Effective Communication for Engineers

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Your communication skills affect your career prospects, the value you bring to your company, and the likelihood of your promotion. This session helps you communicate better in a variety of professional situations, including meetings, email messages, pitches, and presentations.

36 min
09 Mar, 2023

Video Summary and Transcription

Today's Talk covers the four building blocks of communication: people, message, context, and effective listening. It emphasizes the importance of considering the perspective of others and tailoring messages to the recipient. The Talk discusses different types and channels of communication, and the need to align them with the intended message. It also highlights the significance of soft skills in communication and provides techniques for effective communication and assessing soft skills in tech interviews. Cross-cultural communication and the impact of bluntness are explored as well.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Communication Building Blocks

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Today, we're going to talk about the four building blocks of communication: people, message, context, and effective listening. These elements are present in everyday communication interactions, whether it's a presentation or a small talk. Strong communication is crucial for business success, a healthy life, and career advancement. Consider these building blocks when communicating and be mindful of your choices.

Hello, everyone. And I am so glad to be here with you all at TechLeague Conf 2023. Today, we're going to talk about everything communications. I always wanted to learn about communication way earlier in my career. I wish it was something that taught to me when I was in college or even high school.

When I entered Workforce, I realized learning about communications has tremendous impact on how I show up every day to work. Even legendary businessman Warren Buffett always told group of his MBA students that communication was the one skill he wished he had learned when he was in college. Today, we're going to talk about the four building blocks of communication that we all need to know when dealing with people every day at work or even in our life. We will talk about people, the message, the context, and effective listening.

These four elements are present in everyday communication interaction we have, whether it's a presentation we are having, or a small talk in the hallway, somewhere at work, or in the office. Well, research shows that strong communication is the cornerstone for thriving business, a healthy life, and even your career success. So don't leave all of that to chance. Before communicating, consider each of these four building blocks. As you walk to your next meeting, think about who will be there, what do I need to know about the people who are in this meeting, what kind of listener do I want to be? Before you hit send on your next email, ask yourself, how's the timing of this email? Is this email appropriate? Should I pop in for a quick chat instead? You are making communication choices all the time. So let's be mindful of those choices.

2. Building Blocks of Communication: People

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When communicating with others, it's crucial to consider their perspective and the impact of your message. The think, feel, and do model can help guide your communication. For example, when dividing work with a colleague, avoid sounding bossy or overbearing. Instead, focus on making them feel respected and treated fairly. Encourage them to start the project and emphasize their role as a valuable team player. By using this model, you can ensure your message is effective and considerate.

Let's talk about the first building block. The people, whether you are a sender or receiver of a message, it's important to think about others' perspective. People have their own perceptions. Think about the actual impact and also what perception the person you're talking to have about this message.

We will talk about something called the think, feel and do model when dealing with people. So let's dig into it. Let's look at an example. I have a friend at work, or my colleague, and we have to do some project together. So we want to divide up the work. So I'll send her an email saying, Hey, you edited all chapters, and I will edit the even ones. And I'll finish by end of next week. That's simple, right? Well, what could possibly go wrong? It's a great sentence.

Well, if you don't manage your colleague perception, the whole project and even your relationship could blow up. If your colleague takes this message as very strong, and if she thinks or he thinks you're actually telling her or him what to do, that person may get offended. Or even they have not given any choice to pick the chapters that they want to edit and you are actually telling them what to do. Who am I to tell which chapters she or he has to edit? This message might sound very bossy or even overbearing depends on your relationship and your colleague perception. Although my intent has been helpful, but what is the actual impact of this message going to be?

When deciding on what and how to communicate with another person, we can consider the think, feel and do model. For the example that we had, let's think about the think, feel and do model. We will ask ourselves three main questions. With this message that we are sending to our colleague, what do we want our colleague to think? We want our colleague to think it's time to start the project. Let's start editing. We want them to think that they are considered to be a great team player and they're helping and they're creating impact and they're actually part of this project. What do we want them to feel? It is important because people not only think, but most importantly, they feel things. We want our colleagues to feel respected and also treated fairly. And what do we want our colleague to do? Well, we want our colleague to get started. If you are in a leadership role at your job or you are doing a tech leading at your job, there's a lot of times that you have to assign things to people. And this is a great model to ask yourself these three questions to make sure the message that you're sending is not overbearing. Now, let's think about the example that we had and try to rephrase it a little bit with the think, feel and do model. So instead of, hey, you edit the odd chapters, I'll do the even ones, let's finish by end of the week, it will change it to something softer. Like to get the ball rolling, I suggest you edit the odd chapters and I'll do the even ones.

3. Building Team Participation

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When communicating, suggest rather than dictate. Open the door for suggestions and encourage team building. Mental filters affect how we interpret messages, so consider the think, feel, and do model. Understand the other person's perspective and leverage it to be a great communicator.

But if you have something else in mind, please let me know right away. With this message, first of all, you are suggesting you are not actually telling your colleague what to do, but you're suggesting a way of participation. And also you're opening the door for her or his suggestions on how she or he wants to approach the project. And you're actually saying to get the ball rolling. So let's just start the project. You're actually starting from the common ground. We are together on this project. We want to start this together and to start this, I'll suggest this. This message is way softer. It actually encourages team building, team players, and actually makes your colleague feel way better because you're actually opening the door for more suggestions.

Communications can get very tricky because all people have mental filters, certain levels of knowledge, personal concerns, preconceived notion that affect the way we interpret messages. Those mental filters decide and dictate how we decode and understand a message. The example that we had may feel very simple, but a lot of communication and misunderstanding I saw in our offices and at work were all around these simple messages and it's all around the mental filters. So always consider the think, feel, and do model and know what the relationship is with your colleagues when you start to communicate and send messages to them. As an exercise for this part, which is the first building block, let's think about the conversation you have coming up soon. What assumptions your conversational partner have about your topic? What do you want the other person to think, to feel, and to do? Let your answers inform the words, the tone, and the body language you used during this conversation. So in a nutshell, if you want to be great communicator, begin with the people building block. Do the best to understand the message from the other's perspective. And leverage the think, feel, and do model.

