Last of the Immersion

This post is probably going to get a bit happy clappy so if you’re allergic to gushing sentimentality it is probably best to skip this post and come back for some of the more analytic stuff later.

This last week was a lot harder and longer than last week but for all the right reasons. I felt material was coming at us as fast as we could ask for it. The attendees were treated like the intelligent, capable people they are and if we asked for more we got it. For someone with no formal background in Agile it was interesting to be given some theoretical framework to work with.

However probably the best thing about the whole experience was being locked in a room with nine other intelligent, articulate and experienced people and being made to think about the job you are embarking on. A ThoughtWorks Immersion programme is hard to explain through the syllabus material alone. It’s pretty standard stuff and a lot of the time the material is very much the broad view. The trainers we had were good and put the trainees above simple delivery of slides but presentation cannot really explain it either. I feel that it was my fellow attendees that really made the experience something special.

The TW Immersion is multi-discipline and is really focussed on soft skills and Agile practices. It isn’t really about coding and it isn’t about huge org charts. It should really try and explain what we are trying to achieve as a company and what every person within the company does to support their co-workers and thus achieve success as a whole.

The thing that really impressed me was that no matter what someone’s background or nominal job within the firm everyone tackled every challenge or task on the course with enthusiasm and a commitment that held no reservation. At the end of the two weeks I felt that if I had these nine other people with me (who I had never met until two weeks ago) there was no challenge I couldn’t take on.

It is corny but I really mean it, it is a feeling I have certainly never experienced in any other environment. To me it feels like the secret of any collective endeavour is to collect the best people you can find. If you use the best people then you are going to succeed.

But isn’t using a fuzzy term like “best people” just a cop out? What does that mean? TW genuinely has some of the most experienced and talented people who work in IT. Anyone looking to recruit wants to hire the most capable and experienced people they can.

However if you had the choice would you leave it there? If you could hire anyone wouldn’t you also want to employ the people who could work together effectively, adapt to new situations, who could be honest with their colleagues, be willing to take on both risk and responsibility, who would try to succeed for the long-term rather than scrabbling for short-term advantage?

I think you would want to hire those people. I think you would also regard those people as being the best people; people who were good at whatever it is they do and then have all these qualities on top. I think if you were able to recruit those people, bring them together in the right environment and then have them interact and cross-pollinate all their ideas and experiences then I think you would find those people pretty damn inspiring.

I think that is how I feel at the end of Immersion. I may know how TW writes a User Story, uses Mingle or plans a release but all that is really incidental. What I really know is that TW has hired at least nine of the best people and that’s a fantastic feeling.