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[Alpha] Humans Are Hard

[Alpha] Humans Are Hard

Presented as an "Alpha" talk at Hong Kong Code Conf 2018

When I started coding, everything was easy.
I went to our scrum board,
I took a card,
It had acceptance criteria,
maybe I had to ask a few questions,
but more or less I was left to code in peace.

Everything was simple.

I could be the 10x engineer everyone talks about.

By why was it so simple?
Why have I never been so productive
(and so messy)
in my professional career ever since?

The answer is People.

As a young developer all the humans were abstracted away,
into user stories, and libraries,
I didn't have to think about them.

As I grew as a developer, and as a person,
I took on roles which more and more involved humans.

And, as it turns out, Humans are Hard!
Like, really hard!

In this talk I'm going to talk you about my journey from shy lone-wolf to (somewhat more) outgoing team player
and try to share some tips on how to better understand other people and work with them to build better software.


Matthew Rudy Jacobs

November 24, 2018


  1. Hong Kong Code Conf

  2. None
  3. Why the gap?

  4. #1 rule of running a conference

  5. Don't give a talk!!!

  6. None
  7. But I did it anyway

  8. Humans are Hard

  9. Humans are Hard Alpha

  10. Matthew Rudy Jacobs

  11. I work for the British Government

  12. Co-Organised this since 2014

  13. I'm a Developer

  14. I'm a "Technical Architect"

  15. I'm a Developer who mostly talks to people, draws pictures,

    and writes stuff
  16. I'm good at code

  17. I'm not good at people

  18. Or I wasn't

  19. As a Junior Developer everything was easy

  20. I'd get a story

  21. I'd code it

  22. Done!!!

  23. It was awesome

  24. As I grew things got harder

  25. I worked on bigger teams

  26. I led bigger teams

  27. I had to review other people's code

  28. Other people had to review my code

  29. I had to reject other people's code

  30. I got more involved in Product

  31. But

  32. Things moved much slower

  33. Meetings got in the way

  34. Politics got in the way

  35. Humans got in the way

  36. I used to be a 10x engineer

  37. In the past 6 months I've not written any code

  38. In the past 6 months no-one has written any code

  39. Why was it so easy before?

  40. Because I didn't have to deal with people

  41. I didn't have to speak to our Users

  42. I didn't have to explain my code to colleagues

  43. I didn't worry about other people maintaining my code

  44. The Humans were "abstracted"

  45. Software is Simple

  46. Most of us aren't making Facebook

  47. Most of us aren't making Google

  48. Most of us aren't flying to the moon

  49. Big systems are broken down into simple pieces

  50. Software can be solved

  51. But Humans?

  52. Humans are Hard

  53. Like, really hard!

  54. There is no formula to solve people

  55. We Are Humans

  56. We Build Software for Humans

  57. We Build Software with Humans

  58. We need to do better

  59. How I learned to be better at Humans

  60. Take the time to understand Technique 1:

  61. I didn't understand them

  62. They didn't understand me

  63. We all have different backgrounds and perspectives

  64. We are all trying to do a good job

  65. Assume the best

  66. Put yourself in their shoes

  67. Time spent understanding others Saves us time elsewhere

  68. Don't apologise for being shy Technique 2:

  69. I am shy

  70. I am awkward with people

  71. Or at least I thought I was

  72. "I don't know how to talk to people"

  73. "I don't understand people"

  74. "who said that?" My colleague:

  75. I stopped assuming I was awkward

  76. It turns out I'm not that awkward

  77. We're all awkward or rather:

  78. Practice Technique 3:

  79. Talk to people

  80. Find out what makes them tick

  81. People can be fun

  82. Time to Practice!!!

  83. Thanks