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Searching for Mentors …in Sweden?

November 11, 2009

In my last main post I talked about my desire to look for and work with mentors around me. As I mentioned in my shout out to Corey, I met a lot of amazing people when I was down in Florida visiting Hashrocket and attending BizConf. Among them was a fellow from Sweden by the name of CJ Kihlbom. He told me he ran a Rails shop in Gothenburg and seemed to be on the same page as me as far as development practices and all that. Of course, whenever I get the chance to hang out with people from other countries, I invariably ignore our common professional interests in order talk their ears off about travel, politics and food. I then summarily invite myself to visit their country with them as native sherpa, yespleasethankyouverymuch.

Unlike most people, who brush me off as the crazy person I (however accurately) appear to be, CJ actually went along with my scheme. A month or two later I contacted him to find out when would be a good time to visit for a few days and he said, “How about next week?”

“…uh, next week?”

“Yeah,” and then against his better judgement, “and how about you stay for a couple of weeks. We have some contract work available. Can you take the time off?”

Two weeks later I was on an Air France plane to Gothenburg.

I write this as I finish up my last week working at his company eLabs. It’s been all Rails, all TDD, all pair programming, all the time. And it’s been fantastic. CJ has been amazing to hang out with and work for, and I was also elated to find that he has a stellar team of developers and designers.

They run a tight, agile shop *and* make it look effortless. That is the part that really gets me. Everyone is dedicated to an Agile process and takes real pride in having a craftsman’s discipline. However, they aren’t obsessed with the details of a methodology. They don’t run around going crazy with burndown charts, kanban boards and ScrumMaster certifications. Instead, their project management tools are the simple, inexpensive, well-built tools like Campfire, Pivotal Tracker and Harvest. Their storycarding planning sessions are straight forward, relaxed and without ceremony – although occasionally a bit hard to understand for the non-Swedish-speaking amongst us.

It’s a no-BS approach that I love. Besides the huge amount of Rails and testing knowledge that I’ve picked up from the devs here (thanks in large part to Jonas Nicklas), I’ve seen how at least one company can adopt Agile & XP practices without making a big production of it.

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One Comment
  1. CJ, Jonas and Anders are champs. Great people.

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