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Cover image for [Keynote] Musical Lessons for Engineering Teams: Developing a Culture of Feedback Cycles
Helen Hou-Sandi
Helen Hou-Sandi

Posted on • Updated on

[Keynote] Musical Lessons for Engineering Teams: Developing a Culture of Feedback Cycles

About This Keynote

In this talk, I relate the practice of masterclasses in music to feedback cycles and how we can apply that to software engineering and development.

Takeaways

  • Explanation of some musical concepts
  • An exploration of the components of feedback
  • Practical things you can do to get better at feedback
  • Live music!

Slides

>> Download Slides

๐ŸŒˆ After I present, please leave your thoughts, comments, and questions about my keynote in the comments below!


About Helen Hou-Sandรญ

Helen Hou-Sandรญ is the Director of Open Source Initiatives at 10up and a Lead Developer for the WordPress open source software project, now powering more than 40% of the web. From her start as a PHP/MySQL applications developer to focusing on "the front-end of the back-end" from both the development and UX perspectives, she has a knack for figuring out what people need to get things done on their websites, including most recently on the relaunch of WhiteHouse.gov for the Biden-Harris Administration.


This keynote will be presented as part of CodeLand 2021 on September 23. After the talk is streamed as part of the conference, it will be added to this post as a recorded video along with the slides.

Top comments (112)

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elleon003 profile image
elleon003

I love the number of musicians I've seen in the tech world. I've worked for years in the theater as a musician, singer and actor, but I've always been in love with technology which made me a bit weird among my co-workers. It's awesome to see this representation.

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rhenderson91 profile image
Ross ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ๐Ÿ’™

There must be a correlation between musicians and tech, because there is a surprising amount of musicians that I know that are also in tech, and vice versa!

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

The skills are definitely transferrable! (Speaking from experience). Plus, supply/demand is more in our favor in tech. It's a shame there aren't more opportunities to make a sustainable living in the Arts.

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

It really is such a shame, I've always been open that I ended up in a web development job because of money and insurance and because at the end of the day, I do love the piano and being a musician, but I like the computer just about as much and if I look at this pragmatically it makes more sense to make a living on the computer. I wish it weren't that kind of a choice, but here we are.

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

I feel 1000000% the same.

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

There really are! I used to play with a string quartet that was made up of other people who had previously done serious music study but had switched over into tech for various reasons. I linked this in another comment as well but here's a talk I gave about some of the other connections :) wordpress.tv/2016/06/30/helen-hou-...

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fizzybuzzybeezy profile image
fizzybuzzybeezy • Edited on

Just recently heard discussions on how musicians make great software engineers because of not only the environment of artistic critique and artistic separation from the art created, but also how musicians are experts at practice!

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

Indeed! Self-driven practice, especially. I've given a talk about those aspects of musicianship and their impact on me as a developer as well: wordpress.tv/2016/06/30/helen-hou-...

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fizzybuzzybeezy profile image
fizzybuzzybeezy

Oh, thank you for the link!

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lindakatcodes profile image
Linda Thompson

Loving this comparison for feedback and learning music - as a prior music education major, this is all too familiar to me, and honestly something I haven't thought about how they could connect.

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

Props to you, music education is possibly the hardest major there is. So many credits, so many zero credit classes, so many requirements. If you can do that, you can do this tech thing :)

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lindakatcodes profile image
Linda Thompson

Thanks! I ended up switching to general music ultimately because I realized halfway through that teaching was not what I wanted to do lol, but I have immense respect for those who do. :) I got a lot of great experience through it, though! Especially learning how to play all the different instruments - great mindset for getting a good overview of how different frameworks work!

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stephback profile image
Stephanie Back

I love the insight on feedback as a newbie. I recently broke the barrier of hesitation in seeking feedback. The fear of failure is so strange when first learning how to code.

