Agile Portugal 2016

Interview to Emily Bache

Emily Bache was kind enough to grant us an interview where she talks us about herself and her sessions at Agile Portugal:
• Keynote: As a professional programmer, how do you learn new skills?
• Workshop: Coding dojo challenge: SOLID design principles

This post is brought to you by the Agile Portugal 2016 reporters, Nuno Rafael Gomes and Bruno Teixeira.

Who are you?

Emily Bache herself. From Emily's private collection.
Emily Bache herself. From Emily’s private collection.

Mostly I’m a very ordinary person, with husband and family, and a good job working as a programmer. I really enjoy coding on a daily basis, and being part of a team.

Having said that, over the years I have grabbed a number of opportunities that most people don’t see in their careers. For example when I moved to Sweden at the height of the dot com boom in 2000. Only two years out of university in the UK, a junior programmer, no Swedish, and yet I landed a good job in Göteborg with very little difficulty. It’s happened to me several times, this combination of good luck with the timing, an adventurous attitude, willing to try something new, leading to happy times of growth and learning.

Tell us the story of your Agile journey.

Emily Bache at Agile 2008 pairing on stage with Michael Feathers on Programming with the Stars. Photo taken by Tom Poppendieck.
Emily Bache at Agile 2008 pairing on stage with Michael Feathers on Programming with the Stars. Photo taken by Tom Poppendieck.

In 2000 I landed in a team who was curious about eXtreme Programming, and we decided to try it. We weren’t any good at it, but Test Driven Development and Pair Programming seemed to make some things much easier. XP was definitely more fun than the way I’d been developing software before. The project failed in the end, but shortly afterwards I happened to hear about the XP2002 conference. The dot com bubble had burst, I was unemployed, yet I paid my own way to the conference. There I met Kent Beck, Martin Fowler, Laurent Bossavit, Michael Feathers and many people who influenced my career profoundly.

At XP2005 I met up with Laurent Bossavit again, and together with Emmanuel Gaillot he facilitated a Coding Dojo for the conference participants. This was a concept that they had been developing in Paris. Bob Martin was there, and blogged about it, so the idea quickly seemed to spread. I was intrigued, I could see this might be a good way to get a team to learn TDD, something I’d struggled with. I didn’t have the confidence to try it out with my colleagues, so I suggested it as an activity for the local Ruby user group. Happily they agreed, and we did quite a few dojo sessions until I felt pretty confident with organizing them, and could start doing Coding Dojos at conferences and yes, even with my team at work!

Emily Bache at XP2002 after presenting a poster with Geoff Bache: final photo of the 2 with Kent Beck. From Emily's private collection.
Emily Bache at XP2002 after presenting a poster with Geoff Bache: final photo of the 2 with Kent Beck. From Emily’s private collection.

In 2010 I found myself unemployed again, so I started my own consulting business. This gave me the time to really develop my ideas around teaching TDD, and to write my book on the Coding Dojo. I found I missed being part of a development team though, so three years later I joined Pagero, and now I only consult part-time.

Why the Agile Portugal Conference?

I have never been to Portugal before, and I welcome the chance to broaden my horizons again, and to meet professionals with a different outlook and experience from my own. I love going to conferences, you meet such interesting people. The conference sessions are a chance to really hear and understand people’s latest thinking and experiences. For me, it’s the opening of a potential conversation I can have with that person. If they say something that intrigues or inspires me, I can talk to them in more depth afterwards, and find a way to bring their experiences to bear on my own situation. So I really encourage you to come and talk to me after my sessions at the conference, if what I present seems interesting to you.

Why should an Agile practitioner attend your keynote/workshop?

Emily Bache at XP2010 giving the Test Driven Development: Performing Art workshop. Photo taken by Tom Poppendieck.
Emily Bache at XP2010 giving the Test Driven Development: Performing Art workshop. Photo taken by Tom Poppendieck.

I think professional development is a really important topic, how you can keep enjoying your career and learning new things. The people around you at your workplace are a hugely important source of ideas and inspiration, but after a while you can lose sight of the big picture of what is going on in our industry. A conference is a chance to step out of the familiar and be challenged. It’s not always comfortable to grow and learn, either, but in my workshop session I’m aiming to provide a relatively safe environment for you to try out the Coding Dojo, and hopefully improve your programming skills. I hope it will be something concrete you can take back to your colleagues and give you all the opportunity to develop your skills and have more fun at work.