Home > Articles

What It's Like to Work at...Thoughtworks: A Conversation with Martin Fowler

  • Print
  • + Share This
Martin Fowler shares his insights about Thoughtworks, a software development company with a focus on sustainability and economic and social justice. Martin talks about how he got started, why he loves the company's culture, and advice for new software developers.
Like this article? We recommend

InformIT: How did you get your job at ThoughtWorks?

Martin Fowler: They called me in to do some consulting around domain modeling for a project they were working on. We got on well and I ended up coming in regularly. During this time they made a big move towards a more Extreme Programming style of software development. After nine months or so they offerred me a job. Since they were my favorite client, I decided to join them.

InformIT: How long have you worked there?

Martin Fowler: Twelve years.

InformIT: What makes ThoughtWorks different from other companies?

Martin Fowler: Primarily it boils down to the people. They do a good job of hiring people who are both very smart, but also pleasant to work with. In particular there's a lot of focus on people with integrity, and I've found I can trust my colleagues here much more than with most of the clients I worked with over the years. There's also a real passion in doing good quality work and wanting to get better, which is excellent fodder for a writer like me.

InformIT: What’s your favorite thing about working there?

Martin Fowler: ThoughtWorks is a firehose of ideas for things to write about. The only difficulty is choosing which small sliver of that firehose I get to describe.

InformIT: What have you worked on at ThoughtWorks that you are most proud of?

Martin Fowler: I'm proud of the fact that we've grown from a few hundred people in the U.S. to a couple of thousand people world-wide, yet managed to keep the essence of the culture intact. I'm not sure what role I've played in that, but I'm glad of the fact that it remains somewhere I like to work, and keeps introducing me to interesting people to collaborate with.

That said, I'm not sure that I can take very much credit for that. For things with a more deterministic tie to my own work I'd say I'm happy with building martinfowler.com up over the last decade. It's become quite a rich resource and a constant puzzle as to what to do next to improve it.

On a more collaborative front though, I've been really happy to see several of my colleagues become significant "loud-mouths" in the industry. I don't feel I can take too much credit—any help I've given is easily out-weighed by their own efforts —but it's the credit I'd most like to take.

InformIT: Why would someone want to work at ThoughtWorks?

Martin Fowler: For less experienced people, I think the big attraction is the ability to learn how to do software development well in a variety of different kinds of projects. Certainly ThoughtWorks projects are not perfect, but I do think they are significantly better than most software projects. I've heard many ex-ThoughtWorkers talk about how they learned a great deal about software development from their years here.

For more experienced people it's more nuanced, if only because a competent senior developer has so many options these days. My sense is that ThoughtWorks appeals most to people who want to lead teams that both deliver challenging projects and also teach smart but inexperienced people how to excel themselves. Delivering software is the common thread here, but as you grow in your career there is a natural shift as the importance of mentoring grows.

And in all cases, the opportunity to travel is significant. If you want to spend a significant chunk of time working in a very different part of the world, such as an American working in India, or a Brazilian working in China, then ThoughtWorks offers a lot of opportunities. This also ties in with our increasing attention to social justice issues, which I know is a big factor for many of our more experienced people.

InformIT: What advice would you have for a new employee just starting at ThoughtWorks?

Martin Fowler: One of the most frustrating things for people at ThoughtWorks is that there's no set career plans, and as such it's dangerously easy to just slide from project to project. For some people that's okay, but if you want to set a direction you have to do it yourself. This means lots of networking, seeking out opportunities, and pushing to take things on. It's not a straightforward path, but it's the flip side of not being channeled into the kind of set career plans that were pushed on me before I became an independent consultant.

InformIT: Tell us an “It could only happen at ThoughtWorks” story.

Martin Fowler: I remember being dragged into a discussion about a prospective project with BigCo. The deal was pretty big, around 50+ staff-years of work for the initial phase. But there were concerns about BigCo's ethical track record, particularly in the developing world. Elements of pure ThoughtWorks in this was listening to the CFO argue passionately against taking on a big chunk of high-margin work, and all these senior leaders listening to a recently hired junior developer from a global south office explaining how BigCo's practices harmed his country.

Martin Fowler is the author of Domain-Specific Languages and NoSQL Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Emerging World of Polyglot Persistence, among many other books and writings.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020