Market Trend: Teaching Empathy to Software Programmers

Posted on 28th February 2017


Welcome to the Business Empathy Forum and thank you for your visit. In this post I highlight a recent business announcement that reminds us of the growing prominence of empathy in the digital world. The news here is that an innovative training program for software developers in the US is making ‘engineering empathy’ a permanent part of its curriculum for aspiring coders. The story involves Dev Bootcamp, an American educational firm that pioneered the concept of an immersive crash course for software programmers. The phrase ‘boot camp’, by the way, is a reference to basic training for military recruits.

Business Efforts to Stay Human In A Digital World

In December 2016 Dev Bootcamp announced the rollout of its Corporate Engineering Empathy workshops for Pivotal, a digital transformation firm and Dev Bootcamp’s first B2B customer. The engineering empathy sessions are specifically intended to foster inclusion and collaboration in the digital workplace: “The workshops, a mix of guided discussions and exercises related to day-to-day office interactions via email communication, performance reviews and meeting conduct, tackled issues such as implicit bias, privilege and ‘allyship’ (the process of building relationships based on trust with marginalized groups of people) as well as provided Pivotal employees with a framework for understanding bias and oppression, a common terminology to discuss micro-aggressions and other social identity based phenomena and strategies to combat these issues that can prohibit team productivity.”

As an advocate for Empathic Enterprises and greater empathy in the workplace, I consider this to be positive news: it is clear evidence of time and money being invested by a forward-looking company to build collaboration, diversity, and empowerment into its software development culture. Beyond that, it would seem that market forces are functioning here as they should: an important digital transformation enterprise discovers a business-driven need for greater empathy, and a service provider – Dev Bootcamp, in this case – emerges to address that need for the client. I find this commercial aspect of the story quite satisfying, as it illustrates that both users and providers are beginning to recognize that greater enterprise empathy isn’t merely a social ‘nice-to-have’: it makes good economic sense as well.

I am also encouraged by the breadth and relevance of the empathy-related topics that the Dev Bootcamp courses address. The titles of several of their workshops give a sense of the cutting-edge issues they are dealing with: ‘Creating an Inclusive Work Culture’, ‘Navigating Difficult Conversations’, ‘Counteracting Bias in the Workplace’, and ‘Building Diverse Teams’, for example. These are important issues in our increasingly digital economy, and it is good to see that forward-thinking firms like Dev Bootcamp and Pivotal are taking them quite seriously.

Good luck, and until next time…