Chad Fowler’s Keynote

Chad Fowler’s keynote at Codemash was excellent, and well timed to get me through the week. While I have really enjoyed my time there, and learned a lot the last 2 year’s attending, I run into a lot of attitudes that are hard for me to handle.

Simply put, I work in multiple dev communities (Ruby and .Net), and both can be dismissive of each other at times.

This manifests itself in a couple of ways:

  • not just making a case, but implying anyone who disagrees is stupid or ignorant
  • assuming that success with their tool (framework, methodology, ide) means that all other tools fail
  • judging a tool based on an experience where they never tried to learn the tool

Since the last one is vague, I’ll give an example. You learn how to use database VendorX’s product in college and in your first couple of year’s programming. You have read up, you know the product inside and out. You get a contract to do work on a project that will use VendorY’s database. You consider yourself a SQL expert and decide to learn on the job. However, DDL, Programmable Sql, and identities are handled differently, and you are frustrated by this, and declare VendorY sucks. But you never picked up a book or put in any of the effort for VendorY that you did for VendorX.

So what does this have to do with Chad?

He’s a part of a vocal Ruby community. And many in this community are the source of my frustrations above. (To be clear, I may agree with what they are saying, I just am turned off by how they say things). So when Chad started talking about his experience in corporate America and poking fun of Six Sigma, I thought “here we go”. (For the record, I have no experience with, or understanding beyond the basics of Six Sigma practice, and no reason to defend it).

But Chad showed a deep desire to learn about and understand what he was working with, whether he liked it or not. He revealed that he was a trained Six Sigma “black belt”. He explained his frustrations, but also talked about the pieces of it that he found effective, and it sounds like he carried over pieces that were useful into his future places of employment.

Why does this strengthen his my view of his credibility? First, he had the humility to realize his first impressions may have been wrong, and the practices of 6S deserved more investigation. Second, he made an attempt to understand the context, history, and motivations involved, so his end argument was full of salient points, not just “gut-feelings”.

That quality, like offering a solution when you complain about a problem shows a deeper level of maturity. I was glad my first impressions about Chad were wrong, and I chose to stick around for the keynote, it was worthwhile.

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