, and as the production gets closer they get more intense. You’ve got to learn your lines and be off book by a certain time, then you have the shows and next thing you know it’s come and gone and I’m thinking of what to audition for next. I audition for things that call to me—this past year I did As She Likes It as Anne Boleyn, and I’m in rehearsals for Court Martial at Fort Devens. It’s the true story of three Black women who enlisted to be trained as medical technicians but were assigned as maids by a racist colonel, so they fight back. Performances start in March. After this I’m taking a break because it’s been three shows back to back. It’s a lot.

How did you become a Zumba instructor?
I went to a Zumba class about six years ago and liked it, but I didn’t like the instructor. So I trained and got certified to be the kind of instructor I wanted. Now I have a yearslong following of students. I teach two virtual classes, one for Harvard and one on my own, and then I teach at a local YMCA. I thought the virtual classes might die down after the pandemic, but they’ve kept going. I have about 15 people in my classes.

And you just ran a half marathon?
I used to run years ago and did a 5k, but during the pandemic I stopped. I decided to start again because I had really enjoyed it, but I had to start from square one. A half marathon was on my list so when I saw that the Cambridge Half was open for registration I hired a trainer and signed up. It was so hard! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I was proud that I was able to check it off my list of things I always wanted to do. I’m considering doing a mini triathlon in June.

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