#41 Winning Over Application Developers: Agency not Autonomy – Interview w/ Jessitron (AKA Jessica Kerr)

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Transcript for this episode (link) provided by Starburst. See their Data Mesh Summit recordings here (info gated)

In this episode, Scott interviewed Jessica Kerr more widely known as Jessitron who is a Principal Developer Advocate at Honeycomb.io. Or as many affectionally refer to her, the Empress of Software. You’re probably gonna enjoy this one 🙂

Scott asked Jessitron on because she had a very pithy tweet about data mesh being “conscious design for unexpected use” and because she knows the developer mindset extremely well and many folks are having trouble working with the developers to get them bought in to sharing their data well.

Jessitron started off by discussing one of the big issues with application development: despite the tooling and process advancements of the last 20 years, it’s all somehow only made application development harder. So the starting advice is don’t just add more to their plate. It probably won’t go well!

Her biggest point was giving application developers agency in how they share their data is key. Autonomy is just passing the responsibility over without the help. Application developers want guidance/direction to the target outcome, but they want to make the choices on how to achieve said target outcome while being given the resources to do so. The information and capability to do their job is key.

For driving buy-in, start with the why, not the ask. Let them know why their data is valuable. And BE SPECIFIC! The conversation should be about their potential impact, not just the negative of “you changed this and it broke” but the aspirational. You want them to start thinking about how can you work together to enable them to share their data in a high context / highly meaningful way.

Data mesh is going to be a big culture shift for application developers – you need to not just put something high priority on the backlog. You need to give them the space – meaning that they have enough points or whatever on their backlog – to really understand and learn how to share their data well. You have to focus on teaching them how – possibly via an internal hackathon to start building that muscle – or possibly even a cross functional pair programming-like initiative to show each other your ways of working and share knowledge. Also, show them the impact they are having along the way as they get going, that will motivate them to do more.

Be very conscious of language. The interview with the NAV team building the application platform talked about this a lot. Application developers and data people don’t speak the same language. Work with them to put it into their language.

Jessitron pithy tweet: https://twitter.com/jessitron/status/1471352190149087233

Jessitron Twitter: @jessitron / https://twitter.com/jessitron

Jessitron emails: jessitron @ gmail.com OR jessitron @ honeycomb.io

Jessitron Presentation: Principles of Collaborative Automation: https://jessitron.com/2020/08/03/talk-principles-of-collaborative-automation/

Jessitron blog post: To share the work, share the decisions: https://jessitron.com/2022/02/01/to-share-the-work-share/

Book mentioned: Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies by César A. Hidalgo

Data Mesh Radio is hosted by Scott Hirleman. If you want to connect with Scott, reach out to him at community at datameshlearning.com or on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scotthirleman/

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All music used this episode created by Lesfm (intro includes slight edits by Scott Hirleman): https://pixabay.com/users/lesfm-22579021/

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