article writing: feedback and how we integrated it with a developer <STYLE>

Nice that you have found the way to the third part of my article series on the topic of writing. For me, this is an exciting subject because I can learn a lot about how to put my thoughts on paper. At the same time, it is fulfilling to motivate others to join me on this journey. The first part was primarily about the benefits I have experienced myself, that arise from writing articles. This was followed by part two, which focused on how to get a structured start to writing. Where I describe what steps you go through when writing and point out tools to keep your motivation high and improve your writing style.

The importance of feedback and its influence on your writing

This article is about feedback because I have noticed how it helps me to improve and how important it is to think about routines and processes to motivate yourself. Make yourself available for feedback that you would like to have on your work. At the same time, it’s essential to me to offer to write together and give each other feedback. Writing together is simply more fun.

Feedback

This is about the importance of feedback in the writing process and what influence it can have on one’s own writing.

The main benefits I see in choosing to solicit feedback from others are:

1. Engagement

2. Collaboration

3. Inspiration

4. Learning

To get feedback, you need to have produced something, so you also need an initial commitment and the will to write something yourself. Feedback is beneficial when writing an article so that you don’t just work isolated on your topic but open up to others and incorporate their perspective, ideas, and opinions. You can be inspired by your feedback givers, stimulate yourself with it, and integrate new thoughts and link them. You may even get a fresh look at a topic you are stuck on or having trouble putting into words. You can learn from the experiences of others who have been in similar situations or are more experienced in writing down their thoughts.

Types of feedback

Depending on what stage of the writing process you are at, feedback has different purposes. Initially, when you are still in the research or outline phase, it can help you to sharpen the goal of your article and what you want to achieve with it. You can check if what you plan to write is technically correct. During the writing process, you can get ideas on storytelling and feedback on whether you have expressed yourself clearly. You can exchange ideas on how to bind the reader to your text and keep it exciting. Towards the end, it’s more a matter of textual corrections and formulations or even a content-related approval.

Guidelines regarding Feedback

What is also essential to me, is to define in advance how to give feedback correctly. It isn’t always that simple. Different personalities react differently, and with a generally accepted guideline, you define the common ground of understanding. In the best case, the guidelines are created and accepted together upfront. Then each participant feels understood and can include his or her expectations.

Giving feedback the right way

Giving feedback is not a one-way street, if you help each other with your articles there are also some things to consider from the perspective of the feedback provider. One of the main points is honesty. It doesn’t help anyone if you only find euphemistic words and thus only confirm the writer in his work. Instead, it is more important to look deeper, to identify possible misunderstandings and structural problems.

General advice to improve the added value and readability of the article is relevant. An open approach to mistakes is crucial. Talk about the mistakes openly and honestly. Constructive feedback is essential. Not only noticing mistakes but also offering hints, advice and possible improvements are part of it.

It is necessary as a feedback provider that the work on the article is the subject of the feedback and not the criticism of the author. As said in the beginning, in the best case, you agree in advance with those giving feedback on this open behavior.

Prepare yourself for the feedback

On the other hand, as the person asking for feedback, you should also be mentally prepared for possible criticism and be open to it. It is also helpful if you develop the courage to express that you are dissatisfied with a certain passage of the article as a writer and communicate this to the feedback provider. It is needed to actively set the right mindset for learning from your mistakes. As a writer, you are often very emotionally attached to your written work. It can then feel harsher than intended when you are criticized for your work. Don’t take it personally. The intention of the feedback is to improve the article, and you should always keep that in mind on both sides.

Receiving feedback and how to deal with it.

Stay calm and open to feedback about your article. Your feedback provider has the best intentions in mind. Think about who you are getting feedback from. What focus has the person in mind with his or her suggestions? Choose your feedback providers carefully. Differentiate between those who can help you with your content and those who can improve your writing. Make this clear when requesting feedback from them. Just pick the comments that make you reflect and improve your work from your perspective. Ask clarifying questions about the feedback to help you better understand what was said.

Articles are written language, therefore seek verbal exchange on crucial comments. Then uncertainties will be clarified most easily. Don’t be caught off guard by the amount of feedback you get, it’s normal. Embrace the rich feedback because it gives you many opportunities to reflect on your work and see it from a different angle. Writing is an art form and everyone interprets it differently. It’s normal for opinions to drift apart during the feedback process and you don’t always have to agree.

The Mercedes-benz.io way for feedback and collective writing

GIT our Feedback tool

We think it’s helpful to get feedback not just from one person, but from different people with different backgrounds and experiences. It is supportive to have a process you know very well and that you can easily follow. As developers, we are very familiar with the principle of pull requests. Which we use to get feedback on the code we write before we put it back into the main code. Even as a non-developer this process is easy to use. You can do the same with your articles.

We have a Git repository at Mercedes-Benz.io where any writing enthusiast can create a feature branch for their article to write. When ready for feedback, the author then simply submits a pull request to gather feedback from the writing group. If you want to get extra early feedback on your not-quite-finished article, you can also mark it as a draft. The reviewers will then give timely suggestions on the article, following the pull request etiquette. Then it is only a few small steps to the publication on our company blog. This process has proven to be better than sending documents back and forth.

Mob writing

You probably know the principle of pair programming. If you want to know anything else about it, read this article by Hannes, where he goes into detail. In a nutshell, two developers work on code together to support each other in finding the best technical solution. If you want to push the collaboration level even further, you can do it in a group in so-called mob programming. We do something similar at Mercedes-Benz.io only with writing articles.

We do this to motivate each other, get early feedback and inspiration and support each other. Another plus point is that you have another moment where you can network with other writers. We are all in the same boat because we are not full-time writers. That’s why the group is quite homogeneous and everyone is ready to take in the feedback of the others. This was born out of the will to deal with writing articles regularly. Spending at least 30 minutes a week writing your article will help develop routines.

Therefore, those who are currently working on an article meet on Friday for about 45 minutes in a joint meeting.

  1. The first minutes are used to briefly introduce what everyone wants to work on in the following part of the session.
  2. Then everyone writes for 30 minutes without disruption while listening to relaxing music that promotes creativity.
  3. After that, there is an optional chance to read out your result and get some feedback.