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porton22 profile image
Peter Orton

Fear of failure has been the driving force behind the majority of the poor decisions in my life. Its something I struggle with to this day, but we all have our issues I guess. Well done for breaking that barrier.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I feel ya on that! Fear of failure is so strong sometimes and can really be quite debilitating. I have to remind myself that trying and failing is infinitely better than not trying and nothing happening. I feel like generally if I don't do something because of fear of failing then I'm going to regret it.

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stephback profile image
Stephanie Back

Michael, I couldn't agree more! It's almost a negative feedback loop where you don't want to fail but feel guilty for not trying in the first place. :)

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stephback profile image
Stephanie Back

Thanks Peter! I definitely still have moments of doubt but then I remind myself that no one learns a new skill/trade on the first attempt. You've got this!

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

It's so, so human to be afraid of failure and to really struggle when you've reached a point in your life where you've mastered a bunch of things but have to start as a beginner all over again. I really struggled with that in undergrad with my secondary instrument choice - I thought the organ would be a reasonably convenient parallel but it turned out to be frustratingly difficult because it was so similar and yet completely different and I had to relearn how to learn all over again.

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stephback profile image
Stephanie Back

It is inspiring to hear this. :) Thank you for sharing your experiences with us newbies!

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rnandon profile image
Ryan Nance-Donaldson

This is really giving me flashbacks to my own studio performances. I remember having a performance with feedback almost exactly like this- vary the voicing, make this part louder, this part softer, pause here, etc. I love the connection between music and tech, I think they're more intimately related than most people think!

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julzhou6 profile image
Julie Zhou

I love this combination!! music and engineering yesss

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

It was so wonderful to hear this talk. I, too, made the change from professional musician to engineer.

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

Cool! What do you do as a musician?

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

I used to play flute with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Milwaukee Symphony, Hawaii Symphony and taught flute and piano. (I'm wondering if we know some of the same musicians) :) Here's me (including music life): madelenecampos.com/

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

Oh cool! I wonder if I ever saw you play, my husband did his MM at DePaul so __I came out a number of times to visit and did some freelancing and going to concerts. I think we almost certainly must share some mutual musician contacts :)

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

Nice! DePaul is a great school for music. I did my MM at Roosevelt (downtown)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I love the ties between code and music in terms of feedback and communication.

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getromandev profile image
Heriberto Roman

Im digging the connection between the different levels of music in correlation to giving and receiving feedback as a dev.

Great talk ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

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mahyellaw profile image
MJ Torres

first keynote and we're already about to jam to some music, hyped! ๐Ÿ”ฅ

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noviicee profile image
Novice • Edited on

Music is so underrated. It indeed is an excellent healer. Awesome talk. Loving it!

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noviicee profile image
Novice

Excellent keynote ๐Ÿ˜Œ

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towers1209 profile image
Loreto E. Torres

I am passionate about music - particularly, singing as a tenor/bass. I remember how my fellow musicians in the church music group I used to belong give feedback to one another on the fly during practice. I just did not realize until now that such feedback loop applies in software development as well.

As I said in my intro to the community. I used to work in the โ€œold eraโ€ of software development where I saw none of this at all.

I remember more a game of one-up-manship, whack-a-mole, or hide-under-the-rag approaches. But maybe, it is still the case. Iโ€™m just not in the development environment at the moment.

I am in the retail industry customer service and aiming at going back to software development.

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

There are definitely different cultures in different places - solo piano is notoriously full of one-up-manship, for instance. But we all have to learn, at the very least, even if we don't become good teachers, so there's no escaping the feedback cycle completely.

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julzhou6 profile image
Julie Zhou

Super fascinating -- I think both coding and music can be solo adventures but it's definitely much more fruitful when you learn to collaborate and work with others.

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mahyellaw profile image
MJ Torres • Edited on

really enjoyed this keynote, i love the way you explained how feedback works using music, it really influences the way one should interact with the community. i'm pretty sure it fits for the beginners up to the veterans, as i am personally a student dev that is still working my way in to the community. thank you for your time! amazing play of the piano btw :D

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helen profile image
Helen Hou-Sandi

Yes, if anything it's us veterans who need to be the most mindful about how feedback works and make it better for everybody :)

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