Recently, I had a very wonderful conversation with someone at a neighborhood party. Usually the extent of “work-related” conversation consists of “I’m a leader in software development” and then the subject is changed. However, this person was interested, so we somehow got into the subject of sharing at conferences. At first the discussion was about the topics. Then I happened to say something along the lines of “giving back to a community that I’ve learned so much from”.
Now he challenged me in the most awesome way. He was curious why I would use the words ‘giving back’. I’ve never really thought that deeply about it but as I was explaining…I found that I had this sense of obligation to pay forward what others have done for me. That this wasn’t something I was forced to do nor paid to do. As I was talking a memory re-entered my mind:
My very first Agile conference maybe 2006-07ish. To say I was overwhelmed would have been an understatement. As I was leaving a session or something, Dave Hussman approached me. We had met very briefly earlier in the week but we did not know each other. I can’t remember what is exact words were and it doesn’t really matter. What he did was acknowledged that I looked overwhelmed and talked me off falling over the edge. He was a speaker at the conference. There was no reason for him to take the time other than he’s that kind of person and passionate about these topics. I returned the following year primarily because of this single moment. I have no doubt Dave still does that type of thing.
Over the years, as I grew more comfortable with becoming Agile, I always felt this need to give back. Maybe the right term is pay it forward: Pay forward what Dave did for me to someone else that might be struggling. I don’t have to and that’s what makes it even better. I don’t speak/share to get consulting jobs. I don’t speak /share to earn extra money. I don’t speak/share to feed my ego. I simply want to help someone that might be struggling.
Now I don’t begrudge those that do speak for additional reasons. It’s part of the reality and I learn just as much from them too. For me personally, this is about giving back. And I thank this individual for helping me realize why after years of sharing, I’m still excited when I get the opportunity.
What do you give-back and/or pay it forward?