Bits and Behavior
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Bits and Behavior

Managing software teams in academia and industry

Good teamwork is about good communication.

What is teamwork?

Interviews are still an art.


  • Teams have to have the right expertise for the work, but the necessary expertise changes as projects evolve, requiring learning.
  • Because no one individual has all of the necessary expertise, individuals have to communicate with each other to make decisions, exchange knowledge, and ensure whatever is being created is coherent. This means they have to be willing and capable of effectively communicating with each other.
  • Individuals have to be sufficiently motivated to do both of the above, and if they’re not, work won’t happen.
  • Know what expertise the team requires and make sure the group has it. That means monitoring what expertise is missing and having good ways of evaluating expertise. (I wish I had some recommendations, but we don’t really have good assessments for most knowledge in computing, in academia or industry).
  • Understand what motivates the individuals in your team, or the individual you might hire. Is a student in the class because it’s required? Why is that undergraduate interested in contributing to your research? Is the developer you’re interviewing interested in the salary, the product, or both? Knowing why an individual is motivated is key to keeping them motivated. Just ask them.
  • Can the team have not only a functional conversation, but even an enjoyable one? If you’re bringing a new person onto a team, are they going to make those already enjoyable conversations frustrating and slow? If you’re team can’t have a conversation, or specific pairs of individuals in your team can’t have a conversation, your team is screwed.



Great managers are great mentors too.


  1. A resource
  2. A motivator
  3. A mentor

Common Questions

What I do

Reflect on your practice

  • Why aren’t they in the lab? I haven’t made it clear when I’m around.
  • Why haven’t I made it clear? It’s clear on my calendar, but I forget it’s not clear on their calendar.
  • Why isn’t it on their calendar? I never invited them and I only briefly mentioned once at the beginning of the quarter when I’d be available.
  • Why didn’t I send an invite? That’s a good idea, I really should!

Loving teamwork



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Amy J. Ko

Professor of programming + learning + design + justice at the University of Washington Information School. Trans; she/her. #BlackLivesMatter.