Friday 18 September 2015

Becoming a ThoughtWorker

Back in April I left the company I'd been working for after 9 (mostly) happy years. Not entirely through my own choice, although redundancy ultimately didn't treat me too badly. After spending Easter with my two girls, running some races and doing some of the long overdue work around the house and garden (though not nearly as much as Josie wanted me to do), I finally got round to looking for a new job by going to the Silicon Milk Roundabout in May.

While trimming the firethorn I shouldn't have cut this brown "twig"

Like most people who work in the technology industry I had heard of ThoughtWorks. I knew they hosted a lot of community events, I knew they published the technical radar and I knew that they have a kind of elevated, almost mystical cult like status. I also was aware of a man called Martin Fowler who is "chief scientist" at ThoughtWorks and is considered a world authority on many technology subjects. Oddly, I had never really thought about how ThoughtWorks make money. So when I saw the ThoughtWorks stand at Silicon Milk Roundabout I initially walked past it reasoning that there is no way ThoughtWorks could consider employing me. After a circuit or two of the venue and with a much depleted stock of CVs (I was down to one) and a couple of beers to both deal with my hangover and give me some Dutch courage, I finally approached the ThoughtWorks stand and spoke to a charming lady called Amy. Thankfully, she was extremely helpful and human (although she did explain she was a recruiter, not a technologist) and after a chat about my experience, what ThoughtWorks do (we are consultants obviously) and some dire warnings about the possibility of having to travel for work she assured me that somebody from the London office would contact me shortly.

Many people have written at length about the ThoughtWorks recruitment process in blogs and on Glassdoor so I don't propose to add greatly to that canon. In short, I thought the process was challenging but very enjoyable and above all was superbly managed by the team here in London. I guess I would say that because it ultimately ended with me being offered a job but I genuinely got the impression that I would have been impressed with the process had that not been the result. Of course there is no chance of any kind of confirmation bias going on here contrasting ThoughtWorks recruitment with those rubbish recruitment processes that didn't offer me a job. Another well known consultant threatened to sabotage the whole process by offering me a job for a much higher salary the day after ThoughtWorks had confirmed an offer to me. I made what I considered to be the only sensible decision (and I've subsequently found out, the far from unique decision) to take the less well paid job.

When I started here I suffered from a strange and debilitating loss of confidence in my own ability compared to those around me. That also turned out to be far from unique and I quickly found out that this phenomenon is known as "imposter syndrome" and afflicts almost all ThoughtWorkers in their early time here. After a few weeks I realised that whilst I was far from the cleverest man in the room, there is always something that I know more about than the other people to whom I may be talking. Thus, whilst I may never aspire to the technical ability of some of my colleagues, I can point to a solid decade of experience in a company that grew from a startup into a large organisation and went through a complete Agile transformation.

So 3 months on from joining ThoughtWorks I'm over the imposter syndrome, I've made some great new friends, I've had loads of interesting and truly stimulating conversations, I've learnt stacks of stuff about technology and business, I've become integrated in the ThoughtWorks hivemind, I've been involved with some of our clients but I'm yet to write any code in anger. Definitely the most enjoyable and mentally invigorating three months of my working career to date. I'm hoping it only gets better.