A week ago was another Agile and Beyond conference. Even though we had some excellent talks such as Joshua Kerievsky TechSaftey keynote, it wasn’t as impactful as years past. To be fair, I had seen Joshua’s talk last year at the Lean Kanban conference. I’m glad it wasn’t as impactful; I think it means I’m starting to gain a more foundational understanding of things. It is funny, my first time at the conference it wasn’t about being impactful, it was about being relevant. But let’s start at the beginning.

I’ve always been drawn to people that have mastered their craft. The insights you could draw from their work seemed more meaningful. Their bravado given off when talking about their domain charmed me. When I graduated college and set off on my programing career full time, I fully intended to master my domain. My opportunities landed me at company that was rapidly growing, and an environment where I could grow along with it. Looking back, my folly was not realizing I was devoid of a mentor, and doing what I needed to do to seek one out. I soon found the addictive grove of “getting things done”, with a waining regards to mastery of my craft. In the back of my mind it bothered me. As years passed, responsibilities grew, my time spent on my craft got thinner and thinner. The backlog grew and grew, and I needed help. There were always people around willing to lend a helping hand, but I needed more. Someone with more insights than casually looking at problems. In part it was my craving to get back to my craft, in part it did seem like without professional help, the backlog would never be tamed. A long story short, I learned lessons about interviewing, and putting together a team. We hired, and we grew.

Ignorance is bliss. Except that it wasn’t. Now that there is a team, there needs to be direction, coordination, and organization. I didn’t see it coming, and I didn’t embrace that I needed to master a new domain. Again after a while the mastery craving kicked in, and I found a local and cheap conference to go to. Not having a mentor to help push me when I needed it, or a work environment that strived for continuous improvement, this was long overdue. I found myself at my first agile conference, Agile and Beyond. In part I loved it because I was immersed with people that were trying to perfect their craft. In part, I hated it because I still viewed myself as a developer and I didn’t have a true understanding of the Agile Manifesto. It was another way to “get stuff done”, but there didn’t seem to be a way to for a developer to master their craft. When you work on a library, you just worked on the parts you needed. Your frameworks where always going to be half done. Your work driven by what the customer wanted, and not what you know needed to be done. It was naive and frankly a little embarrassing that those thoughts are not farther in my review mirror. Even as off kilter as I was, my agile mastery had begun.

Back to current day. The conference wasn’t as impactful to me, but it was a good experience, and I was happy to be continuing to learn. What’s finally starting to sink in is that if I’m reaching for mastery, I will certainly be a lot closer if I’m incorporating others feedback. Agile and Lean certainly strive to do just that. You start to realize that others can help you validate your ideas. Others can help you with things that you would have never thought of. Intelligence will get you far, but being humble, understanding other peoples perspectives, and using their intelligence will get you farther. It’s not that I ever viewed feedback with disdain, but it’s certain that I didn’t interpret it appropriately. I keep coming back to thinking about that code library that you want to perfect. You plan things out, but eventually run into a problem. How many times after pulling out your profiling tools did you refactor code where you thought you would have to refactor. Feedback from your tests, from your profiling, from your crash reports, and feedback from your users. They all drive that well crafted library. So when you work on your library, there is less to refactor, and less to debug. You have just what you need. You end up listening to the users of your framework, and it becomes complete in their eyes. What you work on rarely feels wasted.

So that’s my journey so far. One traveled by many people wanting to perfect their craft. Feedback and mastery are more intertwined then what you naively think in the beginning. Be mindful of what you should be mastering. Have a mentor. Their feedback will be good, and their help with navigating other feedback will be beneficial. Nothing is ever finished. Just like the journey.

P.S. My twitter feed is a pseudo-mentor right?