I have a great job! I get to work with a lot of young people and get to train developers in the early stages of their careers. It’s absolutely amazing to see people develop in these early steps of their career.
But it also creates a weird feeling for me - since I, to them, comes out like an old sage telling stories that are long-forgotten about how the web was when the world was forged. Back in 1996 and stuff. I feel both a bit like Gandalf - both in age, length, and how I’m addressed.
It’s scary. Because, if we’re going to be a bit more serious, I realize that I become a role model for some of them. How to behave, act, say, and think about our work. This is especially real when we talk about agile practices and techniques, that has a lot of principles and thinking patterns in them.
This made me think about my own early influencers in this industry. And I realized that I never said thank you to them. And that many of them probably have no idea what working with them meant to me.
So, this is the first post in a series of “thank you”-notes to my early role models. Today it’s Staffan Rolfsson - one of the first.
(Before we start; Swedish is a limited language sometimes, for example we have one word for consultant and contractor. Typically we mean contractor when we say consultant. But I’ve come to realize that combining the two and be a good advisor, helper and coach is a good thing bring with you in any role. Even when I’m a contractor I try to be a consultant too… St showed me that..)
My first job, 1998 mind you all, was as a student at a boot camp. Right out of university I enrolled in the “Client / Server university” at one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden. We learned C++, Visual Basic 6, and Rational Unified Process but foremost what this job was all about; working in a team, reading specs, writing code that was for real, etc.
That’s how I got to meet Staffan. Staffan was running the team of our program and was a consultant at MiJaDa. And he did blow me away.
In my book IT people was not the hippest bunch. But Staffan… he was super cool. Always impeccable dressed in a suit and had a cool suaveness over his every move. He came out like an just-before-getting-old-but-still-young-at-heart kind of man. But most like was about 5 years older than me…
Now, that was not what caught my attention and liking. No - Staffan caught me with his first statement:
Hi I’m Staffan. My job is to make your job easier and more enjoyable.
BOM - summarizing servant leadership in a sentence.
Staffan combined this servant attitude with a coaching methodology of challenging us in the team to take steps outside our comfort zone, but always with a notion of that he had our back.
Finally, he was fun and easy-going combined with hard work and quality-focused when it came to delivery. It was the first time I saw these traits in combination and it made a huge impact on me. Things like ensuring that spelling, ordering and structure of slides we presented was up-to-date, practing demos and repeating things that we learned during the week are still vivid memories to me.
The way we conducted meetings also stuck: the joking attitude and easy going style during the meetings, without loosing focus and structure throughout the agenda. One fun thing that Staffan did was that he cried out in horror if only two people (out of the 25 in our team) were discussing something by themsleves during the meeting:
AAAAaaah - too expensive. Please take it off-line
To me, stuff like that wrapped up into “how an IT-consultant behaves”. I went on to be an IT consultant myself for about 20 years and counting (although I’m on a break now). And I have, since then, tried to bring some aspect of that into every gig.
Staffan - thank you! Those 6 months were hugely impactful on me. We have not met after that and I hope that you continue to inspire others as you did me.