4. Building Blocks of Communication: Message

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The message in a conversation is more than just the words we speak or write. It's the nonverbal signals we deliver, it's the tone of our voice, it's the body language. Use the right channel for the message you are sending. Consider synchronous channels for real-time interactions and asynchronous channels for sharing complex information.

Now we reach to the second building block, the message. What gets transmitted between a sender and the receiver, and hopefully with a positive intent, is the message. The message in a conversation is more than just the words we speak or write. It's the nonverbal signals we deliver, it's the tone of our voice, it's the body language. If you give your best effort in a presentation and I approach you saying, good job.. That's not going to be the tone that you want. That's going to be unenthusiastic delivery.

As a sender, when you contemplate your message, keep in mind not only how your word or you write something, but also the channel you're using to send those messages to. So let's talk about the channel. The channel may be a text on our email or a phone call or a face to face conversations, a memo or in an interoffice chat or a voice message. But it's super important to use the right channel for the message that you are sending. And we see that a lot of times at work that we most of the time use the wrong channels for our messages. If you know I have to get my boss' attention, I may send a quick text and ask if it's appropriate to call her for a conversation, because the amount of emails she receives daily, it's a lot. So if you want to make a swift decision, the channel it would be more productive for us to use something face to face.

Now let's just speak of email I was frightened but not surprised to see how many email threads we receive on a daily basis. And there is Rikard's group findings in 2015, which was a research affirm publish a report stating that the number of emails sent and received around the world top 205 billion per day. I know I'm not alone who's sending and receiving a lot of emails every day at work. And this number is keep increasing 3% per year. So we should know when are we going to use email as an appropriate channel and then not whatever channel you're utilizing. You may also need to consider the message organizational pattern. So let's talk about that. So we do have two type of different channels. One's are the ones that synchronous synchronous channels are the ones that informations are sharing in real time. Think of some examples right now in your mind and there are channels that are asynchronous asynchronous channels are the ones that informations are sharing in different times. You don't have to be present. When we talk about synchronous channels, we use these channels when we want to build rapid when you need to provide critical feedback, when you want to brainstorm on an idea, when you want to get everyone in the same room and actually get some result out of that communication. When a crisis happened, when there is a production issue and we need to come to the conclusion. On the other hand, asynchronous channels are the ones that you don't need actual in-time in-real-time feedback out of that conversation. They are very useful for when you are actually sharing some complex information. Let's say you have a technical document and you want people to have some time to review your document before they come with the feedback.

5. Types and Channels of Communication

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When it comes to communication, there are two types: synchronous and asynchronous. Lean channels, such as documents and emails, are ideal for sharing complex information that requires time for digestion. Rich channels, like video conferencing and meetings, are great for building trust and sharing critical information. However, there are often mismatches between the purpose of communication and the chosen channel, leading to frustration. It's important to consider the message and the tool used for communication. For example, Slack is a synchronous lean media that works well for quick questions, while meetings and voice calls are synchronous rich media that foster interactions and trust-building.

Or you have to explain some complex concept to someone. Or you want to communicate a message and you don't need real-time feedback or real-time response. So synchronous and asynchronous.

We also have channels that are lean or rich. And for lean channels are things like documents, emails, some forms of chat. Lean channels are really great when sharing complex information. When you have to share a very long technical design, or you're actually changing something. You're changing a memo or team building activity, anything that people need to digest and take some time to read through it. And also, you don't need any other cues out of this communication. You don't need to see people's body language or emotional cues on contacts. So they're really great for sharing that complex information.

Rich channels are video conferencing, meetings and voice. When you are in real time talking to people. And those are really great trust building channels. So if you're in a communication that you want to build trust with people, that you're sharing something critical, and you want to see how people are going to react to what you're sharing, use rich channels. Well, a lot of times when we talk about channels, I've been in meetings asking myself, oh my God, can this meeting be just a text or something on a Slack or even an email correspondence? Why are we meeting? Or I've been in an email chain where a group of people are just having this long thread of chat talking about something very complex, and I'm like, can we just schedule some time to talk about what we are going to decide? Because this is going nowhere. So we all have been in those mismatched situations between the message and the channel. So these are the examples where the purpose of our communication and the tool that we are using to communicate make people incredibly frustrating.

Here's an example of an exercise that you can go through and kind of organize these different examples of communication into synchronous reach, synchronous lean and asynchronous reach and asynchronous lean. I will go through some of the examples here. When we talk about Slack, Slack is a synchronous lean media. When we have a quick question to answer of our colleagues, we just send us like messages if using a Slack, Microsoft Teams or any sort of messaging platforms. That's actually a synchronously media. They work best when you want an answer to a simple question. There is not much complex things going on. So that would be a great way of sending your message through. We also have synchronous rich media, which is meetings or even voice calls. Those are great for interactions, team building activities. We talked about trust-building. Rich media are really good for trust-building.

6. Communication Channels and Tools

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Use synchronous rich media, like meetings, for building trust, increasing team cohesion, and resolving crises quickly. Asynchronous lean media, such as Slack and email, are suitable for sharing technical documents. Avoid using asynchronous rich media. Assess your team's communication tools and ensure they align with the intended message.

So anything you want to do with your team, you want to build trust, you want to increase team cohesion, these type of channels are great. Also, they're great for context sharing. They're great for increasing psychological safety within the team. And in case of crisis, if you need an instant feedback, an instant answer, it's really good to just get people together and come to a resolution. So use a synchronous rich media-like meetings.

When we come to asynchronous, usually, asynchronous lean are Slack and email. Again, where you are not interacting directly with someone. Let's say you are just sharing a technical document, an RFC, and have people read it and then come back to you with it. So that could be asynchronous lean media. And asynchronous rich media are not very effective. There are not many examples out there, so that's a block you don't want to use. You actually want to lean on these three other blocks when you're communicating.

This slide is the answers to the exercise that we had. You can go through it yourself, and if you had any questions, feel free to ping me anywhere and reach out to me. As for the message, the second exercise that you can go through yourself is look into the ways and the tools that your team is using to communicate. Which ones are using the right tool and which ones are actually not using the right tool? Are all the tools you're using are purpose for the right message? And you can actually use the diagram to actually organize what channels your team are using and if they are actually falling into the right intention for the message.

