It’s been proven countless times that psychological safety is key in team performance and delivery optimisation. When we create learner safety for others, we give encouragement to learn in exchange for a willingness to learn.

In this episode our host Michael Hammond, Client Director at Godel is joined by Damien Ryan, Director of Engineering at Comhbhá to discuss psychological safety and the many mindsets of a developer.

This is an edited transcript, for more conversations on the latest in tech, subscribe to The Godel POD on Podbean and Spotify. Podcast jingle provided by the Hideout YouthZone.

Podcast transcript

Michael Hammond: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Godel POD. I’m Michael Hammond, Client Director here at Godel. And today I’m joined by Damien Ryan, currently Managing Director at Comhbhá. Thanks very much for joining us, Damien. How are you?

Damien Ryan: I’m doing good. Apart from this heat. In seven hours, we went from complaining about the cold to complaining about the heat.

Michael Hammond: It wouldn’t be very British offers if we didn’t mention the weather straight away. Yeah, it’s nice to have a bit of sunshine. But it’s been a little bit too warm as of late. Obviously, we’re not here to talk about the weather, Damien. But I think best way for us to go. Today, we’re going to do a bit of a talk about the psychology of development, obviously, a very broad subject, but your experience of this, and you’ve got a very illustrious history and software development, lots of different roles. But I think what we’d love to do is start at the beginning. And if you could tell us where you initially got into the world of computer science and software development, where your love came from, and where it all started, I think that’d be a good place for us to kick it off.

Damien Ryan: So we’re going back to the Stone ages. When I was thinking about university, where I wanted to go, was to be a scientist. it started off as a technical college years ago, but then gradually, built up degree programmes. And it was a place where someone from a working-class background who could actually go, gather and affordable education in tertiary education. And they had, they ran this course, in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin, called Applied Science. Really, that course was trying to develop scientists who were purely theoretical, they knew how the real world works, and how the sorts of shapes of people that companies wanted. As part of this, they did physics, chemistry, all the other things, then they had computer science, and software engineering as options. like video games on the life that has a computer.

Michael Hammond: Oh, something we’ve got in common already.

Damien Ryan: I know of someone that might shape computer science as part of that. And that’s where my brain got away. Oh, I didn’t have to do the really, really hard maths physics needed. And don’t even get me started on double integration, I still don’t understand it. But I could actually sit at the machine, and type something in. And it’s exactly what I wanted, whether it was right or not. But it did that.

Michael Hammond: Everyone’s got their own level of satisfaction there from that. I remember it from a young age starting at a computer and just making a machine go five metres forward, turn left, you know that very basic. So that’s, that that was? I mean, if that didn’t excite you as a young, young lad, then I didn’t know what did.

Damien Ryan: I graduated from there. 1998, which, yes, the last century, you know, at the time around them, just before that was just the kind of the edge of when the internet bubble and the web bubble was starting to come up. So I thought about coming out, getting a job in manufacturing, with no plans, and writing database queries. First of all, life will be a nice easy job. Yeah, things exploded. So when to work for a company called Iona, which very few people will remember. But they were an Irish company that had floated on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. And there was a huge success story at the time. And what they built was a CORBA object request broker and a framework for building distributed applications, which everyone does now. But at the time, no, there was no other way of doing this. Let’s go back to that. I remember talking to a colleague of a few years ago, talking about know this and we were starting to, the guy turned around to me and said, Yeah, I remember CORBA from the history of computing class.

Michael Hammond: Is this so just the early 2000s? And David?

Damien Ryan: So this is, yeah, the late 90s, early 2000s. Okay. So development at the time was really, we had version control. But it was way before it was even before subversion. And I’ll think I’ll clear the case, it was very complicated to get code into a big code base. And it took a lot of work to get the right patches out to customers. We actually, you think about DevOps now where you can deploy hundreds of times a day, to get a patch into a customer, built it on a single machine zipped, files up and email those files over to a customer on their end and hope.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, when you when paint it like that you realise really how far we have come? I mean, I know there are obvious things that we look at around just your house to see how far we’ve come. But, you know, when you think about the actual developers behind the scenes, who working on these things, what they how differently they had to do it. Goodness me.

Damien Ryan: So it was done with us, as well. I mean, it’s done this agile stuff. It was everything was either waterfall, or it was A bunch of developers hoping for the best to get some software at the door. Towards the end of my tour there, then we’re getting into the early 2000s. I’m still a baby developer, not understanding a lot of how everything works. But then I only brought this fella over from us called Kent Beck, none of us have ever heard of them. names from the familiar yourself. He came over and told us about this thing called XP, where you ask customers what they want, and do what the customers want, which is far worse in my head. That’s why we’re here. Right?

