Editor's Note: Aaron Patterson is keynoting at The Path to Agility conference, presented by The Central Ohio Agile Association on May 20-21, 2015. The conference takes place at The Ohio Union in Columbus and showcases some of the greatest minds in Agile, with 46 speakers and 30 sessions that speak to every Agility experience level. Use the discount code AFTERTHEPATH for a special ticket price.
Aaron Patterson: Agile Dance Instructor
By Terreece Clarke, May 14th, 2015

Grab your ballet gear conference goers, because Aaron Patterson is going to teach you how to be Agile with brand new, never before seen dance moves.

Of course, Patterson isn't literally bringing dance to The Path to Agility conference, although he is bringing a lighthearted look into Agile. Taking one look at his conference profile and bio, you’ll soon realize that Patterson is the kind of guy that likes to have a good time - no matter what he’s doing - and that extends to his work.

Keeping IT Weird

“People need to know I’m a weird person,” he said. “I like to joke a lot. The talk is technically heavy [performance training applications, developing on open source software], but fun.”

“When people go to conferences, they don’t remember the whole thing, they won’t remember your whole talk,” Patterson said. “I like to have a couple key points that they can take with them and keep things fun so they stay interested.”

Agile development methods are perfect for people looking to stay interested in their tech work, Patterson said.

“I have an incredibly short attention span, it [Agile practices] helps me stay focused,” he said. “Agile fits extremely well, because you focus on a few small parts at a time and then move on.”

Agile also changes the workplace, Patterson noted. He said that when he first encountered Agile in the workplace, the company he worked for at the time was making the switch from waterfall to agile development. After the switch, he noted, more things were accomplished, teams worked better together and the company environment improved. Now that he has had experience working at several different companies, he says, the best thing about the growth of agility is that it’s no longer special.

“I recently read that Microsoft is making the switch [to agile] and I was surprised. I thought everyone was already doing it because it really is the norm - it’s everywhere,” Patterson said.

Exactness is Overrated

With that growth, Patterson does have some issues with how exacting people can be when it comes to implementing agile practices.

“People take it as prescripted thing. You have to do this or you’re not agile,” he said. “Certifications for it [Agile] now doesn’t make sense. It may be cynical, but I don’t think it’s right to make money off the process. Training is helpful when you don’t understand what it [Agile] is, but after that…that’s probably controversial [opinion].”

Moving on Rails

Agile also works for Patterson in his life outside of tech, he said.

“I like moving forward without knowing exactly where I’m going [along the way]. Maybe that sounds bad,” he laughed. Patterson’s move into agile comes as part of a lifetime of moving forward in tech. Patterson’s parents are both engineers and he grew up around tech. One of his biggest sources of enjoyment comes from being a part of the core Ruby Team and core Rails Team, a move forward he didn’t really see coming.

“I started out just solving a few open source problems and got more and more involved and soon joined the team. It’s fun to tinker.”

In fact, his tinkering leads him to solve big problems. Patterson says his work on the core teams is fairly lowly, but he likes the impact it has on other developers.

“Essentially, what I do is make the framework run efficiently. I’m improving the developer community, enabling other people to build better applications. I could build an app, but that’s just one thing. This [open source work] helps people build all kinds of things everyday and that’s great. I honestly just love programming. It’s my hobby and my job. I’m really grateful I get to do my hobby every day.”