Who Is Nicole Belilos (@nicolebelilos) ?

I’m happy to announce todays WhoIs: the Nicole Belilos. Nicole is very active in the Agile Benelux Community. She is one of the people that when she does a session I want to go it. I remember her playing our “Help My Team is at War” session at XpDay Benelux, she was playing a women that had to undergo the meeting.  Her bodylanguage was fantastic, her whole body was shaking, but she did not say anything (relevant) in the meeting. (As she was requested to do.) This year I was happy to see that at XPdays Benelux she did a session that was related to that session 5 years ago.
One of the reasons I like Nicole, is that she is not afraid to push me. When she disagrees with me, she will tell me. And I will listen.

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

I studied Math at Bryn Mawr College, in the USA. Bryn Mawr was, and still is, an all women’s college. Having spent four years among highly intelligent and motivated young women has influenced me a lot. It gave me the conviction that women can, and should, shape their own lives the way they want to. I also became very interested in cultural and gender differences in different societies and communities. For example, why is it that at Bryn Mawr the percentage of students studying Sciences was a lot higher than at coed schools? And why do so few girls in Holland choose a career in IT, while in other countries this is very common?
In my daily work, I see how we work more and more with international teams, with a varying mix of men and women of different nationalities. All these teams have different dynamics, which is fascinating.

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

I would probably be a translator or a teacher. I actually did both for a couple of years. I worked as an independent translator and was specialized in translating user manuals from French and English into Dutch. I have also taught French evening classes to adults who wanted to learn some basics to go on vacation in France. My challenge was to make these classes fun and interesting, so that people stayed motivated throughout the evening. Do you know which sentence they always wanted to learn first? “ Je ne parle pas français”.

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

Playing all the different roles I have in life, and still staying sane. I am passionate about my work, but I also have my family as well as many other hobbies and interests, such as theater, sports and travel!
There simply isn’t enough time to do all the things I want to do. So I have learned that I need to set priorities and make choices. As I am a perfectionist, I still learn every day that things don’t have to be perfect.

What drives you ?
I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing things well. I seem to also have to challenge myself regularly. When things become smooth and easy I get bored and need to find a new challenge.

What is your biggest achievement?
It’s really hard to point out the biggest achievement. Professionally, I think it would be the Agile rollout I did at Ericsson. This was one of the first end-to-end rollouts at the Enterprise level in The Netherlands. At that time, there wasn’t much literature yet about Agile introductions or coaching. Intuitively, we did what we thought was right and learned from our mistakes. It was very challenging and therefore also very rewarding.
But in general, I believe that life is full of challenges and many small achievements lead up to a big one. Every time I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and do something I don’t really dare to do, I think that’s a big achievement.

What is the last book you have read?
Professionally, I have read “Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams and Projects”, by Diana Larsen and Ainsly Nies. I was honored to be one of the  storytellers in their book.
I also recently read Kluun’s book ‘Komt een vrouw bij de dokter’ (In English called: Love life). It’s about a young woman’s fight against breast cancer, that she eventually looses. I cried from beginning to end. Currently, one of my best friends is fighting breast cancer. I admire her strength; it’s such a horrible disease and such a tough treatment. I therefore support fund raising initiatives like Alpe d’Huzes and Pink Ribbon.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
What’s so special about the XP Days Benelux conference?

It’s the atmosphere! The community feeling, the energy, the fun… It’s so different from any other conference I have been to. Take a look at his video, you will understand what I mean.

For me, as a co-organiser, it is also the opportunity to work on an Agile team of volunteers. We are a truly self-organizing, international, distributed team. For us, XP Days Benelux is a yearlong event, from the first reservation of the premises, through the call for sessions, the reviews, the program selection and finally the 2 days themselves. And the moment the XP Days are over, we start to plan the Mini XP Days!
At times it’s a lot of work and I ask myself why I got involved. But then, when the conference is running successfully, I get so much in return!

Who do you think I should ask next?
There are so many wonderful people who should be part of your Who Is series!

First of all Vera Peeters. I bet that world wide thousands of people have played the XP Game that she has developed together with Pascal van Cauwenberghe. She deserves to get a lot more attention and credit for that achievement!
Then I’d like to mention Portia Tung and Jenni Jepsen, whose workshops at the XP Days are always refreshing, energetic, interesting and… sold out.
And finally Dusan Kocurek, who is a true Agile evangelist in Eastern Europe. I had the chance to work with him last year. He taught me a lot about the cultural differences between Eastern and Western Europe and how it affects the Agile communities.