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Presentation: How to Debug Your Team

Track: Building High Performing Teams

Location: Churchill, G flr.

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

Day of week: Tuesday

Slides: Download Slides

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Find out the surprising and unintentional consequences of not giving teams what they need to be successful
  2. Learn how to debug your team


What do you do when software is slow? You debug it. What do you do when your team is slow? Same thing! In this talk, I will tell stories about how I debugged teams at three companies - Stride, Bauer Xcel & Meetup, and the surprising & unintentional consequences of not giving teams what they need to be successful: Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose & Safety. Attendees will leave with practical examples of how to diagnose & change their teams.


What is the focus of your work today?


I just joined Spring Health. Our mission is removing the barriers to mental health care. I've been here for less than a month now. It's a little startup with a tiny engineering team. Right now there's only seven of us. I'm working really closely with product engineering folks to make sure that we have a good solid handle on what product to build.


What is the motivation for your talk?


I'm a problem solver. I got into engineering because I love solving software problems and then the more senior I got, the more I realized that the things that were actually stopping companies from being effective were people problems, not tech problems.

This talk is my framework for how I debug teams, which is all about ensuring they have mastery, autonomy and purpose and safety. I use that framework to introduce change to teams in a way that gets the buy in from the team.


How would you describe the persona and level of the target audience?


The target audience is someone on the senior end, either a senior engineer or a tech lead, who has looked at the team and gone, I wonder how we can go faster?" "We know we need to do, we know what our mission is, it is not tech that's slowing us back. Why is taking so long for us to get stuff done & ship new code in production?" Or maybe it's that tech lead who was explicitly being asked by product or other folks "Why is it taking so long to get things done?".


What do you want this persona to walk away with from your presentation?


An Approach improving the pace of delivery with a debugging mindset. Take it as a puzzle to solve. There is a cause to it and it's your purpose to try and understand and debug the cause of the slowness on your team.

Speaker: Lisa van Gelder

Senior VP Engineering @spring_health, former VP Engineering @Meetup

Lisa has been in software for over 20 years, working in a wide range of companies from early stage startups to large media companies like the BBC, the Guardian newspaper & Meetup. She used to debug code, now she debugs teams for a living. Lisa is currently Senior VP Engineering at Spring Health. She is mostly powered by coffee.

Find Lisa van Gelder at

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