Who is Rachel Davies?

The next person in our “Who is” series is Rachel Davies. Not the actrice Rachel Davies but the agile coach Rachel Davies. I met her at XPday Benelux 2004. I followed lots of  her sessions since. The session that I remember most is her Keeping the furniture police at bay. So much I invited her and Emmanuel Gaillot to do a Retrospective workshops for PairCoaching.net. If you like any of my ideas on Retrospectives, thank Rachel. You can do so by buying her book. (Ok I’m exaggerating, I learned a lot from Agile Retrospectives as well.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Even though I have spent most of my career working as a programmer, my degree is in Philosophy. Through studying Philosophy, I learned not to become too attached to ideas, to question assumptions and practice shifting perspectives to reach a deeper understanding. This practice is useful when trying to understand the underlying beliefs that people hold and not to let those differences get in the way of working with them.

Another aspect of my life is that I come from a family of keen gardeners. As a child I learned to identify all sorts of wild flowers when we went for walks. I find plants of all kinds very beautiful and love to watch them change and grow through the seasons. I particularly love old trees because I like to reflect on how things life has changed as they have grown up around us. I also like to seek out ancient stone circles because I like to think about how people walked and lived in the same places hundreds of years ago.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I’m not really sure. When I finished university I realised that there was not a very obvious career path for someone with a degree in Philosophy. I applied for all sorts of jobs with no luck. I decided to study software engineering and was really excited with how creative it is.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is not too take on too many things to work on, especially volunteering for conference organising roles. This year I have been a chair of XP2011 conference in Spain, helping Manav Mehan with UK Agile Coaches Gathering and also Open Jam at Agile2011 I have a passion about getting people together to share experiences and conferences are a great way to energise people and encourage change. Even though, conference organising may seem a diversion from my client work, sometimes it puts me in touch with new people to work with. I often get free registration but this doesn’t really compensate for all the hours spent on emails and skype calls. I think the real benefit is working with a team of other volunteers to create a special experience that will boost people’s energy around Agile development. When I chaired Agile2008 in Toronto, I really felt like a Product Owner shaping something new.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I think you might ask how much time I spend coaching these days. The answer is not much. It’s been about six months since I coached a team. I am puzzling over this because I do enjoy coaching teams and would like that to be a bigger proportion of what I do. It seems that the role of agile coach has now become more ubiquitous and in the UK is now something that companies source through job agencies. The number of years experience required seems to be less and perhaps people think I might be too expensive because I am a book author not actually the case 🙂 I am enjoying running workshop style training courses for coaches who want to improve their skills in coaching teams – the next one will be 25 August.

What drives you ?

I hate to see people asked to do pointless things in the name of process. I love to see a people collaborate to build a better product. I am driven to help people work more effectively together.

What is your biggest achievement?

In the realm of work, this has to be writing “Agile Coaching” book with Liz Sedley . I am so pleased to hear from people that they found it easy to read and picked up useful ideas. The team at Pragmatic Bookshelf provides great support for new authors so it’s a great place to get started and they’re always looking for new authors

What is the last book you have read?

A book called Psychiatric Tales

Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

Steve Freeman.