LeadDev London 2023 (Day 2)
This is a follow-up to my first post about day 1 of the LeadDev London 2023 conference. That post covers my notes on talks from day 1, as well as my thoughts on the overall conference.
Here are my notes on talks from day 2…
Building bridges: The art of crafting seamless partnerships between engineering, product, and design
This was an interesting style compared to the other talks at LeadDev. Instead of one or two people delivering a prepared talk, here we had three people (one from each discipline of engineering, product and design) having a discussion. It worked pretty well, and they had clearly prepared and made some useful and interesting points. As it wasn’t a prepared presentation it perhaps wasn’t as impactful as the other talks, but it was definitely a nice change of pace.
Riding the rollercoaster of emotions
Some emotional events that can happen at work are:
- Breaking production
- Team member unexpectedly quits
- Users don’t like a new feature
- Difficult co-worker
Start with yourself - handle your own emotions first. Recognise negative thoughts, keep calm and don’t react emotionally.
Platform engineering is all about product
Dev and Ops -> Dev and DevOps -> Dev and SRE - rebranded teams, same problems.
The goal of platform teams is the enablement of developers.
Have a problem-first mindset - ensure you are solving problems your developers are having. Developers know what problems they are having - ask them!
Even with platform teams, agile is still valuable. Deliver incremental value and get fast feedback.
Cultural post mortems: an approach to learning and recovering when your people systems fail
Complex adaptive systems operate at the edge of chaos. We work in organisation complex systems, with…
- a shared goal
- varied interactions
- feedback loops
- emergent behaviour from teams operating as a system.
Strategies for succeeding as a underrepresented engineering leader
Leadership is a learned skill set.
Assess a company like you would a neighbourhood.
Expand your network - sponsorship is more valuable than mentorship.
Feature flags unleashed
Flags should be part of a company culture, but they do create risks…
- breaking current behaviour
- operational complexity
- tech debt
- high initial investment
Build a data-driven on-call workflow for your team with atomic habits
Create a sense of shared accountability and empowerment.
Look at the mean number of interrupted nights.
To improve the on-call experience tackle:
- Siloed knowledge
- Poor documentation
- Boring technical adversity (where all fixes lead to large problems)
Make sure alerting is connected to service level targets. You don’t want to be alerted for issues that are not causing a problem.
To improve avoid the status quo bias - “Would you like a shovel? But I’m already using a spoon!”
- Make it obvious
- Make it attractive
- Make it easy
- Make it satisfying
Create space for reviewing on call.
Keeping your team health after a layoff
Prepare for the event:
- Plan what work will be dropped
- Prepare the communication
- Draw scenarios and team structures
- Take diversity into account
- Talk to direct leaders
Through the layoff:
- Talk to impacted people immediately
- Talk to the company as soon as possible
- Talk to teams as soon as you can after you’ve talked to the company
Give people time to say goodbye. Don’t make another big change for a while.
Moving forward there will be…
- Fear - reinforce the company’s next steps, and ensure people maintain a good work-life balance.
- Guilt - reinforce why the layoffs happened.
To help retain those who remain:
- Recognise good work
- Implement shared projects
- Prioritise opportunities internally
- Give people some time off
- Some people will need mentorship - be closer to them.
Parents who code: How to welcome your developers back after parental leave
Sleep bad = code bad - and as a new parent, you are almost guaranteed to be sleeping bad.
People who were working while someone was on leave will have seen changes be introduced slowly. The person who was on leave will see them introduced overnight, when they return.
Try to limit the knowledge gap created by long leave through documentation. Keep a record of changes for them to review when they return.
It is understandable to be resistant to change when you were not involved in the discussion. Try to show the options you’ve considered.
Assume nothing about what matters to the returnee.
Use KIT (Keeping In Touch) days to spread information over the period of their leave.
Assign them a buddy who will advocate for them while they are on leave, and support them when they return. This is optional, people might not want a buddy.
Creating inclusive career ladders
A progression framework is a compass, not a map. If you have a checklist you’ll end up with a specific view of what a good engineer looks like.
Focus on outcomes, not prescribing how. If someone doesn’t want to give talks, they could find ways to share their knowledge with others.
Time is relative. You might say people need to demonstrate behaviours for six months, but for people on parental leave or who are part-time, this might not work. People should demonstrate behaviour over multiple quarters, but it is important to give people context about why time is important.
Building for the underserved, solving for all
W3C four principles of accessibility:
- Robust - must work with a variety of assistive technologies, browsers and devices.
Driving positive change through performance improvement plans
Performance Improvement Plans are one of the most challenging processes to navigate. Everyone understands the importance, but no one is excited about the prospect. They usually happen too late and are rushed. The aim should be to set the employee up for success.
Stage 1: Before
- Give initial feedback.
- Try to avoid the PIP, but equally don’t wait for multiple occurrences of the behaviour.
- Actively work towards the employee’s development.
Stage 2: Initiation
- Ensure they understand the full meaning.
- Be clear about the good and bad outcomes.
- Choose measurable outcomes to decide the result of the PIP.
Stage 3: Duration
- Celebrate improvements.
- Don’t let them think things are going well went they aren’t.
- Give feedback
- Don’t be too nice
- Keep a written record.
Stage 4: Wrap Up
If it didn’t work out…
- Have a final review of unsatisfied criteria.
- Clarify next steps
It went well…
- Celebrate success.
- Follow up to ensure are continuing to go well.
Exit plans and how to talk about them
The average tenure of someone is three years, but we assume people will stay forever.
Having conversations about exit plans allows people to move ahead with confidence. It is okay to talk about exit plans! Talking about will help you avoid surprises.
Managers are better than most people at leaving because it happens to them so often.
What if people think those who aren’t sufficiently committed will be punished? Make it clear that people have options in the company, and support people who decide to leave.
Avoid getting to the point where you have to make a last-minute save, as they rarely work for long.
It is much cheaper and easier to engage with and retain current staff than to hire.
You need a strong foundation of trust to have these conversations.
Orchestrating thousands of bots from the cloud
As I work for Ocado I can’t really comment on this talk. It’s worth watching if you want to see some of our snazzy technology though!
The awful agony of the app store: When software delivery goes wrong
As with last year, the conference was closed by a talk from Clare Sudbery. While I enjoyed that talk, I didn’t connect with this one and didn’t understand the point of it. It was about her attempts to build a mobile game, and the nonsensical rules and interactions with Apple’s App Store. The only interesting idea I took away was the concept of a walking skeleton - a Hello World app that you can deploy, and then iterate on.