Me and Mine

Life, Family and Ancestors

Charlie Poole - An Informal Biography

NOTE: I wrote this page sometime around 2005 as an informal biography covering my education, career and other interests. It was originally part of my professional site, so doesn't go into marriage, family and other personal aspects of my life. I'll update it sometime soon.

Early Years

I grew up in Queens, New York, attending high school in Brooklyn. Back then I wanted to do advanced courses in both math and languages. But our school wasn't terribly flexible, and a choice was required. The math teacher wasn't too much help to me, so I decided to study Latin, French and Spanish. In later years, I was to do lots of mathematical modeling but all my math beyond trigonometry is self-taught... thanks to that teacher.

In college I majored in French - again the influence of a teacher, but this time a good one. I ended up with a BS in Education and an MA in French. For a year I taught high school French in Allegany, N.Y - a small town in the western part of the state. Eventually I entered the doctoral program at the University of Washington.

Graduate school was a lot of fun, but in the end, I couldn't find anything in the academic world that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I looked for work and found it in the Civil Service Department of the City of Seattle. I worked as an examiner and a job classifier for a few years before getting involved as a specialist in employment practices with a newly-formed city program for training and hiring minorities.

I might have spent the rest of my career working in employment and training programs, except for two factors: funding cuts and my discovery of programming. Federal funding for programs such as ours was being drastically cut in the early 70s, and along with many of my colleagues I had to think about alternatives. I had taken some courses that introduced me to computer programming and really loved it.

IT Years

At first, I didn't actually get to see the computer I worked on. I took a class in PLI programming using a GE timesharing system. We worked on a teletype, and as students were given no storage on the computer itself. Everything was stored on paper tapes, which we religiously re-punched, rolled, rubber-banded and saved at the end of each session.

I consider myself fortunate to have started with PLI. The alternatives of the day were Fortran, Cobol and Basic. I learned all of those, but with my PLI background, I always considered them to be inferior. I learned a lot of languages in those days, including Lisp, Snobol, Algol and Simula.

Eventually - and luckily before the money ran out - I found a position with the city Water Department. I started out in a business analyst role, but after a year I was involved in developing software for a newly-purchased departmental mini-computer as well as working on larger projects destined for the city mainframe.

I remained with the Water Department for 19 years - a total of 26 with the City of Seattle - and had the opportunity to introduce our first mini-computer, mainframe, workstations, personal computers and local area network. I worked at various levels of supervision and management, but always managed to find my way back to software development.

Some of the more interesting work in the Water Department was performed on a departmental IBM mainframe. I discovered that even mainframes can be fun when you can have complete access to them. We developed programs for DOS/VSE as well as VM/CMS. In my last years at the department, as I was planning my departure, I was fortunate to be assigned to work on future strategic directions in software development. This allowed me to learn to use the Microsoft tools that provided a skill base for my first steps as an independent.

And Now

In 1994 I took early retirement from city employment and took a year away from work. In 1995, I had the opportunity to join the Microsoft team developing the first version of PictureIt!, an image-processing application. I continued to work for them over a period of several years, at first through an agency and then through my company Poole Consulting, which I formed in 1998. Since then, I've worked for various clients, focusing on C++ software development for the Windows Environment and, more recently, .Net development using C#.

During this period, I began to teach classes at Shoreline Community College. I continue to do it at odd intervals, and mainly teach classes in C++ programming.

In recent years, I have developed a strong interest in agile approaches to software development, particularly Extreme Programming. In 2001, I used XP to help a faltering project and became convinced of its value. My real introduction to the XP community was at the XP2002 conference in Sardinia, where I was able to expand my knowledge and meet a lot of interesting people.

Since then, I've continued to be fairly active in the agile community, taking part in many of the conferences and serving as president of the Seattle XP Users Group. My practice now focuses on coaching, team-building and agile methodologies. In addition to XP, I've become a strong advocate of the Scrum approach, particularly with in working with inter-disciplinary teams.

I've long wanted to do some of my consulting in Europe, and I spent part of the summer after that first XP conference visiting European sites using XP. Through the contacts I made, I was able to offer workshops in various cities in 2003 and 2004. I've now associated myself with Exoftware, a Dublin-based firm, for the purpose of finding further work in Europe.

A few years ago, I became interested in Test-Driven Development as an agile technique. I'm one of the developers of NUnit, an open-source unit-testing framework and many of my engagements start with a testing focus and branch out from there.

At this point in my life, I have a lot of interests beyond software development. I try to limit my work to 6-8 months each year, although it's not always possible. When not working, I'm involved in family activities - I have four children and three grandchildren - travel, sailing and work with the local schools.

I live in a pleasant area across Puget Sound from Seattle and enjoy being involved in community activities. I'm a member of the Spectrum Community School Human Rights board and the North Kitsap Capital Facilities Advisory Committee. I've been recognized on several occasions for my contributions, including receiving the Year 2001 award of the S'Klallam Tribal Anti-Racism Committee. Some of my proudest moments have come from spontaneous expressions of thanks by the kids I have worked with.

I'm very interested in exchange programs. My youngest son visited Russia as part of a school program in 1994. The following year, a Russian exchange student stayed with us and has been considered a part of the family ever since. I have since taken two groups of high school students on extended trips to Russia.

My current goals include doing more traveling and spending some time working abroad. I'm continuing to move my professional practice in the direction of team-building and coaching. I'm starting to do some writing and I hope to find some time to teach again soon.