Month: December 2023

People Together, Singing

Sale Sings community choir members, all dressed up for our Christmas gig, smiling and waving.

Over here I explained how I was fed up of considering individual solutions to global chaos. I want to be able to imagine collective solutions, and the first step is to celebrate the collaboration I already know about.

I’m going to start with Sale Sings choir, which I joined in the summer of 2023.

It all started when I attended a 2-day singing workshop with my friend Katy, in February. Two days of singing, together with many others, and revelling in the amazing sounds and feelings people can create when they sing together. I was introduced to Rose, a wonderfully charismatic local choir director, and I knew I wanted more, so I joined her Sale Sings choir.

But no, it all started when I joined Accord gospel choir a few years ago. I was having a terrible time, being badly bullied by a member of senior staff in my teaching job. One of my colleagues told me about Accord. This small group of singers lifted me up, sang with me and laughed with me and helped me gain the strength I needed to move on to better things.

But no, it all started when I attended an African singing workshop at York Arts Centre when I was a teenager. What a wonderful way of singing! What amazing sounds we made together!

Or did it start when I was a child and I sang in the school choir? Or the local church choir? Or when my mother and grandmother encouraged me to sing at any opportunity?

It doesn’t matter. It’s really good for you to sing with other people. It makes you feel great. It’s beneficial for mind and body. “Singing in the shower gives you a bit of an uplift, but when doing it communally, there’s something about the synchrony of singing that creates this massive endorphin uplift.” And there’s more in this article about the benefits of singing: “A project for the UK government’s Foresight programme listed five ways to wellbeing – connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, give; singing [in a group] manages all five.” And crucially, it helps you to form connections with people, which is why it’s such a great example for a series about collaboration.

I’m not great in large groups of people I don’t know, and I confess when I first joined Sale Sings, I worried that people would be mean to me, or laugh at me, or leave me out of things. And I kept being delighted, over and over, by how kind and inclusive and friendly everyone was. That thing in this article about how “strangers who sang together for an hour emerged from the sessions with an unusually close bond”? I can tell you it’s true.

And then there’s the music. It’s so easy to create a massive gorgeous uplifting sound when several people sing together. It doesn’t matter if some people are a bit off key, or some have forgotten the words, or not everyone has quite grasped the rhythm yet. It doesn’t matter if you are the one that feels a bit lost. Together you make the magic (and you can listen to some of the magic from our Sale Sings choir here).

I’m so convinced of its power, I’ve started submitting singing workshop ideas to tech conferences. Fingers crossed someone will bite, and 2024 will see me leading a bunch of joyful geeks in song!

This is part of a series of stories celebrating collaboration in all its forms. I want to hear your stories too! Post in the comments here or on the intro post.

People Together

A boy sits at a table with a pen in his hand, looking frustrated and upset.

Often these days I find myself wondering, “What will I do if everything falls apart?” And by everything, I mean society. The world. The environment. It’s not hard to imagine. We’re surrounded by tales, both real and fictional, of war, environmental catastrophe, pandemic, zombie invasion. The most recent time my mind went off in that direction was while watching the film Leave the World Behind, but I could substitute this example with many others – from the news and from film/TV.

tl;dr It takes me a little while below to get to the point. If you’re in a rush, I’m asking for examples of ways in which people work together and collaborate for the common good. Add yours in the comments! My latest story is here.

I expect our family are not the only one that has had jokey conversations about where we would go to escape an impending apocalypse. One of my best friends jokily suggested a few years ago that I would not be invited to her well-defended self-sufficient stronghold, because I’m only a computer programmer – and the skills I have will be no use for growing veg or fixing leaky roof tiles.

But here’s the thing. Leave the World Behind contains a cynical analysis not unusual in productions of this kind. One of the characters, facing a vaguely-defined end-of-civilisation scenario, tries to encourage cooperation and prevent a violent stand-off with a neighbour. But this character is portrayed as living in a dream world. It’s every family group for themselves. Look after your own and don’t trust anyone else.

I found myself, as I often do, wondering where my family and I might go where we could be safe. What resources do we have in our small family unit that we might make use of if we could no longer trust anyone else to help us? And the film drove home the idea that if the shit hits the fan, we’ll all be alone. And I thought, well that’s it then. Not a unique or original thought, but if that’s what happens when everything falls apart, humanity really is doomed.

