When people hear that I’ve lived in China for 20 years they are often surprised. How does an American who grew up in a small town in Arizona where there wasn’t even a Chinese restaurant, at least not one while I was living there, end up in China; and what would keep me in China for over 20 years with no near-term plans to return to the US? The title of this article hints at the answer.
From the time I can remember I was interested in Asia and China in particular. I can’t articulate a specific event or reason that led to this interest, it was just there and it was intense. Chinese often speak of “yuanfen” – fate – and perhaps it was fate that brought me to China initially. Regardless of what brought me to China the reason I have stayed for all of these years and the reason I don’t want to be anywhere else is that China is, in my opinion, changing faster than anywhere else in the world and being part of that change is an exciting, energizing, challenging, and wonderful experience.
The first time I came to China in 1987 one of the first things I did upon arriving at my college campus was visit the computer center. I only went there once. The only computers were old Apple II computers similar to those I’d used in high school and were in a state of disrepair. By and large China had not yet entered the computer age.
Fast forward just a few years to 1995. In the US I was ‘connected’ to the Internet through dial-up to a computer that could further dial-in to the local college. I could use ftpmail to access files on the Internet and to send and receive email. That same year in China I became one of the beta users of China Telecom’s Internet services in China. The connectivity in China was better than what I could get in the US at the time. It was remarkable to see how quickly things had changed.
China continues to change at breakneck speed and the spread of Scrum is following this same pattern. In June 2007 I attended what I believe to be the first public CSM training in China. Along with about 20 other students, I became one of China’s first Certified ScrumMasters. A short year later, in October 2008, a group of about 50 joined the first ever China Scrum gathering in Shanghai. The following year I began promoting Scrum in public forums and in private training sessions to organizations across China, and things have been nonstop since. In 2010 we held our first official Scrum Gathering, which attracted nearly 300 attendees; a remarkable six-fold increase in attendance in less than 2 years.
And the change continues. Since becoming a CST I have traveled to cities across China to introduce Scrum to a wide variety of organizations. While early interest was primarily isolated to foreign-owned companies, the past several months have witnessed a notable increase in interest by domestic organizations in China.
Looking forward, things are no less exciting. Members of the local community are working actively at holding another major Scrum event in China again this year. Also, multiple Registered Education Providers and numerous individuals in China are working actively to become future CSTs. The pace of change in China shows no sign of slowing down and that’s fine with me.
If you ask me what I’m doing in China the answer is simple: I’m embracing change.