Giving Helpful Feedback To Awesome Developers

How do you give useful feedback to a coworker who is solving a technical problem outside of your area of expertise? This issue surfaces in all kinds of highly skilled work, from design to engineering to finance to basic science. It’s also highly relevant for technical and non-technical founders of a software start-up.

I have the pleasure of working on Splitwise with awesome team members (Ryan and Marshall) who produce beautiful software with methods I mostly cannot contribute to. As an Astrophysics researcher, I have been on the other side of the table, so I know that good feedback and communication about technical issues is tactically (and emotionally) important.

If you too find yourself in this situation, Mike Woloszynowicz has written some helpful tips for giving feedback to technical team members. He outlines some common pitfalls and offers advice to avoid them. Here are the three that struck home the most for me:

  • Avoid delaying launch for trivial issues – this kills morale and nothing is more frustrating
  • Explain issues using real data if possible, or user walk-through scenarios, which are very concrete
  • Don’t suggest too many solutions, and let the experts re-iterate rather than waste time suggesting things in a long meeting (keep it to 15-30 minutes).

I found this article through a year end wrap up of good start-up posts by Professor Tom Eisenmann. Thanks to both of you for the tips.

Published by

Jon Bittner

Splitwise helps you and your friends keep track of shared expenses, so that bills (and friends) get paid on time.

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