Presentation: The Focusing Illusion of Developer Productivity

Track: Building & Scaling High-Performing Teams

Location: Ballroom BC

Duration: 2:55pm - 3:45pm

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Motivated, productive, happy employees that have a sense of ownership in their work are crucial for organizational success. Traditional theories on creating motivation and incentive structures assume that performance is assessable. What do you do when both performance and ownership are ambiguous, as is often true with software engineering work? Software engineers are increasingly dependent on the work of cross-functional teams and the creation of business value by the exchange and combination of the collective social knowledge. Ownership is often shared which can make it difficult to achieve autonomy and be involved with the work from start to finish.

There have been scads of posts, tweets, and research done into an engineering team's productivity and psychological safety. The findings? It’s really hard. This talk dives into some of the historical precedents (and disasters) of incentive structures; looking not just at software but various industries that require incredibly complex and creative efforts between diverse teams. What kind of levers can we use to legitimately create ownership that allows teams and the businesses they support to collectively thrive?

Speaker: Courtney Hemphill

Partner & Tech Lead @CarbonFive

Courtney Hemphill is a Partner and Technical Lead at Carbon Five, a strategic digital product development firm. She has been developing software since 1999, first at an early stage e-commerce startup and eventually moving into consulting. In her role at Carbon Five, she has built ground up HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based platforms for health care companies, worked on a large server cluster analysis and forecasting platform, and supported enterprise executives transitioning from third-party solutions to skilled in-house continuous delivery teams. She is currently managing the Carbon Five NYC team and helping companies in insurance and finance develop cloud-native, test driven, continuous delivery software for data management, APIs, and new product creation.

Courtney mentors for TechStars, is an advisor to several startups, and organizes coding workshops for women. She also sits on the Golden Gate Board of NatureBridge, and is constantly finding random new corners of the world to rock climb.

Find Courtney Hemphill at

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