Who is Joke Vandemaele?

I don’t remember where I met Joke for the first time. I do remember that at Agile 2008 in Toronto she recommended two books to me. Innovation Games and a book about building bridges. I had read Beyond Software Architecture of Luke Hohman and I had the small innovation Game booklet in my bag. I had never heard of Gojko. I’m happy she convinced me to read his book.
That conversation is a typical conversation with Joke. Although she is very smart and knows more than most people I know, she talks about other people. I still remember XPday Benelux 2008. She had been doing an internal presentation about her power workshops at a client we both worked for. Xavier had convinced her to bring her material to the conference. During the conference there was a session cancelled. Joke proposed fill in for that session. Her session was selected for Mini XPdays 2009 (which is a "best of XpDays", 6 months later.) Joke is also the first person who negotiated a Who Is release date without having sent any answers to me. That says as much about my trust for her as her negotiation abilities.


What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
Even though I mention it in my bio, most people don’t know that I studied art and have an MBA. I am actually a Master in Visual Arts with a specialization in Graphical Design. After those studies I decided I didn’t want to do the graphical work itself but wanted to become the person in an Advertising Agency bridging the gap between the customers and the designers. Someone advised me to take an MBA and so I got into the Vlerick Management School for an MBA in Marketing Management.
When I graduated the head professor confessed that he had taken me on as an experiment, never having had an art student applying for an MBA before. He concluded it had been a success to create diversity in the group and add someone with a fresh and creative view on things.
With these diplomas I searched for a job and ended up in a web agency, the Internet at that point being a whole new world to most people.  My background in design and marketing brought me into the field of website usability, user experience, later acceptance testing, then analysis and eventually I got to know Agile.
If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

From all this you might conclude that if I would not be in IT, I would have been in advertisingWho knows?
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is not to doubt myself. People who know me might burst out in laughter hearing me say this because I have been called the ice queen and was asked where I was hiding my whip. But in fact I am, in my own way, very insecure. Yes, if you would compare me with most other people I would probably score high on self-confidence. But in my own eyes I am insecure which keeps me modest and open to continuous improvement.
What drives you?

In a way it is the same thing that challenges me. Once I get into a comfortable position I get bored and feel like I have to get to the next level so that I can doubt myself again, improve, get comfortable again, get that urge to do something more and so on.
What is your biggest achievement?

One day, getting frustrated while sitting through the umpteenth meeting resulting in nothing, I started summarizing the items that came out of the discussion on post-its, sticking them on the wall behind me. My colleagues started directing their attention to that wall, pointing at it, asking to move and add things. We managed to keep focused on the topic and our directed thinking resulted into a plan so that at the end of that meeting everybody walked out having a great feeling about the fact that something had been decided.
From there I worked towards the concept of what someone at some point started calling, ‘Power Workshops’, which are about organizing and facilitating workshops and are based on the lean and agile principles of teamwork, cooperative exploration, discovery of knowledge and visual representation of information. I’ve found that they are the most effective way to kick start an ICT project and offer the minimum amount of analysis up front necessary to reach a common understanding of project goals, scope, cost and duration between business and ICT resulting in a Product Backlog and basic idea of an architecture needed to start Agile Development.

My work in this area has been recognized with awards, endorsements and invitations to speak at international Agile conferences.
What is the last book you have read?

The last book I read is "The Fountainhead” a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. It speaks of an era where the mass keeps on copying the old ways and is scared of change and new things. The writer uses the topic of modernistic architecture to bring her views on change and what drives it to prove that all big thinkers and all improvements are always condemned and unwanted at first, but eventually get recognized.
Makes you think of Agile versus Waterfall, right!?
What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

Ask me why it took me so long (8 months since you first asked) to answer these questions. Well I’ve become a mom a while back and although it wasn’t my intention to put my career on hold, somehow it kind of happened. You get less sharp, you evolve slower, I didn’t come up with new things, which I could share with the community and thus didn’t feel like I belonged in this book for the moment.  But things are changing and besides the fact that I am pregnant again I have set some new goals I want to work toward this year.
Who do you think I should ask next?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Xavier Quesada Allue.


If you like these answers, you can by our book: who is agile.