Many people think humanity is doomed. Because they don’t think that, as a global group, we have enough capacity to help each other when things go badly wrong. And things do go badly wrong, and they will, even if we can’t predict the scale or the frequency or any future collapse(s).

That was my first thought. That I couldn’t count on other people to help me and my loved ones in times of disaster. This is, of course, why people build bunkers and stockpile weapons and non-perishable goods. And yeah, maybe that’ll last you a while. But what will you do when your neighbours come knocking? Is survival even worth it, if that’s the cost?

But there was a second thought on the heels of the first one. That the only way we can survive large-scale catastrophes is if we focus on how all of us will survive instead of how me and my loved ones will survive. And even if all this is only in my fevered imagination for now (I haven’t started building a bunker), wouldn’t it be better if I directed that imagination towards collective solutions rather than individual ones?

My eldest son steadying my youngest son on the ice rink, when he was about to fall.

Because no, I’m not literally planning for a doomsday scenario. But I’m thinking about it. And I’m not the only one. And the more I feel hopeless about it, and the more I’m convinced that our communities, at global, national, local or small neighbourhood level, have no real capacity or desire to help one another in times of crisis, then the more likely my daily life and mental health will suffer. And the less likely I am to collaborate with other people in small day-to-day ways. And the more likely I am to become atomised, suspicious and lonely. And the less likely I and everyone else are to find collective solutions when the shit really does hit the fan. And therefore the less likely it is that any of us will survive whatever major upheavals we face in the coming years or decades.

Where am I going with all this? Good question.

  • My first thought was, “We’re all doomed. It’s every person for themselves.”
  • My second thought was, “If that’s true, then we really are doomed. But if collaborative collective solutions are possible, they’re the only way we’ll survive.”
  • My third thought was, “Of course they’re bloody possible.”

We might have messed up this planet, we might face corrupt and dysfunctional governments all over the world. We might be killing each other left right and centre, but as well as all that, we are cooperating with each other. We are helping each other, daily, in big ways and small ways. And if we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be here.

I started thinking about all the collaborative initiatives I’ve witnessed and been involved in, that I am witnessing, that I am involved in.

Those who don’t know me well might be surprised to learn that I default towards individual solutions rather than collective ones. Peopling is hard for me. I find most humans unpredictable, and groups of strangers stressful. Social interaction is draining. Any time I spend with other people has to be balanced with time alone.

And yet despite all that, I’ve learnt that I need collaboration, I need other people, and when I consider my own needs as well as others, I get a huge amount from working collaboratively. From only the last couple of years, I can list several examples. They were all life-affirming, inspirational, heartwarming. They made me feel better. And thinking about them gives me hope, that maybe we’re not doomed after all. I’m going to list them below and I’m going to come back here to talk about them, one at a time.

Luce, Sal, Cynthia and me - celebrating the fun we had together at Hack Manchester

But given the title of this post is “People Together” and the whole point of this idea is to focus on ways in which we are not atomised and we can and do work together, it seems like a no-brainer that I should somehow open this up and get other people involved. It’s still a half-formed idea. I’m not sure how this works. I know I have a tendency to over-complicate things and the best way to get started on anything is to keep it simple, so for now I’ll just say this:

  • The world is a scary place, and it’s tempting to believe that we’re all fundamentally alone.
  • It’s not true. We aren’t.
  • But it’s easy to forget that and to feel despair, and the more we believe we’re alone, the more we’ll behave as though we are. We won’t look to each other for help, and we won’t consider helping one another when it’s needed.
  • And stories are powerful.
  • So let’s remind each other that we’re not alone. Let’s tell each other stories of all the great things we do together.

In the first instance, and to keep things simple, those stories can be comments on this post. But I’d like, in the near future, to elevate each comment into a post of its own. I’m looking for a way of creating some kind of collaborative site where people can easily post stories. There are many ways I might do that – if you have ideas on how you can help, please let me know.