7. Types of Messages and Tailoring

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When sending messages, it's important to consider the receiver's understanding. Tailor the message to be simple and concise, depending on the recipient's role. Focus on three main points to effectively communicate and inform or persuade.

So we talked about the channels, we talked about the message. Let's dig more into the message now because there are different types of messages that we actually send to people and when we talk about work we usually send two different types of messages. We send messages either to inform people or to persuade people. So when we are sending messages to inform people, we focus on the need of our receivers to understand what we are sending to. So we want to make sure our message is simple and concise and it's tailored for the receiver. Let's say if you are having a technical design. It's really important how you are tailoring this message based on who you are talking to. Let's say if you are talking to a product manager on your team. Your message needs to be very simple and very high level. If you are talking very technically, the product manager may not understand your message very well. Versus if you are talking to a tech lead of another team, your message needs to be way more technical. So the information you are sending, if it's in an informed way, make sure it's simple and concise. Usually three points are the ones that we are following through. So what are the three main things you want to communicate and inform? What are the three main things you want your receiver to learn about what you are communicating? Be either informing or you are persuading.

8. Persuasion and Communication Building Blocks

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When persuading others, it's important to craft a simple and concise argument tailored to the specific situation. Frameworks such as problem and solution, reason, example, point summarize, and what, so what, and now what can help structure your persuasive message. Additionally, practice your persuasion skills by convincing a candidate to join your team. We covered the building blocks of communication and the importance of listening. I hope you found this information valuable.

Let's say we have a technical design that we want to push through. We want to do a migration and refactoring and we want to persuade a team of leadership to spend time and effort on migrating this new technology to a new stack. In these type of messages, we want to persuade people. So we want to make sure that people are bouncing into our strategy. It's important for us to craft an argument with our main claim, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea. It needs to be simple and concise still, but it doesn't need to be tailored to the receiver anymore. It needs to be tailored to that argument that we are sending.

There are some ways when we talk about persuasions and some frameworks that we can use that we organize our messages when you are talking to people. One of that is the problem and the solution. So you talk about the problem you're trying to solve and then you talk about the solution that you are actually giving. It's super simple. Another one is reason, example, point summarize. You talk about the reason of why are you doing this, you give an example and then you summarize your points again. For example, let's say if it's a technical migration, you say we want to migrate this library because if you don't migrate this library, it will cause a lot of, I don't know, additional tech debt and so we have to migrate this library to this version to prevent that. So you're summarizing your point. Another framework is what, so what, and now what. What are you going to achieve? So what? Why are you doing that? And now what? What's the next step and action items? So for example, for migration is that we would like to migrate this library to the next version because if the migration doesn't happen, it would be a lot of costs down the line. So let's just get together now and schedule a meeting and talk about how we're going to achieve it. And then now what would be an action item and the next step that you're going to take?

Let's talk about the first exercise that you want to actually test yourself in terms of persuasion. Let's say your team is hiring and you are on a hiring committee and your job is actually to persuade the candidate to come and join your team. You say, this candidate is very, actually very competitive. They have a lot of offers from other companies. Are you going to persuade them to join your team and join your company? You can write a paragraph or two, or you can record yourself talking and persuading someone to join your team. So build your pitch. Thank you.

So this, we talked about so many things today. We talked about the four building blocks of communications. We talked about people, perceptions, message, channel. We talked about listening throughout the conversation. I hope this was useful for you.

9. Importance of Soft Skills in Communication

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If you have any questions, I'll be available through the communication channels of the conference and also you can reach out to me via my social handles that are available. Soft skills are definitely in the lead at 70 percent with technical skills at 30 percent. Nowadays, it's important to differentiate yourself with your soft skills to get ahead. Start by understanding yourself, know your strengths and areas of growth, and observe how you communicate with your colleagues. Being more present in the four elements of communication and becoming a better listener are great starting points.

If you have any questions, I'll be available through the communication channels of the conference and also you can reach out to me via my social handles that are available. And I will be on Twitter spaces later on that you can catch up with us there. So thank you for having me and it was my pleasure to be here and get to know you all. Thank you so much for being here.

I wanted to actually get started by discussing the answer to the poll question. So as we can see, it's a little bit of a, I wouldn't say runaway victory, but soft skills are definitely in the lead at 70 percent with technical skills at 30 percent. What do you think of those results? Does that surprise you? Wow. That's interesting. That's super interesting to me. If this poll was 10 years ago, I'm pretty sure we get the opposite results. Technical skills gonna lead. But nowadays I think this is totally true, right? We can debate it. That soft skills, not that technical skills, not important. It's 100 percent sure. It's important. But in order for you to get ahead with people who are all of them are technically at a bar, you need to differentiate yourself with your soft skills. So I think a lot of people know that already and the poll results show that. Yeah, I think the keyword there that you mentioned is growth, right? So it's not necessarily getting into tech or getting an initial position but actually being able to advance in your career and make an impact where those soft skills really come into play, which is an important thing to note.

So for those that have realized this and acknowledged that and want to become better communicators, so we have a question here. Where should I start if I want to become a better communicator? What advice would you give there? That's a great question. I would say start by understanding yourself. Know where your strengths are. Know where are your areas of growth. Understand and observe how you communicate with your colleagues. We talked a lot about different channels, the message in the talk, really doing that exercises that are already in the talk. You can find in the slides are great starting points to analyze how are you communicating on a daily basis? Being more present in the four elements that we chatted about, the people, the message, and the channel, being more present there and becoming a better listener. All of these could be the starting points that you can take. Yeah, that's awesome. It's really, I think it's something that people think you either have or you don't have, right? But just like how you learn technical skills, you can follow some frameworks, you can do exercises, you can put effort into it. But you being able to provide this roadmap and some of those real practical examples is super helpful for people who don't feel like they have it or know where to start.


Approaching Feedback and Over-Explaining

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When giving feedback, put yourself in the other person's shoes and understand their perspective. Effective feedback goes beyond words and requires understanding and empathy. One approach is to turn the table on yourself and ask for feedback from the other person. By creating a safe and vulnerable environment, you can encourage them to open up and listen to your voice. Another common issue is over-explaining, which can muddy the point. The key to improving is practice.