I always find it amazing how much can be created in a few minutes and how great the pride is when you have once again created a successful paragraph. Feedback from these sessions is more of a spontaneous reaction but works quite well as an additional stimulus. After the meeting, I often have so much energy that I want to continue immediately.

TLDR

You see, feedback and collaboration in writing are vital to us. We like to experiment with new methods and tools to improve our writing activities together. Feedback is not always easy to give or accept, still it creates enormous advantages to writing when we share our writing activities.

Those of you who are MB.ioneers and now feel like writing, please contact me. To the readers who don’t work at Mercedes-Benz.io yet. What do you think about the Mob Writing approach and how do you handle the feedback process when writing your articles?

Everyone can write. And even better when doing it together!

P.S.: Incorporating feedback into this article about feedback was particularly exciting. Caught in the endless loop of reflecting on feedback. (Images by Joanna Kosinska and Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash).

JOIN OUR TRIBE AND START MOB WRITING

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Article Writing: How you learn more from yourself than from reading a book part 2/2

This is the second of my series of articles to motivate you to write.
The first part was about the benefits you can experience while writing like:

Furthermore, we dealt with the different phases of writing, which we will continue today. Therefore, this article is about how to start writing. How to get a structured and regular way of working from idea generation, research, brief, outline, the writing itself, reviewing the article, and much more.

In addition, you will find a writing template that will help you ask the right questions when researching your article. Also some helpful tips on how to get better and stay on top of the writing process.

How to start writing

You have now set yourself the goal of writing an article. But the blank page may intimidate you. So how do you start? Everyone ticks differently and finds their own way. But, I can give you some guidance here that has helped me. You don’t need any basic requirements. To get a first feeling for how and what you want to write, start by reading other people’s articles. Discover what you like and what you want to include in your article.

Illustration by Cezar Berje

Collect ideas and learning goals

First, you need inspiration for what you want to write about. Is there a topic that you are currently working on or a problem you are having? Start with a rough collection of ideas. Sift through them to find subjects that matter to you or that you can learn something from. It’s easier to write down and motivating. It will help you stay on the ball later. Also, get feedback from others on your initial ideas for relevance and potential.

A structured approach to writing

The best way to write an article is to take a step-by-step approach. After you discover your topic, explore it. For instance, I am using a simple writing template to help me with this, which I would like to share with you:

  1. Write a Brief
  2. Define Outline
  3. Writing
  4. Editing

Brief

In the first phase, you approach the theme roughly. You do research and ask yourself questions about your topic. The answers will help you in many ways:

  1. You explore your motivation. 
  2. You find references to other articles to get closer to the subject.
  3. You find out what questions are asked in the community about the topic.
  4. You make the thoughts into your key ideas. You come up with a catchy title. 

Think about who your target audience is. Set a goal what do you want your readers to have learned after reading. Determine how many words you want to use and which ones are most important. If the article is more technical, describe which tech stack you will use. You explore what kind of example project you can use to illustrate your explanations to the reader.

Writing template

TopicWhat is the topic you want to deal with in your article?
MotivationWhat is your reason for writing about it? Why should your readers want to know about it? Why is it important, why is it relevant?
Documentation / ReferencesWhat documentation already exists on this topic? What are other people writing about it and what do they think about it? Gather links to formal and informal documentation. Add inspirational links to articles/tutorials others have written on this topic. What do you like or dislike about these?
QuestionsWhat questions are people asking about this topic? On Stack Overflow or other developer platforms? On forums related to your topic? What questions are coming up under competitor articles? What is trending about it on Twitter, Reddit, Slack? How is the topic being talked about in your own organization? What questions did you have before you finally understood it…?
Key Ideas and ConceptsWhat are the main ideas? What concepts will you include? What techniques will you cover?
TitleCome up with a catchy and informative title. What would you search for to look for your article? What would appeal to you if you saw your title?
Audience LevelWhat assumptions do you make about your audience before they read this? Who is the article aimed at and for what reasons?
Learning GoalWhat is the unique learning objective of your article? What will the audience learn while reading the article? How will you improve their lives?
Target word countThink about the length of your article in advance and set a target.
Keywords/TagsWhat are the important keywords in your article? What search terms would you use to find answers to your topic.
TechstackIf it is a technical article, what technology do you use?
Sample ProjectWhat kind of example project can you create to better illustrate your point? Readers will engage better with your concept if they apply what they learn themselves.

At the end of the brief when you have answered the questions for yourself, you will have a solid foundation to move on to the next phase.

Define Outline

Now it’s time to give your article a structure. It is important to pay attention to the three main sections of your article: beginning, middle, and end.

  • In the beginning section, think about how you want to introduce the topic. For example, you can challenge the reader, give him a summary, or explain what he will learn from reading your article.
  • The middle section is designed variably. You can describe your theory on a higher level, illustrate your theory or even go deeper into the topic. You can also work with references that support your story to back it up. Or give examples in your reference that illustrate options or that you don’t want to go into. Another part can be instructions. Where you explore clear step-by-step instructions for the reader. Illustrate them with clear examples or add code samples.
  • In the end section, which is at least as important, you have the chance to provide the reader with material. You give a summary of the entire topic, offer sources for further reading, or even encourage clear action.

At the end of this step, you have divided your article into small sections. You’ve put them together logically and thought about how you’re going to make the reader understand each part.

WritiNG

Now it becomes more concrete. You now give depth to your structure elements. I found the bullet point technique very helpful. In this technique, you first write down bullet points for the individual parts of your article. Once you have structured this for the entire article, you go one level deeper. You add another level of bullet points in which you describe the parent elements in more detail. You can do this in different depths depending on your needs. In the end, the individual sections will be clearer for you. You will have captured the important information for the respective section.

  • Major Point 1
  • Minor Point 1
    • Supporting Point 1
    • Supporting Point 2
    • Supporting Point 3
  • Minor Point 2
    • Supporting Point 1

Now it’s time to formulate your key points. You can assemble the individual building blocks into sentences and paragraphs. Do this bit by bit. Let your thoughts run free and concentrate only on writing. Don’t mix editing and writing because it will interfere with your creative process.

Illustration by Cezar Berje

Editing

Now that you have written your complete article once, the work is not yet completely done. You should now deal with it again and revise the individual sections. The point is to put the finishing touches on your article. Make sure your sentences are short and your language clear. Correct paragraphs that do not belong together.

