About César Lugo

César Lugo is a senior software engineer at Typeform. Along with the Typeform engineering team, he has pioneered their internal developer experience with incredible results. He was on stage with us at the CTO Forum, and we’re pleased to share his story on our blog today!

César Lugo discussed developer experience at the CTOForum at VivaTech.

The new developer experience is about impact

César Lugo has spent a lot of time thinking about developer experience.

That’s because in most cases, it’s a mess.

On any given day, developers need to think about daily standups, incidents, sprint planning, post-mortems—and put out all the little fires that prevent them from really building. With all the demands on a developer’s time, most don’t have the energy and space to think of creative solutions for persistent problems. Not to mention, developers get discouraged from piloting a new product or business idea because of the tangled administrative processes.

César concluded that the original idea of developer experience, which referred to the usability of APIs and tools, doesn’t cover the full scope of challenges a developer faces. Nor does it take into account a developer’s level of engagement with the business.

To articulate this gap, César began thinking in terms of the “new” developer experience–a holistic term that refers to how developers work on a daily basis, and what brings meaning to their jobs.

To put this idea into practice and improve developer experience, Typeform began by implementing a culture of experimentation with a bottom-up culture. This resulted in two measures that allow developers to create impact and maintain a quality code base.

Company-wide hackathon breaks silos, creates impact

The first measure is a quarterly company-wide hackathon Typeform calls the Hive Sprint.

During the Hive Sprint, anyone can propose a project to work on, whether it is a product feature, business improvement, social initiative or internal tool. Moreover, during the two weeks of the hackathon, there are no meetings or standups. Developers dedicate their capacity to new ideas, and employees across the organization can drop whatever they are doing to join ad-hoc teams and participate.

The hackathon provides relief from the daily routine, giving developers the chance to meet people from throughout the company and build without worrying about gatekeepers or satisfying stakeholders. And in addition to these improvements to developer experience, the hackathons have resulted in product updates and internal tools that bring significant improvements to the business.

It’s “organized chaos,” César says. And the developers are in their element.

The two weeks end with a mega-hyped demo session where the developers can showcase what they built, sharing with their peers and colleagues. Once the demo session is done, owners and engineering teams stop to analyze the results of the Hive Sprint and put projects in team backlogs.

Breaking down silos and allowing developers the freedom to attack problems as they see fit has resulted in a good ROI. For example, one hackathon resulted in the creation of an internal interface that connects the recruiting team with engineers. Recruiters can see which engineers are available for what type of interview, and give scores to engineers. This tool revolutionized how these two teams work together, gamifying and organizing what was once a painful process.

A standards and proposals framework ensures code cleanliness and consistency

A problem that constantly plagues software, and therefore developers, is the difficulty of maintaining standardization and code quality to keep the codebase tidy.

In a small organization, an engineer could go through each repository to improve its quality. However, even at a modest scale, this is a nearly impossible task. That’s why Typeform put into place their second measure, the standards and proposals framework.

The framework is democratic, like the Hive Sprint. Anyone can propose an engineering standard, which goes through an extensive approval process. The standard can refer to any aspect of the technical organization, from migration of repositories from one CI/CD provider to another, to error handling, to consistency in logs. To ensure the standards are implemented in a timely manner, all teams must comply with it by the quarter after its adoption. They also have a tool that automatically checks if standards are adopted–which was itself a result of one of their quarterly hackathons.

Implementing this framework led to pretty impressive results: In just five months, they increased the compliance of over 300 projects from 30% to 90%.

The new developer experience is a mindset

The fact that good employee engagement–which is, fundamentally, what this new developer experience addresses–leads to various and significant benefits for the business is old news. As always, the challenge is to figure out how to optimize for your company and your developers’ specific needs.

The trick is to listen to your developers, and allow the space for creative solutions. In all likelihood, if you start the conversation and give developers a little freedom on how to improve their experience, they will already happily lead the way.