It’s been 10 years since the world was shocked by the brutal airplane attacks on the US. It’s a terrible birthday, but it also reminded me of the fact that it’s been only 10 years of working in IT consultancy for me. But, boy, what a path it has been.
On 9/11 of 2001 I was guiding a junior analyst of a customer of the consultancy company I started working for not too long before. After having heard of some crazy attack, but not even knowing what the twin towers really were, I drove off to an interview with another customer for an analysis assignment. They approved of me, and I started… analyzing. Having no formal background, except a 3-day UML course (hmm, don’t have the attached diploma anymore, I fear), I tried to be pragmatic. Mixing plain text descriptions with Visio drawn screen drafts and flow charts and other diagrams. Whatever seemed most appropriate to get the message across. I later on estimated the project upon a model built by a senior colleague, upon listing screens, field and data types, and expected difficulty. And my management strongly insisted on communicating less days to the developers than estimated. You can’t trust ’em, ya know. But I didn’t, as I didn’t hide the included contingency. Did create a predictive plan. A giant MS Project something matching the expected elapse time.
Having no formal background in project management, I managed to get my team in the same room and do intermediate sessions with the customer. Project room however was organized in a traditional class style (rows) and I was regularly disappointed because my extremely good contacts with customer staff didn’t prevent them from abusing my intermediate sessions for adding scope and changing their mind. Still, we had a fine time, and the project ended (for my employer) in a break-even, which made it even a fantastic fixed price project.
After this project I was asked to start up a new, critical project in very difficult circumstances, i.e. the project hadn’t started yet and was already nearly over time. It only took 2 smart software architects 15 minutes to talk me into eXtreme Programming. Because I saw how XP made explicit, structural and inescapable what I intuitively had tried to do in my traditional project: communication (pair programming, face-to-face) and consistent, clear iterations. Project wen extremely well, ended in time and with profit. Quite extraordinary for a fixed price project. Big-time success!
When scaling up for that same project in a next phase, I was pointed to this thing called Scrum. I read the 2 books by Ken Schwaber available at that time. I went to a CSM course by Ken, where I learned formally not so much, but was excited about the collaboration with Ken and the other participants. We then replaced our organizational practices from XP with Scrum. We kept on applying XP engineering practices though and this felt really natural.
Today I am reading “The Black Swan” (Dutch translation though). On unpredictable, high-impact events. Like 9/11. And I just officially became Professional Scrum trainer from Scrum.org and… Ken Schwaber (Professional Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Product Owner class). You can’t even imagine how proud and happy I am about this. It seems such a long road. Yet, the seeds were sown not more than 10 years ago. And no terrorist or traditional manager is going to ruin my pride.