Jovan Vidic is the founder of the Agile Coaching Serbia community, Project Management Professional, Certified Scrum Master, Senior Software Developer and Technical Lead at codecentric Serbia. After more than ten years of being a part of the IT industry, he believes that everyone should have a chance to share ideas, experiences and knowledge. Since Jovan decided to devote a part of his career to teaching in the field of informal education, we asked him about his experiences and impressions.
Jovan, you graduated from Faculty of Science in Novi Sad, and if you were to do it all over again would your choice be the same?
Right now, I’m not sure. At the time it was either Faculty of Science – FoS or Faculty of Technical Science – FTS. As someone who has graduated from electro-technical high school, I estimated that FoS was a much better option and I think I didn’t make a mistake. Probably, even now I would be closer on deciding to go to the FoS because I like the approach, it is focused on building critical thinking and logical problem solving.
Could you compare formal and informal education in IT?
Formal education gives latitude and helps people to be professionals in more than one area. Informal education often gives hugely specific knowledge, which in itself is not enough to solve complex problems. When we talk about the technical knowledge I would always give the priority to formal education, while as for the ‘soft skills’ I would prioritize the informal.
What would you name as your specialty?
I would always put in the first place the fact that I’m a programmer. I’m very proud of it. Probably my two strongest capacities are knowledge related to the distributed systems and knowledge related to the organization of software development process.
How do you make advancements in your career and in which areas?
I’m learning a lot. In the first place, there is training. On average, I go through 15 to 20 days of training per year. Next thing is reading where I try to have a pace of about 20 books a year. In addition, I try to visit a conference, meet-up, and I watch a lot of talks from other conferences.
On top of all of this, I would like to add learning by doing and learning from colleagues as important ways of training.
As far as the fields are concerned, here I just go wide. On the technical side I am quite interested in distributed systems, Domain Driven Design, Event Sourcing, on the other hand, I work a lot on coaching skills, process skills, quality…
You have touched teaching area even though you are still in the line of fire, tell me how it happened, and why do you like to teach?
From my point of view this has happened quite by accident. When I joined codecentric everyone told me that the company encourages people to be presenters at conferences. Then I thought I could try it out. It has all started with one meet-up, then came to the conference and I’ve already been in this story for almost 3 years.
My main motivation is knowledge sharing. I believe that the free distribution of knowledge is something special for IT as a profession and it should be preserved as something valuable. In addition to this, talks at conferences bring me the opportunity to travel and connect with colleagues across Europe.
In your opinion, what makes a good speaker?
For me two things: knowledge and energy. The speaker must be competent in what he’s talking about, but I also consider it necessary to transfer some of his energy. So I can really see that he cares about what he’s doing.
Where did you speak so far and where did you like it the best?
So far I have given talks at conferences in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Czech Republic and Ukraine. As the best one, I would point out the talk at Agilia conference in the Czech Republic. This talk was chosen as the 5th best in the entire conference, and is my biggest success so far.
What do you think of the quasi-knowledge sharing – when you go to a conference or a workshop, and they do not teach you anything just put in a little bit in order to sell the rest?
This is something that is definitely degrading our profession. Unfortunately, in the recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of fake consultants who were until recently the biggest advocates of traditional project management, only to suddenly become agile messiahs. Worst of all is that these people have no real experience with agile software development and then sell some Frankenstein versions which do not bring value to the customers of their services. With all this, the number of meet-up groups and conferences is increasing, which leads to significant decline in the quality of talks and speakers.
How much can someone actually learn at conferences? What are the biggest benefits of the conference for you?
I would say that first of all it depends on what is the topic of the talk. When it comes to the technical talks there you can get some ideas, but for everything else it is necessary to seriously roll up your sleeves and try out what the speaker was talking about.
When it comes to ‘soft skills’ or procedural knowledge, one can learn a lot if the speaker has the real experience.
Lately, what I love the most at conferences is Open Space because there visitors themselves create the agenda.
You have taught on regional conferences. What’s your impression – at what level is the Agile in the region?
Here my impressions are divided. Organizers of the conferences are trying to bring the world’s biggest names, the organization is excellent and talks are on the high level. What is the problem is the actual implementation of the agile approaches. Here we significantly lag behind the trends in the world. My opinion is that in the region we have a very small number of people and companies who are actually willing to implement the agile approach to software development. This certainly does not contribute to the fact that we have a very small number of companies that make their own product. I think the increase in the number of companies that develop their product would have the significant impact on the necessity for the agile approach to software development.
You are working on CenterDevice, the codecentric’s startup, so do you practice what you preach?
Working on CenterDevice is my best experience in career so far. The team I work for is the best and the most competent team in which I have worked and everything we achieved is for the whole team to take the credit for. When the team is like that it is much easier to make a presentation based on the personal experience.
Are there situations where Agile principles do not make sense?
The principles which are behind the Manifesto of Agile Software Development are universal, and therefore it cannot be said that they do not make sense. There are contexts where it takes more or less planning, more or less documentation…That does not mean that the principles are bad. The agile approach is essentially adaptive, so it is hard to question it up to the level to say that it makes no sense.
At which conference would you like to see your name on the list of speakers and why?
That would definitely be qCon in London. Since I have been following the web site of InfoQ for the most of my career, it would be an honor to give a talk at such conference. I was lucky I was sent by codecentric to this conference and I was thrilled with the quality of the talks and the organization as well. I hope that in the next 5 years I’ll reach the level to be there and give a talk.