Why I am not a ‘Sensei’

This article is where I reveal why I call myself “Projects’ Little Helper”. It also contains martial arts, but possibly not in the way you think it will.

Head shot of the most badass web developer I have ever met

The most badass web developer I know

If I ever got into a fight. This web developer is who I would want as a wing man. His name is Tony, and I met him when looking for developers for a team I was putting together. He’s a great developer, who worked well and communicated well with with everyone on the team, not just his fellow devs. He is also a top bloke.

He was coding in .NET with us at the time, but was really passionate about Ruby on Rails, and has since been able to use his Rails skills on professional projects like Unbound.co.uk, the crowd-funding site for authors. He’s also the person who taught me about Behaviour Driven Development.

In the twelve or so months that I worked with him, he also taught me a few other things…

“You’re like a project’s little helper”

When our team broke up, and he moved on, I decided that breaking out of command and control mode (AKA Standard Operating Procedure), was the way that I wanted to continue working. So I decided to start up this site, publish some thoughts and ideas, and build an identity.

The question then became, “What do I call myself?”. I didn’t really want to call myself “Agile Ed”, or “The Lean-gile Guru Ninja Sensei”, or “A Future-nator Thinkologist Alchemist”. That type of thing did not really sit well with me, however I did want to call myself something apart from just Ed Wong, so that people could tell me apart from Edward Wong of the New York Times, or Edward Wong the Hong Kong business magnate.

This is where another aspect of Tony’s brilliance emerged; he’s the reason that I decided to call myself Projects’ Little Helper. He said something along the lines of, “Ed, you’re good at helping people work better together; helping to create the conditions for getting good stuff done. You’re like a project’s little helper”.

I had a think about it, and thought that this really describes not only what I do, but the real reasons why anyone should contemplate “going agile”, or “doing lean”, or whatever, in the first place. Photo of Tony and Ed (and Chris)

Every braggart will be found an ass

Who knows himself a braggart,
Let him fear this, for it will come to pass
That every braggart shall be found an ass.

— William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, Act IV, scene 3, line 369.

Another thing that I  learned from Tony is that if you’re a true badass, you don’t really (need to) go around telling everyone how good you are, or calling yourself a guru, ninja, sensei or The Maestro. It took a while for us to find out that Tony was pretty damn good at Aikido. For example, he would be teaching 2 or 3 nights a week, so we had to organise trips to the pub around this, or he would book off a week to go and “train in Norway“.

Eventually, I realised he’s a 4th dan, and has been training since the early 80’s. This was a man who could probably snap my arm off without even trying. Take a look at the photo below, of him performing an aikido throw. Effortless.

Of course, once we realised, we obviously started asking him stuff like, “Have you ever been in any fights?”. To which he’d reply along the lines of “It’s better to have a good pair of running shoes on”.

Photo of an aikido throw

In my opinion, it’s much better for someone else to say how good you are. So if you’re wondering, my references are available 🙂

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