Meet the Speaker: Nick Tune


Meet the Speaker: Nick Tune.

What’s your session topic?

I will be talking about strategic design, the design of sociotechnical systems - how we architect our software services and set up our teams to build and maintain those services so that the teams have high levels of autonomy and ownership while collectively working towards business goals.

Why is your topic important?

I gave a talk two years ago, and afterwards an IT manager came up to me and asked for my advice: “My department spent 6 months converting their monolith to microservices and now every piece of work is taking 3 times longer and the teams are constantly having meetings and arguing with each other. What should I do?” he said. I had no simple answer for him, unfortunately, but his problem is not uncommon. There are hundreds or thousands of ways we can model our services and teams, and if we make bad design choices, we will have high coupling between our services and our teams and our productivity will suffer dramatically.

The problem is that we try to apply simple best practices to complex sociotechnical systems ‘make everything a microservice’ or ‘let’s copy the Spotify model’. Instead, we should be looking to heuristics and patterns as a way to co-design and coevolve our teams and software services based on the unique set of technical, economical, and social factors found in our organisation.

In addition, we cannot design sociotechnical systems from the top-down or the bottom up. We need to combine knowledge of the business strategy with the realities of our technical implementation to find the optimal compromise, and that means sociotechnical design requires input from developers up to management.

What are the prerequisites should the audience have for attending your session?

If you’ve ever been blocked from delivering a new feature because you depended on another team who had higher priorities than helping you, or you’ve spent days of your life in meetings unproductively trying to agree with other teams about how a new initiative would be delivered, you’ll understand this talk.

How long have you been in this industry?

I first got paid to code between 9 and 10 years ago.

What is one of those things you wish you knew when you started out in this industry?

Work on your personal relationships. Be someone that people can trust and feel comfortable to share their ideas with. It doesn’t matter how great your ideas are and whether you are right or wrong in a specific discussion, if people don’t feel comfortable working with you then as a team you will not achieve your potential and nor will you as an individual, and you’ll be a lot less happy. And if you do overstep the mark, be humble, say sorry, and try to repair trust as quickly as possible.

How many times have you spoken at or attended SwanseaCon?

2018 will be my third year in succession of attending.

What made you want to speak at SwanseaCon again this year?

I go to 10 - 20 conferences a year as a speaker or an attendee. Some of them are huge with thousands of attendees in all kinds of glamorous locations like San Diego, Amsterdam, and Oslo etc. But when the Swanseacon CFP opens each year, I get a unique feeling of excitement and anxiety. Swanseacon is one of a few events that I really want to attend and worry that I won’t get accepted at.

I’m sure you think I’m just saying this but it’s true and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Swanseacon is an intimate event where speakers and attendees are close together. One minute you’ll be watching someone give a great talk, the next minute you’ll be sitting next to that speaker watching another person’s talk. I’ve met some interesting people at Swanseacon, speakers and attendees, who I still keep in touch with.

Secondly, I get a nostalgic feeling from the late summer sun in Swansea. I really don’t know why, but it captures my heart and feels timeless. Walking around the town with the warm sun, the feeling that winter is on the way, and with that seaside feeling, it puts my mind in a place that I don’t feel anywhere else and the glow lasts for a few days after.

I’m running a workshop in Denver 2 days after Swanseacon. I should have flown to Denver a few days earlier to get over the jet lag, but there was no way I could miss Swanseacon.

Are there any sessions other than your own which you are looking forward to at SwanseaCon?

Firstly, I’m not looking forward to my own. 10 minutes before my talk I’ll be sitting in the bathroom thinking “Oh my god, why the hell did I agree to give another talk in front of all of these people? Nick, you idiot!”.

Secondly, I’m looking forward to some other talks but I’m also looking forward to being surprised by talks that didn’t stand out on the schedule but were absolutely brilliant.

Thirdly, I will finally answer your question: I am looking forward to Stephen Mounsey’s talk: ‘I am here for an argument – Working with conflict in teams’. His talk last year was genuine and from the heart and captures many of the challenges I have faced as an individual trying to become a more positive and respectful person who works well with other people. Coincidentally, dealing with conflict in teams has been a theme for me this past year so I’m looking forward to Stephen’s talk for many reasons. Ironically, his was a talk that didn’t stand out to me last year when I looked at the schedule.

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