The next person for the WhoIs is George Dinwiddie. George was one of the first I invited. Later he was also proposed by Esther Derby and Don Gray, which is the reason why I posted his answers this late. George is one of these people who seems to be omni-present. I think he is on every mailing list I am. (And probably a lot more) And usually he is very active on these lists. But active in his own way. Asking questions, or saying things that make me think. Think really hard. I am on way too many mailing list to be healthy for me. So sometimes I ignore posts from most mailing lists. But when I notice that a few people I respect start to write lots of answers, I start to read the thread. George is one of these people. George has his own unique style. A style I like. As a person, he is interested in the whole package, not just technical or people or process.
George is the person on the right …
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has
influenced you in who you are?
I’ve got a varied background, probably more than most people in the software development industry. My undergraduate degree is in English, with a minor in Psychology. Later, to have credentials in the work I was doing, I got a Masters in Computer Science. I don’t think anyone has ever asked about that degree, though.
If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
Who knows! I came to IT from electronics design and embedded systems. Yes, you /can/ design electronics with an English degree. Prior to that I went in a number of different directions, including organic vegetable farming, theatrical lighting and sound, and television repair.
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
My biggest challenge is that I’m not sharply focused on one thing. That’s a marketing challenge for my coaching services, as it doesn’t make me “the one person” to call for a particular situation or need. Instead, there are many situations where I can provide help. Indeed, I’m often brought in to help with one need, and provide help for other completely different needs, also.
I hadn’t really thought about how broadly I’m focused until Gary Brown of Carfax told me that I was one of the few complete Agile coaches–able to coach the process, the technical practices, and the interpersonal issues. Since then, I’ve thought about that and realized it’s even broader. I’m not strictly an Agile coach, as I’m more interested in helping software development teams and organizations improve their effectiveness than it pushing an Agile solution. I also bring to bear systems thinking, team formation practices, and other approaches that can help improve the status quo.
What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
“What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?” And the answer
is, “A European or an African swallow?”
The point being that whimsy and humor are every bit as important as weighty questions. In the words of Walt Kelly, “Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent.”
What drives you ?
Two things: learning something new and helping other people.
My father was an academic (professor, and later a dean), so learning was as natural as breathing when I was growing up. I was always an avid reader, frequently visiting the library and also reading whatever happened to be at hand, including Dad’s chemistry journals. My father would advise failing students, “Don’t drop the course. Stick it out and earn your ‘F’. You’ll learn things that make it easier next time.”
My mother was always going well out of her way to help people in need, even those whom she barely knew. She had many “children” from Brazil whom she’d helped when they came to the United States. She not only built houses for Habitat for Humanity, but taught new homeowners the budgeting and bookkeeping skills to help them keep those houses.
What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is an internal one: the changes I’ve made within myself.
Like my mother, I had a terrible tendency to “inflict help” on others beyond what they wanted. Often I saw the process of helping in a technical light, that of “fixing the problem.” That often works when the help is wanted, but can be a big problem when it’s not.
My biggest achievement is breaking out of that mold. I’ve learned to better observe the invisible things, and the way things look to others. I’ve learned to better consider the larger context and the needs of others as well as my own. I’ve learned how to listen, and how to ask questions.
It’s these things that make me effective as a software development coach. And, if I can learn these things, then I know other geeks can learn them also, and become more effective team members.
What is the last book you have read?
I have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once and sometimes never getting all the way through them end to end. Right now I’m working on Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler. After meeting Geoffrey Bellman at the Better Software Conference, I also started his book with Kathleen Ryan, Extraordinary Groups. I think the last book I read straight through from cover to cover was Naomi Karten‘s Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals.
[Before I published his answers George send me this to add: ]
Who should be the next person to answer these questions?
[George first invited two people who had already answered (and mention him)]
And then came up with this list
Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And George answer to the question: What is the gift that you currently hold in exile?