We do have a question here from the audience. How would you approach an engineer who could improve their communication skills, especially when working remotely, but has difficulty taking feedback? I think we may have encountered some people before who we just don't know how to approach this kind of more difficult situation. What are your thoughts there?

That's an amazing question. We were asked it, kudos to you, and I think that's a scenario we get and we see a lot during our careers dealing with people who has difficulties taking on feedbacks. And that's a whole different topic, the feedback itself. And coming back to communication and the element of people and their perception and preconceived notions that we talked about in the talk, when you're giving feedback to someone, you need to put yourself in their place and understand how are they thinking. How are they going to think in the way that I'm going to tell the feedback to them? So really putting yourself there and understand where they're coming from, what is it that prohibits them to really hearing you, to really listen to the feedback? You need to really get to that level of understanding with people and then know what is the best way that I can get this message through. Because it's just not about the words when it comes to feedback, it's about that words really sits with that person. And sometimes we just say something, but it doesn't sit and that's not effective feedback. I do have a couple of blog posts around effective feedback and like so many tips that people can follow on how they approach feedback. One of the ways are you turn the table to yourself, right? You start with analyzing yourself and provide feedback to yourself. I had this scenario before with a colleague who was very hard to give feedback. And when I told my manager that I have feedback for this person, he was recommending me actually not going ahead and provide the feedback because of the history of this person. Everyone knows that it's super hard for him to actually accept feedback, especially when it comes to constructive feedback. So what I've done is that I flipped the table on myself. So we had a coffee chat. We just sat and I started chatting about everything I could do better, areas that I can improve, and I started to ask about his suggestions to feel him included in my growth. And then he actually asked me, what do you think about this? So he actually opened the door to receive feedback. So one way is just you create that psychological safe environment, by being vulnerable first, and taking the first step to be vulnerable in the conversation, make the other person feeling safe and get them into opening up and hearing your voice.

Wow, that's an awesome story. I love to how you're leading by example. In that case to your showing him what that looks like in order to how to be introspective, how to assess yourself in order to be more open to feedback. Giving that person kind of the ability to do that on their own going forward. So, wow, really, really great stuff. It's like we have a kind of a lot of questions rolling in, so I'll get to the next one. I struggle with an issue that they, okay, so that's something that I also deal with, too. The question is, I struggle with an issue that I call over explaining things to death, and sometimes that muddies the point I'm trying to make. How do you recommend that I improve upon that kind of issue? Practice. Practice a lot. So, I think a lot of us struggle with this issue of like we tend to chat over the point again and again, and summarize the point again and again.

Effective Communication Techniques

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When speaking, it's important to use templates like 'what, so what, now what' and limit yourself to three main points. Practice pausing after each sentence to allow for more thoughtful communication. By using templates and taking pauses, you can structure your words effectively and ensure that your points are remembered.

There are a couple of templates, which I've shared some of those in the talk, like what, so what, now what, right? You can learn to summarize just in that template and don't go over that. Another good rule of thumb is just three points. You want to explain something, don't go over that three points. And taking a lot of pauses, get used to pausing. And when I initially actually been starting to pause, it sounds weird because we are used to just talking, talking, talking and we don't want to stop and pause. But practice that. Practice that in your conversations. The more you get used to pausing, the more thought goes into what are you saying. The more processing time you're going to take to say something, versus if you're just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. So give yourself that digest moment after every sentence. Count to three. If you say something, one, two, three, and then continue. Then you will know in that count to three that, okay, that's enough. So I'm going to wrap. I think one of the main reasons of oversharing, overexplaining is that we don't think about what you're saying, so we're constantly looping. We don't think about the structure of how we're going to structure our answer. It is hard. It is hard to structure something in real time, but always those templates, if you practice it, you can always structure your words in a way that it's summarized, and the audience will remember your points the best way. That's great advice. Yeah, silence is golden, for sure, and giving yourself time to think about that. Yeah.

Assessing Soft Skills in Tech Interviews

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When interviewing candidates in the tech industry, it's important to assess their soft skills as well as their technical skills. You can do this by putting them in scenarios that test their ability to collaborate, handle feedback, and learn quickly. Asking questions about handling critical feedback, giving feedback to colleagues, and successful communication can provide insights into a candidate's soft skills. It's also beneficial to integrate soft skill assessment into technical interviews to get a holistic view of a candidate's abilities. When it comes to using polite language or direct requests, it's important to consider cultural differences and the preferences of the person you're communicating with. Observing how they talk to others can provide clues about their communication style and the words they prefer.

All right, so this next question, I think, is really interesting. This person has run into issues before with developers that they hire, and they join the team, but then they end up not working out due to a lack of soft skills. How can you interview someone in tech in order to see where they are soft skills wise? That's a really good question.

You interview them for their soft skills too, right? A lot of times, we have questions that only assess technical skills, right? We pass them through technical phone screen. We're assessing their language, their ability to solve problems. That's all great, but do we actually put candidates in scenarios to assess their soft skills? Do we put them in a collaborative exercise to see how they work with others? Do we put them in a situation that they disagree with them to see how they're going to take feedback? I do that a lot in the interviews. I will say like, OK, I like the path you're taking for your technical solution, but I disagree with this part. And the reason I do that, a lot of times I want to see how are they going to encounter disagreement and how are they going to handle it in interviews. A lot of people, they start thinking and they say, Oh, OK, I understand. And they start asking me further questions to understand where I'm coming from and why I'm disagreeing with the way that they're moving forward. But some people, they start to get defensive. So you can differentiate how people can handle feedback in an interview. So make your question in a way that you can assess this different or important soft skills, like taking feedback, ability to learn quickly, like half phase questions that an interviewer finish one phase and then you teach them something on the interview. And with what you've taught them, they have to take it to the next level. So that will assess, are they able to communicate? Do they ask the right question? Do they try to understand first? Are they that judgemental? And then there are a ton of software skill assessment questions we can ask, like, tell me the last time you handled a critical feedback. Like, tell me the last time you gave feedback to your colleague. You can ask, like, tell me about a time that you wrote a really great design document and you communicated to the team. What made it successful? How did you align everyone on the team on the idea? So all of these questions can come up in interviews and, you know, interviews is both sided, so you can assess the skills that matters to you most.

