Ep 8 – The HR Series: Pair programming – the most powerful tool you’ve never used

This week’s guest

Farhan Thawar

VP, Engineering Shopify

Telcos, nothing is going to make or break your success with the public cloud more than the quality of your software talent.

I’m talking about the programmers and engineers who are going to do all the heavy lifting you need to make this migration successful. While most of these people will come from your existing ranks, you’ll probably need to also add new people from outside. Both groups will need to be trained in new skills – ramping a set of people in telco knowledge or another group with software skills for the public cloud – in order to ensure success with your move to the public cloud.

A coding technique called pair programming is a great approach to skill up in a short period of time. Similar to pilots in a cockpit, pair programmers work side by side. Instead of flying a plane, they’re writing code. To the uninitiated, having two people write one set of code may sound inefficient. But listen to this episode to understand why it’s not.

Pair programming can boost your team’s engagement and the quality of the work they produce. What better way to kick off your journey to the public cloud?

This is the second episode in my HR series about the people-side of change. Our guest, Shopify’s VP of Engineering Farhan Thawar, uses pair programming to recruit and train new hires, increase employee morale, and improve work quality. Listen now to learn:

  • The definition of pair programming and why it works [01:51];
  • Its effect on the bottom line [04:39];
  • The surprising reasons why both junior and senior team members love it [05:53];
  • How to use it with remote teams [08:50];
  • How to use it as a recruiting tool [13:05];
  • And perhaps most importantly, the best way to get started [19:16].

When you’re done listening, don’t forget to check out the first episode in The HR Series, when I talk to leadership-guru Jim Abolt about the effect of big change on the people inside an organization.

Links and Resources

  • You can find the transcript for this episode here.
  • Farhan recommends reading Pair Programming Illuminated by Laurie Williams and Robert Kessler
  • Learn more about the Tuple app, which helps teams pair program remotely
  • Follow Farhan Thawar on Twitter @fnthawar
  • Read a pair-programming testimonial from Montreal-based developer Jessica Joy
  • Check out “The Big Man Can’t Shoot,” an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast about how legend Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t afraid to “look dumb” in order to boost his free throw skills
  • What’s it like to be in a cockpit? Watch this funny Saturday Night Live sketch where Tom Hanks, playing Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, fights Alec Baldwin for control of an airplane cockpit

Guest bio

Farhan Thawar is VP, Engineering at Shopify via the acquisition of Helpful.com where he was co-founder and CTO. Previously he was the CTO, Mobile at Pivotal and VP, Engineering at Pivotal Labs via the acquisition of Xtreme Labs. He is an avid writer and speaker and was named one of Toronto’s 25 most powerful people. He has held senior technical positions at Achievers, Microsoft, Celestica, and Trilogy. Farhan completed his MBA in Financial Engineering at Rotman and Computer Science/EE at Waterloo.

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The Telco in 20 podcast won a 2022 Gold Hermes Award and was recognized on Forrester’s 2021 list of the Top 100 Channel Podcasts and Feedspot’s Top 10 Telecom Podcasts list.

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Podcast Credits

  • Executive Producer and Host: Danielle Rios Royston, TelcoDR
  • Executive Producer: Kristin Donelson, OneLouder Marketing
  • Senior Producer: Lindsay Grubb, TillCo Media
  • Editor/Producer: Alisa Jenkins Wilson, Springboard Marketing
  • Audio Capture: Aaron Joslow, Rally Point Webinars
  • Audio Editing: Andrew Condell
  • Music: Dyami Wilson

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