What Does a Technical Coach at Facebook Do?

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Answers by Kent Beck, Technical coach at Facebook, on Quora.

A: My personal mission is to preserve, enhance, and explain Facebook's unique engineering culture. I coach high-potential engineers 1x1, I write and deliver classes, I host Deep Thoughts--The Engineering Speaker Series, I run a coaching service with ~20 active coaches, I quantitatively research software design and software engineering using our massive history, I write notes and (more recently) record videos. That's all I can think of right now. Please ask followup questions if you're interested in something specific.

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A: As with everything, it's a tradeoff. My memory and ability to hold complexity in my head is much reduced compared to 15 years ago. My self-awareness, empathy, and self-confidence are much improved. That means I'm not suitable for, for example, production coding next to the hot shots at Facebook, but it also means that I'm much more likely than they are to spot the train coming down the tunnel.

As I've lost the ability to execute a big prototype, it's become harder to convince other people of the value of my ideas. That's frustrating for me, because it seems I'm getting some of the best ideas of my career now, but I need to work on influence and persuasion.

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A: I can only answer for myself. The biggest impact I've seen is the nested callback style of Node morphing into async/await. It's really two syntaxes for the same semantics. The goal in both cases is the same: use less power while waiting for I/O.

Async/await does create an interesting debugging problem. Your code is now writing a program for an I/O processor to execute later, so causal relationships can be hard to track down. Somebody please solve that.

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