Track: Non-Technical Skills for Technical Folks

Location: Soho Complex, 7th fl.

Day of week:

Technical skills are what gets most of us into the industry. However, when we look at the most effective engineers we know, we realize that in addition to great technical expertise, most possess and develop a multitude of other skills - the ability to work on a team, ability to influence, gain trust, communicate.  Those skills can be even more important than the technical skills that we pride ourselves on.   

In this track, we will hear from a number of engineers and engineering leaders who have developed their non-technical skills and have become more effective.

Track Host: Jean Barmash

VP Engineering @KomodoHealth

Jean Barmash is VP of Engineering at Komodo Health, where he is working to reduce the global burden of disease using Big Data and Machine Learning technologies.  Prior to that, he was Director of Engineering at Compass, and VP of Engineering, Apps Platform & Marketplaces at Tradeshift. Jean has over 19 years of experience in software industry, and has been part of 6 startups, three as CTO / VPE and one of which he co-founded. Prior to his entrepreneurial adventures, Jean held a number of progressively senior roles in product development, integration consulting, and team leadership, working with Fortune 100 companies like Ford, Microsoft, BofA, Citi, IHG, and Adobe. 

Jean is passionate about raising the level of technical leadership in the industry, and for the last six years has been organizing CTO School New York meetup, an organization he co-founded and grew to over 2,500 members. Jean lives in NY with his awesome and supportive wife and two hilariously-funny kids.

10:35am - 11:25am

Thinking Methods - Systems Thinking at Work and Play

Complexity creates fun in the games we play and bugs in the code we squash. Thinking in systems focuses on understanding the context of this complexity through the patterns and structures around us; a perfect complement to Agile's small iterable steps.  

Software features and bugs do not exist in a vacuum. Thinking in systems enables us to ask better questions and spot weaknesses. We will take an introductory look at identifying and understanding systems in our companies, projects, and software. The goal is to expand our view of the entire structure and relationships to better understand behaviors and limits.

Wil Wade, Senior Technical Lead @carbonfive

11:50am - 12:40pm

Empathy: A Keystone Habit

Do you struggle to build trust, influence others, give effective feedback, and enable collaboration? This session will explore how empathy – the ability to understand others' needs and ensure that they know that you understand them – is what Charles Duhigg calls a "keystone habit", a behavior change that unlocks other cascading behavior changes. Along the way, we will try demystify what empathy is and give you simple tools to enhance your practice of empathy.

And we'll talk about otters.

Paul Tevis, Coach & Facilitator at Vigemus

1:40pm - 2:30pm

Non-Technical Skills Open Space

Presentation details to follow.

2:55pm - 3:45pm

Getting Real About Managing Up

Good boss, bad boss, manager, director, VP, CTO, CEO, boardmember, it doesn't matter, there are days they're going to need help aspiring to competence. In technology we're ambivalent about bosses. We promote the most competent engineer and wonder why they aren't great at management. Meanwhile, our expectations of work as fulfilling and rewarding environment are extremely high. This talk is about what to do when "put your head down and do your work" isn't getting the results you want.

Kellan Elliott-McCrea, Coaching Executive Leadership in Technology Startups for High impact., Previously CTO @Etsy

4:10pm - 5:00pm

Effective Communication - Get Buy-in Faster by Asking Better Questions

Research reveals that one of the most valuable (but least known) skills you need to communicate well and influence is question agility: how to use the right question at the right moment. In this interactive talk, you'll deepen your communication skills so that you can more quickly resolve problems, earn influence, and motivate people.

Roi Ben-Yehuda, Facilitator @LifeLabsNewYork

5:25pm - 6:15pm

Sink or Swim - Effective Collaboration between Eng & Product

Cross-functional teams are the norm in modern software development organizations. The prototypical leadership team consists of Engineering Lead, Product Manager, and (often) Design Lead. Being able to be an effective partner when working with Product Managers and Designers is a key skill for sr. engineers and engineering leaders. In this talk, we will explain the nature of the relationship, key principles of effective collaboration, the roles and responsibilities of each.  

We will then go over some examples of conflict between the roles (and us!), and go over a few actual situations of tendons we experienced, and how we ultimately became an effective partnership.

Jean Barmash, VP Engineering @KomodoHealth
Khadija Ali, Director of Product Management / Consumer Experience at Better Mortgage


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