  • Use headlines and sub-headlines
  • Highlight the important parts of the text
  • Define illustrations
  • Create lists to keep your article interesting You generally check the tone of your article and whether it has achieved the goal you set for it.

When you’re happy with your article, you’re done, but don’t miss the chance to get feedback from others who may be more experienced in writing or can give you tips on your topic. After that, you are ready to publish.

Useful tips

I have some useful tips that can help you. In writing itself, in motivation, or in building knowledge in the field of writing or revision.

Fixed time slot per week

To keep your goal in mind, it is helpful to develop a routine for your writing behavior. I, for example, always have a blocker of 25 minutes on Friday mornings. In which I take time to write my current article. That’s enough to keep the topic in my head again and again. And yes, it’s not always easy for me to motivate myself, sometimes I’m not in the mood. But if I sit down, I always get into it well and manage to develop my article further. Even if it’s just a few text corrections.

Writing Buddy

Like so many things, writing is more fun together. I recommend you to find someone who shares your passion, whether in a company or among friends. With him or her, you can check your progress together and motivate each other for the next steps. Of course, the person is also someone who can support you in your work. The writing buddy can give you feedback or share new thoughts with you.

Illustration by Cezar Berje

Tools for self control

No writer has ever fallen from the sky, so don’t expect your first article to be an instant masterpiece. To improve your text and develop your writing style, tools can help you. For example, Grammarly is a great way to identify alternative words and phrases. Hemingway helps you to identify complicated sentences. Try these tools when you have finished writing a part of your article and improve yourself.

Learning together

A good starting point for your writing activities can also be a workshop. In which you take your first steps in a group. There you will find people with the same goal. You will also find an experienced teacher who can give you important tips for writing. I enjoyed such an experience very much. It encouraged me to express myself with the tools I was given and to dare to write in a structured way.

Summary

With a step-by-step and structured approach, you can make your article a reality. Keep motivating yourself and get good results.
So get to work, begin brainstorming on the topics you’re passionate about, and start writing your article. Use the writing template for the preliminary work and use the individual phases of writing.
Anyone can write. Says the guy who also tries it out. 😉

If you haven’t read enough on the subject of writing, go ahead and read part three. There I’ll explore the topic of feedback and describe how we do mob writing and use git to write our articles.

Links

Article Writing: How you learn more from yourself than from reading a book part 1/2

In my current role as Communication Lead in our Tech Practice, I work on communication topics inside and outside of our company. One way to present ourselves to the outside world is to write about what moves us. At the same time, I have discovered in myself, and also others reflected me, that writing itself has several other benefits. It can be used to educate yourself in a much more active way by approaching, exploring, and formulating a topic. And yes we can read books to get inspired by topics or acquire knowledge. But nothing beats hands-on learning by doing. That’s why I want to motivate you to write yourself and enjoy the benefits of writing about something new just like I do.

Writing an article about a new programming language or learning about a new tool can involuntarily teach you to summarize its use and benefits. But, I will also describe in detail which of these benefits I value the most. It’s an exciting experiment that anyone can try. It does not matter what area of the industry you work in. We can all better express our thoughts by this.

In which phases of writing do you benefit?

Before we dive into the benefits, I want to tell you about the different phases of writing.

  • Inspiration: Everything starts with the idea to write something. Because you are dealing with the topic, it occupies you or you want to dedicate yourself to it. Use this inspiring moment, take the pen and formulate your first idea.
  • Brainstorm: The first ideas for an article come from this impulse. Think about possible topics and brainstorm with others interested in the subject. The first thing is to develop a rough idea. The important thing is that it interests you and has relevance to others.
  • Research: Once you have found a topic. The point is to learn from as many influential and enriching sources as possible. The Key is that you build up more knowledge about it. Ask yourself several questions about your topic. Then compile them as a source of inspiration for your article.
  • Outline: The next step is to create structure. Find a first form in which you want to lead the reader through your article. What story do you want to tell? What reaction do you want to achieve?
  • Draft: Then specify, deepen and plan the individual sections step by step. Now the actual writing process begins, where you should let your thoughts run free.
  • Refine: Once you’ve written your article, it’s time to refine and optimize it. Get feedback from colleagues, friends, or other experienced writers. With these new impressions, you give it the final touch.
  • Publish: It’s time to publish your article on your chosen forum.
  • Reactions: After the release begins a very exciting part. You may now receive feedback on your formulated thoughts and enjoy them. Or even enter into a discussion with readers.

This is a rough overview of the writing process and you can enjoy the benefits of writing at all these stages. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits

MAIN BENEFITS OF WRITING

UNDERSTAND YOUR ENVIRONMENT AND THE SUBJECT

Writing will help you engage with the topic you have mastered or want to learn about. As you research, you discover new influences and information. You gain valuable new knowledge about the subject. By reading articles written by others, you discover exciting people. They deal with the same topic and you learn their perspective on it. Furthermore, you detect exciting sources that support or refute your thesis. This broadens your horizons and supports your thesis with facts

More structured report

After you have studied a topic in depth. By putting your thoughts in writing, you can express them in a better and more structured way. You build deep knowledge about your topic, because you think it through, not read or hear about it. This way you can express your acquired knowledge fluently and freely.

Form an opinion

Dealing with a subject that is new to you, your opinion about it is probably not yet clear and well-formed. While working on your article and researching, you discover new perspectives on the topic. In the process, you form a sharper opinion. Even your original opinion on the subject can change.

It makes you happy

Writing fills the mind with new knowledge and impressions. This is a very satisfying process. This success releases feelings of happiness. When you have published your article, you have achieved something special. A moment that everyone can enjoy.

Writing down is better than rethinking it again and again

Writing things down helps me in any case. While you write things down, you let your thoughts run free and start sorting them. In the written word you can sort and reorganize them afterward. Furthermore, you can retrieve them at a later time. Without having to struggle to remember them.

Others can take part and benefit from it

By writing down your thoughts, you are not only helping yourself. This is of course the basis for sharing your thoughts. Your finished article will be read by others. Readers are immersed in your thoughts and moved by your perspective. They learn from your work.

Stimulates discussion

As others read your article, they form opinions about your topic. This may trigger discussions on the subject, whether with you or others. Through the reaction of your readers, you can discover new perspectives. Develop your thoughts further or come to completely new conclusions. Stimulating something together is a thousand times more pleasant than hatching something alone.

