Finding Pivotal

May 21, 2013 Matthew Parker

The year is 2005. I’m one year out of school, and a year into a job doing PHP web development at a small development firm in Dallas. A co-worker tells me jokingly about extreme programming. He laughs about the absurdity of pair programming and writing tests. Another developer goes rogue and develops an application in something called “Ruby on Rails.” He’s learning the framework at the same time he’s developing the application. I boast that I could have done it in half the time in PHP. That developer takes a job for a company in Seattle doing Ruby on Rails. I spend another frustating year at the company in Dallas.

Fast forward four years to 2009. I’m now living in Manhattan. Burned out on PHP, I’ve spent the last year doing free-lance Ruby on Rails development. I love it. It’s everything I wanted out of a language and framework. It solves all of the common, tedious problems that I faced developing in PHP, and lets me focus on developing my applications.

I land a job at a giant multi-national corporation. The team I’m working with is agile. They hold standups. They have a certified scrum master. They do two week iterations (on projects with fixed scope and hard deadlines). They estimate stories (in hours) (that they write themselves). They write tests (sometimes) (after they write their production code).

It was the best thing that had ever happened to me. And it was hard. And it was painful. We attempted to be agile within an organization of six-sigma blackbelts that would spend 18 months defining a process for defining processes. We didn’t know what we were doing half the time. We got a lot of stuff wrong. But we cared. And we learned. And we got better.

Fast forward three years. I’m still working for that giant company. I get an email from Pivotal Labs. A co-worker warns me, “You know they pair all the time.” I’m a little frightened. I go in for a day-long pairing interview. It’s amazing. I learn more in that one day than I had learned in the last year of work. I pair with developers smarter than me, better than me, and more experienced than me. I take the job.

Every day at Pivotal is like that first day, but even better. I learn something new every single day. I work with other engineers absolutely committed to developing great code. We give new meaning to the word “consultant”, giving our clients not just advice, but pairing with them to act on that advice (and course-correcting when things go wrong). We pair program. We test drive. We collaborate on story specification. We start each week looking at our priorities and estimating our stories. We end each week reflecting in a retrospective, talking about what’s working, what’s not, and what we should do about it. We take breaks throughout the day. We play ping-pong. We’re relentless about self-improvement, team-improvement, project-improvement, and company-improvement. And I’ve never been happier. I’ve never had the privilege of working with such a talented, passionate group of people.

We want to change the way the world develops software. You can too. Do the right thing. Do what works. Be kind.

About the Author

Matthew Parker

Matt Parker is Head of Engineering for Pivotal Labs

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