Kevin Goldsmith – Fail Fast, Fail Smart, Succeed started day two with the recommendation that we shouldn’t punish failure but we should make sure that we learn from our mistakes. Nothing can be more harmful than a culture that prevents talking about failure. Instead, when we learn to talk about our mistakes, others and ourselves will be able to get better much faster. I liked Kevin’s recommendation about creating a shared repository for the team to collect learnings they have made along the way.
Mathias Meyer – Building and Scaling a Distributed and Inclusive Team gave some valuable insights into his experience at Travis CI. Having the team distributed across continents creates challenges such as when cultural mentalities differ, i.e. some would expect more direct communication while others are used to talk less directly about issues (remember ask vs. guess cultures from part 1?).
I liked the idea of setting up a lot of decision making processes asynchronously via github pull requests, so that team members can contribute at their individual pace. Also, Travis is using special incident response channels for teams on Slack where they collaborate on important tasks in a timely manner.
Randall Koutnik – Implementers, Solvers, and Finders: Rethinking the Developer Career Path encouraged the audience to think beyond the classical categories of Junior, Regular and Senior developers. At a first stage, an implementer would give a solution specification and make it happen.
To level up, developers would become solvers that come up with their own solutions to given problems and in the latest stage, they would find their own problems. Think about providing context like a problem space or a given product and you delegate more responsibility to that person so she will need to find possible problems herself.
Carly Robinson – Mentoring Junior Engineers @ Slack HQ shared her personal career path and how she was mentored as a junior. Small startups often struggle with the task of providing the necessary mentorship for their juniors, so it was great to see such a success story. Carly mentioned that for her mentorship is a relationship and you need to establish a good foundation upfront between the mentor and the mentee. Setting goals, tracking progress and acknowledging success are important tools for successful mentorship.
Similarly, being aware of your own emotions is important when reviewing another person’s work. Your initial reaction might be “This is dumb, I know how to fix this.” Instead, by being able to step back when having that reaction and reframing it into something like “Why did that person do that thing?” may allow you to reflect and discover the underlying issues and help come to a solution more collaboratively.
Overall, I got back from the Lead Developer conference with a lot of inspiration. It’s great to see that so many successful leaders talk about the same topics and mention that it’s worthwhile focusing on problems I face and try to tackle them everyday. For me, growing leadership skills is a continuous effort that takes a lot of self reflection and discipline. It might be easy to agree that points like “giving positive feedback” is the right thing to do, but implementing it into one self’s daily practice takes effort and practice.
Slides of all talks mentioned above and more can be found on the conference website. I’d like to thank the whole organizing team for setting-up an incredible line-up and making sure the code of conduct doesn’t feel like something added as a afterthought, but ensuring diversity & inclusion was something that was really to the core of the Lead Developer conference. Next year’s events will happen in Austin, New York and London.