Episode Description:

Developer Productivity Engineering is becoming more and more a mainstream idea. But what does it mean and how does it apply to me? Today we talk with an engineering wizard, Max Kanat-Alexander about how his company, LinkedIn, thinks about developer productivity. Using his team as framing we will investigate methodologies and approaches he and his team use that enables happier and more productive engineers.

Max has held numerous roles throughout his career including Chief Architect for the open-source Bugzilla project and Tech Lead for Code Health at Google. Currently he is a Principal Staff Software Engineer at LinkedIn and is the founding technical lead for the Knowledge Systems team inside of the Productivity & Happiness org. He is also the author of two books, Code Simplicity which is now available for free online, and Understanding Software.

When our guest is not finding ways to help engineers be more productive, he is spending time with his two-year-old son and making music.

Our guest is an absolute delight, is a fountain of endless knowledge, is always so enthusiastic about helping others and I hope you enjoy our conversation about developer productivity with him today.

Connect with Max

Episode sponsored by:

  • Get Space: Install Get Space’s real-time survey iteration tool now with code buildwithpeople and get 20% off your first year

Show Notes and useful resources:

  • Three pillars of focus for Max’s team:
    • Metrics - collecting data on developer systems, the success of developer tools and how people are using them
    • Feedback - collecting information about dev processes, infrastructure and dev tools which they capture via a quarterly survey and a real-time feedback system
    • Knowledge - Documentation, training and search systems for internal knowledge
  • DPE Summit 2023 Talk
  • Definition of developer productivity at LinkedIn - A developer can effectively and efficiently accomplish their intentions regarding the systems they are attempting to build and they are happy with the systems, tools, processes, and facilities that are involved in software development
  • Max designed a metric called “Code Reviewer Response Time” - He will be releasing open source notes soon with more info
  • You need to show metrics to the people who can take action on them and you need to show them metrics that they want to take action on
  • Two lessons learned:
    • Always start with the goals of the business or goals of team
    • If a team cannot tell you or cannot tell you what their metrics should be its because they do not know what their goals are
  • Any survey is better than no survey and free text feedback is very valuable
  • LinkedIn uses both a quarterly survey and a real-time feedback system
  • Using their real-time feedback system they found that satisfaction rating is .5% higher than quarterly surveys
  • Two questions he would ask when starting a survey are:
    • Using a 0-5 scale: “I regularly reach a high level of productivity”
    • Free text feedback: “What are some aspects of development that have frustrated you in the last three months?”
  • High quality up-to-date documentation is the highest productivity driver
  • 2023 DORA report

Building something cool or solving interesting problems? Want to be on this show? Send me an email at jointhepodcast@unfilteredbuild.com

Podcast produced by Unfiltered Build - dream.design.develop.