Then around the start of the 21st century, yikes. bubble burst, and a whole lot of companies, especially the ones that are reliant on our money went bust. There’s going to be a theme here because I was one of the people laid off from my appetite. Right. And then I did what most Irish people do is look to England, and I’ll come over to Cambridge for six months, see how it goes. So I got a job in a company called Accelerace. Scientific modelling software, on desktop with qubits, communicate with servers and fit in well. That was 20 years ago. So there’s something about Cambridge and the ecosystem around Cambridge that just really holds on to this. It’s a nice place to live. Around that time, where I realised that I’m not the sort of person who likes to go in on or tinker on the very edges of something and get good at one specific thing. And it’s more about how we make software and how we help developers be effective at what they do.

Michael Hammond: We’re already seeing a sort of a change in your psychology as a developer, as you moved around. So yeah, it would you say, from? Yes, well, you’ve had a few sorts of penny drop moments already in your first two, two places that are a constant thing that you’ve found through psychology, in development that you’re always learning, you’re always having these, at the start of your career, you’re going to have a lot more. But would you say there’s that spike at the start of your career where, you seem to be taking on a lot and having a lot of changes in how you see it? And what, and then you mentioned it while you’re doing it in the first place.

Damien Ryan: Yeah, I don’t have a whiteboard here. So it’s going to be difficult. But if you can imagine, like a graph. Yeah. And you think of it there, and it always feels like it’s a linear graph going up until you’ve learned everything and then tapers off. But what it is kind of a series of forests. So as you said, you’ve got that really fast ramp-up in uni. I tried to learn what yeah, all this programming thing is and then that tapers off when you think you’ve got it? And then you go into a job with real people having to learn to work together and learn soft skills. And there’s another big ramp-up of learning happening again. Yeah, it’s such tapering off. And then discover, well, it’s all about customer value. There’s a whole bunch of things to learn. And it says this step thing that keeps happening, yeah, all the way through, even now. You’ll never know everything. But that will grab you. And this is where I want to learn that. And with you,

Michael Hammond: Are we mid mid 2000s? Is that right?

Damien Ryan: Yeah. So now we’re the early to late 2000s. Okay, it hasn’t been wanted as need that sort of timeframe. Things are still fairly old-fashioned in setup, sending zip files with libraries and executables. We have installed our programmes, you can double click and instal, it will do all of the work here. And they’re like, thinking about automation. And think about taking the toil out of work? That is what fired me up then. It feels like sometimes, and dichotomies are usually false, but feels like the kind of two types of developers here are developer psychologies. There’s the developer who wants to make new features, who wants to explore new tech and all that. And as a type of developer who wants to make the process of getting softer customers out the door, as easy as possible? Yeah. At the time was building teams and building engineering or tools engineering, which has slowly become DevOps over the last 20 years now.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, it is. It’s interesting. Is it how that mindset shapes? Does it shape your career in software development? What angle software engineering? Where did you go into whether you’re that proactive person that wants to create new things, or whether you like fixing things? Do you think that’s something that is decided early on? Or does it change often?

Damien Ryan: I’m not sure how stable it is. So you’re stable is a psychological term, which means no matter whether a trade lasts for another lifetime, or it does change, but I have noticed that there are kind of people who want to work on new fancy features. And tech kind of complained quite a lot when he asked me to do some bug fixing or, you know, some deep refactoring changes to code that aren’t going to make it to the door to customers. So automation around build frameworks. Well, that has changed quite a lot with the advent of DevOps. So these kinds of skills together, and the advent of agile ways of forming teams. So cross-functional teams were, gradually getting developed to see that it’s not a personal sport. It’s a team sport, and it’s about what the team can do.

Michael Hammond: Yes, no, I am in the team right. Now, that’s, that’s, that’s a really good point. I mean, it’s nuts in all walks of life, really, I think, with any organisation, or anything you’re trying to do. How, how does the psychology of development affect developers work as individuals and as a team? So, you know, is there that fear to fail fear to share with the team success as a team as opposed to an individual? How, how does that differ?

Damien Ryan: Okay. I’ve started going from older style companies that you could almost say, free Agile Manifesto, to later stage companies, which came after that. And then DevOps similarly, following along. seen developers are either you know, that they want to work in a team and they need to work in a team, which that’s, that’s the prevailing wisdom. That’s what we have to do now. Yeah. There are still some developers who never want to do that. And think we shouldn’t talk to each other. And that’s a really hard thing as well, because we’re never taught soft skills, growing languages, we’re taught design patterns. But those things are easy to learn.