Reactions trigger appreciation

Praise and perception of your article trigger positive feelings. What you have accomplished will feel even better. You will gain visibility and recognition. Even constructive feedback can expand you and help you learn from your mistakes.

Remove concerns on missing writing skills

Uncertainty when doing something for the first time is a normal feeling. But once you have taken the first steps or even finished your article, you feel much more confident. With a little practice, routine sets in. You don’t have to write your article alone. Getting feedback during the writing process is quite normal. Even the professionals do it. So take the opportunity to exchange ideas with others on your writing journey. You can only grow from their feedback.

More advantages

If you are not convinced yet, there are also other advantages of writing articles and I would like to at least mention them.

  1. You can give back to the community.
  2. You get out of your comfort zone by starting something new.
  3. You will experience a relaxing and calming pastime.
  4. Writing is good for your health.
  5. In remote times, writing is even more important. Because you can exchange with others in an asynchronous way.
  6. It helps you in writing documentation.
  7. You learn to request feedback and handle it.

Summary

Which of the listed benefits are most important to you? Are there any others or do you even disagree with some of them? Feel free to share your thoughts with me. In any case, you see there is a lot to get back when you actively share your thoughts in writing. So set yourself a goal for your upcoming article. Think about a few topics that are close to your heart and that you are already researching or encountering in your daily work.

Part 2 preview

I still want to give you a preview of the next article in this series on the topic of writing. There you’ll find a starter kit to fill the first white pages with life. Together with a step-by-step explanation of how you can approach writing.

Anyone can write – give it a try.

Sabine Geithner: “Bertha Benz is a developer.”

Sabine Geithner works as the Lead Link Mobile Engineering at Mercedes-Benz.io. She combines 13 years of experience, working in different leadership roles from Project Management, Online Marketing to Software Development.

Until recently, she worked as an iOS developer for the Bertha app. In her current position, she is in charge of hiring the right mobile developers to drive the mobile strategy of the company, fostering a culture of knowledge-sharing and providing an environment for professional growth for mobile developers.In her second role as People Promoter she helps MB.ioneers set meaningful professional development goals and supports them to achieve these goals. 

Sabine’s career starts with her studies. She owns a university diploma in Biotechnology. The requirement for her first semester was an introduction to Java class. It may seem that Sabine has a bit of unusual career background, although it is not uncommon to find people with diverse backgrounds in software development.

In this interview, we want to find out what makes tech jobs interesting to women and how we can inspire young girls to strive towards such jobs. Hello, Sabine!

You’ve had quite the unconventional career journey—what did your start as a Developer look like?

My journey to software development kicked off when I turned 30 and looked back at my life where I was and where I wanted to be. At that time, I was working as Head of Online Marketing and Consumer Insights. My responsibilities included: writing HTML for our SEO landing pages, as well as analyzing consumer data to get valuable insights. So, I had already learned some web development and was using my rudimentary programming skills, for things like writing VBA scripts for my Excel Sheets and SQL statements for MS Access. 

I realized I actually liked programming and wanted to learn more. I started to look for classes online and in Berlin, where I live. Coincidentally, an in-person program called Rails Girls Berlin (now called Code Curious) had just started. They offered free programming workshops for women. I had missed their first workshop, but I liked their idea so much that I offered to join the organizer team and support with marketing. This was the turning point!

What made you decide to completely pursue a career in tech?

By organizing the mentioned workshops for Code Curious I was able to witness women of all backgrounds quitting their jobs and pursuing successful careers as software developers. It was so inspiring that I decided to leave my own job, spend a few months learning with online courses, find myself an internship, and become a software developer. I was 31 years old when I took that step.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career?

When I started seriously considering software development as a career, I received some unwelcome comments from people. They said things like “You won’t be able to learn this so fast. You are learning the wrong programming language. You should learn [insert a preferred language] instead. I would never hire someone who hasn’t been writing code since they were little.” I could have easily been discouraged by their words. Luckily, I like to prove people wrong and understood it as a challenge to show them: it can be done and I will do it.

In the early years of my career, I sometimes wasn’t taken as seriously as my male counterparts and had to have several critical conversations confronting people with their behavior. Often they were completely shocked that they behaved this way and every-time things improved significantly afterwards. I wish I didn’t have to jump into these conversations, however, I can only encourage everyone (especially younger women) to confront such behavior. It helped me, and no one should ever feel intimidated and helpless.

What are some of the positive experiences you have gained throughout your career?

There were positive ones that encouraged and supported me to pursue my dream of becoming a Developer. For example, most of the coaches for Rails Girls Berlin were men and the whole Ruby community was actively working towards increasing the number of women in their field. Also, the people who gave me my very first iOS internship were super trusting in my abilities (I had only done online courses before that) and made me feel at home and welcome in the Developer scene.

There are also many men at Mercedes-Benz.io — who understand the value a diverse workforce adds to our team culture and performance and are actively working on hiring more diverse people.

What does a day-in-the-life at Mercedes-Benz.io look like for you?

There is little to no routine in software development. A “typical day” could look like this:

The day kicks off with a meeting that we call Stand-Up, where everyone gives an update on the progress of their current tasks. We also discuss blockers or topics that need more clarification and then talk about what we plan on doing today. Afterwards, everyone starts working on current tasks. If we work on a new feature, we will meet to talk about how to approach the problem.

These conversations can stretch over several teams, including backend and design. We talk through different approaches or give feedback to someone else’s result. At the end of the day, we publish the code we wrote to the whole codebase and have a coworker give us feedback on our solution. We also create a new internal version, that the team can use to test the new features we implemented during the day.

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. According to a 2019 study by the UK Department of Education, parents and teachers are less likely to be encourage girls to study STEM subjects. Since only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice, a lower female participation in STEM fields equates to fewer female role models for girls.

Why could (or should) women be interested in becoming a Developer?

Let‘s stop putting people into boxes. The job is interesting for anyone who loves logic, no matter the gender. However, I’ve also observed that children’s interests are largely formed by their environment. If you offer girls only dolls and boys only cars, it’s no surprise they end up having a preference for one. I don’t have kids of my own, but I know that my interest in science was sparked at a very young age by getting microscopes and physics toys, so I give the same toys to my nieces. 