Below are quick descriptions of my examples. I’ll aim to come back and expand on each one separately, and I might add more as they come to me:

  • The Sale Sings community choir, which I joined in 2023. More here.
  • The intentional farming community I visited last year.
  • The Awamu Together music festival, which I performed at in 2023 and will perform at again in 2024 (although sadly 2024 will be the last such event).
  • The Samman Technical Coaching Society, of which I am a member (“Samman” is Swedish for “together”).
  • The ensemble collaborative working technique which I’ve been privileged to teach many people in 2023, and will continue to teach in 2024 (‘Ensemble” is French for “together”).
  • Small online communities. I have several of these that I contribute to regularly. One of them has been around for over 20 years and they’re all a source of succour, where people care about and support one another through all of life’s travails.
  • The free eight-week Menopause and Mindfulness group I attended this winter in a local community centre
  • The free storytime session I now lead for local children once a month in a local community centre
  • All the many conferences I spend time talking at, but in particular community-focused “open space” / “unconference” events such as SoCraTes UK.
  • Organisations I have taught for such as Code First Girls and Coding Black Females.

Sale Sings community choir members, all dressed up for our Christmas gig, smiling and waving.

PS I deliberately haven’t mentioned any specific politics or religion. Maybe that’s a cop-out, I dunno. For what it’s worth I’m not religious and my politics are left of centre, but that’s not the point. I used to sing in a gospel choir and I know religion can be a powerful positive force. In this context I make no assumptions, positive or negative, about those who share my politics or those who don’t. The point of this is that we tell each other uplifting inspirational stories of all the good things we can do together, to help one another and make things better.

(PPS This is a cross-post. The same post is also on my Medium blog.)

Videos of talks, interviews and live coding

Videos of live coding

Nov 2020 on Twitch: Refactoring — simple live demo using my Reconciliate code base:

Clare speaking during this video — code in background
Twitch refactoring live stream, 2020

Videos of talks

(not all my talks have been filmed — see here for full list of talks)

YOW! Perth, Tue Sept 12th 2023, Continuous Integration — that’s not what they meant.

YOW! Perth, 2023, Continuous integration — that’s not what they meant

Lead Dev London 2023, Wed Jun 28th 2023, The awful agony of the app store: When software delivery goes wrong. That link requires a Lead Dev account, but there is a free — and longer — version of the same talk (as delivered at YOW! London in Nov 2022) here.

Lead Dev London, 2023, The Awful Agony of the App Store

Lead Dev New York 2023, March 15th 2023, Let them learn! How to nurture great software engineers:

Clare speaking during this video — arms spread
Lead Dev NY 2023, Let them learn! How to nurture great software engineers

Lead Dev London 2022, June 8th 2022, Compassionate Refactoring (Join for free to access this content):

Clare speaking during this video — big stage, including audience
Lead Dev London 2022, Compassionate Refactoring

Joy of Coding, June 17 2022, Let’s stop making each other feel stupid:

Joy of Coding, Let’s stop making each other feel stupid

YOW! London, Nov 2022, When Software Delivery Goes Wrong (Why App Stores Could Make You Sad):

YOW! London 2022, Why app stores could make you sad

GOTO Copenhagen, Tue 4th Oct 2022, How to stop testing and break your code base:

Clare speaking during this video — big screen in background
GOTO Copenhagen 2022, How to stop testing and break your code base

Thurs 9th Sept 2021, Devbreak21 — “Let’s stop making each other feel stupid”:

Clare speaking during this video — big screen and slides dominate the image
DevBreak21, Let’s stop making each other feel stupid

June 2019: Time Travel — How to Live Outside the Clock (at Lead Dev London 2019 with Sal Freudenberg):

Clare and Sal on stage
Lead Dev London 2019, Time travel — how to live outside the clock

Making learning conscious — how to build a learning culture, Made Tech Talks webinar, Wed 3rd February 2021:

Clare speaking during this video — big screen with slide dominates
Made Tech Talks 2021, Making learning conscious — how to build a learning culture

June 2018: Teaching New Tricks — How to Enhance the Skills of Experienced Developers (at Lead Developer London 2018):

Clare speaking during this video — big screen with slide with picture of dog dominates
Lead Dev London 2018, Teaching New Tricks — How to Enhance the Skills of Experienced Developers

Yves Hanoulle, June 2022: Who Is Agile series: “Asking questions is a good way of teaching

Mob Mentality, April 2022: Learning through the ensemble

How to build a successful engineer academy, Made Tech Talks webinar, Thurs 25th February 2020 1pm — 2pm GMT

Interview with Alex Bolboacă from MozaicWorks, May 2021. About TDD, maths, writing novels and lots more!