What’s really hard to learn is that how do you have a conversation without knowing someone they’re holding a sense of collaboration and safety in a team. Yeah. And that’s that So the important thing, because you can have the best programmers in the world if they’re not talking to each other, or if they feel that their ideas will get knocked down, or if there’s lots of competition, and you just have to look at Twitter at the moment, that’s not going to be as effective as possible.

Michael Hammond: That’s a really good point. I mean, communication. Absolutely. On Point and, and working in teams and things like that. It’s having your point heard, and being able to effectively communicate that I know. We’ve spoke before about it’s kind versus nice. Tell us tell us tell the viewers what you mean. So viewers, listeners, we’re on a podcast, aren’t we? We’re not streaming live. Tell, tell the tell the listeners what you mean when you say kind versus Nice.

Damien Ryan: So a lot of people when they when they hear the word kind, I think, actually Oh, hang on. Let me let me turn this around. Put a pause in there, actually. What do you think if someone is being kind? What does that suggest to you?

Michael Hammond: If someone’s being kind, they are buying someone and ice cream. Been being polite, please. And thank you. Um, I’m on my way off there.

Damien Ryan: Yeah, that is particularly that nices kind of pushing things down just to get along. So yeah, you might feel conflict. You might not agree with someone, but you don’t want to be mean. So you’re just kind is, it’s a little bit sharper. Yeah, it’s all it’s all the things you know, it’s helping your colleagues be the best they can be working out, actually pointing out good things as they go along. But also pointing out bad things. So yeah, if you’ve got conflicts, and you want to have this conversation, it’s kind of rare to have a difficult conversation and the open are kind of difficult feedback. But the kindness because it’s not cool to be kind it’s doing human manner.

Michael Hammond: So there’s Yeah, a basically it’s a, it’s a clear, concise conversation. Not cruel. But it’s for the good of the team. And it’s, it’s constructive isn’t it? I guess it’s perhaps the word but sounds. Sounds like all teams should be doing it.

Damien Ryan: I don’t know if you’ve seen Ted Lasso, a big thing over the last day, especially during lockdown. But the back character stuff. Yeah. As someone who’s very nice, or to the point where it almost killed him. Yeah. He gets therapy and thumbs up. Everyone should do it. Yeah. And then being more kind is looking after himself. He’s giving people the hard feedback that they need. He’s not just hoping everything just gets along. And that’s the journey that we all have to take.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, if anyone has watched it, they’ll completely understand that. And that’s the perfect sort of example there, isn’t it? It’s, yeah, it’s an interesting conversation. Converse is nice. Because unless someone’s had that conversation, I don’t think they understand. So it’s being nice, actually, in the long run is actually can be detrimental. You want to be kind? That’s really good. Do you think that that has become more difficult with modern ways of working? Damien, obviously, is that is it easier to be kind face to face than it is over teams call? What effect is the modern way of working hard on our psychology to think and perhaps specifically for software developers?

Damien Ryan: So going back to the personal story, and lockdown apps absolutely broke me. Again, you can imagine, think about it no software engineering science background, developing before moving into management. I thought I would love being locked in the house, not having to do the things I have to make small talk all of that. Yeah, it took two weeks before I was almost screaming wanting to go back into an office. And a very personal thing before the people with pitchforks come after me. And I discovered I was an extrovert or at least some time, two weeks into lockdown. One of the biggest things I noticed for me during lockdown was that zoom and online calls all of this stuff made everything Very two dimensional so that we didn’t do the small talk or the know that how are you today? That sort of thing? Meetings are very much come into play

Michael Hammond: I mean, it is, it’s completely true. I mean, I, I’ve worked from home for a long time as well. And being perhaps what I’d say is more of a people person, the time you spend in an office, you know, you will have conversations you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t have just, I know, it sounds obvious, but getting someone a coffee walking past someone’s desk, just catching eyes with someone at the office, oh, you know, I need a reminder that, oh, I need to do this for you, or things like that, you know, if you’ve not hot on your reminders on your laptop, it’s, it’s, it’s just invaluable really isn’t at that time in the office.

Damien Ryan: And so, the psychology wise, it took us a long time to actually understand the people on the screen where people we’ve spent all of our lives being primed that a person is three dimensional in front of you, you can see their body language, you can see the subtle facial expressions. When someone is just shoulders in the head on a flat screen, we’ve been trained to video games through television, there are enough people on the screen. And we switched into that mode without no longer I think there was a almost like a desert of empathy. At the time, where Yeah, we were all a little bit more ratty with each other, we all demanded a lot more of each other, and didn’t spend the time to see where we eat or where we all okay. And then the while the productivity of individuals went up, yeah, the productivity effectiveness of a team went down because we lost that psychological safety, we lost the ability to make mistakes.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, I think there’s a right way of perhaps working remotely and there’s a wrong way, I think you can’t just do it, you’ve got to have certain things, certain support, people support set up there, you know, you’ve got to have regular check ins and things like that, to kill them help with that psychological struggles, through essentially just being on your own and like you say, not having that human contact. Interesting. You said, we are we have kind of been tuned to think that someone on the screen isn’t real, or there’s not that, you know, from watching TV and playing computer games and stuff like that, if it’s on the TV, you don’t have that. It’s just not the same as it you don’t have those body languages coming back at you. You know, it’s head and shoulders. That’s all it isn’t a screen. Interesting that you said, productivity went up? And why do you think that was then?

