I went to Denmark and learned more about myself than I expected

Last updated: 26 May 2018

Funny how three days can shift perspectives.

These are things I learned in Denmark - a quick collection of thoughts that could have been called ‘Things I learned at Codegarden’, but that would limit the scope and scopes should be sweeping and broad, right?

We are all capable of more.

It’s easy to fall into a routine. Not necessarily a rut, but a routine. I enjoy my job, I’m good at what I do, and I feel like I’m contributing to something important. Education is empowering, so to help - in a small way - in delivering that to cumulatively thousands of students is something I’m proud of.

But it’s interesting how three days of conversations and listening and absorbing can start mental wheels turning. I enjoy what I do, but does it push me to be better? Not really. Compared to what I could be doing, perhaps I’m selling myself short. Could I be doing more? I think so, and I’d hazard that I’m not the only one.

I’m thinking about what might come next. Given that I’ve been in my current job for nearly ten years, that obviously doesn’t happen often.

We like to be comfortable. That’s easy and familiar. But we don’t grow.

Standing on stage and presenting for 45 minutes is way out of my comfort zone. Way out. Am I good at it, I don’t think so, not yet. I’ll do it again, and probably again, and I’ll learn and improve and become a better version of myself. To have had to opportunity to do so means more now, in hindsight, than I realised a week ago.

Generally, I’m pretty quiet. Introverted even. I wouldn’t go out of my way to talk to someone I didn’t know. But I’ve just spent three days making a conscious effort to do exactly that.

If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have taken nearly as much from this adventure. Not even close. There’s as much to be gained from a five minute chat over lunch as from any formal session.

Coming from the other side of the planet made me realise how far away home can be, and how large this community has grown. That distance can make it feel like I’m often out of the loop - our communication is largely instant, but by being half a world away, the ability to be part of the conversation is reduced.

Given that, to be able to sit down and engage, rather than playing online catch-up hours after discussions have finished really reinforced that I’m part of something bigger than a piece of software. There’s more to this than code.

As cliched as at feels to write, the community is what makes Umbraco, and by extension, Codegarden, work. Every attendee is a contributor. Like it or not, we’re share responsibility for each other’s success.

A physical community is important. Growing something online into the hundreds of thousands is fine, but it can’t compare to putting people in a room and seeing what happens. Proximity is important.

Opinions will differ as to when and how and why we do things, but that’s crucial. Consensus doesn’t help us grow. We need to be challenged and pushed and encouraged to consider a different approach. How boring we’d be if we always agreed.

I have an MVP award packed safely for the flight home. It’s the largest dose of professional validation I’ve ever been served and like the invitation to speak, means more after the fact than it did in the weeks prior.

Maybe because I’ve now got context - I don’t feel as much like I’m outside looking in, from the other side of the world. That someone felt the little things I chip away at warranted recognition ahead of dozens of incredibly talented people and their creations and contributions is incredibly humbling, and starts that internal whisper - maybe I can do more.

This is getting long. And starting to feel like a self-serving way of acknowledging the people and experiences that made this week so valuable.

There’s something special happening here, I’m just proud to be part of it.