Interview with Chris Walker about my IT career, July 2020

July 2020: #MadeTechTalks webinar: Myself and @dreas1 were talking on the topic “How to spin up a digital project during lockdown: challenges, tips and tools”

April 2020: Podcast / Interview about refactoring with Robby Russell on the Maintainable podcast (not actually a talk or even a video, but it seemed to make sense to link to it here)

Feb 2019: Teaching experienced developers — Interview with the .Net Rocks podcast (not actually a talk or even a video, but it seemed to make sense to link to it here)

Jan 2019: NDC London, Jan 28th — Feb 1st 2019: “Teaching New Tricks — How to enhance the skills of experienced developers

Sept 2018: Let’s Stop Making Each Other Feel Stupid (at GoCardless)

August 2018: Podcast / interview on “Let’s Stop Making People Feel Stupid” with @AgileAmped and @ChrisMurman at Agile 2018 in San Diego.

October 2017, ThoughtWorks Manchester: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — How to Banish Fear in the Workplace.

7th April, 2017: Graphics and circles

27th March, 2017: Lightning talk on “Be Bold for Change” for International Women’s Day at Thoughtworks Manchester

2nd Feb, 2017: Test Driven Novel Writing — pecha kucha talk from OOP Munich.

21st Jan, 2016: Mob Programming

9th July, 2015: Lightning Talk on Collaboration

Inclusive Design ID24, Sept 22nd 2022, Let’s stop making each other feel stupid

The Legacy of Socrates, Nov 24th 2021, Let’s stop making each other feel stupid

NE Bytes, online, Wed 20th Oct 2021: “How to stop testing and break your code base

Fri 3rd Sept 2021, Agile on the Beach — “How to stop testing and break your code base

Wed 19th May 2021 — virtual meetup — “How to stop testing and break your code base” (my bit starts at 1:04)

June 2017: Teaching New Tricks — How to Teach good software development practices to both experienced and inexperienced team members.

27th Oct, 2016: How do you know what you’re doing? at Women of Silicon Roundabout

28th Jan, 2016: Women Can do That Too at Women of Silicon Roundabout

Surviving and thriving in tech

Help and support for women and under-represented genders

Luce Carter, Sal Freudenberg, Cynthia Lee and me in our winning team at Hack Manchester

Do you need support to survive and thrive?

Are you a newcomer to the tech industry? Are you from an under-represented gender, eg a woman or non-binary? Do you worry about how you can find success and fulfilment in a male-dominated industry?

I often meet women and other people who are worried about their futures in this industry, but who have so much to offer, and find it helpful to get advice and support not just from someone like me with years of longevity in the industry, but also from each other.

Based on some conversations I had recently at a Code First Girls event, I’ve decided to offer a group coaching programme for gender minorities in tech.

How will it work?

  • We will meet weekly, online, for five weeks
    • Dates will depend on availability of participants – express an interest and I’ll keep you updated
    • Times will be adjusted to best suit the time zones and preferences of participants
  • There will be no more than ten people in each group
  • The total cost will be £150 per person (working out at £30 per person per session), payable in advance
  • Each session will last for one hour and will consist of a combination of
    • Brief inspirational presentation
    • Group discussion
    • Q&A
    • Conclusions and actions
  • Connections formed will be long-lasting, and I will facilitate the possibility for group members to continue supporting each other for no extra cost
  • For those that wish, they can sign up for another five weeks (group members will probably change in each run)
  • Details will vary according to the needs and desires of each cohort, but I expect the following takeaways as a minimum:
    • How to handle imposter syndrome
    • How to progress in your career
    • How to handle prejudice and the effects of unconscious bias
    • How to get support in the workplace

Who is the coach?

I am a woman with 24 years of software engineering experience. Halfway through my career I was laid off by my employer. I lost heart and gave up altogether, deciding instead to try another career. Actually I tried two separate careers. But four years later I realised that tech is my home, and I returned with renewed determination. That was 12 years ago, and since then I’ve achieved more than I ever believed I would. I now travel all over the world meeting amazing people and speaking at major events, as well as working closely with software engineers in multiple industries, helping them to improve their software development practices.

I used to lead the Made Tech academy, I taught the Coding Black Females Return to Tech programme, I taught for Code First Girls, and I’ve always been passionate about increasing opportunities for under-represented groups in tech.

How do you sign up?

Fill in my contact form and let me know you’re interested in the Surviving and Thriving in Tech Group Coaching. We’ll take it from there.