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Level Up - Issue #140


Level Up

April 17 · Issue #140 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Reflecting on in-person workshops
Last week I was fortunate enough to run “Leading without authority as a Staff+ Engineer” as part of StaffPlus New York, and “Tech Lead Skills for Developers” as part of LeadDev New York. They were the first intercontinental in-person workshops I have run since COVID-19 hit and what a strange but also refreshing opportunity. I’m sure those of you who have done some in-person office work feel the same.
I was asked quite frequently if I have a preference for in-person or remote workshops, but having done both now for many years, I don’t find one better than the other. Each is different. This is true for many organisations and software architecture. It’s all about trade-offs. It reminded me of our human trait for hedonic adaptation (AKA we don’t get as much pleasure from the same activity day after day).
After going for so long without any in-person interaction, it reminded me of the value of ad hoc conversations with people around tea/coffee and lunch breaks. The in-person interactions reminded me how much easier it is as the course host to “temperature check” the room by walking around and silently observing group energy levels. I’m sure there was also a huge difference for participants to focus easier when present in the room instead of having the distractions of email/slack/twitter in the background or interruptions when home-life blends into work-life due to children, pets or other unpredictable events.
Having said that, the jetlag doesn’t seem to be getting any easier as I age and there is a significant “fixed overhead” in travel time and cost. With remote workshops, I’m able to reach more people in difficult to reach destinations with less overhead on both sides. For one version of my Shortcut to Tech Leadership workshop that I ran aimed at US East/Europe time, I had someone join in from New Zealand where it was 2am there time! 🤯 This would not have been possible with an in-person experience.
I’ve found remote workshops also require a stricter structure to keep them engaging and high energy. While this keeps the flow going and prevents a “loud person” from dominating activities and conversations it also makes the more serendipitous conversations harder to experience.
Like a lot of you are probably finding, the answer is rarely one or the other extreme but both. Having some in-person events are great for building relationships, understanding and empathy. Remote workshops are great for creating focused work but feel more transactional.
Although each region and country are in different stages, I challenge you to reflect on the interactions you have and to see if there’s a way to experiment with an alternative format. Are you getting the benefits you want? What are you trading off? What might you try differently?
Enjoy this week’s newsletter and please pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit.
Join an online guided course, Shortcut to Tech Leadership (IC track) or Engineering Manager Essentials (Management track) to level up your skills. Or grow your value as a technical leader with self-paced courses at the

It's been a while since I got to visit New York and see Grand Central Station
It's been a while since I got to visit New York and see Grand Central Station
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Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany