Speaker Bio

Alex Harms wants to make the world a little gentler for developers and tech teams. By teaching and coaching from a place of mindfulness and empathy, Alex helps disempower fear, strengthen communication and build connection, so that tech teams learn together and thrive. Alex is the host of the Geek Joy Podcast, author of The Little Guide to Empathetic Technical Leadership, and loves coaching most of all.

A few of our favorite talks by Alex

2018 — Listen
audio from the Agile in 3 Minutes podcast

This is a guest appearance on the podcast, where I talk about how to have wholehearted conversations.

2017 — Psychological Safety: the inside story
video from Lean Agile Scotland, Edinburgh

Google's Project Aristotle famously determined that high functioning teams are teams with psychological safety. Our movement is coming to realise that feeling free to express ideas, questions, joys and concerns without fear of rejection or judgment is vital for agile collaboration.

Even though we say "without fear of judgment", we don't do a lot of talking about how to actually get there. And it's hard! Obviously.

Here's the hard part: we not only need psychological safety for ourselves, but we're a source of safety for our teammates. We all get scared, and we all have the power to ease each other's fears. Wear your brave hat and come explore what it takes to cultivate psychological safety!

2016 — Cultivating Emotional Safety for Creative Work
video from Agile and Beyond, Ann Arbor

When we’re feeling stressed, threatened, or unsafe, our bodies help us do a lot of things better. We’re able to run faster, hit harder, yell louder. We are able to notice the slightest movement out of the corner of our eye.

Things we do not do better: think creatively, work collaboratively, solve problems.

These are very human activities, and they work best in a very human environment. We know that emotional safety is vital to a team's productivity. Let’s talk about what it takes to have emotional safety, and how to get there.

2015 — Learning to Empathy
video from Open Source & Feelings, Seattle

You've heard empathy is a learned skill. Let's really talk about it. What does it mean to have empathy? Why does it matter, anyway? And if empathy is useful (I hope to show you how it is), how do you get better at it?

2015 — Feedback and Challenging Conversations
video from Agile Day, Chicago

We want to create organizations and systems where people thrive. We want an environment where we can create valuable software people love, make money, and have fun together while doing it. For a team to be healthy in this way, we need to be able to talk about difficult subjects. If only it weren't so awkward! ...

2013 — Does Pair Programming Have to Suck
video from Øredev, Malmö, Sweden

Effective pairing can increase creativity, energy, speed & quality. But on some teams, pairing is shunned, avoided, or just faked. Why do some thrive with pairing while others want nothing to do with it? How does coach-enforced pairing turn into something dry, distracted, imbalanced & ineffective? Join in an honest discussion & learn about which pairing styles drag teams down & what sort of pairing helps teams rock.

The Geek Joy Podcast

Here are a few of our favorite episodes of Maitria's Geek Joy Podcast (with Alex as host):

Here's where you can learn more about The Geek Joy Podcast.

Some of the podcasts Alex visited as a guest (Alex was Angela)

  • Functional Geekery, March 2014. Jason & Alex discussed Avi with the host, Proctor. Learn more about our project, Avi, a lively vim, on github.
  • This Agile Life, March 2014. This is a fun chat about agile in general, with some talk about pairing and mob coding.
  • Ruby Rogues, April 2012. This was a conversation about agile software development. We found ourselves discussing collaboration, judgment, nonviolent communication, vulnerability and presence.