Damien Ryan: So it’s a very specific type of productivity, though the productivity of a person went up, because you’re at home all day, there are fewer interruptions. If someone wants to just have a chat, it’s a big thing. You have to go and put something in a diary or you have to call them on Slack or zoom. Then after conversation, you have to think about why you’re having the conversation, as opposed to just dropping by someone’s desk saying, Hey, how you doing? You’re not looking? You’re not looking great. But you can’t all of that extra time to do the bits of work that are just work.

Michael Hammond: Yeah. So it’s not that often you get a sort of an invite in your Outlook calendar for to talk about football or stuff like that. But good, because you might think that that’s not right. But realistically, in the office, you will do that you’ll have a chat about your weekend football, good or bad, and it will be invaluable, but you just get like sat at home, you don’t have those calendar invites for that.

Damien Ryan: And we tried really hard at the start lockdown. If you if you remember that time. We’re going to do all the same things. We’re going to have social time on zoom.

Michael Hammond: The quizzes!

Damien Ryan: Just reminded me that I wasn’t good to know.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, no, I understand. Yeah. So we did try. Yeah, I guess it’s all about that hybrid. Now, really having a bit of a mix of both. And I think that has come from all feedback from that, you know, one way remote, just it. It doesn’t, doesn’t work as quite way. Got to have that bit of a blend.

Damien Ryan: It’s also a very personal way I’m talking about myself. I’m sure I know I’m in the minority, the person who wants to be in office and around people, especially in development, that sort of person in the minority there. But so is the I never want to talk to people. And there’s always something in between. So it is up to the person which, which way they want to live their life.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, well, I mean, there’s, there’s nothing more personal is there than your psychology, how you how you feel how you react. So it’s, it’s not a one blanket fits all. Although there might be things out there that ring true for a lot of people. There’s nothing more personal, really helped me like, say, like some people during lockdown to have the time of their life. They loved it, you know? It’s interesting. So, I guess, moving away from sort of remote working, and how that affected is, what would you say? Are the three most important points or three most important psychological traits for a successful developer? Or we could do five? How many would you like to do?

Damien Ryan: Well, we’re all individuals. And I don’t really think that there are specific traits that being you are going to be a good developer or not. But there are some behaviours that will help you a lot. The biggest one is going to be curiosity. I got to say it’s from most no-knowledge rolls of curiosity. Is your, your biggest friend? Yeah. Because yeah, you need to be curious about the customer’s problem. What are they actually want to be fixed? Now? What is going to help people think curious Mr. How you’re going to fix it and how you’re going to make it better? But not just do the kind of the smallest thing that would solve that problem. But think wider about the issues that will come up around there. So what the wider systems is going to integrate this? I think that’s yeah, probably a big.

Michael Hammond: Very, very true. Obviously, understanding a problem outside in is very difficult. And then sometimes, you know, if you’re limited to three questions, you’re not going to have the same overview. I like to see it as a bit of a jigsaw. So if he asked 20 questions, you will have more pieces there. So it’s easier. If you ask two questions, or they’re not the right questions, then you’re not and you’re not curious, curious enough to ask them in the first place, then you’re going to have maybe three or four outside pieces, and you’re not going to know how to how to work on it. Would you go along with my little idea of a jigsaw? I’ve always used that. Obviously,

Damien Ryan: You’re always going to be wrong, but at the mercury share start, the less likely that wrong is going to be?

Michael Hammond: Yeah, I mean, in software, software development, I would imagine it’s, it’s even more important, because they’re not always visual things. And, you know, the, you know, if you’re talking about like a monolith system, it might not necessarily even know until you’ve been curious enough to test something. Right. But of manual testing there, and you might miss it. Yeah, curiosity, I think is yeah, that’s, that’s a really good point.

Damien Ryan: And it goes beyond just finding out what the customer wants. It’s because your customer wants a certain piece of business functionality needs to be curious about the entire system and how it interacts with other things to learn the parts that the customer never knows that they want. So if you don’t do them, let me say that you want to help that problem.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. Okay, so Damien, carry on with your sort of journey in software engineering and, and how it shaped you today.

