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Learning to be Agile

November 23rd, 2010 · 3 Comments · education, work


I had an exceptionally enjoyable day at work today, not that any of my usual colleagues knew anything about it. That’s because I was on a training course at Manchester University. I got my degree at Manchester University and 20+ years ago attended some lectures in the same building that hosted today’s event. Is it me or are students getting younger?

The session was a workshop on Agile software development. This does not involve floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, though it does suggest you should be on your feet at times, literally!

I won’t bore you with a long diatribe on the chronic crisis affecting the software development industry that has lead to numerous large scale projects appearing in the news for being years late, over budget and in some cases plain not working. It suffices to say that our industry has not been a shining example of delivering what it promised on time and at the agreed price.

Enter the all-conquering hero that is Agile Development!

In a nutshell, it throws away a lot of cumbersome processes and replaces them with a policy of delivering a new version of the software frequently to the customer to get their feedback. (OK, there’s more to it than that but my audience is primarily parents, not programmers, so I’m not about to expand at length on the Agile Manifesto.)

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed today’s event. Agile development may not turn out to be the silver bullet some hope it will be, but there was certainly a shared enthusiasm and excitement in the room today. I feel it somewhat reconnected me with the thrill (yes, thrill) of creating and developing something from scratch, a feeling that can sometimes be drowned in a sea of bureacracy and red tape in a large company. I’m not saying my own company is bad, far from it. But it IS large and sometimes change can come at the pace required to turn around a super-tanker. So the fact I was offered this course to back up my own recent adoption of these techniques is promising in itself.

Engineering of any kind is not exactly a sexy profession, but it can be a very rewarding one, offering a sense of achievement and pride in ones work. Electronics I have designed and software I have written is out there in use in the world today. Much like creating a song and publishing it, the creative process in engineering leads to a tangible end product and with it some satisfaction.

There have been times when I have wondered whether staying in my industry is the right thing to do. It suffices to say, today wasn’t one of them.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • delishus

    Blimey – you're being positive about work? that's not happened for a while 🙂 I'll have a chat with you on email about Agile development. We use a version of it and it does work but he tricky part is getting people out of the waterfall delivery mindset. I'll be interested to see what you thought

    • Steve

      It's early days. We are adopting it slowly. It's easier for the HCI team who are our earliest adopters, but at the hardware interface end it needs more careful thought. Definitely useful though.

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