Role models - Christian the developer

· September 2, 2020

I’ve just started a series about a few a the people that have shaped, influenced, and affected me throughout my career. The reason I’m writing about this now is that I lately have had the opportunity to be a role model for other young developers - I notice that much of what I say and do comes from others; things I’m saying, manners I’ve picked up, approaches to code, development, and life in general.

I am, as the saying goes, standing on the shoulders of giants. For what they have done for me I’m very grateful and I wanted to show that gratitude here.

The first post was about Staffan - that showed me servant leadership and what a consultant is. Today it’s about Christian Forsberg, a rock ‘n roll developer.

I met Christian in 1998 when I started my first consultant/contractor job at one of the biggest consultancy firms in the world; Cap Gemini. Being a proud Microsoft (this was pre .net, kids) developer I ended up in a Microsoft team. And it didn’t take long until I heard about this Christian.

I and a friend were assigned a little, but challenging, task to build a web site for a translation bureau. It was actually a very early idea to take advantage of the remote possibilities that the internet created for us.

Anyway - we would get help from Christian to get started. And he, living far from us, swooshed in on a meeting and just took charge. He had such a cool, almost punk-ish air about him - to me he looked more like a rock artist than software development. I was skeptical…

But soon that initial impression went away. 10 minutes into the meeting, I was so impressed with how he could speak about both the business (how could he know this type of business so well?), the technology, and the process in general. I was probably gaping throughout the meeting.

The meeting ended after a process and structure had been set up and we parted ways. In my mind, this next story has probably been exaggerated, but I remember going for a coffee and then coming back to my desk to find an email from Christian to all the attendees of the meeting:

Hi, thanks for a great meeting.

Here are the notes that I took.

I also promised to do A (find PPT enclosed), talk to B, and ensure that we have servers ready for tomorrow. This is now done.

That empties my backlog for this project - please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.


At this point I know that I was gaping because I distinctly remember picking up my jaws from the floor.

Two days later we got to sit down with Christian and he walked us through a template architecture that the team was using and got us started with the app. It was like going on rails - and we succeeded to deliver an app in just a few weeks, that normally would have taken months.

Two more stories, there are many, that have affected me;

I remember being involved in another project with someone that worked closely with Christian. This was 2001 if I’m not mistaken. It was a Friday morning and the end of the first week of the project. We had just got a first tracer bullet up. As I came into the office my coworker says:

Today is the last day of the first week - time to deploy!

I couldn’t believe my ears. Why? We had nothing useful - it was just getting a name from a table containing just one row.

This is a trick that Christian thought me. Deploy early and later deployments will be easier.

If I had been really on my toes I would understand the significance of that and started to research continuous deployments… but now it took me 4-5 years more to grasp.

This too blew me away - not only was it a good idea, but I could see that Christians’ air, ideas, and thoughts affected others. Even when he was not in the room.

Finally, I remember the first time our consultancy team had a meeting. We started with an ice-breaker, quite a tricky question: What is the most important thing for you, at work?.

Now, you should know, that Christian has a very straight forward, no holds barred, sometimes borderline rude, approach. The opposite of me that am very careful not to step on any toes. Especially at that time when I was junior in all aspects of the word.

Upon hearing the question, Christian scoffed and just went;

Well … to me that is easy. Have fun at work.

At the time I thought that it was a bit shallow and almost unprofessional - but that statement has stuck with me through the years.

Have fun at work. Make work fun for others, while having fun. If it is not fun - how can you get through the days, weeks, months, and years? I have left gigs for the sole reason that it was not “fun”. And I’ve never regretted that. I have turned down gigs that I didn’t think was “fun” - even the times when it paid much better, had less commuting, or was things that I knew well. And I’ve never regretted that either.

I realize that I’m privileged to be able to just “fun” as a factor to if I want a job or not. And I’m grateful for that. But I also think that chasing “fun” has led me to where I am today.

The first time that idea (follow the fun) enter my head was in that meeting when Christian laid out his approach in four words.

Christian - thank you for taking me under your wings and for all the support you showed me in my early development as a young software developer. And above all - thank you for putting me onto the path of chasing the “fun” at work.

Thank you!

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