Episode 11

Corey Haines

I sat down with Corey Haines at the offices of “We Are Hearken” in Chicago, where he’s the Co-Founder & CTO. Although he certainly sounds all fancy with those titles, he’s one of the nicest and most humble people I know. He’s also the founder of Code Retreat, a code craftsmanship event that propagated itself around the world, a published author, and a code craftsman.

In 2008 Corey found himself suddenly single and without a job with nothing much to do but binge watch Babylon 5 on Netflix. From here he formulated a plan. He would let himself take a few months off, support himself on the $2400 of savings he had in the bank, and visit a few programmer friends in a few cities around the central US. This wasn’t going to be just any road trip though, he asked his friends if he could come visit and pair program with them in exchange for room and board.

On his “Pair Programming Tour” which was covered by InfoQ he started doing video interviews which you can still see on his blog. His aim was to discover what it takes for a software developer to become good at what they do, and promote the belief that software development is a craft. As a craft, it can only be mastered by hands-on experience and learning from other craftspeople.

A month later (January 2009) he found himself in the hallway at the Code Mash Conference in Sandusky Ohio. It was there that Gary Bernhardt, Patrick Welsh, Nayan Hajratwala, and Corey himself came up with the idea to create a new type of event for developers. An event that was focused on the idea of practicing coding as a craft, much like a pianist practices the piano. The Code Retreat was born.

Over the next year as Corey traveled around for pair programming and conferences, he offered to help run Code Retreats all over the world. At each retreat he would continue to build out the standards for running a retreat, and teach others how to run it themselves. In August 2011 there were so many cities running their own Code Retreats that he decided to declare a Global Day of Code Retreat. In December that year 91 cities ran a Code Retreat event on the same day with more than 1600 developers participating.

In the following years Corey continued to help others run Code Retreats, and helped run Global Day of Code Retreat. Each year he encouraged others in the organization to take on more responsibility. This allowed him in 2014 to step away and see the Cod Retreat community continue running without him, which he’s proud of.

Corey is an incredible strategic thinker who is expert at figuring out an intended goal and working backward to reach it. He has a way of being able to break down tasks into manageable pieces and systematize. Guessing his propensity for being able to think this way is part of what makes him such a brilliant programmer! – Jennifer Brandel, co-founder of Hearken

Also in 2014 he published a book called Understanding the 4 Rules of Simple Design. The book covers what he learned while watching 1000’s of programmers solve the same problem during code retreats. It contains the ideas he would end up explaining over and over again. The 80 page book contains 40 pages of concrete examples.

When I asked Corey about what advice he’d give programmers at the start of their career, he recommended that people just start building things. Don’t worry about learning all the technologies, don’t worry about building something useful, and don’t worry about being good at what you’re doing. The more you write code, the more you learn how to write better code. I couldn’t agree more.