Damien Ryan: And I was just halfway through kind of career at the time, starting to feel a little bit burnt out. From the experience developer and you haven’t felt coming close to porn at some time, then you’re rare and incredibly lucky. I have a very weird reaction to Pornhub. What I did was sign up for an open university course not realising just how much work it was going to be. So then, at around the end of my time and accelerates, I took on a psychology Master’s with the university I spent about 10 years getting that let’s say until I’m Working. Then after accelerace, I went to a small company that you might have heard of they used to make mobile phones, Motorola A huge step up in learning about software development that scale so most of them is low floor had about. 200 developers Motorola at that time that’s 77,000 developers working a very small part of it, which is basically trying to build Android before Android came out.

Michael Hammond: OK. Interesting.

Damien Ryan: And that is. A very different way of doing software. It’s kind of. At that point, then all the agile side of things vanished because you’re talking the hardware. So very old school.

And that it’s still that age classes. Building where we were, we’re building the LS framework and the LS. That had to go through, you know, various regulatory cheques for some had discovered that there were regulations in some parts of. The industry. And then that went to device manufacturers have to certify it there. And then the network owners that certified there. So that was a lot slower process. Than learning to work with hardware and lots more developers. That was interesting to them.

Michael Hammond: Slightly different to what you’d previously been doing in terms of that. Was that a valuable part of a valuable learning curve? I would say that he went on through Motorola.

Damien Ryan: This is where I actually learned a lot more doing psychology degree than I ever did do in computer science is if you think about the scales of people. So in the Cambridge site, there were 400 people. That’s a lot harder to.

For any one person to know any one other person does. Trying to you know. Get that entire system in your head is very hard and where I was working on the on the build team was very much I have to understand all of the different teams and who is. Fighting with whom and who who was happy, who wasn’t? What parts of the system were. Less good than others. That’s a learning about development as actually as a psychology game as opposed to floating.

Michael Hammond: If you’ve. Got that, that level of communication or if psychological understanding you could learn about the pros and cons a lot quicker through talking through the team rather than just sitting down on your own going through lines and lines of code and you know it’s it, it does benefit. The industry massively.

Damien Ryan: Well, especially for. For a team that for a company that size. One person changing something deep in an operating system. Has massive ramifications for everyone else, so you have to talk. You have to, right? If I’m changing the Bluetooth stack.

How is that going to affect? Everything else about the phone, OK, you need to get drivers updated that talk the driver’s team and. This this is this is probably hint that this now, but this is where later on much smarter people than me come up with team topologies and talk about hey, we’ve been told silos are bad for 20 years, but actually if you want to be a human being and able to reason about this stuff. You have to have some sort of silos.

Michael Hammond: OK. Interesting. So how long? How long were you at Motorola? For then, Damien? Was that that long stint?

Damien Ryan: The iPhone came out, Android came out and the market changed sufficiently that which I don’t think Motorola kept. Up with the times.

Michael Hammond: And they closed their Cambridge office and that’s when I moved down to London. Worked for a few years. So this this web thing that was. Starting to get big again. It’s never. We never worked on a web app before. We worked for that. We called Bordeaux at the time and they built relationship Capital Management software. So again, like looking at the relationships between people and how you can leverage them and the strength of those relationships. And that was a huge change for Motorola, because went from a huge development teams worldwide to a very small team of six people.

Damien Ryan: And you know, they won’t. Proper scrum. And this is the dangerous of scrum. I’ve seen that it’s it becomes very easy, especially for developer to look at the. The things that’s going lower and a framework says you have to do and then. Do that around as opposed to understanding. You know what? What they’re there for. So for example, there’s one piece of work I was working on the installer.

Michael Hammond: Because they’re supposed to make progress every Sprint, it became busy work because he didn’t install at the end and everything worked then. It’s a lot easier than. You know completely. Reworking the installer every week just to make progress.

Damien Ryan: Good attention there between me and development manager on whether I should spend the time making slow, slow progress and the incremental progress is good, but. Sometimes you know it’s the tension between our avoiding rework and updating. And not making progress at the very end.

Michael Hammond: Yeah. So that’s A good mix, isn’t it, between methodologies and psychology and. And you’ve got to take into account both equally, I’d imagine.

Damien Ryan: I would again that was there. This is just before DevOps became a thing and the operations team and development team. Didn’t talk very well and I was in between both. The operations team would complain about this, this scrum thing. Things like Oh yeah, they just do process for process sake all this. No, it’s not very stable and development team will obviously complain to get the operations team that’s. Or the certain the ways why can’t I just make? A change, right? And then the DevOps started coming out. People writing about it, and gradually they started to come together and was going to see that. But it took a lot of trying to get each kind of side of the business to understand the other problems and later thinking that way, rather than saying they’re wrong. Because obviously all right.

