Little by little...

Little by little...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Did You Find In Your Room of Requirements?

Last week was Agile 2013. It was my second year attending and my first as a presenter. As I acclimate to reality, I am marveling at the week of happiness that I experienced. From compelling sessions to deep conversations to dancing late into the night, the week was filled with learning, laughter and joy.

What is most amazing to me is the complete lack of scheduling that I did beforehand. Other than learning which old friends would be there too, I didn’t plan sessions or schedule events. (If you know me, then you know how crazy this sounds.) This is one week a year that I embraced the “right place, right time” philosophy.

For example, when I arrived, a good friend messaged and wanted to grab some food. Perfect! I was tired and hungry. We met and fell into easy conversation. I arrived to the conference rather anxious since I was presenting solo for the first time. His kind, supportive words were exactly what I needed to calm my nerves.

As more people arrived onsite, our group grew to include some new faces. I enjoyed some harmless, verbal sparring with people who I would consider veterans in the industry. This opportunity to hold my own was very satisfying as I still suffer a bit from an inferiority complex.

As the night wound down, I had the chance to re-connect with one of my dearest friends. Nothing compares to gabbing into the wee hours with one of your besties. I needed to be reminded of something that can get lost in the thrill of making new connections: deep friendships are what carry you through the low times.

So that was just the first six hours. After several days of meeting the right people at the right time, I was reminded of the Room of Requirements at Hogwarts.

“It is a room that a person can only enter when they have a real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs.”
- Dobby, explaining the Room of Requirements to Harry Potter [1]

Everyone who attended Agile 2013 arrived with different needs. We have diverse goals and aspirations, along with unique fears and insecurities. And I believe that this conference environment is a giant Room of Requirements. It is always equipped to meet our needs – if we allow it.

      ·      If you are seeking one-on-one conversations, there are quiet corners to chat and connect.
      ·      If you absorb knowledge like a sponge, there is an ocean of sessions from which to choose. (So hard to pick!)
      ·      If you are frustrated by a work situation, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who feels your pain and wants to help. (Tip: airlines won’t allow dead cats in your carryon.)
      ·      If you need to network and build your brand, there are people poised with business cards, waiting to find the common link between you. 
      ·      If you desire a little adventure, you don’t have to look far to find a group making mischief. (Who wants to break into the pool at 2am?)
      ·      If you want a big push out of your comfort zone, there are lightning talks and impromptu slide karaoke sessions. (I was not brave enough, but enjoyed watching. Maybe next year, Arlo!)
      ·      If you crave dancing and nightlife, there are groups heading to downtown clubs every night. (Flip-flops allowed.)
      ·      And if you need to laugh, as I did, then there are spontaneous emergent design sessions for re-purposing Planning Poker cards. (Best. Time. Ever.)
Beta-testing Promiscuous Poker. From left, clockwise: me, Ardita Karaj,
Matt Barcomb, Tim Ottinger, Bryan Beecham, Mike Bowler, Adrian Howard
These are just a few of the bigger needs that come to mind. I can’t begin to share the moment-by-moment highs and lows, the hugs at just the right time, the words of encouragement when self-doubt creeps in. The more I relaxed and really lived in the moment, the more my needs were met.

The important thing was to acknowledge the need and take a step through the door.

So if you show up to a conference with a detailed schedule and a list of things to accomplish, I think you might be missing out on the real value. But then maybe that’s because my need is to relax and laugh and re-connect with people who share the same values as me. If your need really is achieving some "thing," then the conference is certainly equipped for that, too. It will be what you need, if you let it.

If you had a chance to attend Agile 2013, or any other conference, what did you find in your Room of Requirements? What was the most memorable need that was met?