Qualities of high-performing teams are made up of a wide breadth of holistic skills, such as empathy, sensitivity, creativity, and more! Regardless of gender, many roles benefit from having these qualities, e.g. the Plant, the Coordinator, and the Teamworker in Belbin’s model of Team Roles. Thus, I am certain that anyone can be interested in becoming a Developer but success does not depend on your gender.  

What is the benefit of working in the tech industry?

Oh, there are many! From a lifestyle perspective, I think no other job allows for more freedom. Working remotely and asynchronously at weird hours has been common for software developers for a long time. This is absolutely perfect for those who want to have lots of freedom or need to juggle jobs and family. It’s also easy to find a job because software developers are always in demand—and always will be!

For me — the biggest benefit is actually the effect it has on your brain. When I started out, it really felt like my brain was growing. I mean it! You often need to keep a lot of thoughts and ideas in your head in order to figure out how to solve an issue. On top of that, it’s a job that requires life-long learning and keeps you mentally fit in the long-term.

Let’s talk about needed skills and interests. What do you think is the most important strength for software developers to ‘develop’?

According to a study published in Nature, the most important strength for software developers is fluid reasoning and memory capacity (the ability to solve problems with logic and to keep several solutions/ideas in your head) followed by language ability. Funnily enough, numeracy (being good at Mathematics) has the lowest correlation with programming abilities.

However, being a successful software developer requires more than just being able to write good code. Developers need to be able to communicate their ideas to their client, their colleagues, and their boss. Communication skills are key. And of course, if you juggle several projects, you need to be organized, too. These skills become more and more important the more seniority you gain, the more you interact with stakeholders and the more projects you juggle at the same time.

How can I start getting into developing? 

  • To figure out if coding is their interest, I recommend codecademy. It’s a gamified way to learn basic programming principles and highly addictive to people who like logical challenges. 
  • For taking a step further, there are plenty of online platforms that offer pretty good courses, many of which are free. For example, most courses on coursera can be attended without paying. I started 7 years ago with team treehouse. I really liked their curriculum back then and it helped me stay motivated. You are learning software development by working on small projects that grow bit by bit and it is extremely rewarding to see the result so quickly.
  • To go the academic way, there is even a women-only Computer Science study course offered by the HTW in Berlin.
  • There are also meetups (e.g. code curious, women who code, women techmakers) in bigger cities where women in tech help others get into and continue learning software development.

What can I do as a parent to bring this professional field closer to my child and spark their interest?

  • For parents of young children, there are also plenty of opportunities. There is the code.org where kids can learn programming while building or playing a game.
  • Some toys help children practice logical thinking and learn the basics of computer instructions, e.g. Osmo.
  • There are hardware kits, like Kano, that allow kids to assemble their own computers and gives them an insight into how computers work.
  • And don’t forget free meetups and workshops (often called “Coder Dojo”) for kids in bigger cities where they can learn coding in a group.
  • One of the founders of Rails Girls Berlin also wrote a children’s book for girls called “Hello Ruby,” which also has a website to help parents with their kids quest to conquer the world with code.

What is your wish for the future of women in tech?

I hope that more women consider software development as a career and find more and more representation in their teams, at conferences and in technical leadership positions. My wish is that we can at one point drop the “female” in-front of the introduction and refer to people who happen to identify as female, just as “software developer” or “CTO” instead of “female software developer” or “female CTO”.

And lastly…why this headline? Why do you think Bertha Benz would be a Developer and active in mobile engineering today?

The headline is 100 percent correct. Bertha Benz would be a software engineer because she was a woman who valued freedom and independence and wasn’t afraid of entering a male-dominated area.

Want to support and inspire women for tech professions, want to change the game, and know talented women who need to become developers?

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Interview with Stephen-Wolf Müller: “The Bridge Builders” program & the importance of startups

Meet Stephen: this MB.ioneer has quite a range of tasks around here. From his core role as a Product Designer, to customer journey tracking, to being a Communicator in cross-product relations, actions and developments.

Today we want to focus on the fact that on top of that, he also participated in The Bridge Builders program far from home with startups from all over the world. What is that all about and what were his key takeaways? Keep reading to find out more about the innovative program The Bridge Builders and why we need startups.

Question: Let’s dive right in why don’t we! You have attended The Bridge Builder program twice already, could you tell us more about the program?

Answer: The Bridge Builders is a commercialization program for startups to get in touch with global companies, located in Israel. The major companies that are part of the program are Daimler, Coca-Cola, and Warner Media with Walmart joining in 2019. Initially the program was kicked-off by Coca-Cola in 2014 and in 2017 Mercedes-Benz joined. I attended two fixed events out of this whole seven month program.

Israel is one of the major countries for startups with a high-tech ecosystem and innovations and finds itself among the first places in the world in Research & Development and in venture capital investments as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Since the “quality” of Israeli Startups is extremely high, global companies such as Cola-Cola and Mercedes-Benz searched for a way to establish an exclusive connection with these startups. 

To do so, Coca-Cola started this commercialization program in Tel Aviv, where on the one hand the startups not only benefit by doing POC’s (proof of concept) and projects within several business units of those major companies, but also receiving in-depth marketing training, access to experienced mentors and connections to business sponsors. On the other hand, we also benefit from learning more about their inspiring technologies, ideas and solutions.

Question: So, it is not to be confused with a recruiting event or such?

Answer: Not really, the Program has what is called a “Bridge Class,” which consists of a selected 11-20 startups and they are in the program for seven months. The class then goes to Atlanta to visit interested business partners from Warner Media, Coca-Cola as well as Mercedes-Benz USA. And they also come to Stuttgart, to visit us.  

In the “Launch Event,” which I attended in 2019, it was all about identifying relevant business units and projects. Within those seven months the startups collaborate with the companies and their business units to do multiple pilots together. 

Question: Is there is a pre-selection of all startups depending on the quality of the startup itself?

Answer: Yes exactly! All the startups are curated. The Builders in Tel Aviv are a corporate accelerator that use their innovation platform to foster partnerships with Fortune 100 companies. In 2019 I went to the “Interview week” of the Bridge Builders Program, where around 90 startups (initially over 200 startups that were reviewed and curated) introduced themselves. Each major company then scored those startups within the review platform upfront. 

