Conference Spotlight: Lead Dev London 2019

Tom Winter Lead Dev Conference

I've enjoyed a number of videos from Lead Dev in previous years and various folks have talked to me in glowing terms about the conference. Colleagues have come back energised and inspired and I felt enormously grateful to be heading to the Barbican for two days of talks across a range of topics in tech and technical leadership.

Lead Dev is undoubtedly the highest quality conference I have attended. The event was impeccable from an attendee's perspective and put in place a range of measures to ensure an inclusive, welcoming environment where everyone was given an opportunity to learn and enjoy. There was a visible and regularly referred to code of conduct, approachable event staff, closed caption for each talk, onsite childcare and the facility to customise your lanyard to identify pronouns, a preference not to be approached or not to be photographed.

There were so many great talks that it’s impossible to identify 'favourites' but I just wanted to highlight a few talks that I’d recommend starting with.


Lara Hogan – Navigating team friction

I've been following Lara on Twitter for a number of years now and am unfailingly blown away by the way she distils complicated and deeply researched concepts into immediate and actionable ideas. Her writing is exceptional across a number of topics in the field of technical leadership and I felt hugely fortunate to see this talk open the conference. 

Such is the skill in Lara's writing and talks that it sneaks up on you how profound the concepts being outlined are. Suddenly you've been presented with a whole set of new tools underpinned by research from psychology, cognitive science and behavioural economics. This talk covered stages of team growth and how to frame and present feedback in a way that is more likely to land. It was such a great start to the conference and I can't wait to read Lara’s new book 'Resilient Management'.


Ronald Ashri – What on earth does it mean to build AI software?

When Lead Dev's talks moved into the more technical AI and Machine Learning was undoubtedly a recurring theme. Ronald's talk looked across the state of development in AI, outlining what it means to talk about 'building AI software' alongside some contemporary issues and debates. 

The talk managed to be broad and approachable whilst still conveying complex ideas and left me both better informed and excited to find out more about some of the challenges being solved by software engineers in this field. One of the key takeaways was that the concept of AI represents ‘delegating decision making to machines’. A working definition that does away with a lot of wrangling with terminology and questioning ‘...Is this AI?’ and simply gets to the task of solving problems.


Ola Sitarska – Behind the scenes of an effective and inclusive hiring process

Ola is VP of Engineering and has overseen a period of significant growth at Verve. The talk focused on the processes that have been put in place to try and embed the most effective and fair recruitment process possible.

Whilst the talk moved through a number of different techniques and tools it was only halfway through Ola's talk that it dawned on me quite how much information was being made available. You could watch the talk and implement a new recruitment process from scratch modelled purely on the information provided.

One of the most interesting insights Ola provided was the consistency between the systems Verve use to assess potential candidates and to undertake reviews of existing staff. This continuity in assessing potential and existing team members through keeping processes aligned helped refine the practice of trying to ensure the people with the right skills will join and stay with the business.


These were just a small subset of the talks from a wide range of great speakers and I really can't recommend Lead Dev enough. I could've written a post on each talk there was so much to take away from each one. I look forward to going back through more of the videos and roll on 2020!