Friday, March 15, 2013

2012, a year

This thing proved to take quite a bit of time to write. But 2012 was a very eventful, challenging, rewarding, entertaining and educational year.

Like last year I'm overcome by massive gratefulness and joy for having been able to connect to so many nice people throughout the year. 

So, in very brief stats: I worked on 3 projects, spoke at 2 conferences, did more code retreats, and moved to South Africa.

Goodbye Berlin

I started the year by joining another project in Berlin. This was limited to 8 weeks from the outset so didn't leave me and my colleague Matt too much time to work with the team there. It was a more challenging setup, too, as the team was (and had been for a while) under a lot of pressure to change and so trust and safety were in short supply. Nevertheless I really enjoyed working with Matt and I think we did manage to have some positive impact.

As my time in Berlin was coming to an end I found myself surprised by how sad I was to leave. It's a very strange love/hate-relationship I have with that city. But the really great tech community and the many good friends I have there do make me lean towards moving there when I return to Germany.

Hello Hamburg

After having 'lived' in Hamburg for 7 months without ever actually having spent much time there I was now actually working on a project in Hamburg. 

The experience was very mixed though, I had a very long commute and the project I was working on was problematic, as I felt we had no agency and lacked support from the client. On the plus side, it got me working alongside more of my TW colleagues, which I appreciated.

And Hamburg itself is a pretty awesome city and the local ThoughtWorks office and the growing number of people working there were nice to have around. I also quite enjoyed the local dev community, especially around the JS, Kanban and craftsmanship user groups. 


In my quest to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I decided that I wanted to try out giving a talk at a conference. The topic emerged at one of the xtc Berlin meetings, based on me being sad that some people I hold in high regard were staying at jobs that I thought were wasting their talent. Combined with my own experience from recent years, I quickly found the nice, somewhat baiting title "Quit Your Job" and eventually also came up with an abstract. 

And when both Scan Agile and Agile Central Europe accepted my proposal I was starting to freak out a little. I spent quite some time preparing and thankfully also had the opportunity to do a test-run with some colleagues, who helped me a lot with their feedback.

Arriving in Helsinki a little late I sadly missed out on the speaker's dinner. But I still got to spend a nice evening at the bar with Olaf Lewitz, Cyrille Martraire and Chris Matts.

I was more than a little anxious the next day but felt very supported by the organizers. And I was also very thankful for having Phil Calçado around, too, so I knew at least one person in the audience.

The talk went well enough and the feedback was positive. In particular I was very moved by Juha Heimonen, who was very enthusiastic in his feedback (and has since quit and found a new job).

The ACE conference took place in Kraków a little later in the year.  I arrived early to take part in the initial day of workshops. Sadly, Marcin Floryan's workshop didn't happen but thankfully Jim Benson's was a good alternative.

I had some time to tighten up the talk a little. I also was a bit less nervous and so I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

I really enjoyed the conference as a whole. The single track and short talks are a nice approach and it was a really interesting mix of speakers. So it was nice not to have to miss out on any of the talks.

Again it was hugely inspiring to have so many interesting conversations with people. In particular, I was very happy to have met Paul Klipp. His friendliness and encouragement were very appreciated and the work he does at Lunar Logic is something people should take a look at.

Overall, I'm glad that I got myself to do something I'm incredibly uncomfortable with. And I would definitely recommend both conferences to both attendees and speakers.

And while I'm talking about conferences, I also wanted to mention the german software craftsmanship conference that took place for the second time in a nice little town called Rückersbach. It was cool to see that the german community has grown and is doing so well. And it was very nice yet again to meet new and old friends. I enjoyed finally meeting Benjamin Reitzammer after having interacted on twitter for a while. And some people even came from all over Europe. Thus I met Sandro Mancuso, Samir Talwar, Cyrille Martraire, Adi Bolboaca and Erik Talbom again. I do sometimes worry that our community might be a bit too small when you constantly run into the same people throughout Europe. But then I really do appreciate having the chance to stay in touch with them, so why worry.


After having taken part in the Legacy Coderetreat in Belgium the year before I was eager to try out running one myself. So I did just that with the help of Alex Peters in March in our office in Hamburg. It was well-received but I wasn't quite happy with the format. The later sessions require you to redo some basic refactorings each time. To counter this, we allowed people to continue working on the code without resetting after each session. But this led to different pairs arriving at very different different codebases in the end. 

For the global day of coderetreat I helped facilitate one of the two events in Johannesburg. I paired up with Janco Wolmarans, whose company Driven Software was hosting one of the events. There was a good turnout, the weather and the venue were very nice and I think people had a good time. 

I was also very happy that we were able to have quite a few brief google hangout sessions with people all over the world. The GDCR is a pretty amazing thing and I'm happy I could be a part of it.

Facilitating for a large group is pretty exhausting though and it was really nice to be able to switch back and forth with Janco.

South Africa

Back in April we had a little company-internal webcast about the work ThoughtWorks is doing in Africa. And I was immediately intrigued by the different kind of entrepreneurialism and the aspiration to help grow the IT community there. And since I was eager to keep changing things I told my boss Nick that I'd like to go on assignment there. He was nice enough to put me in contact with the South African office and so, by end of August I made it to Joburg. 

Giving up my apartment, moving my belongings into storage, getting vaccinations, figuring out the bureaucratic issues around health care and getting a Visa proved to be quite hectic. Once again my sanity was saved by setting up a Personal Kanban board for the project.

I've already written a little bit about my experience arriving in Johannesburg. Lots of that is still true, although I do understand a little bit of Cricket now. The socializing bit also changed somewhat as there are a plethora of events happening, lots of which are organised in and/or by our office.

We've also explored both Johannesburg and its surroundings a bit more. One particularly nice trip was to God's Window, which Kyle Hodgson wrote about here.

One other event I'd like to explicitly mention was the Black Girls Code event we ran in October. The excitement that we saw in the kids was amazing and inspiring and it's something that will stay with me. I can't wait until we do the next one. 

Overall though, I definitely underestimated how much stress the move would put on me. Being in such a completely different environment without direct contact to my support network, with so much going on, all while still doing regular client work on top of it took quite an emotional toll on me.

Briefly back to Germany

So it was really nice to go back to Germany for the holidays. Arriving back in Germany was almost more of a culture shock than arriving in Joburg. I spent the first two evenings just aimlessly wandering around Düsseldorf in the rain. It was nice to be able to do that and to make use of public transportation. Being able to just walk around the city, even after dark, is probably the thing I miss the most in South Africa.

I happened to be back just in time to join the office christmas party in Hamburg. It was nice to meet the new people that had started while I was gone and to reconnect with the other colleagues. And the warm welcome I got felt really nice.

Meeting up with friends and family and being able to spend some time with them was just what I needed. I felt a lot better after the 4 weeks I stayed in Germany and with the constant rain and cold I was looking forward to head back to summer.

On to 2013

And so I got back to Joburg. And the weather is indeed very nice. And I've been quite happily busy since. Sadly this meant that this blog post dropped quite low in priority. I'm glad I made it through. Thanks for reading this. Have a nice 2013!