That year, after rating about 90 startups, they then were invited to an interview week and had slots of 20 mins each to pitch their solutions to the company’s representatives. 

Within those 5 days of the interview week, we heard over 15 pitches a day and at the end of each day, there was a joint evaluation slot for all of the global companies to discuss the pitches. At the end of the week the most outstanding startups were selected (by all of the participating global companies) and made it into the program. 

Question: And so, the selected startups were then in the program for seven months and were able to work with us and Coca-Cola and Walmart…

Answer: Yes, and the goal was to do as many POCs and projects as possible with these companies. In 2019, for example, we had two projects together with KonnecTo.

KonnecTo is a startup that does research and benchmarking—from a data analytics point of view it is like customer intelligence platform. They build data communities in several countries and analyze the user’s behaviors on multiple devices and touchpoints. KonnecTo enables you to know your consumers with an unprecedented level of intimacy and confidence that enables new disruptions or interventions in their purchase journeys, unparalleled competitive analytics, as well as identifying previously hidden new product and market opportunities. With their help we were able to explore and get to know our customers better, by for example doing research on “Who’s the benchmark for an online booking process?”. 

So, with this way we were able to match several digital functionalities and user tasks by comparing us not only to close competitors or other OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) but also to other industries. 

Question: KonnecTo was a startup that had already come up with this idea and program and was therefore able to work with us on a solution for our questions, right? 

Answer: Yes, most of the startups are already in a mature state and have already received major funding by investors. Most of them have already been working on projects with other global companies as well—so the quality of the startups is really, really high.

Question: Wow, all of this happened in 2019 and you went back in 2020! Can you tell us about what happened then?

Answer: In 2020 I went to the “Launch Event” week. This happens after the “Interview Week,” so after the selection of the startups that made it into the class of 2020. In this week it is more about sitting together with the selected startups, getting to know each other better, learning about their solutions, as well as preparing them for their visits to Atlanta and Stuttgart. It is all about identifying relevant business units together with Daimler, who could be potentially interested in their solutions.

So, it was more about the hands-on work on identifying “leads” within our company. This means we took deep dives into their technology to then be able to identify where they could fit to our business units. The goal was to identify possible projects, use cases, and prepare them for their (now remote) visit to Stuttgart.

Question: So, are they coming to Mercedes-Benz.io as well?

Answer: Well originally, yes. They would have come here and given a short pitch, however, now everything will be held remotely. Nonetheless, they will present themselves, give us a rough overview of their solution and you can book one-on-one sessions with the startups if you, e.g. as a product owner or as a business unit owner are interested in doing a project together.

Question: I can imagine it then being quite a challenge for you to decide what is really needed in our company and what is maybe not so fitting for our line of work, am I right?

Answer: Well, there are a lot of startups coming from different areas focusing on solutions which widely spread. 

We were there as an automotive company in the midst of so many global companies from different areas. A big beverage company like Coca Cola, as well as Warner Media and Walmart as multinational retail corporation were all participating, and at first, I wasn’t sure if they were facing the same problems we are facing and if it beneficial to sit together with them, scoring on startups. But after the first joint interview sessions together with the representatives from the other companies I had an “eye-opening moment,” seeing that it doesn’t matter from which area you are because all of us were facing the same kind of problems. For example, last mile or plant-optimization, as well as data/ cybersecurity topics is something that each of us tackle. 

Question: Can you tell us your personal highlights from your Bridge Builder experience?

Answer: Well the first year I attended, we had breakfast and lunch all together and then I was in the office from 8 am till 8pm. So yes, each day was very busy but worthwhile because otherwise I would have never gotten the chance to connect with those brilliant founders and entrepreneurs in such a short period of time. It was so inspiring to hear the 15-20 minute startup pitches offering their solutions on different topics.

The year thereafter, in 2020, it was more about focusing in detail on the selected startups and about getting to know the startup scene in Israel. So, we went to Start-Up Nation Central, which is the biggest NGO in Israel supporting the local startups. I got a lot of interesting background information, like what are the key ingredients for the “secret sauce” of the Israeli startups.

Question: What was it like to be surrounded by those big global players?

Answer: It was very inspiring and interesting because the exchange we had was like receiving a type of consulting from the top management of other companies. Normally you would never be able to get such advice from any kind of consulting agency. All in all, meeting these people was a fruitful experience.  

Speaking to Stephen about his time in Tel Aviv and the experiences he had, has truly illuminated the importance of inspiration, innovation, and teamwork in every part of our daily work. Stephen found value and inspiration in every aspect of the program—from the collaboration with large Fortune 100 companies and startups.

Thank you, Stephen, for an insightful interview and letting us be part of the Bridge Builders experience!


Way Forward: Digital House Product-Centric Organization

Mercedes-Benz AG and Mercedes-Benz.io strengthen their product teams within the “Digital House” initiative – realizing a product-centric organization. 

Customers expect the best digital products and services worldwide. Hence,
Mercedes-Benz aims at strengthening its operational e-commerce environments on an international level. Therefore, they will enhance the collaboration with 
Mercedes-Benz.io by scaling digital deliveries for e-commerce and online sales even further. 

The goal of the “Digital House” (a joint initiative of Mercedes-Benz AG and 
Mercedes-Benz.io) is to optimize the business units behind the company’s digital sales and marketing platforms and channels by restructuring them to the upcoming and growing needs of markets and regions worldwide. Within this context of digital products for Sales & Marketing, Mercedes-Benz AG will continue focusing on business and market enabling, strategic portfolio management and respective phase measurements, while Mercedes-Benz.io will be responsible for the development and operation of digital products even more independently. Within the next two years, Mercedes-Benz.io will strengthen its digital product teams in Lisbon, Portugal. The Lisbon site will become the development core unit and a dedicated product organization that focuses on scalable product organization, vehicle leads, and sales-generating products. More than 100 additional digital product development positions will be established at Mercedes-Benz.io in Lisbon. The core of the alignment is a product-oriented organization with the aim of concentrating digital product responsibilities for online sales according to a clear business strategy.

