Few facts I learned from facilitating my first Code Retreat in Cluj last Saturday.

We were facilitating in pairs and were assigned a group of 12 participants (= 6 pairs). Some of them were not seniors and that gave me a great opportunity to observe all kind of struggles reminding me my own from some time ago ;)

Our Groups

English Language

I can’t stress more the importancy of knowing English for programmers, both written and spoken, but as I already knew, people in Romania are excellent in this… The organizers did not even need to mention that there will be a foreign facilitator. Bear in mind I was the only foreigner there and yet no one had problems communicating in perfect English, including all the retrospectives. Very natural.

Programming Language

Our participants used C#, Java and Python. As we shuffled pairs after each session, it turned out that not knowing your language perfectly has brutal impact on one’s productivity. Even switching from C# to very similar Java (or back) seemed to impose a serious penalty on productivity. If you have to google how to declare 2D array, you lose valuable time.

On the other hand, pairing with a more experienced guy teaches you a lot. I witnessed many “Eureka!” moments during the coding sessions.


Similar to programming language, it really matters how you know your IDE and especially keyboard shortcuts. People not familiar to IDE seem to use mouse most of the time, which impacts them a lot, but even worse, they don’t know how to quickly navigate, jump to declaration, quickly find class etc.

We heard “Visual Studio is actually pretty good,” after one participant paired with an experienced C# guy.

Game of Life

I have realized how great this problem is for Code Retreat. It seems really simple at first, but actually is not, and it did not get boring even after 6 sessions in one day.

It was fun watching people reminding themselves how does the modulo operator work for negative numbers.


This one was the least surprising to me – most of our participants heard about TDD before, but no one currently practises TDD in their job. During the retrospective, most people said they liked it, and will try to write better code, better and more tests and even write tests before actually implementing the functionality.

“My job does not need me to write tests,” was a remarkable quote during one of the retrospectives.

45 minutes

As one of the participants noted, 45 minutes session during Code Retreat passes way quicker than 45 minutes of normal working day. I guess doing something new and challenging makes the time pass really quickly :)


It’s really great to see tens of people to give up their Saturday and gather for Code Retreat and actually have fun during it. I guess we IT guys are not so antisocial after all. Or are we?

“The session I enjoyed the most was the mute ping-pong,” said one participant after a coding session where the pair was not allowed to talk to each other.

Ludek Dolejsky