Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Looking back on 2013

A lot of things happened for me in 2013 but much of it seems informal and I'm not sure I can make much of it in my usual year in review format. So be it. Also, I wrote this early February and then forgot to publish it.

2013 started with me returning to South Africa after a much needed vacation back home. I arrived with a much clearer head and much of the stress form the initial months in South Africa gone.

The project I was working on during my whole time in Joburg was doing well and we started trying to spread those experiences out to more teams at the client. This proved to have the same difficulties every other enterprise agile transformation seems to struggle with, too. I think personally, I learned heaps of things there in terms of how to communicate better and wish I would have taken a more active role in some of the discussions. On the plus side, the client was willing to experiment with processes to some degree, we had some really experienced Thoughtworkers around that I could learn a lot from and for myself I'm happy with what was achieved during the time I was there.

Overall though, I find that the topic of enterprise agile transformation increasingly fills me with despair. There are so many inherent contradictions causing the same kinds of friction, again and again, with huge challenges for making a lasting positive difference for both the companies and the people working for them. I feel new approaches and the courage to experiment with them are required. Lots of that appears to be happening in smaller companies but I haven't witnessed any of that myself. Ok, enough of that. Where was I?

I kept taking part in the Joburg developer community, attending lots of little events and making friends along the way. While the community is relatively small, I do like the vibe and this is one of the reasons why I'm looking forward to spending more time in Johannesburg. But more on that later.

I also had a slightly more active role in some of the events. We had another Black Girls Code event that I ended up facilitating, with heavy support from Thoughtworkers and non-Thoughtworkers alike. I was happy to see (from afar, as I was already back in Germany) that the next BGC event had even more non-Thoughtworkers there. The more people involved in it, the more sustainable and successful it will hopefully become. Curriculum-wise we were working with material we received from the BGC organisers in the US, who were also kind enough to take the time to talk us through it over Skype.

I also did a little workshop at the Developer Usergroup appropriating the very nice "Taking Babysteps" format. I had learned about it taking part in it when Adi ran it in Hamburg a few months earlier.

Just before heading back to Germany my colleague Rouan and I also gave a talk at JSinSA about lineman, a javascript framework that more people should know about. (As an aside, I stumbled upon lineman because I've been twitter-stalking its author Justin Searls for years now, ever since he wrote a maven plugin that stood out because it actually did what it was supposed to.)

I was very happy in the Johannesburg Thoughtworks office and when it came time to return home to Germany, that contrast made it pretty clear that I didn't want to keep working for Thoughtworks in Germany. And so my farewell to South Africa also became my farewell to Thoughtworks.

The next months were incredibly chaotic as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. A good part of that time was spent as a journeyman developer. I blogged about that time extensively so I won't repeat too much of that here. Except to repeat that I'm grateful to have had the opportunity and really enjoyed it.

During this time I also went to the SoCraTes and ALE conferences again. Both events have quickly turned into my favourite events during the year and I'm already sad that I will probably miss both of them in 2014.

Eventually I made up my mind and decided to go back to South Africa. It's pretty difficult to describe what I enjoy about the vibe of both the developer community as well as that of Johannesburg itself but in summary I feel it's worth it to go back for a a few years.

I went back for two months at the end of the year to go job-hunting. It was a pretty positive experience overall and I'm also happy and excited about the new job coming up.

While I was back I also took part in the global day of code retreat again. I really liked the venue and it was nice to just take part without being involved in facilitating.

Going back to Germany, I had to wait for my work permit to come through. This proved to be a pretty rough time as being without a job and without my own place really started to wear on me.

But eventually I got back to Joburg, started a new job, got my own place again and published this blog post. So it all worked out but that's a story for next year's year in review.