The spirit of WeCamp

Editorial note: I wrote this 4 weeks ago, when I had just returned. It’s taking me a while to finish and post.

It’s been almost a week since WeCamp15 and I find it hard to let go.
All the conversations I had and the vast amount of things I learned are still going round and round in my head. The ideas and inspiration I took home, the energy I got of the enthusiasm of everyone involved, it keeps me awake. But most of all it’s the spirit of the island that I really do not want to leave behind.

At this year’s edition of WeCamp, I had the honour of being a coach. Why?
I was wondering about that myself for a long time. It certainly wasn’t because I have lots of experience in coaching people (or developers), because I don’t. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because my technical knowledge was way beyond everybody else’s either, because it’s not. (Spot the impostor syndrome here, anyone?)
I think it might simply have been because the organizers of WeCamp thought that perhaps I might be good at this coach thing. And I guess it was their trust in me, that boosted my own confidence just enough, to make me say yes.

I think it’s exactly this bit of trust, that best describes “The spirit of WeCamp“.
I’ve seen it go round and round and round the island; trust in team members, trust in a coach, trust in the other teams and organizers (Yes, there *will* be enough beer!) and last but not least, more and more trust or belief in someone’s own ability and skills. At all levels.

Enough trust at least to come out of one’s shell and try something different than at work; to be more forthcoming in a team discussion, to give an opinion on a topic you do not know everything about already, but do it because your team members want to hear what you think and value your input. Because you trust them enough to not make a fool of you because of what you say.

Enough trust also to “ask”. Ask about a tool you hadn’t heard of yet, ask about methodology you haven’t practised or a setup you haven’t seen. Ask for help if you can’t fix a problem on your own, instead of just sweating it out for hour after hour. Or even to ask for a glass of wine, if you’re the only one who doesn’t like beer. 😉

It’s this friendly and trusting environment that made quite a few team members open up to people they didn’t know two days before. I’ve seen it happen in all the teams and I’ve seen the eagerness and willingness with which knowledge and experience was shared. Team members were given room to explore their ideas and do some research on a new technology or dive into a problem for a certain amount of time (time box all the things!); basically they were given room to make mistakes and be creative themselves.
I think the most heard phrase of the week was: “I am so far out of my comfort zone”, to which most people added: “and I actually enjoy it”!

For me; I discovered that coaching was all about letting go: step aside and let the team do their thing. Don’t force, don’t blame, don’t dictate, don’t correct all the time, just steer a little. Put your trust in a bunch of guys and be prepared to be surprised!

I think it would we awesome if there’s going to be another WeCamp next year!
But I think, in the mean time, it would make even more sense to apply all the stuff you learned at WeCamp to your everyday job.

I know it’s what I will do.

Dutch Web Alliance