Take aways from LeadDev Berlin '23

Nicky Thompson on stage with a slide that says "Our emotions and cognitive bias affect our decisions"

I really enjoyed attending and speaking at LeadDev Berlin in 2023.

Here are just a few of the things that I took away from the conference.

When to make quick decisions

I learned the most from Nicky Thompson’s excellent talk, “Making work (and life) less stressful by making better decisions”. This was jam packed with information to help us understand how our brains work (both for and against us) when it comes to decision making and useful advice and models to help us make better decisions.

One of the many useful things that she shared was the HOT method for thinking about whether it making a quick decision makes sense.

  1. How Happy would you be with the decision in a year?
  2. Would you be Okay if this was the only option?
  3. Is it a Two-way door? (Can you reverse the decision?)

Video [PAYWALLED] / Slides and transcript

Lowering the bar on Managing incidents

Martha Lambert’s brilliant talk, “We should all be declaring more incidents”, really challenged my thinking.

She made an compelling case for the value of lowering the bar on incidents and having many more of them. We get good at things we do often and so having more incidents means that we get better at dealing with them. Also, this helps us respond more quickly and communicate better with users and stake holders and so builds trust and empathy.

As someone who has prided themselves on making incidents a rarity in my teams this was uncomfortable. But I am also aware that I have been encouraging my teams to lean into “never being wrong for long”, over “releasing zero bugs in production”, for years, which lines up with having more incidents. This makes me want to experiment with lowering the bar on incidents in future.

Video and slides [PAYWALLED]

Challenging my people pleasing behaviours

Nikita Rathi on stage with a slide with 5 different emojis

Nikita Rathi’s talk, “Pleasing everyone, except yourself: Overcoming people-pleasing tendencies to become a stronger engineering leader”, was really affecting.

It was delivered with grace, vulnerability and empathy and made me think about the problems that my own “people pleasing” traits create for me and how I judgemental I can be about these behaviours in myself.

I can’t do justice to the power of this talk in words and so encourage you to simply watch her amazing talk.

Video and slides

Building a culture of learning

My favourite quote of the conference came from Sorrel Harriet in her talk, “Learning is a core capability of software teams; here’s how to measure it”.

We need to care less about progressing individuals along predictable pathways, and more about creating an environment and culture in which people will learn continuously and autonomously.

Video and slides [PAYWALLED]

Hywel Carver on stage with a slide outlining SCALE

I also enjoyed Hywel Carver’s talk, “How to completely fail at learning”. His advice to “SCALE” learning looks spot on:

  • Solve problems
  • Continuous learning
  • Assess what’s needed
  • Limit scope
  • Engage with humans

And I can’t help but notice that coaching fits very well with this in terms of supporting learning.

Video and slides [PAYWALLED]

Other topics

There were too many other great talks to mention them all. But two particularly thought provoking ones that stood out were Amy Roberts-Hoad’s talk, “Go with the flow: Embracing and supporting menstrual needs in tech”, and Birgitta Boeckeler’s talk, “AI for software development: A reality check”.

All in all it was a privilege to be there. Thanks to all the staff, speakers, attendees and everyone who I met and made me feel so welcome.

I’ve really enjoyed getting back to going to conferences and 2023 has been a good year with Brighton Ruby, CTO Craft Con in May and November, and LeadDev Berlin. I am looking forward to 2024 with CTO Craft Con in May and LeadDev and LeadingEng in London in the summer.

This is part of a series of articles about Engineering Leadership. I offer coaching and mentoring to engineering leaders if you are interested in further developing your leadership skills.