You Are What You Build: Making Your Code More Human
Christina Enchevta of GitHub joins us to talk about how AI applications mirror our values, as well as how to provide constructive feedback and more.
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The world is what we make it. Tech — and AI — follow the same principles.
On this week’s episode of Dev Interrupted, we sit down with Christina Enchevta, a Director of Engineering at GitHub, to unravel the link between the values we hold and the things we build. We delve into how AI applications mirror our values, intentionally or not, and how this can lead to surprising outcomes, no matter how benevolent our intentions are.
Christina also shares practical advice for engineering leaders on how to take and provide constructive feedback, dismantle information silos, and infuse their values into the product development process.
“If you’re going to do AI, know the history, know how it works, and pursue it with a diverse group of people.”
- (0:00) Accelerate State of DevOps survey
- (1:27) GitHub's secret sauce
- (5:05) Being transparent with your dev team
- (11:30) Providing constructive feedback
- (17:45) Generative AI & art
- (22:40) Dismantling information silos
- (26:50) What devs should be excited about
Conor Bronsdon: I wanna zero in on that transparency piece. You said it's your crucial value as a leader or your top value as a leader. Can you explain to the audience why you think it's so important and how you put it into practice with your teams?
Christina Entcheva: So there are multiple facets to transparency. It's hard not to think about the current macroeconomic climate that we're in right now. During this time, I think there are certainly inflection points where there are opportunities for leaders to be straightforward and honest, and compassionate about what's going on and bring folks into the fold.
And I think it's important to, like, take those opportunities. Another big area where this comes into play, I think, as an eng leader all the time, is in giving feedback to your teams. Like laterally, down, up all around. I am just so passionate about radical candor. And I love to receive critical feedback or constructive feedback.
I think feedback is a gift, and I'm so thankful whenever someone tells me something I could have done better. And I try to bring that to like my other interactions and be honest with folks, and it's hard, it's uncomfortable to say, hey, like you did that thing and it like didn't really land, and here's what I observed, and maybe it would be better if you did it this other way. It's extremely uncomfortable. But I do think, ultimately, it's kindness to I do that for people I care about, right? The people I care about the most. I'm gonna give them constructive feedback because I want them to get better.
And I want folks to do the same for me. I think transparency plays into that.
Conor Bronsdon: How do you approach it with team members who maybe have trouble hearing that critical feedback in an unvarnished fashion?
Christina Entcheva: Certainly, when diving into that realm, it's important to be aware of your context and try to suss out, like, whether that person is open to that feedback in the first place.
So like, before I give any constructive feedback, I would set the playing field to be like, hey, like, I have some feedback for you. What would be the best venue for you to hear it or...? Certainly, if I know that about someone ahead of time, that's even better.
Do they prefer to like hop on a Zoom call, or do they prefer to hop on a call? Yeah, and hear it in real-time. Do they prefer it written and need some time to process before we meet in person? So I try to make sure that the person is in the space to receive the feedback first of all. And how do I deal with someone who doesn't take it on board?
I think it depends on the situation, right? Yeah. So if it's a peer of mine who I'm giving feedback on because I think that it's something that they could benefit from, but they're not necessarily directly in my reporting chain, it's like a take-it-or-leave-it situation. If you don't agree or you don't wanna hear it, that's totally fine.
Like, you do you, if it's someone who is like in my reporting structure somehow, and it's tied to improving how we work as a company. Like it is important for the person to hear it, and there are different facets of how you might connect that type of feedback. I try to connect it to business impact.
I try to connect it to like impact on a person insofar as that's relevant. Try to help the person like see it outside of their own self and like what the impact that it has outside of them. I think that helps.
Published at DZone with permission of Conor Bronsdon. See the original article here.
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