In this article, I’ll go over the talks delivered on Day 2 of the Lead Developer Conference. Again, this was a fantastic conference that you should think about attending in the future, especially if you’re leading technical teams.
Kevin Goldsmith — Fail Safe, Fail Smart, Succeed
Kevin Goldsmith started day two by speaking about how to fail as a team and how we can create environments to learn from failure. There were a number of good points, but the one that hit me the most was that you shouldn’t punish failure, you should punish not learning from failure.
Another thing Kevin made clear was to catalogue the lessons and create a shared repository of the lessons learned. We’ve started doing this at G Adventures in the form of a postmortem repository. It’s only been a couple of months but there’s already a wealth of information.
Birgitta Boeckeler — We’re Agile, We Don’t Do Documentation
Birgitta laid out a number of points on why you should document the code even if the Agile Manifest says “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. A lot of times people take this to mean don’t create any documentation but what it really means is create enough documentation to provide value.
The four reasons to create documentation are:
- Create a common understanding
- Create empathy
- Help our future selves make better decisions
- Creative problem solving
She also includes a couple of action items on how to keep your documentation up to date.
Mathias Meyer — Building and Scaling a Distributed and Inclusive Team
Mathias talked about how he’s built Travis CI to be a remote first organization and how this helps create a more diverse team, if only by having people from different cultures and backgrounds. He spoke on the challenge of asynchronous communication, using Github for on boarding and general visibility as well as their company culture.
Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which is adequately explained by a missing perspective — Travis CI Team
Sabrina Leandro — Big Rewrite Strikes Again
As someone who’s been in the process of rewriting an application for the past seven — yes seven — years this talk stood out for me. For me, the takeaways were to make sure there’s a clear business case for the rewrite, find allies outside of your team to help sell the idea, make your plans visible and have a clear vision for the future.
Another valuable point is to celebrate success and celebrate it often. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day activities and celebrating is often pushed off to large milestones. By celebrating success often you start to turn this into a habit.
Patrik Karisch — Continuous A11y — Automate the Hell Out of It
I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about accessibility on the web so this talk was very interesting to me. Patrik mentioned a couple of resources to help you make your applications more accessible, WCAG 2.0 and U.S. Section 508 legislation. He also showcased a tool for automating accessibility testing called The A11y Machine.
Carly Robinson — Mentoring Junior Engineers at Slack
Carly spoke about her experiences with how Slack mentors Jr Developers. It was easily one of the best talks of the conference. There was a lot of actionable pieces of information throughout the talk and I left wanting to define and improve what mentoring at G looks like.
A few things that stood out for me were:
- Junior Developers often feel like an imposter well before they start a job.
- Set up recurring weekly meetings with measurable goals
- Be aware of your tone in Code Reviews and communicate the expected coding and documentation standards.
- Mentorship is a relationship and requires buy-in from both sides.
Randall Koutnik — Implementers, Solvers, and Finders: Rethinking the Developer Career Path
Randall spoke about how the developer career path needs to change how we define our levels to allow developers a way forward once they hit the “Senior” level. He argued that we should have Solution Implementers, Problem Solvers and Problem Finders and that each of these requires a different set of skills. He also wore an amazing Viking helmet!
Crystal Huff — Tech Hiring: Sometimes (Often) Failing Us All
Crystal spoke about how our hiring process is broken. She started by taking a selfie, then stated that a first impression is made in the first 7–30 seconds of an interaction. She continued with a number of anecdotal and data backed stories on her hiring experiences. All in all, it was a great talk about how we can hire better while being cognizant of our unconscious biases.
Jill Wetzler — The Inclusive Leader: Tips for Developing Diverse Teams
Jill had an amazing talk on how we can create diverse teams and a number of tips on doing it better. I can’t summarize this talk and do it justice so I strongly suggest watching it .
Tom Booth — Centralising the Right Things
Tom spoke about his experience at uSwitch moving from a centralized team to a decentralized (distributed) and back again and all of the challenges teams encounter at each step.
Build a central team to empower and support others
This idea of having a central team that supports the other
Lara Hogan — Demystifying Public Speaking
This was one of the talks I was most excited for. I’ve been following Lara for a while now. Her post on the questions she uses for 1:1’s has shaped the way I approach 1:1’s. She even has a public list of all of the doughnuts she’s had for successes in her life!
This talk was also interesting to me as I’ve been looking to improve my public speaking (and writing); it definitely didn’t disappoint. She spoke on setting our expectations. What do we hope our audience takes away and what does the structure look like. While the talk was definitely focused on giving talks at conferences, a lot of the tips could be used for daily standups, 1:1’s, and smaller speaking events.
That wraps up my overview of the Lead Developer Conference UK 2017. It was a fantastic conference and I strongly suggest attending if you’re able to do so. If you’re interested in viewing any of the talks you can do so here.