I camp, You camp, We camp at WeCamp15!

Coming to WeCamp this year was a no-brainer, after my experiences last year. My write-up sparked some worry with my coach Mike van Riel (among others) because none of what I wrote about was visible at the surface. But I believe that the most important bit of the article might have been snowed under:

This joy, even though I don’t mention it again, was prevalent throughout the entire week. It was the largest part of my experience there, but also the most unsurprising part of what went on.

This was absolutely true of this year also. Plus, I believe that everyone had the emotions I described at some level. Exploring them gives you insight to where you can improve yourself to become a better dev-human.

So, let’s dive into this year’s WeCamp, shall we?

The first thing I need to tell you is that this year, I was not a participant. They asked me to coach a team which brought a whole new level of insecurity with it. I wasn’t worried that I could not get through the week - I’ve run my own company for ten years after all - but my main worry was:

how to give my team the same deep experience as I had last year??

The WeCamp organization did take these fears into account. They had a coach-of-coaches in place (Jeremy “Coach” Coates) so no one would fall into a situation that was too much to handle. His input at various levels of the event was invaluable, and I really hope the coach-of-coaches remains part of the concept of WeCamp.

So, how did it turn out?

Well, my worry was not needed. I got a team of eager participants, all of which very much involved in self-reflection and self-improvement. Connecting with them was no problem at all. There where completely different goals set by individual members and yet, before the week was over, they had communicated their goals to each other. I mean way beyond the superficial goals one states to a bunch of strangers on the first day. Deeply personal fears like impostor syndrome and such. They made sure each of the team members met their goals and looked into themselves and opened up to be able to grow.

One of the other coaches said that there where not just five coaches on the island, but 25. This was true as far as I can tell. It was absolutely true in my team, where they all took a part of the job and spread their knowledge. Or pushed a team member to greater heights. That, I think, is my biggest source of pride.

What did my team end up building?

The team came up with a project to help people with idea’s gather feedback in a very early stage, to know if they are on the right track. At first I could tell there was a teammember who was at WeCamp last year, because the project’s scope was limited to realistic proportions. This ended up being a bit demotivating, because what can you actually build in four days? But after an additional brainstorm session the energy returned and a better product evolved.

A lot of effort was put into protecting the potential users of the system - to focus on the positive emotions involved in bringing ideas into reality. Their core values where:

  • Let a person express an idea in as many different formats as possible.
  • Let a response to an idea revolve around emotions instead of a scale of boring numbers.
  • Provide information about the type of audience that is positive about an idea.

In essence, I think they where solving their own issues because adding your input to a project is exactly the same scary thing. They discovered that their project was feeding their own creativity.

What did I get out of it?

Well, being a coach I had to resist “steering” the team. In four short days, I fought putting in my ideas and my way of doing things and still witnessed a team come together with the ability to build great things. Their level of commitment and communication was amazing - and this I will take away with me to my own company. I could be more of a coach and less of a boss (or, as they like to call me: blocking issue) and still make great things happen. Or rather let great things happen.

The question the organization of WeCamp wanted answered most of all is “Why would anyone go to WeCamp next year”. Well, I’ve got some bad news for them. I can’t answer that - at least not for anyone. But to the question “Why would I go to WeCamp next year”, I can quite simply say:

WeCamp has been the single most important catalyst of my personal and professional growth. Twice.

See you all next year!

PS: I’d like this to be an open invitation to my fellow WeCamp15’ers: please provide feedback, if you have any.

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