I write this while snacking on free banana chips I obtained from the lunchroom. A week in the Dojo is very different than a week programming at home or in a cube farm, and it has as much or more to do with culture than tools and process.
The EMC Dojo in Cambridge, MA (https://www.cloudfoundry.org/welcome-to-the-emc-dojo/) is a place that contributes code to the open source cloud foundry project using a specific development methodology built around pair programming, test driven development, and lean development, known as “the way”. They also teach the way to anyone interested in contributing to Cloud Foundry as well as other development teams within EMC. They earn the title of Dojo by literally being a “place of the way” .
From the moment I got there, I was a member of the team. I had planned to work in the same area, quietly observing the way while working on my own projects. That didn’t work out, and I’m so thankful it didn’t. On the first day, everyone in the Dojo had introduced themselves to me and were interested in what I was working on. They adopted my story into their backlog and encouraged me to attend their standup the next day and begin pair programming with them. I felt so valued before I had even added value. Before long I found myself pair programming on a PHP app (I have no experience in PHP) and doing anything I could to contribute.
They went to lunch together every day I was there, often participating in an office wide Yoga lunch or Go Programming Book Club. They cared about each other’s quality of life and personal hobbies. They struggled out loud with programming syntax and architectural design choices and often came together to discuss, solve, or vote. Every member of the team was heard and had the same weight in decision-making.
And it works. The speed and efficiency that they are able to take a story idea and turn it in to working code is amazing. And although they are all individually quite talented, there seems to be a “greater than the sum of their parts” thing happing with “the way”. They are completed unfazed by tackling something new largely because of their confidence that as a team they will be able to solve it.
What I witnessed, no, what I was a part of for my week, was a team of developers effectively coding for hours based on shared goals and methodology in an environment that made everyone happy. I’m so thankful to everyone who paired with me, shared with me, challenged debated and listened to me, welcomed me, and taught me.
What an outsider might notice first is the ping-pong table next to the cafeteria with available food and no checkout register, but that would be missing the point. The culture that they have built here and the benefits of developing in “the way” have left me with a lot more than this now empty bag of banana chips.