Michael Hammond: The element of empathy that we’re touching on there, I think, which is something we’ve.

Damien Ryan: This is this the hardest part? Isn’t it understanding that so the thing on the occasions going to let the liking gap? As humans, we spend all of our time in our own head. So we’ve got this one voice that’s constant that’s always here. Well, we don’t understand a lot of the time our on a very visceral level is that other people don’t have access. To that voice. We assume they know this constant stream of thoughts. It’s always here. They don’t.

Michael Hammond: We all often think that we are or other. We assume other people. Are mind readers. And unfortunately that that doesn’t exist. No, I know, but yeah, that’s a good point obviously. That’s just. Well, it’s, it’s a psychological understanding, isn’t it, that you need to communicate your thoughts and other people will have other thoughts and trying to work together and understand why somebody else has done something.

Damien Ryan: And then understanding the. The grace and kindness that you know. You’ll have a lot of time where this hasn’t, but it takes a long time to build up this kind of ability to have conversations that you know are going to be tricky. What the conversations are important because that’s how you build and understanding the person’s.

Michael Hammond: Yeah. So it’s it sounds like at this point in your career, you’re starting to understand a bit about like the leadership, what things work like you’ve got this scrum, you’ve done waterfall Dev OPS is on the brink. So would you say this was quite a? You know, like when we were talking about the graph and how you learn and it sounds like you’re about, you know, yeah, about there so.

Michael Hammond: So where? Where did it lead you next, Damien?

Damien Ryan: Directly meet back to them, I say moved. I moved companies back to Cambridge because I want to stop eating for a while. It was back and forth 6 hours a day on the train. But you could imagine if I was that person during that time, I probably would have been. A lot more happy. And so working for a security cell phone company. Right, that’s where I started leading it in and sort of building more around the process and actually taking a smaller than me to the point where it needs. To be. $1,000,000. The game developed practises about reducing how often reducing the time between releases, adding customer value early and often.

Michael Hammond: So you’ve completed your psychology masters at this time? Is that right? Yeah.

Damien Ryan: I did. Yeah. So it was about two years into bromine, but I’d finally written up. And yeah, and then for two minutes. I think that most thought that a doctorate and thought, no, I don’t, I don’t know and see that. Yeah.

Michael Hammond: 10,000 words. It was a it was a similar thought process for myself. I did. UM, I’ve got a masters in town planning and I think I thought about it probably about a. Minute and 1/2. I thought, I think I’m there. Education wise, I think I’m happy. But so then that that must have been. You must have been able to take so much from that masters degree and implement it into running the teams. It sounds like it all came together at a really, really good time. It must have helped you. With your career quite a lot.

Damien Ryan: Yesterday, after Romeo and I moved over to feature space. I was employing them for 87 when I joined there, so it was a small engineering team, 30 people but growing really, really.

Michael Hammond: OK. Quickly scaling up, yes, yeah.

Damien Ryan: With lots of great technical people, but not a lot of process. So I came in to. Do the process management. Take some of the things I’ve learned previously and to introduce them to a company that’s growing far too quickly. And I spent my time there kind of growing the team from that 30 people team to. 120. Building leadership, team building, communication processes and. Basically trying to. Is still that kind empathetic. We won’t be enforced culture across. And this is around the biggest thing there. So one of my big budget was actually taking. The organisation. So it’s like development before. People and structures. Take the organisation to a place that would support growth.

Michael Hammond: Less code, more people.

Damien Ryan: Turning Outlook and PowerPoint into an ID. So there’s around some of kind of hints that it performs and Team Technologies came out. And there’s nothing majorly new in team topologies, but what it does is it brings together 20 years of thought and practise. Into a fairly slender book, but it’s all gold about how you organise teams, different types of teams that you would you would organise people and. And hey, organised people. He and I, as much trust as possible. So if you think about. The connections between people, so if you’ve got two people in the team, you have to have one conversation to kind of figure something out. If you’ve got four people in the. You have to have eight conversations during class and skating like that as soon as you’ve got a single team over five or six people. Than to have trust in that team of people becomes it’s going to be difficult because you have to constantly have these conversations and that’s why we organise into teams.

Then though the key things around team topologies as you organise the teams around very specific parts of your social architecture. So then that team can do everything it needs to do around that. Piece of the. System and then you do actually put.

Fill those in between teams so there’s a great concept in there called the team. API which is very you describe. When you have a team, you describe how you contact the team, the parts of the system they are responsible for, the API’s they tested, the APIs that they use, and. Now, if you’re changing your partner system by the fact that what those are and then you basically have, that’s how you communicate with the team.

