Lessons from Strangers: engineering code for human happiness

It’s a crackly one, but Rachel Sanders’ Pycon UK 14 keynote is well worth your attention:

My notes:

  1. Engineers build large, scalable, fault tolerant systems. Managers build large, scalable, fault-tolerant systems of people.
  2. What makes you happy at work? 75% of the time, a good day means making meaningful progress on work. That’s what makes us happy in our jobs more than anything else.
  3. Obvious not obvious. On multiple choice test, 90% of managers did not choose ‘meaningful progress on work’ as the most important contributor to happiness at work. They chose praise, recognition, and being part of a team instead. (Yes, they really are Michael Scott.)
  4. So, engineers! You build systems that people use to do their work. Are you designing with user performance and progress in mind?
  5. Engineers develop code and ship it. The user of their module is not their problem. Engineers are expected to write fast code, but not code that enables fast users.
  6. Engineers should think PEOPLE. Your code is part of a human system. People must be able to look at your work and see what this is and what it can do, even without documentation.
  7. Design is not magic, it’s a process. Ask people what they think of your API, listen and watch them try to use it. Make it better.
  8. Where’s the best practice? There’s a lot of books, blogs, discussion around system performance in engineering. But not a lot around engineering for human performance, a key factor in personal progress and satisfaction of your users — and the contribution your work makes to the business and the world.

I enjoyed the exploration of coding for human happiness in this talk. Something I’ve never thought about before, but have started to think about a lot now.

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