Name: Tom Howlett
United Kingdom
Pair collaboration


Tom Howlett is a Developer and Agile Coach at Lean Tomato in the UK and avid blogger at Diary Of A Scrummaster. We discuss how pair programming helps build trust, camaraderie, and visibility on his remote team. We also discuss tools, personality, work-life integration, and Agile.

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Powerful quotes by Tom Howlett

Our team started off working together in the same office. Then one guy said: “I don’t want to do this London thing anymore. I’ll make you a deal. I’m going to promise you I’ll be just as effective working remotely as I am in this office today.” And he went off and  made sure that he was equally as effective. He took the responsibility on himself. If any of us were having private conversations and not including him, he was right on it during the stand up the next day. When the team saw that it worked, slowly but surely, the team started dispersing until we became 100% remote. And now we are definitely more collaborative than we ever were when we were sat together in an office in London.


Remote work is not going to fix a bad culture or a bad mindset, but if you’ve developed a good culture, then remote work can be better. You can work more effectively, especially as a programmer. There are a lot of things that suit programmers about being at home like having a bit of space when you want to go and work something out, or going for a walk. You can’t do that in an office.


You can’t work as a programmer alone. You need the collaboration. The stereotype of the programmer sitting in the basement with his head down isn’t the modern way of a programmer. Programming is a very collaborative and creative activity. And remote collaboration suits it perfectly.


It’s difficult when only part of the team is remote. As soon as one person on the team goes remote, everybody has to work as if they’re remote.


It’s not that Agile can’t work with remote. It’s that remote can’t really work without the collaboration that comes with Agile.


I think the pair programming is a huge contribution towards that trust because when you’re working together you’re completely open to each other and your talents but also your weaknesses are open to each other. That really builds relationship in a strong way. You’re just chained to someone doing something challenging together. You’re solving real problems together. I think the trust comes through that.


Often in offices, people are expected to just looking like they’re working, regardless if they’re motivated or doing anything effective at all. With this remote way of working, it doesn’t matter when you’re working, as long as you’re available for collaboration. And if you’re enjoying your work, you’re doing it because you love it, not because somebody is there watching you.

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