So then you’re taking their individuals out. So you’re taking the whole. I’m an individual doing my job is upper level in that. The units of the organisation are really teams and the teams then talk to each other through these interfaces.

Michael Hammond: Yeah. Would you say that’s a challenge faced by? Lots of companies out there. Tell how? We’ll just say that’s implemented quite broadly, or would you say it’s something that a lot of companies could take in into context and try and apply?

Damien Ryan: Oh, it’s and if, if you look at some of the stuff that that skeleton, the manual pay you’ve been writing recently, it’s gone way outside of tactical teams. And companies of any type of business are starting to implement these sorts of ideas. That’s just the note. Laying out what who’s responsible for what? Yeah, I’ve heard of those people interact.

Michael Hammond: There’s additional layers of governance that perhaps the best way to set that is. Needed around these teams.

Damien Ryan: There’s a keeping. Everyone started, especially with the agile kind of mid. Everyone talks about empowered teams. But empowerment on its own can create chaos that was like, well, this is might be you can’t have it, and people are fighting over ownership or this is my process. It the team topology is good, framework gives you more of a. A way of laying out the boundaries of this empowerment and boundaries. It’s super, super empowering.

Is it a good shame that allow you then to go off and do whatever you need to do in those within those boundaries?

Damien Ryan: Sure. Yeah, the rules are there for a. Reason sort of thing, isn’t it? How could we help or encourage? People too. Understand the importance of this psychology aspect, because, let’s be honest, Damon, there’s not too many guys in your industry that have this level of understanding of psychology this with a masters degree in psychology. While that fantastic mix, it’s almost. I think everyone should have some sort of education in psychology. For all lines of work, right? Let’s not pretend it’s not that I mean. My girlfriend has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and often I’ll run things past her and she just use it completely different to me. How? My oh, God, you’re so right. How can we better understand the psychology of a software developer? It’s. It is critical, critical to their success. Right. And by understanding thought processes and. The motivation of someone behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. You can change. Can change, right?

Damien Ryan: Yeah, I. Think you shouldn’t say this, but there’s nothing. Actually special about software developers as people. You that you, you understand psychology of the individual rather than self. Developers are all this stereotype that you’ve got.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, I mean, they’re stereotypes for all types of people, right? Salesman. You know, salespeople are like, they’re the guys in the suit that won’t let you speak. They’ll won’t leave you alone. They’ll hustle you on the phone. That’s the stereotypical salesman, like egotistical, flashy car, but realistically. I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s, there’s all that. And in software development, I guess there is, there’s that there’s that picture that people paint. But yeah, go on. So, so.

Damien Ryan: There are traits, you know. Like you said, they’re stereotypes for a reason, but. Most of developers, at least that I’ve known. Want to fix things they want to solve problems for real people. That’s why they’re there. This can be great because you’re solving real business problems. You’re saving companies money, you’re stopping real people from the holiday to you’re making all these cool things that we got to play with. It can also have a dioxides in that. The first thing most developers will do is try to fix the problem. Rather than pause. And try to consider, well, what are we trying? To do here.

Michael Hammond: Why is the problem there in the 1st place you know?

Damien Ryan: Is there something? Else we can do about that rather than making. The code change. Is that what the customer actually wants? Then there’s all sorts of questions that you can. Ask before jumping straight to. I’m going to make an early code fix later.

Michael Hammond: Are we trying? To fix something that doesn’t need fixing, you know there’s sometimes that question. Is it? Yeah, it you really got to start that inquisitiveness and that we spoke about earlier. You know, curiosity.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, that’s the key thing, yeah.

Damien Ryan: And the downside as well for a lot of. Developers that run code bases get too creaky when there’s a lot of. Pressure from a business to do lots of little things. They do too much. That as development teams feel like they’re not providing value. Developers in those teams are very hard in themselves.

Michael Hammond: Is it? Are we touching on impostor syndrome? Maybe as well here, I think.

Damien Ryan: Stress all of these things from not being able to do the one thing that you think you’re great at.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, yeah. So I guess what we’re talk we’re touching on so many interesting points here, Damian, how what is it, what can we? Do to help. Perhaps spread the word and better understand the psychology of a software developer. Besides picking up a book or doing a psychology degree.

Damien Ryan: There’s a there’s a lot you don’t even need to learn. It’s all about. Communication. Talking to your colleagues and. Setting aside your own thoughts and actually truly listening, none of this actually really listens when I’m talking right now. I bet you that you’re sitting. Think but. What’s the next question?

And exactly like human, yeah. But that’s what we. Will do. Which means that we’re either waiting to knock down the point or we’re not. We’re just not present. We’re not truly kind of trying to understand what that person is trying to say, and it’s really it’s the words that the person is trying to say. There’s always something behind there and you can dig into it and.