How I became aware of unconscious biases in recruiting

“I’d love to work with them” I thought to myself when I was looking at the application of a candidate a couple of weeks ago, “maybe we could even become friends!”. I was already excited about filling this role because it was in an HR-related field and I would potentially get to work closely with the person we would ultimately hire. And the resume I was looking at made me even more excited – the applicant was from Hamburg, Germany, the same city that I was born and raised in.

But not only did we share the same hometown, we also both lived abroad in the same country for a while (Canada’s nice, eh?). The fact that she lived in Calgary reminded me of a wonderful snowy vacation in the Rocky Mountains a few years ago. This had to be a sign, it couldn’t only be coincidence! 


With great excitement I looked at the feedback from the hiring manager, who pointed out a few concerns about the application that seemed completely valid. Despite having looked through the application multiple times, I hadn’t noticed any of these. That’s when I paused for a moment and realized I had just experienced something that is called affinity bias, which describes the reason for why I unconsciously favored the applicant because we had things in common and despite a lack of skills. 

Back then, I only knew I had to be especially mindful with this application while I learned more about the cognitive process that could have easily impacted the hiring decision if I hadn’t paid attention. 

Uncovering unconscious biases

When I started my internship in recruiting at Mercedes-Benz.io I only had a bit of practical recruiting experience from my previous job. I had heard about unconscious biases in university, but never considered it that complex or difficult to become aware of in the hiring process – until that day I described previously. Here’s what I learned since then: 

Everyone processes information with a set of unconscious biases. There’s a limit to how many of the millions of pieces of information we’re exposed to our brain can process consciously. We build a set of assumptions which are influenced by our own ideals, perceptions, personal experiences, cultural environments and background to help us process information unconsciously. 

These shortcuts are natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but they pose a huge risk in the recruitment process, because they make the hiring decisions subjective and unfair. They may lead to teams that aren’t diverse, the dismissal of qualified candidates and the recruitment of unqualified candidates, because candidates aren’t objectively evaluated based on their skills and qualifications. 



We’re so alike: the affinity bias

One of those unconscious processes is called Affinity bias and describes the tendency to favour someone who’s like us either on a personal or professional level. Someone who we can relate to, with whom we share the same experiences or commonalities, because it’s much easier and more comfortable to be around people who seem familiar. Take my experience, for example: The simple fact that the candidate lived in some of the same places that I did had such a big influence on me that I would have probably selected her for the next round without screening the profile any further. 

When you’re looking at numerous resumes in a week, it’s crucial to be aware of the shortcuts that your brain may take. If you don’t, you may end up with a team of people that get along very well but isn’t very diverse. It’s especially important to pay attention to the affinity bias in times where culture fit is considered a very important factor in hiring decisions – you can still aim to hire people who are a culture fit of course, as long as you’re not hiring them only because you went to the same school, have common interests or just get along really well. 

There’s a lot more to be aware of

In addition to the affinity bias, there are a lot more unconscious biases to be aware of in the recruiting process. While I won’t cover all of them, these are the few that stood out to me as particularly important: 

  • Confirmation bias: When you choose and prioritize information to meet your prior expectations. For example: you receive a referral from a colleague for “a really great developer and even better leader”, and throughout the interview process you favor information confirming this expectation and neglect information disproving it.
  • Halo effect: When one positive attribute outshines potential red flags and creates a “positive glow” around the candidate. For example: The designer you’re interviewing has won many awards with personal projects, but has only ever stayed with the same company for a maximum of six months. Despite that red flag you recommend to move forward with the candidate because of the awards she has won. 
  • Horn effect: The opposite of the halo effect is when you judge someone too quickly based on only one negative attribute that may not even be related to the job. For example: When you talk about the dog policy in the office, the candidate mentions that she dislikes dogs, not knowing that you’re a huge dog lover yourself. Even though you know this is unrelated, you let it cloud your judgement and impact the hiring decision.
  • Conformity bias: When you’re not the only one interviewing a candidate and change your opinion to conform with the opinions of others. For example: you have good reasons to think that a particular candidate wouldn’t be a good culture fit, but all the other interviewers want to hire her. You end up changing your opinion and hire the candidate.
  • Contrast effect: When you’re comparing candidates to each other instead of judging them objectively based on the needs of the role. For example: You’re trying to find an office coordinator. You immediately reject the first two candidates because of their lack of experience, and end up hiring the third candidate because she at least has some experience despite that being way less than the requirements originally called for. 


Managing biases in the recruiting process

By reading this you’ve already taken the first and most important step towards managing biases in your recruiting process: you’re now aware that those biases exist. To help with your next steps, here are four practical tips you can start applying tomorrow. 

  • Prepare: Being prepared throughout the recruiting process can go a long way towards reducing the impact that biases can have on it. Make sure you know the exact requirements and skills to look for, prepare an interview guideline which you adhere to, and take some time to understand what skills, behavior and criteria you want to see, why you want to see them and what questions you can ask you find out more about them. Think about this before every step of the process, for example when you start screening applicants or before you go into an interview. Being prepared can prevent your thoughts and conversations from derailing because of biases. 
  • Standardize: To give candidates the same chance of standing out, think about ways that can help to standardize the recruiting process. Prepare a list of questions that you can stick to and make sure that every question is answered, avoid too many off-the-cuff questions. Think about concepts like scorecards to help with a standardized way of evaluating candidates. 
  • Reflect: Frequently check in with yourself and take time to reflect. How are you feeling? Is anything on your mind that may affect how you screen candidates or interview? Has anything in the interview influenced how you perceived the candidate? Being under time pressure or having had a bad night’s sleep can have a huge impact on how you perceive someone, so make sure to acknowledge how you feel. Reflect on the candidates on your own before you discuss them with others. 
  • Take notes: Rigorously document the entire interview process, not only the red flags or things that stand out. For example, you may want to document the similarities of candidates with yourself. Reviewing notes may help you to spot biases, and allow you to adjust and clarify why you had certain feelings about a candidate. 

Of course, this isn’t everything you can do to improve how biases affect the recruiting process – unconscious biases are complex, and even if you’re aware of them you might catch yourself being affected by them from time to time. But I hope that by reading about these biases you can start taking steps towards being more aware of them yourself, and reduce how much they affect your recruiting process. 

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The two buzzwords when it comes to diversity

Diversity Diaries – Chapter 2: Eike

We are a fierce #tribe called Mercedes-Benz.io!

