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Presentation: Creating Space To Be Awesome

Track: Softskills: Essential Skills for Developers

Location: St James, 4th flr.

Day of week: Tuesday

Level: Intermediate

Persona: CTO/CIO/Leadership

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What You’ll Learn

  • Learn techniques from psychology, management science, and other fields to motivate and help teams perform at their highest potential
  • Understand techniques to to be a leader who does not direct people, but creates space in which they can be awesome.
  • Learn techniques for leaders at every level to influence and create the space to be awesome, including designing work to be an effective learning experience.


Bringing agile approaches into how we manage people and lead teams can have wonderful, far-reaching impact. How do we get the most out of these new ways of working and also ensure that we create an inclusive environment where all types of people can be successful? In this session we’ll take a closer look at the science behind great people management, to figure out how to bring these together and craft space for everyone to be awesome.


What is the focus of your work today?


I'm the CTO for MOO -- most people know us for really cool business cards. We're a design & technology company focused on making great design available to everyone. I'm currently focused on growing the tech team, modernising our infrastructure and helping grow the business through technology. I also speak at conferences and do occasional bits of consulting, focused on helping technical & digital teams be brilliant, including hosting & co-curating The Lead Dev conference.


What’s the motivation for your talk?


Honestly? I find it frustrating that tech, as an industry, acts like we have to take 1920’s style factory management and "figure it out from there." We seem to wilfully ignore the wealth of research & science from the last 100 years into how to do people development really well, build high performing teams and motivate people. My talk is a whistlestop tour through the relevant science, providing a practical approach to creating an environment in which people can do work to be proud of.


How you you describe the persona of the target audience of this talk?


Anyone in a leadership role (or aspiring to lead) who wants to solve the people side of the equation just as much as the technical.


In your abstract, you say “we’ll take a closer look at the science behind great people management.” Can you elaborate?


There's a lot we can learn from psychology, management science and other fields in terms of what motivates people, leads to them performing well at work and most importantly what determines whether a team or organisation will be high performing. In this talk, we take a look at some specific books & studies and what the key lessons are we can apply in our day-to-day work as technical leaders. These span everything from the psychology of motivation, to the mechanics of how people learn and develop expertise, to hallmarks of happy & productive teams.


How would you rate the level of this talk?


Intermediate. People with lots of people management experience tell me they find it useful, as do those just stepping into leadership roles that might not directly involve people management as a formal responsibility.

For individual contributors who think that "people stuff is just fluff" (as a couple of folks have said to me in the past), I'll be waiting over here patiently until you realise that people are kind of essential to delivering anything meaningful ;-)

Speaker: Meri Williams

CTO who understands the science around helping people do their best

Meri is a geek, a manager, and a manager of geeks. She's a CTO, delighted to have recently joined MOO, and also manages her own micro-consultancy ChromeRose which helps digital & technical teams be brilliant. She has had a career spanning development, project, programme & product management and more recently engineering & operations leadership. She’s led teams ranging in size from 30 to 300, mostly with people spread across the world, in a range of organisations from Procter & Gamble, to startups, to the Government Digital Service. A published author and international speaker, she sponsors scholarships to help more girls start STEM careers in her hometown of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She's proud to be the host and co-curator of The Lead Developer conference.

Find Meri Williams at


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