Michael Hammond: I would you agree? I I’d say I. I mean, I’m 33. OK, so I’m getting to a point in my life where perhaps I can look back at myself. 1015 years ago I thank God like for me that the listening aspect. I remember the when I first sort of started in sales, you know, it was very much what you just said like not listening. Thinking of what next to say whereas. As I’ve got older. A bit more calm. You know there’s nothing wrong with being open. Honest, you know, we are all human. If I was to say if you’d said something when I was younger, if someone had said something I didn’t understand, I would nod and pretend to understand and save my grace. Thing. But as I got older, but actually there’s absolutely nothing wrong with. Me to say. Sorry, I mean, even if I’m the only one in the room, I don’t understand. Can you explain it until I do and then my word that was I mean. That is an important aspect to have that open, clear communication. Like you said, if you can have that, then. There’s nothing, you know, I mean. Like you said. The technical point of view you get from your university degrees, you get your technical understanding. But if you can’t ask that question, if there’s something you don’t understand, then my word is your. Is it going? To be difficult.

Michael Hammond: Here are the. All such reasons why you wouldn’t ask questions. So I don’t want to feel stupid there or even more so if teams don’t have that safety, you could get to that for asking the question. You want you want to. It’s fostering that environment on going really hard on. You reward people not just for technical excellence, but also for communication and collaboration.

That’s that. And that’s a prime example of where psychology can hinder development. Full stop. Any sort of progress. You know, if someone’s scared to ask questions, it’s and that just proves sort of your point that psychology and. The psychology of developers almost, if not more important than their ability to their technical ability, I guess. Where would you say now your journey? Obviously manager and director, now of your own, your own company. What would you say? What would you say is the next the next peak for you to go on to?

Damien Ryan: No, I think I’m at the bottom. Of one of these curves.

Michael Hammond: Yeah, sure, yeah.

Damien Ryan: Which is. I’ve done this once before. With lots of white hair and lots of stress, learn a lot of. Things not to do. Like to do it again. That’s what I want to do, and that’s why I’ve set up this consulting company. As well to. Help people who want to talk about psychology, development, psychology organisations and if you’d like what I’ve said, then you’re going to talk.

Michael Hammond: I can’t remember if I mentioned it earlier. It was the last time we spoke, but the translation of the of the name of your business, just tell the listeners how.

Damien Ryan: Oh yes, and. It’s there, it is. It’s not colder. Which of course. Irish words unpronounceable to anyone but. The Irish it’s a. But it can be.

Damien Ryan: It’s it can be roughly translated as. Can be working together. It can mean all sorts of things like that, but it’s in the region of empathy.

Michael Hammond: That’s brilliant. I mean, I think that’s probably one of my favourite names of a company I’ve ever heard, because that’s I’m a strong one for empathy. I think it it’s really important to understand when you talk to someone where they’re coming from and what they might.

Damien Ryan: Give the sales, I mean that’s what you.

Michael Hammond: How they might be viewing it exactly it’s perspective, isn’t it? You have to understand the a problem before you can even go about trying to fix. I guess that’s our time, Damien. I think I’ll thank you immensely for coming on and giving us your time. There’s been really, really a great, honest, open chat about psychology, you know, some we don’t always talk about it, do we? I think it’s important to share, have open and honest conversations and hopefully. I guess off the back of this, anyone’s listening and has a conversation about anything that they’re struggling with. You know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something struggling with talk about what you’re enjoying. You know, it’s equally as important. Right. So are there any last final words, Damien, you’d like to say.

Damien Ryan: This world is very tough, particularly now there’s been the first recession or almost recession, and a lot of people have. Ever gone through in their lives?

Michael Hammond: Finally, we made it an hour and 15 minutes without using the word recession that I think we’ve had deserved. A PAT on the back.

Damien Ryan: Have to get it in there for that. The important thing is it’s not being kind, being kind to each other. It’s difficult and in times are difficult. You need to remember that there is only kindness.

And being kind to ourselves is also just as important. It’s going to be tough, yeah.

Michael Hammond: And understanding. Yeah, understanding what kindness means that we spoke about it earlier not being just nice all the time, but being kind, I think that’s probably a great way to finish. So Damien, thank you so much for your time. I’ll speak to you soon, no doubt, and enjoy the rest of your week and. Thanks very much for joining us here at the Godel pod.

Damien Ryan: Thanks so much, Michael.

Michael Hammond: No worries. Take care.

[Outro] Michael Hammond: Huge thank you to all the listeners out there who’ve listened to this instalment of The Godel POD. If you like what you hear and would like to know when we’re releasing even more episodes, please just subscribe to the Godel page on pod bean or Spotify.