Wow, that's, I love that. I love the idea, too, of weaving the questions into a technical interview. So it's not like you're doing soft skills and technical skills separately, but you're seeing a holistic approach to how they work and thread those two together. So, yeah, some really great examples there. And that's awesome. I think another question that we saw here is about, they used the phrase word sugar and maybe like polite terms or niceties, maybe other ways to phrase this. But when you need to ask someone to do something, is it better to be direct, just like, can you do this, or how do you feel about using those words, sugar, polite, niceties, like, oh, could you please do this, or would you mind doing it to soften the question? That's a great question, and it has a lot to do with the culture that the person is coming from. And I saw that literally at my work so many times, where people coming from Asian cultures may get offended if you not use those words, versus people, maybe, from Eastern Europe won't get offended, because that's natural to them. So, this is a lot of factors going. Again, this is the people element, is that the person I'm talking to, how do they prefer me talking to them? And you can observe, how do they talk to others? When we talk to others, we actually reflect our preference, a lot of times. Do they use these words a lot? That means, okay, they prefer these words, because they use it a lot. Or if they come to you and ask something, do they say please? Or do they just bluntly ask for something and they're okay with it? So, it's elements of people, and people with different cultures have different way of asking.

Bluntness and Cross-Cultural Communication

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Bluntness can cause conflicts in cross-cultural communication. For example, an Indian colleague and a German colleague had conflicts because the Indian colleague was hesitant to say no directly, while the German colleague preferred a blunt no. To resolve the conflict, alternative ways of communication were suggested, such as using documents, deadlines, and checklists. Understanding the preferences and cultural backgrounds of the people we communicate with is crucial, especially in remote and global workspaces. Communication is a two-way process of talking and listening.

And when it comes to bluntness, that plays a huge role. I'll give you an example of one example that happened during my career where I had an Indian colleague working with another person who was from Germany on the same team. And these two people had always conflict, because one of them doesn't say no. So, my Indian colleague looks like it is not culturally respectful to bluntly say no to somebody in their face in her culture. Whereas the German person preferred the blunt no over a lot of like, I'll do it tomorrow, or maybe it would be like, in two days, but it's never get done.

So, there was the culture mismatch in communication here, where I was resolving conflict between these two people. It's like, okay, just know that this person is not gonna say no bluntly. Because well, this person grows up to knowing this is not okay. This is not a respectful way of communication. So, find other ways to kind of get estimates. Maybe put a document, and put a deadline, when it's gonna get done. And put a checklist, and which one's gonna get done, which one's not gonna get done. But if you're looking for a blunt no, that's not gonna happen.

So, to the question, again, the element of people is super important. Know who we are talking to, and are we actually going to use those respect elements in the words, or like sugar words that we have to use. And also, it's personal preference. If you like to use them, use them. And then that shows that you like to receive them somehow, too. That shows your personal communication preference, too. Yeah, that's super important, especially with remote teams and teams across all different global work spaces. So, yeah, this has been a really, really interesting talk. I've learned a lot about how communication is it goes two ways, right? It's talking and listening. And so, thank you so much for your talk and answering all of our questions. That is all the time that we have with you today, but thank you for being here. And yeah, thank you so much. Thank you.

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React Summit 2022React Summit 2022
27 min
Impact: Growing as an Engineer
Top Content
Becoming a web engineer is not easy, but there are tons of resources out there to help you on your journey. But where do you go from there? What do you do to keep growing, and to keep expanding the value you bring to your company? In this talk we’ll look at the different kinds of impact you can have as a web engineer. We’ll walk through what it means to take on bigger, more complex projects, and how to scale yourself, and grow the community around you. By driving our own development we can all grow our impact, and in this talk, we’ll discuss how to go about this.
TechLead Conference 2023TechLead Conference 2023
25 min
On Becoming a Tech Lead
Tech lead sounds like a lot of work. And not the fun coding kind either. Why would you ever want that? What does it feel like when you get it?In this talk Swizec explains why he took the step towards technical leadership, how his priorities changed, and why it means he’s doing more engineering than ever. A whole new world where writing code is the easy part.
10 min
Emma Bostian: I landed my dream job by sharing my blogs on Twitter
Top Content
Featured Article
Software engineer, lecturer, podcast host, author — is there something Emma Bostian hasn't done? She moved from America to Sweden, started working at Spotify, and took up a few challenges along the way. And now she has some career tips to share.

What led you to software engineering? 
I was raised in the ecosphere of tech because my dad is a software engineer at IBM, and my mom was a designer there, too. My dad always encouraged me to join STEM and take a look at computer science — however, I was convinced I wanted to be a medical doctor. In my first year of college, I declared a biology major and quickly realized I was not too fond of it. In my second semester, I switched to an actuarial science major where I took Introduction to Computer Science, and the rest is history. In my second year of college, I declared a computer science major and began my journey from there.
What is the most impactful thing you ever did to boost your career?
Writing blog posts and documenting my learning journey on Twitter has far been the best career boost. I wrote purely for myself to reference the things I learned over time, and I even utilized my design skills in Figma to create custom graphics depicting difficult concepts like CSS specificity. By sharing my blogs on Twitter and engaging with the people reading them, I was able to grow an audience extremely quickly. I began receiving conference speaking opportunities, podcast requests, and course invitations to teach with LinkedIn Learning and Frontend Masters.
Ultimately, I landed my job at Spotify through Twitter, too, when a friend and follower of mine asked if I would be interested in interviewing. Now I live in Stockholm working my dream job. It still blows my mind how tweeting about my blog led me to some of the most amazing career opportunities.
What would be your three tips for engineers to level up their career? 
First, be patient. I often see posts on Twitter or LinkedIn about developers who were promoted to a senior position after a year. And while this is wonderful, I think we forget that each company has a different standard for what constitutes a senior developer, and everyone's journey will be different.
Second, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you try your best to solve a problem or answer a question you have, but you can't figure it out after a reasonable amount of time, ask a team member or mentor for help.
And lastly, invest in the right resources for learning. When I started my journey, I didn't know which platforms worked for me to learn. Now, I have a few trusted platforms such as Frontend Masters, Free Code Camp, or Level Up Tutorials that I go to when I need to learn a new skill.
You're currently working as a software engineer at Spotify. What does a typical day of yours look like there?
I begin my day answering emails. Then we have a team breakfast and a standup remotely as we're all still remote at Spotify. After that, we might have a web tech sync with the other squads in our business unit. The day usually includes some form of pair or mob programming, depending on the work stream. 
My team always has Fika, a traditional Swedish coffee break, scheduled every afternoon. Every couple of Fridays, we have team games planned to release some stress. 
Also, I tend to have a lot of free time to focus, which is nice but makes for a boring answer to this question!
Do you have some rituals or tools that keep you focused and goal-oriented?
I'll admit that I've been struggling with staying motivated in the time of remote work. I've been remote with Spotify since onboarding a year ago, but my team is wonderful, and they help me when I'm down.
Apart from that, I use Todoist to keep track of my tasks, and, naturally, I listen to Spotify while working. But other than that, not really. Maybe I should adopt some new tools to keep me on track!
My current favorite Spotify playlist is Brand New Chill: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX6uQnoHESB3u?si=380263b3c853442e
I also love Chillout Daily: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ozIozDp260fjNOZy1yzRG?si=66d6c839ec9b458a
You wrote a book called De-coding the Technical Interview. What was the impulse to do it?
I wanted to give the community a manual of the essentials of computer science knowledge to ace the technical interviews. The book covers data structures like stacks, queues, or linked lists, tackles algorithms, and deals with systems design. You'll also learn about the interview process from start to finish, get tips on how to submit an amazing take-home project, or understand how to problem solve. You'll also gain knowledge on the frontend coding skills needed to excel at a frontend interview.

If you could stress one piece of advice on surviving a technical interview, which would it be?
Do not lie your way through an interview. If you don't know the answer to something, just admit it. There's no shame in admitting you don't know the answer to something. There is shame in faking it and pretending like you do know the answer.
What's the single best practice everyone who writes code should follow?
Remember that while you are technically writing code for computers, you're also writing it for humans. Your code should be readable and have as little complexity as possible without sacrificing accessibility or performance.
In addition to the book, you co-host the Ladybug Podcast. What inspired you to enter this field, and what are the podcast's main topics?
We talk about everything tech and career on the podcast, from Java and GraphQL to how to start a business and cross-cultural communication. The podcast is a way for me and my co-hosts to share our experiences in tech, having taken different paths. And I'm really glad for doing it — it has allowed me to meet so many incredible people, learn many new things, and support my dream of teaching.
What pieces of your work are you most proud of?
My technical interview book was a huge feat for me as well as my courses with LinkedIn Learning on building a tech resume. I enjoy creating things that help other people advance their careers, so I'm also proud of my courses with Frontend Masters on design systems and CSS.
Follow Emma on Twitter
14 min
Kent C. Dodds: Consume, build, and teach — and level up your career
Top Content
Featured Article
Even though his bio offers quite a hefty reading, he only applied for one job in his career. The rest came along as he was building his name as a renowned speaker, teacher, and a prolific figure of the open-source community. How did Kent do it? “Commit to creating high-quality content,” he says.

What led you to programming?
I had a friend when I was a teenager who was really into it, and he tried to teach me. But I just couldn't get it — it didn't make any sense to me. So I never really thought I'd get into programming, but I liked computers a lot, and I ended up going to school for electrical engineering. 
Well, that didn't work because I'm not good at math. But right when I started the program, I got a job at a company uploading videos to YouTube and that sort of thing. The work was tedious, so I decided to write a computer program to automate lots of the work I was doing with the knowledge I had about programming. And that was the first spark of things for me to use programming to solve real-world problems. 
What is the most impactful thing you ever did to boost your career? 
Committing to creating high-quality content. That might sound obvious because I'm a full-time educator now, but I would not have gotten my job at PayPal if I hadn't been so active with my blog. In fact, lots of my jobs came out of me being involved in the community around meetups, conferences, or open-source projects. 
How do you choose topics for the content you create, be it for your blog or podcast?
I don't think too much about the content other people are creating. And I don't often consume it. My ideas come from the things that I'm working on, things that I'm learning myself, or — when I was working with a team of developers — the things that I had to remind people of in code reviews regularly. Anytime that I would have a code review comment that was pretty long to describe my position, that was an excellent opportunity for a blog post. Also, if people ask me about a topic regularly, I'll make a blog post rather than answer that question multiple times.

What would be your three tips for engineers to level up their career? 
The number one thing I tell people is to be a nice person. I know that sounds fluffy or silly, but it cannot be overstated. You will get so much further in your career and just in life in general if you're a nice person. That doesn't mean that you take people being jerks lying down, but how you interact with others is out of kindness. You could be the best engineer in the entire world, but if you're not a nice person, you will not reach your full potential or accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.
Second, it's just as important to decide what you are not going to learn as it is to decide what you are going to learn. You could jump into countless things — and there are successful people who are polyglot programmers, but I can't speak to that a whole lot. All I can tell you is that in my experience, focusing on specific things that I want to be truly good at has worked out great for my career. That doesn't mean that I closed myself off to other things. With my website rewrite, I have been doing a lot of dev ops-related work and a lot of back-end stuff that I've typically not been involved in. You want to keep your head up on what's going on outside of what you're doing so that you know what direction to go in when you come across problems you need to solve. However, finding a focus on what you want to be good at has helped me a lot. That way, you feel a little less stressed.
And the third one? 
Learn how to learn effectively. It's a three-step process: you consume, build, and teach. The consumption of newsletters and Twitter and whatever inspires you, but you don't want to spend too much time doing that — implementing it into actually building something matters. This happens naturally if you work at a company, but maybe you're not making the things you want to learn, so you may want to start a side project. The building phase is where you get experience, but you also want to solidify that experience. How? You start teaching. You don't necessarily have to teach it to people, it could be stuffed animals. The goal of the teaching is to retain in your mind what you've learned through the building process.
What are you working on right now? 
The big thing I'm working on right now is a rewrite of my website. It'll be much more than just a developer portfolio — I'll have user accounts, and there'll be fun things that you can do with it. And because it's more than just a website, I'm using Remix, a new cool framework in the React ecosystem. I'm also working on updating my material on TestingJavaScript.com and a TypeScript course as well. 
So, whatever I'm working on, it ends up resulting in lots of opportunities for content.

Do you have some rituals that keep you focused and goal-oriented? 
I have a notepad where I keep all of my notes of what I'm going to do for the day so that when I'm checking things off, I'm not distracted notifications. I've tried apps for that, and that does not work well for me. 
I also am a firm believer in inbox zero. I have my work inbox and my personal inbox, and I keep them both at zero. And I kind of use that as a to-do list. 
And if I'm not feeling excited about working for some reason, I will often hop on my Onewheel, which is an electric skateboard that only has one giant wheel in the middle. It's just a total blast, and I'll hop on that with my backpack and a charger, and I'll go to a Starbucks or a park just to declutter my mind.
What things in the React universe are you excited about right now?
React version 18 is coming out soon. The experimental version is out there, and it's fun to play with. I'm just really thrilled that it's no longer a concurrent mode but concurrent features that you can opt into. Cool things like that will enable React server components in the future. 
But the biggest thing I'm excited about is Remix. That's huge. It eliminates a lot of problems that are solved well other tools, but when I'm using Remix, I don't have those problems, so I don't need those clusters.
You already said that teaching is an integral part of the learning process, and you stand your word since you're also a full-time educator. What inspired you to enter this field?
I have been a teacher for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a church where you talk in front of your peers from a very young age, and my mom was an elementary school teacher, so teaching has just always been a part of me. 
I really just enjoy sharing what I'm learning with others. As far as teaching technical topics, I gave my first workshop when I was still a student at Brigham Young University. With my fellow, we taught how to use AngularJS, and I got Firebase to sponsor pizza so they would show up, and that was pretty fun.
Then I started teaching on the side at egghead.io right after I'd graduated. That was when I first got a paycheck for teaching. And I realized that teaching could be quite lucrative and support my family and me as a full-time endeavor. So I did it — I quit my job. I'm a very risk-averse person, so I'd done teaching as a side hustle for four years just to verify that I could make this work.
When TestingJavaScript was released, and I got that paycheck, I realized that I didn't need my PayPal salary anymore. I could just focus my daytime on teaching and give my evenings back to my family, which was a nice trait.

Apart from that, how has teaching impacted your career? 
Earlier I mentioned that pretty much all of my jobs came because I was perceived as an expert. After the first job, where I was an intern and then converted into full-time, I never applied to another. I worked for four different companies, and they wouldn't have recruited me if they didn't know who I was and what I was doing. My content is how they knew who I was — I just made it easy for them to find me. Teaching made that impact. It made my career. 
We talked about React and Remix. Are there any other open-source projects that you'd recommend keeping an eye on or contributing to?
I have some myself. React Testing Library is probably the biggest one that people are familiar with. And if React isn't your jam, then other framework versions of the testing library. 
React Query is also really popular. If you're using Remix, you don't need it, but if you're not, I strongly advise using React Query cause it's a stellar, fantastic library, and Tanner Linsley, the creator, is a stellar and fantastic person. 
What pieces of your work are you most proud of? 
Probably the biggest thing I've ever done is EpicReact.Dev. It has helped tens of thousands of people get really good at React, improve their careers and make the world a better place with the skills that they develop. My whole mission is to make the world a better place through quality software, and I feel like I've done that best with Epic React. 
There are things that I've built at other companies that are still in use, and I'm proud of those cause they've stood the test of time, at least these last few years. But of everything, I think Epic React has made the biggest impact.
Follow Kent on Twitter and listen to his favorite Spotify playlist
TechLead Conference 2023TechLead Conference 2023
31 min
Imposter Syndrome-Driven Development
“Maybe I’m fooling everyone… I’m not good enough for this, and at this point, it is a question of time until everyone figures it out” these might be the words that cross your mind as your coworker compliments you for doing another fantastic job at delivering a new feature. As you grow in your career, so does your uncertainty. You put in the extra hours, learn all the new technologies, and join all the initiatives you can, but at the end of the day, it never feels enough. At this point, that feeling is leading your actions and decisions. It is the thing that is driving your career. Only one question persists: Are you really an imposter?
6 min
Charlie Gerard's Career Advice: Be intentional about how you spend your time and effort
Featured Article
When it comes to career, Charlie has one trick: to focus. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try different things — currently a senior front-end developer at Netlify, she is also a sought-after speaker, mentor, and a machine learning trailblazer of the JavaScript universe. "Experiment with things, but build expertise in a specific area," she advises.

What led you to software engineering?My background is in digital marketing, so I started my career as a project manager in advertising agencies. After a couple of years of doing that, I realized that I wasn't learning and growing as much as I wanted to. I was interested in learning more about building websites, so I quit my job and signed up for an intensive coding boot camp called General Assembly. I absolutely loved it and started my career in tech from there.
 What is the most impactful thing you ever did to boost your career?I think it might be public speaking. Going on stage to share knowledge about things I learned while building my side projects gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry, learn a ton from watching other people's talks and, for lack of better words, build a personal brand.
 What would be your three tips for engineers to level up their career?Practice your communication skills. I can't stress enough how important it is to be able to explain things in a way anyone can understand, but also communicate in a way that's inclusive and creates an environment where team members feel safe and welcome to contribute ideas, ask questions, and give feedback. In addition, build some expertise in a specific area. I'm a huge fan of learning and experimenting with lots of technologies but as you grow in your career, there comes a time where you need to pick an area to focus on to build more profound knowledge. This could be in a specific language like JavaScript or Python or in a practice like accessibility or web performance. It doesn't mean you shouldn't keep in touch with anything else that's going on in the industry, but it means that you focus on an area you want to have more expertise in. If you could be the "go-to" person for something, what would you want it to be? 
 And lastly, be intentional about how you spend your time and effort. Saying yes to everything isn't always helpful if it doesn't serve your goals. No matter the job, there are always projects and tasks that will help you reach your goals and some that won't. If you can, try to focus on the tasks that will grow the skills you want to grow or help you get the next job you'd like to have.
 What are you working on right now?Recently I've taken a pretty big break from side projects, but the next one I'd like to work on is a prototype of a tool that would allow hands-free coding using gaze detection. 
 Do you have some rituals that keep you focused and goal-oriented?Usually, when I come up with a side project idea I'm really excited about, that excitement is enough to keep me motivated. That's why I tend to avoid spending time on things I'm not genuinely interested in. Otherwise, breaking down projects into smaller chunks allows me to fit them better in my schedule. I make sure to take enough breaks, so I maintain a certain level of energy and motivation to finish what I have in mind.
 You wrote a book called Practical Machine Learning in JavaScript. What got you so excited about the connection between JavaScript and ML?The release of TensorFlow.js opened up the world of ML to frontend devs, and this is what really got me excited. I had machine learning on my list of things I wanted to learn for a few years, but I didn't start looking into it before because I knew I'd have to learn another language as well, like Python, for example. As soon as I realized it was now available in JS, that removed a big barrier and made it a lot more approachable. Considering that you can use JavaScript to build lots of different applications, including augmented reality, virtual reality, and IoT, and combine them with machine learning as well as some fun web APIs felt super exciting to me.

