Halldor Stefansson

Key Takeaways from "Ask Your Developer" by Jeff Lawson

I recently finished reading a book called Ask Your Developer by Jeff Lawson, the Co-Founder and CEO of Twilio.

It's a book about how companies can stay up to date and compete in the current economy, where software is eating the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and found many tips and ideas I wanted to keep and remember for future reference.
I've written this post to put down my key takeaways and notes from the book and questions that can be asked to better understand the software development culture within a company.

Why developers matter more than ever

Off-the-shelf software is for general purposes and does not give an edge over your competitors. Businesses need to become more software-orientated to gain that edge. "You need to build your own software or die."

Understand and motivate your developers

Developers pride themselves on being bright and creative and use those skills to solve problems with software. They prefer to avoid implementing a solution that's handed to them, making them feel like an assembly line worker.
The key to getting business people and developers to work well together and building a world-class engineering culture is for the business people to share problems, not solutions, with the developers. So bring developers into the big issues you're trying to solve and leverage their full skills.

Based on their answers, you'll get a sense of whether developers are genuinely brought into customer problems or if they are just asked to implement solutions.

To stay on top of competitors, you need to innovate. To innovate, you need to experiment. Experimentation is the prerequisite to innovation.

You need to ensure that there's tolerance for failure - both personally and organizationally - it's the primary key to unlocking innovation.

Making your developers successful

Creating an open, learning environment

An open learning environment is where the company is receptive to not having all the answers, is comfortable with uncertainty, and strives to get better every day.
It means being flexible instead of rigid and having a culture where people continually seek the truth. You want knowledge and truth to win, not politics.

Small teams and single-threaded leaders

A company's structure built on teams around ten people is a way to scale up a company without losing the urgency, focus and quality of talent that characterizes a startup by building a large company out of what are essentially many startups.

"Single-threaded" leaders have only one thing on their mind - how their team can win.
They are empowered to make their own decisions and be responsible for them.

Wearing the customer's shoes

Make sure your customer feels you're on their side.

Encourage developers to talk directly with customers, listen on a call or attend a meeting with customers regularly to get a human connection with the customer and understand their problems better.

Demystifying agile

The core of Agile is the ability to move quickly and easily, change direction quickly and respond to changing inputs.

Invest in infrastructure

"Move fast with stable infrastructure."

Providing platforms and processes that help developers build faster while still having guardrails ensures that customers and the company are protected from awful outcomes. Great infrastructure is the foundation of innovation.

Thank you for reading.