Who is Bas Vodde (@basvodde)

After I launched PairCoaching.net, somewhere around 2007, I received an e-mail from a Dutch guy, asking if I was interested in organizing CSM training classes in Belgium for him. At that time I was not sure if I wanted to organize them. I did not know Bas and I was still wondering what kind of courses I wanted to organize. I let the moment slide and it’s something I regret. Meanwhile I got to know Bas. He has written a wonderfull book. (Actually their book was so big, they wrote a second book and I still can’t figure out which one I like more. Check out their writing on agile contracts.

One of Bas’ most well known artifacts is the Nokia test he invented. The history of the test is also worth reading. It shows so nicely how things get created and start to live their own life.
Bas was invited by Jukka.


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

Well… there is quite a lot that people usually don’t know about me and I’d actually like to keep it that way 😛

Thinking the question over, one thing that has influenced me perhaps most is moving and living in China (for a total of five years, after which I lived is several other countries). Many people know I’ve lived in China but most people don’t know how and why.

More than ten years ago, I lived and worked in Amsterdam. I had a good development job working together with close friends of mine and working on really cool stuff. I think I had a pretty good life. Yet, I felt restless and after a short 2-week visit to Beijing, I decided that it would be an adventure to go and live there. I told my friends and family about it. It came as a surprise for everyone (including myself). I’ll never forget my parents’ reaction which was: “Oh, already? Oh, China?” It was amusing as they knew I would probably leave Holland one day (as I always called myself a ‘world citizen’) but they never expected me to leave for China, and that soon.

I quit my job and half a year later I arrived in Beijing. I had just enough money for a hotel for about one month and a visa for 3 months and no job. This made life really simple: first find a place to live, and second find a job and visa. In that first month, I met my wife and started working at Nokia where I would stay for many years. I’ve never regretted leaving as nearly everything I am and I’ve done can be traced to that decision.

What I’ve learned from that is to appreciate the things you have. Many people don’t realize what they have until they lose it. And these can be very basic things, such as sitting on a toilet. I never appreciated that until I lived in a house with just a hole-in-the-floor-toilet. Likewise, I never really appreciated being able to adjust the shower temperature until I needed to run to the kitchen to adjust it (which isn’t nice in the winter).

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

I’ve actually considered that. When I was young, I got fired from working on a flower farm because I couldn’t do repetitive work without thinking. From that, I concluded that whatever I’ll do, I’ll need to do it using my head. I do love creating and building things but whenever I touch something physical, it tends to break.

So… I honestly don’t really know. Perhaps something related to economics

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

My biggest challenge is to fit all the things that I want to do in the time that I have. It is incredibly frustrating but it is a good thing for me as I’m happy that I can actually choose between things that I actually want to do.

To give an idea of the kinds of things that don’t fit:

  • I spend a lot of time teaching in East Asia as I had set myself the goal to introduce Agile development in East Asia and have been working on that for the last 5 years or so.
  • I enjoy thinking and working on our company Odd-e, which is an experiment in building a company that is not based on traditional organizational assumptions. An organization where people are truly free and can focus on the things they want to focus on.
  • I’m an active developer. Most of my development work is either internal or open source. We have so many ideas, I could actually do that full time!
  • In our company, we’ve talked about building a product ourselves. We have lots of ideas, but not too much time to implement them 🙁
  • My son is now 2 years and I wish I could spend all my time with him. It is great to have an excuse building things with Lego.
  • I’ve been working with some clients for many years and I wish I could spend more time on their transformations.
  • I got a library of over 1500 books. I didn’t even read half yet!

I try to do everything, but I can’t. I have to balance it but also make sure that I don’t lose focus either.

What drives you ?

I guess what drives me most is learning. I’m interested in almost anything.

The second thing that drives me is creating. I guess that’s why I like software development so much, it allows for lots of learning and lots of creating.

What is your biggest achievement?

I hope I didn’t achieve it yet.

I guess my biggest achievement is enjoying the life I have right now.

If I think about my professional achievements:

  • a couple of open source projects
  • worked on some cool products
  • lead a large agile transformation program
  • introduced agile in east asia
  • coached and mentored several really good people
  • wrote two books,
  • built the dream company for every developer (at least, for us)

then I wouldn’t call any the biggest

What is the last book you have read?

The last book I read was The Chip which was a wonderful book about the history of the integrated circuit invented by Bob Noyce (founder of Intel) and Jack Kilby. I like reading history books and “The Chip” was one of the better ones. The story and how it influenced our world today is something that every engineer ought to know.

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

This question is pretty good and this is the answer… (aaaah… stack overflow !)

Perhaps: “What are you doing right now that excites you The answer:

At this time I’m quite excited about Odd-e, which is a company that I started originally 15 years ago. Last year it started experimenting in new ways of organizing itself. The company is structured around self-managing teams with profit/loss responsibility. Currently we have 3 teams, one in Singapore, one in Japan and one in China. The company has no management nor any support functions, which creates interesting financial transparency. We try to structure the organization around the values and principles that we promote and it has been a lot of fun discussing in our company about how we could work differently. We might be starting two more teams in two more East Asian countries this year. Then we’ll have a rare company with rare coverage of Asia (as Asia is very diverse).

Who do you think I should ask next?

I think you should ask two people. They are my colleagues, but I recommend them for their experience and what they have done within their community.


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