17 September 2015

How to Journeyman Tour

It has been two years since I did my own Journeyman Tour. It has been a blast but I never took the time to write about some topics besides the actual things that I did back then. Recently I was reminded of the topic by Lennart's tour and friends asking me about it as well. So I need to catch up and discuss some of my findings. This article is not about the tour itself, but about things to be considered if you plan your own Journeyman Tour.

What to Expect
Back in 2013 I first analysed Corey Haines's Pair Programming Tour in 2008 to get an idea what it means to do such a tour. Then I defined my personal, particular rules of my own Code Cop Tour. My rules were supposed to reduce uncertainty and help me achieve my objectives, but they were not specific enough. (I will write about that later.) During a Journeyman Tour one objective is about learning, so you need to define your learning goal (Daniel's Rule). Maybe I did not have that, or I had the wrong one, or my other tour preparations were not aligned with my objectives. More discussion would have helped me to get a better picture what might happen during a tour. So if you plan to go on tour yourself, I recommend you discuss your plans with people who have done it before.

Planning sessionPlan Ahead
First you need to select the area you want to visit. I stayed local in my city. Others toured their country or continent and a few visited the whole world, e.g. working at companies both in Europe and the United States. Adding conferences as speaker or attendee is a great thing as well. Based on the decided locations and dates I created a schedule. Be aware that a Journeyman Tour, while being a great thing to do, is also exhausting, and in fact hard work. You need to plan accordingly. I had planned too many sessions in too little time. You need to plan for some free time each month as well.

Host Companies
Finding hosts is the hard part. See my list how to find hosts and sell a Journeyman Tour to management. Some hosts have specific legal requirements. You need to be prepared for some legal hassle. In Austria and Germany the legal background for unpaid work is the Volontariat, which is primarily used for education. But I am not a lawyer, please do not ask me for details.

Silence PactSign Non-disclosure Agreement
All larger companies asked me to sign NDAs. I signed them because I was not interested in their customers, products or other details. I wanted to see the way they worked, how the used technologies and the engineers working there. I even brought a generic NDA with me if a small company or startup did not have any template. I respected the agreement and did not talk about any details we had worked on ever. That is the reason that my reports of the tour are generic and lacking details. I always asked for permission to mention the company in my blog and let them review and approve my posts before publishing it.

Respect the Host Company (Security) Policies
Having worked at large corporations I understood the need for security of most host company representatives. As they had no idea what a visit of a Journeyman meant, they had concerns. My rules were never to work alone. Beside security concerns it helped me keeping focused on pair programming. Obviously I did not need any access codes, passwords or other security related information. While I brought my private laptop to take notes, I even asked for permission to plug it into electricity. Some companies do now allow private IT equipment to be operated inside their premises. While most of these issues might sound silly to you, it is of utmost importance to make potential host company representatives feel secure if they are going to allow an outsider in. Further I wanted to respect any company policy of the host while I stayed there.

Finding a Future Job
Working for some time at a company is a great way to figure out if it is a place you would like to stay. Some host companies even implied that depending on the report of my pairing partner they would offer me a job. This could lead to problematic situations. If I would not apply for a job after my visit, it would be like saying "your company sucks". A company hosting a journeyman is always a great company. I recommend rejecting any discussions regarding future jobs by saying that your visit is not about a job but about learning and sharing (Thomas' rule).

My Piggy BankExpect No Compensation
Some people asked me if it paid off to go on tour. While it is possible to have a paid tour, all the Journeymen I know did not get any money for their work. The classic Journeyman Tour is a self-funded journey of discovery and sharing. Even when provided with food and a room to sleep, a tour is not a cheap trip. You still need to cover additional costs, e.g. public transport. During my tour one company wanted to pay me because they were afraid to be accused of unreported employment. In another company the team lead had to pay for my lunch himself because it was impossible to get the money from the company. When I was away from home, I asked the host company to pay for my hotel at least.

Journeyman Work
Daniel told me this story: During his tour in 2013, a company showed interest in hosting him. When discussing terms of his visit, it turned out that the company wanted to get professional training for free during his visit. As working together and sharing knowledge is the base idea of a Journeyman Tour, it is difficult to draw the line between regular exchange and abuse. But extensive training of the host company's stuff for free is definitely out of scope. During my tour I pair-programmed (and pair-designed and pair-tested) with developers and occasionally gave a presentation about the background of my tour. In one case I prepared a presentation of the things I had learned during my visit. I did not engage in any other internal activities like facilitating internal Coding Dojos or giving presentations on other topics, and nobody asked for it. Wherever you draw the line, you should think about it before starting your tour.

That information together with my older articles should get you started in your own Journeyman Tour! Read more about the tours of other people, e.g. Daniel Temme, Andy Waite and recently Lennart Fridén.

No comments: