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The thing not taught at the university

Ready for a deep dive? Warning, dive ahead.

While on my last year at the university of Turku, or the first after graduation, I did read a book by Kent Beck saying that “Computer business is people business”. I remember liking the quote already  when I first read the book. And still I did not quite see what there is to see beneath the words. What does it actually mean? Here I’ll talk about it from a rather interesting angle.

I am programmer. I love to code. I love to make some magic which ends up in services some users actually use. I love making a difference in such a way. This was what I learned at the university, being programmer.

And during the last two years, I’ve been heavily investing my own time in something that normally would not be incorporated with programmers – all those softy non-nerdy skills. I’ve been studying a new profession, that of supervisor (in Finnish: työnohjaaja ja työyhteisön kehittäjä). And little did I know 2,5 years ago that what I was going to learn, from people who are pretty far away from IT, would change my perception on things.

Computer business is people business

I’m not even discussing about how to listen to customers in order to build the right product. Even that is something we – programmers – have learned to do rather well.
What I want to share is how to make every meeting* important. How to make every encounter meaningful. And more importantly – how to make every person we meet feel important.

The thing I learned was listening.

And what a surprising skill is to be able to listen. And how meaningful interactions turn when two people listen to each other. And, more close to my heart, how delightful all the discussions with my kids have turned to be.

Being supervisor, I find myself in situations where there are conflicts in the work group I am working with. And already with my very limited experience I have witnessed the most strange thing – in certain situations, the most important person I need to listen is me, that giving me chance to listen others. By noticing my own feelings and reactions help me understand more what’s happening in a given situation. And by recognising my own feelings I practically have given myself permission for the feeling, after which it is less likely to cause trouble in my communication.

Applying the same principles – being aware of my inner self – has made me less loud, less perky and more appreciative when I discuss about code. I might get angry, I might feel disappointed. I might feel sorrow. And still I might handle the discussion in a manner where others don’t feel offended.

The best thing is: I have changed, so can anyone who’s willing to take the first steps.

Are you interested in all that, and some more? If so, there’s a good chance to attend to my Listening++ workshop at Turku Agile Day on May 14th 2014.

*with meeting I mean a situation when two or more people meet each other to interact.

Aki works at Ambientia as Software Developer

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