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Effective pair-programming across skill: lessons learned from pairing up

November 12th




Many technical teams consider pairing their junior developers with more experienced colleagues to be an effective way to upskill new team members. My team at www.net-a-porter.com followed the same approach when I joined over two years ago. My experience as a junior developer, who paired with experts on almost every story, showed that simply assigning two engineers with different skill levels to a single task is not enough for a successful pair-programming experience.

The topics I will share in this talk include:

– pair-programming as a social skill, how varying levels of expertise can affect behaviour and decision-making of the pair
– what I learned about the needs of junior and senior developers when pairing
– what our team found to be most beneficial in pairing novices with experts
– which aspects of pair-programming across skill proved to be ‘pain points’ to the team
– a recipe for success: what we did to overcome challenges of pairs with the experience gap, and what we can do to improve further

I have published a paper on the topic with Springer Open in Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing. I also presented the talk at XPRoLo meet up at Unruly Media House in London, at XP2016 Conference in Edinburgh, and internally to technical forum at YNAP. Both the talk and the paper received excellent feedback from industry pioneers as well as novices.