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DevOps / Software Development / Tech Culture

Mindset Refactor: Evolving for Developer Success

How developers can take a beginner’s mindset when navigating new features and tools.
Jul 25th, 2023 7:37am by and
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Image provided by Slack.

During the early stages of the beta experience for our next-generation platform, we had a number of discussions with the developer community about what they needed to successfully take advantage of our modular automation capabilities. One recurring piece of feedback was that if our platform was going to evolve from its monolithic and one-size-fits-all structure, then the onboarding path for developers would need to evolve along with it.

Developers were already struggling with a lack of resources, constant iteration and limited documentation, so it was imperative we’d need to refresh our onboarding efforts with clear documentation, hands-on templates, engaging videos and immersive tutorials that catered to all learning styles. Only then could we confidently say we’d fostered an environment to enable developer success — one that would inspire, retain and attract developers by making their working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive.

Getting there, however, was a process. We had to completely reimagine the experience for developers by becoming the students ourselves — the “developer zero” of our own platform. This change in perspective allowed us to create an improved path to building on our new platform, and we believe that embracing that same beginner’s mindset can also do wonders for developers as they navigate our new features and tools. Let’s explore how other teams can apply this kind of thinking.

Start from a Place of Empathy

As a developer, you have the opportunity to create automations that can streamline processes and enhance productivity for others. But first, you need a deep understanding of what the non-technical users within your organization need and the challenges they’re up against. Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time user. Listen attentively, observe their frustrations and ask probing questions to get at the root of their pain points. Communication on your end then becomes key. Make them feel heard and understood by conveying how you interpreted their problems and how your solutions can significantly improve their working lives. Offer a space for continuous feedback so the experience is more collaborative.

Let Go of Your Ego

Focus on the big picture, outside of yourself, and embrace the possibility of starting over. For developers building automations on the Slack platform, that could mean starting from scratch, rewriting existing code or revising use cases that are no longer relevant. Remember that the focus isn’t on your skills or how proficient you believe you are at your job. Instead, the emphasis is on serving your audience effectively.

Pro tip from us: Frameworks like Bolt, which allow for the adaptation of existing apps to our new modular architecture, can make this experience a lot more smooth.

Embrace Change

Change can be scary — or at least associated with uncertainty and discomfort. However, it’s essential to recognize that these elements can catalyze innovation and progress. For example, at Slack, we have a unique approach to addressing discomfort we like to call “hugging the elephant.” Create a space where you can openly discuss and confront the issues that make you and your team uneasy. On the other side of that uncertainty or uneasiness can come unexpected innovation.

Be Curious

One of the most fascinating aspects of adopting a beginner’s mindset is the boundless potential for exploration. Curiosity breeds a culture of iteration and experimentation. Taking more calculated risks, pushing boundaries and challenging existing assumptions can play a crucial role in collaboration and knowledge sharing. You’ll thrive when you engage in meaningful discussions, seek constant feedback and run impactful experiments.

The learning journey is far from linear, but adopting these methods can transform challenges into opportunities for growth. At Slack, doing so allowed us to successfully address onboarding pain points and enhance the developer experience on our platform, including introducing open sourced sample apps, educational videos, tutorials and documentation. As we continue our professional journeys, let’s remember the value of approaching challenges with the openness and curiosity of a beginner.

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