Becoming Agile

Agile: A paradigm for software development teams based on flexibility and motivated individuals

As a mere 22 year old Compsci major with a single internship to map the territories of team oriented software development, I had never heard of agile until my most recent professor began to evangelize it in my projects class. Blindly, when I went to interview at his company I rambled on about how I would love to try the agile workflow, internally believing that it was the answer to the debilitating anxiety that made me leave my last job. He seemed impressed, but had he known that last part would have called bullshit on the spot.

Now that I use agile in my class, it’s a bit of a slap in the face to see it is not the fixall solution prescribed by its advocates. While I thought that it would solve problems of uncertainty with small understandable tasks with unambiguous difficulty ratings and face to face clarification, I was shocked to find the first article in my search on HackerNews declaring the “Death of Agile” (written by one of its founders nonetheless).

The main point of the article was that agile is actually meant to be anxiety provoking, saying “your brain is not wired to work with agile methods” and “agile teams work on the brink of chaos”.  In attempting to beat the real thinking out of the process with rules and clarifications he accuses developers of delving into nonthinking and stagnation.

I’ll admit that I’ve found myself there once or twice… and probably the last 6 weeks. Reading this article pointed out a little of my own bullshit recently, a mix of mild burnout and senioritis, so I’m grateful to have stumbled upon it. It’s time to shake things up and start creating rather than indulge in glorified procrastination by reading all articles on a new software before trying it myself.

I think agile is a brilliant paradigm, if I can learn to myself, “become agile”.  It seems to be a balance of leaning into the discomfort and putting in a full day’s work every day, and in the face of hard problems choosing a better mantra like “today I will make progress” “I will figure this out” or “I can do this”. The only thing that will reflect poorly is shying away from the unknown and not doing the work.

Because when it comes to innovation (which is nearly synonymous with software development) there is no room for mindless checking of boxes and guided direction. The field is by definition creatively solving problems with new technologies, and there’s nothing comfortable about that. Crap.

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