Who is Linda Rising

The first person of the year 2012 to reply to the Who Is questions is Linda Rising . Linda was invited by Michele Sliger & Elisabeth HendriksonLinda wrote one of the few books that I think everyone can use no matter what job or function she has. (I use it in my personal life as well). (She actually wrote 4 books, but this one had most impact on me.) Also check out the Fearless Journey game that Deborah Preuss created based on the book.
The reactions to Linda’s keynote at agile 2011 are the only reason I regret that I was not there. She says that her  job is to give the weird talk at conferences. I always tell my kids, it’s better to be weird, then to be boring. Linda’s talks are NEVER boring. Although I only met her a few times, I think it’s safe to say that Linda is never borring.

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

Most people don’t know that I started my professional life as a chemist, actually a biochemist. I have a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Kansas with a minor in biochemistry. The reason why I only have a minor in biochemistry is — there weren’t enough courses at the time to make up a major :-)! I graduated in 1963. Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel prize for identifying the double helix structure of DNA in 1962 :-)! I spent a short time as a research assistant in a pharmacology lab and learned many ways to kill rats. It was a revelation for me — biochemistry is the chemistry of living cells and researchers in that field kill (the technical term is “sacrifice”) a lot of animals. I couldn’t continue to do that day after day after day. Another day another rat :-(! In the last ten years I have made a return to the biological sciences after I re-discovered the domain in a slightly different form –neuroscience, cognitive science. I am still fascinated by it, but I don’t have to kill any animals :-)!

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

After I left biochemistry, I returned to school to study mathematics. Moving to computer science came only after realizing that there were very few jobs in mathematics, but, again, I loved mathematics and had I not been swept up with computers I probably would have been happy as a mathematician :-)!

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

I believe I have the same challenge as anyone alive today — trying to keep up. I have read that the last person to know “everything” was John Stuart Mill, who died in 1873. In those days, someone could be a scientist, a philosopher, a theologian, a poet, an economist, because the amount of information available was so limited. I have also read that most information is less than 15 years old and that in some fields the amount of information doubles every 3 years. No wonder we struggle! However, this is also exciting. Not only the amount but the accessibility of information means that all minds on the planet can share in this wealth. No matter how restricted  the environment, you can plug in to the world of information. What a wondrous, hopeful state of affairs!

What drives you ?

What drives me now might be different from what has driven me in the past. Now I know that the more I read, the more I think, the more I struggle with problems, the better it is for my brain. Not only do I benefit from the enjoyment of learning, but the cognitive scientists tell me that it is good for me. I become better at this as a result of doing it. This is not only true for intellectual endeavors but also for physical challenges as well. My husband retired at the end of 2010 and we moved to a retirement community in Nashville, TN to be closer to our daughter, Amy, our only child (check out her website prising.com :-)!). We are surrounded by very active retirees. We have more time to do long bike rides and we are learning Pickle ball — an older person’s tennis . As I make poor shots and miss serves, I know that my muscles and bones are getting stronger and my eye-hand coordination is improving.

What is your biggest achievement?

I went back to school (for the last time I assure you!) at age 46 to finally finish a Ph.D. My goal was to “finish by 50” — I gave my defense one month before my 50th birthday. I was not only older than all my classmates, but also older than all my professors (except for 2). I was my very young adviser’s first Ph.D. student and I discovered in our first meeting that I was older than his mother :-)! I was lucky in manyrespects. My classmates and professors treated me respectfully and my wonderful husband moved to another state to support me while I worked full-time on my degree.

What is the last book you have read?

This is a tough question. I am usually reading several books at once — so I will just mention the last book with the most impact — Carol Dweck’s “Self-Theories” — to prepare for the keynote at Agile 2011. The research that has come out of the social psychology domain on the topic of “mindset” is astounding. I can see in myself how a change in mindset over time has allowed me to keep on learning. We might be doing our children a dis-service by telling them how smart they are. We should instead be telling them how successful their effort was or how hard they worked. The message should be: it’s about effort not about a fixed talentor ability. I hope others find the talk useful. I know pulling the research together has been very rewarding for me.

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

The question I have been asking myself a lot is “What’s next?” I’m not retired yet, but in a way I have been for 10 years. That’s when I became an independent consultant and started working for the toughest boss I’ve ever had — me!! I pretty much do what I want — and that is the definition of retirement for most people :-)! For me, what’s next is already happening. You know that I love patterns. I have written a few pattern languages and I have been involved in helping others write patterns since the mid-90s. My husband  and I are writing a new pattern language for helping third world development. This is not software development (although it could be!) but sustainable development of under-developed countries. The U.S. has an unfortunate history of appearing in areas that need help, identifying problems, solving those problems (as *WE* see it), then disappearing. The end result is that those countries and those people are worse off than when we arrived. We estimate that writing this pattern language will take the rest of our lives — a good project :-)!You can see the latest version on my web site: lindarising.org. We are working on a web site and wiki to bring others in since we know we cannot do this alone.

Who do you think I should ask next?

The person I most admire these days is Johanna Rothman. She faces physical challenges daily in addition to the ordinary struggles the rest of us encounter. She is my hero (heroine).

If you like these answers: check out our book: who is agile, Volume 1