Our values stress one point very strongly – on an individual level but especially when seen in conjunction: Mercedes-Benz.io is no place for mavericks and lone wolfs but a tribe. A family of sorts. Sharing a common set of values, working towards a joint goal (even if, at times, the final destination does not seem crystal clear).

We often stress the importance of “diversity” in this context. The importance of having different characters, backgrounds, religions, interest groups, etc. as part of a team. We strive to rid our recruiting processes of any bias – while it sometimes starts to feel that hiring for “diversity” develops into a bias itself.

As per literature, diversity is “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization“ (Merriam Webster). This implies an active effort and might lead to the hypothesis that having the broadest range of “people” is the optimal stage.

Personally (and this is my very subjective opinion), I think this and other definitions are lacking two “buzzwords” that we are also quite fond of: purpose and context (which, of course, are strongly connected). Our context is being a subsidiary of one of the largest automotive manufacturers in the world, responsible for driving transformation through digital product development and everything it entails. Therefore, the purpose of everything we provide in our organizational structure is to enable our tribe into doing exactly that while removing factors that hinder us.

For me, this means fostering creativity, openness of mind, different ways of thinking based on different backgrounds (cultural, professional, familial…). Fostering an environment where personal biases have no room – allowing us to focus on delivering the best digital solutions possible – by hiring the right person for the job, no matter what. Sometimes this means hiring a typical white-collar business grad. Sometimes this means bringing a gardener nearly turned teacher turned biologist turned marketing consultant into a team. Sometimes it means recruiting someone not fully up to a challenge but ambitious and willing to learn.

Bottom-line: people that help our tribe grow – not in numbers but in mindset, attitude, reflection. Not being biased in any direction. Showing new solutions to problems we have not even be aware of.

About Diversity Diaries: Let’s get personal! At Mercedes-Benz.io we believe in the power of diversity and inclusion. In this series we encourage our fellow MB.ioneers to share their differing perspectives on the topic. We aim to create a transparent dialogue as we establish our own values.

Hola-what?! Here’s what you need to know about our organizational structure

It seems like every company is trying to implement flat hierarchies nowadays. At Mercedes-Benz.io we have been putting in thought to this matter since the company was founded in 2016 and tried to create the most responsive organizational structure possible.

Holacracy is a “non-classical” framework which is representing our operating system within the company (like others adopt the pyramid or a network organization). Our setup is based on purpose, circles and roles as well as their specific accountabilites. It’s also a hierarchical structure, which, however, is not based on people but on the purpose of roles and circles (a circle can be seen as a role with broader accountabilities, too).

What made us decide to build an organization based on the holocratic framework?

From the very beginning of Mercedes-Benz.io (formerly known as CINTEO) was an experiment. The idea was to try new setups and ways of thinking and to experiment with an innovative organizational structure. Mercedes-Benz.io was born as a little start-up, questioning what leadership might look like in the future and what’s essential to succeed in a VUCA-world. Another reason for implementing a responsive framework was that we were convinced it would be able to keep up with our tremendous target of growth and mesh with the agile frameworks in our products.

What benefits do we have from working in a holocratic framework ?

We are all free to make decisions based on our roles and escalate, if necessary, not through people hierarchy but directly within our products. We are empowered by clarity in roles and respective accountabilities and our correspondent enablement circles (similar to communities of practice). Our freedom shortens long decision-making processes and communication through various people. We can develop through our strengths and competences and get into leading positions without necessarily having to take on disciplinary responsibilities.

What superpowers do you need to work in this framework?

You need to be highly self-organized which means that you take ownership of your personal path within the company. You also need to be very flexible and happy to deal with changes in your working environment. In addition to that, you will often have to apply the pull-principle if you need to acquire some information, especially about processes that are not clear yet. If that’s not a problem for you, it will empower you in new ways and give you a lot of freedom and fun within your work life.

Do you have what it takes to work in a responsive organization?

Are you agile enough?

A couple of months back we had an intense strategy workshop with some of the folks in the company and we spent one whole afternoon discussing the ‚health‘ of all our products.

At the moment we run around 40 individual product teams with an average size of 8 – 10 people per team.

One of the key questions during this health check session was: ‚can we consider this team being agile?‘

On a side note – Mercedes-Benz.io’s company claim includes ‚driving digital future‘ – so this question should have been an easy one for all of us.

Our health check ended up in a huge discussion about what agility actually means to us and that ‚being agile‘ doesn’t just mean using ‚Scrum‘ or documenting work in self-proclaimed ‚agile software‘, like Jira and Confluence.

After that intense and very open discussion we tried to nail down our understanding of Mercedes-Benz.io being ‚agile‘ – so here we go with some of the basics:

1. Hypothesis-Driven: all arguments and ideas are valid until you can prove them wrong. ‚Please make the button blue so more people click on it‘ might be a valid hypothesis until proven the other way round. Therefore the availability of data and its usage in our day to day work should be a no-brainer for us.

2. Step by Step: why are we even considering ‚agility‘ as our desired ‚to-be’? Simple: because the paths we go down are not yet explored and before investing millions into an idea we try to go in cycles and phases to find out if we are on the right way. That’s the power of agility. Scrum, Kanban or Xtreme Programming: we actually don’t care in the end as long as the teams organize themselves so they can work together frictionlessly and output driven. We want them to create a safe zone where they are able to experiment and iterate and yes – even screw up once in a while.

Learning teams who work together and tackle a problem are the core of digital transformation – emotions included.

If ‚all lights are green‘ you don’t go fast enough… says a fierce tribe like Mercedes-Benz.io.

3. User-Centric : probably one of the most used and strongest claims in the world of digitization. Especially in a corporate context we often (really, really often) tend to design systems rather than experiences for customers. It is one of the most difficult tasks to shift perspectives from internal views to the real needs of a customer. I love hearing our product owners #challenge the status quo and re-think ideas and customers problems from the outside view.

Last but not least a well meant recommendation: ‚being agile’ seems to be the most desired outcome of any organization these days – but it means so much more than adding a Scrum Master (who previously was probably called ‚Project Manager‘) to a team. It requires an in-depth look into your organizations core.

Starting from processes over routines to people and culture. The journey towards agility will never be an easy one – but you can have people on board who believe in it and know how to take you on that journey.

ARE YOU AGILE ENOUGH?