Where do you see the fields going together in the future, near or far? I'd love to see more AI-powered web applications in the future, especially as machine learning models get smaller and more performant. However, it seems like the adoption of ML in JS is still rather low. Considering the amount of content we post online, there could be great opportunities to build tools that assist you in writing blog posts or that can automatically edit podcasts and videos. There are lots of tasks we do that feel cumbersome that could be made a bit easier with the help of machine learning.
 You are a frequent conference speaker. You have your own blog and even a newsletter. What made you start with content creation?I realized that I love learning new things because I love teaching. I think that if I kept what I know to myself, it would be pretty boring. If I'm excited about something, I want to share the knowledge I gained, and I'd like other people to feel the same excitement I feel. That's definitely what motivated me to start creating content.
 How has content affected your career?I don't track any metrics on my blog or likes and follows on Twitter, so I don't know what created different opportunities. Creating content to share something you built improves the chances of people stumbling upon it and learning more about you and what you like to do, but this is not something that's guaranteed. I think over time, I accumulated enough projects, blog posts, and conference talks that some conferences now invite me, so I don't always apply anymore. I sometimes get invited on podcasts and asked if I want to create video content and things like that. Having a backlog of content helps people better understand who you are and quickly decide if you're the right person for an opportunity.What pieces of your work are you most proud of?It is probably that I've managed to develop a mindset where I set myself hard challenges on my side project, and I'm not scared to fail and push the boundaries of what I think is possible. I don't prefer a particular project, it's more around the creative thinking I've developed over the years that I believe has become a big strength of mine.***Follow Charlie on Twitter

Workshops on related topic

Node Congress 2022Node Congress 2022
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How To Design A Sustainable Freelance/Contracting Career
Ready to kickstart your freelance career or just getting started on your freelance journey? You’re in the right spot. Learn the tricks of the trade from the industry’s most experienced freelancers.
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React Summit 2022React Summit 2022
75 min
How To Design A Sustainable Freelance/Contracting Career + Speedcoding Challenge
Ready to kickstart your freelance career or just getting started on your freelance journey? You’re in the right spot. Learn from the world’s largest fully distributed workforce in the world.
The independent talent movement is the future of work. If you’re considering leaving full-time employment for a career as a freelancer, now is the time to find your successful space in the independent talent workforce. More people are working freelance today than ever before, with the freelance marketplace now contributing $1.2 trillion to the US economy. Some of the most in-demand roles for freelancers right now are senior developers with professional experience in React, Python, Blockchain, QA, and Node.js.
This workshop will help you design a sustainable and profitable full-time (or part-time) freelancing/contracting career. We will give you tools, tips, best practices, and help you avoid common pitfalls.
At the end of the workshop there will be a Q&A session with a Freelance Developer who can answer your questions and provide insights and tips into their own success.
During the Workshop break, we will be running a speed-coding challenge! At the end of the workshop, we will award a prize for the winner and display the leaderboard.
We will have you login to our portal and complete the challenge as fast as you can to earn points. Points are assigned based on difficulty and the speed at which you solve the tasks. In case you complete all tasks, you get extra points for the remaining time. You’ll see your score, ranking, and the leaderboard once you complete the challenge.
We will be giving away three Amazon Gift Cards ($200, $100, $75) for the top three winners.
React Advanced Conference 2021React Advanced Conference 2021
145 min
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Would you like to pursue your passions and have more control over your career? Would you like schedule and location flexibility and project variety? Would you like the stability of working full-time and getting paid consistently? Thousands of companies have embraced remote work and realize that they have access to a global talent pool. This is advantageous for anyone who has considered or is currently considering freelance work.>> Submit your interest on becoming a freelance engineer with Toptal and get a call with Talent Acquisition specialist <<

Freelancing is no longer an unstable career choice.

This workshop will help you design a sustainable and profitable full-time (or part-time) freelancing career. We will give you tools, tips, best practices, and help you avoid common pitfalls.
Table of contents

Module 1: Dispelling common myths about freelancing
Module 2: What does freelancing look like in 2021 and beyond
Module 3: Freelancing choices and what to look for (and what to avoid)
Module 4: Benefits of freelancing from a freelancer + case study
Module 6: How to get started freelancing (experience, resume, preparation)
Module 7: Common paths to full-time freelancing
Module 8: Essentials: setting your rate and getting work
Module 9: Next steps: networking with peers, upskilling, changing the world
Module 10: Freelancer AMA
React Summit Remote Edition 2021React Summit Remote Edition 2021
121 min
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Renaud Bressant (Head of Product), Nathanael Lamellière (Head of Customer Success and Solution Engineer), Nouha Chhih (Developer Experience Manager) will be looking at the different developer jobs that you can accounter when looking for your next developer role. We'll be explaining the specifics of each role, to help you identify which one could be your next move. We'll also be sharing tips to help you navigate the recruitment process, based on the different roles we interviewed for as recruiters, but also as candidates. This will be more of an Ask Us Anything session, so don't hesitate to share your thoughts and questions during the session.