This past week, the Ruby community has been mourning the loss of Jim Weirich. I never had the pleasure of meeting Jim, but did attend one of his talks. I also learned from some of the materials he generously shared with the world. I interacted with him a bit on a couple of Rake pull requests. And I was incredibly humbled and honored that he commented on a few of my posts here.

In reading the many tributes to Jim on Twitter and elsewhere, I realized that I haven’t taken the chance to thank some people that have had an impact on my life and career. One post cannot do justice to all of them, so for this post I want to focus on a particular transitional period.

In March, 2011 I attended the Smalltalk Solutions conference as I have done several times. This year was different, though.

I met this young, enthusiastic guy named Johnny Thornton. He was just learning Smalltalk at the time, and was so excited about everything he was seeing at the conference. In interacting with Johnny, I realized how much I had lost that enthusiasm and how much I missed it. I realized that I had started to coast in my career. To this day, every time I see Johnny, his excitement and enthusiasm rub off on me and I come away rejuvenated.

At the same conference, I met a group of Rubyists who were also interested in Smalltalk. Pat Maddox, Steven Baker, James Ladd, and Sean T. Allen all presented at the conference, though I had to miss Pat’s and Steven’s sessions due to conflicting presentations. I enjoyed hanging out with them in the coding room and trying to help James and Sean a bit with Redline Smalltalk. Hearing about the Ruby community from them got me interested in Ruby and seeing what it was all about.

This was also the conference that made me feel like I was missing something by not being on Twitter. I was skeptical, but I signed up right after the conference and started following the people I had just met. I have learned a ton by following smart people and reading the articles, blog posts, and resources they link to. I have to periodically pare down who I follow, because I can’t afford to spend all day on Twitter. But it has really been worth the time I’ve invested in it.

About a month later, Pat and David Brady started a video podcast called ADDCasts!, which was highly entertaining if irregularly posted. I started interacting with David on Twitter and even remote-paired with him a couple of times, which I enjoyed a lot.

From there, I followed David over to Ruby Rogues and have been a regular listener ever since. I have learned a ton from the Rogues.

In the fall of 2011, I attended the Software Craftsmanship North America conference in Chicago. At this conference, I found concrete advice about how to stop coasting and start improving myself again. I found a way to regain the excitement and enthusiasm that Johnny showed me I was missing. From inspiring keynotes by Corey Haines and Chad Fowler, to a from-the-heart, no-notes, beautiful talk by Pat Maddox, to a couple of unheralded-but-excellent talks on focus by Aaron Bedra and practice by David Chelimsky, this conference was a turning point for me.

On the flight home, I wrote some questions for myself that have shaped my life ever since. I started including time for deliberate improvement every day before work and have been on an intentional journey to make myself a better developer. This blog is part of that journey.

The following March, I attended my first-ever Ruby conference, Mountain West Ruby Conference and got to meet many of the people I’d been listening to on the Rogues podcast and interacting with on Twitter. Mike Moore et al put on a great event every year, and I’m honored to be able to speak there this year.

There are many more people I need to thank, but I don’t have the space or time to cover a 20+ year career in this post.

But to those I mentioned above, I want to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Each of you has had a deep impact on my life in ways you probably never realized. I only hope that I can have a similar impact on those around me.