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Steve Persch on Open Source Communities and Tough Challenges in Technical Leadership

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Steve Persch of Pantheon about supporting open source communities and leading technical teams.

Key Takeaways

  • Communities need to be nurtured and supported
  • The open source community is based around the idea that you can build on the knowledge of others 
  • Leadership technical teams can be challenging and there are some simple (but not easy) things that can be dome to be better at it 
  • The goal should never be to follow a brand or methodology slavishly – it should always be about solving customer problems and delivering business value
  • Successful projects happen as a result of the people who work together, not the technology used

Show Notes

  • 00:24 Introductions
  • 02:05 Getting into a community role 
  • 02:22 Come for the code – stay for the community
  • 02:47 Describing Drupalcon
  • 03:19 The story of Drupalcamp 2012 and the impact it had on Steve 
  • 04:21 Proactively seeking opportunities at Pantheon 
  • 04:42 Pantheon’s engagement with the community 
  • 04:54 Steve’s own experience using Pantheon 
  • 06:14 The Pantheon Hero’s program – amplifying the stories of people in the community
  • 07:19 What’s special about the open source community
  • 07:24 You can build on the knowledge of others
  • 07:32 Examples of how Steve leveraged open source to be more effective in his role 
  • 08:28 Tough challenges in technical leadership 
  • 09:08 Exploring how to lead someone with vastly deeper technical knowledge than you have 
  • 09:58 Explaining the context of the specific project 
  • 10:32 The benefit of having time and funding to scope work effectively 
  • 11:10 Describing an agile structure for the project
  • 11:40 “Agile guilt – did I agile wrong?”
  • 11:57 Achieving business outcomes is more important than following a specific methodology
  • 12:17 Factors that contributed to successful outcomes – the right people on the team with the right mix of skillsets 
  • 13:15 The value of having the right client representation who is empowered to make decisions quickly
  • 14:23 Having someone who really can take on the product owner role is one of the most important success factors in an agency engagement 
  • 14:38 Advice for new team leaders 
    • Don’t try to do it all yourself – rely on your team
    • At a certain level of complexity, it becomes impossible for one person to know everything about the product – don’t try to be the all-knowing oracle 
    • Clearly recognise where there are expertise gaps in the team and ensure you get them filled 
  • 15:31 If you don’t have what you need – tell your bosses ASAP


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