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In the Long Run We're All Dead: An Economist's Guide to Tech Debt

Saturday 12:00 PM–12:30 PM in Hall B

Tech debt is a familiar concept in most organisations and has been the subject of extensive discussion regarding individual & organisational factors. However, what’s missing is a macro-economic analysis of why tech debt exists and how to combat it. This talk provides that analysis.

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Technical debt is a much-bemoaned aspect of nearly every engineer’s life. How and to what extent to eliminate it has been the subject of much discussion. Is tech debt the result of individual engineers cutting corners? Are the engineers who write this code just incompetent? Are there organisational factors that contribute? If so, what are they? All of these are worthy of discussion, however, there is another factor conspicuously missing from this discussion: macroeconomics, the dismal science. Macroeconomic factors dictate organisational behaviour and have a cascading effect on teams and individuals within organisations. In this talk, I discuss technical debt in the context of the work of institutional economist Hyman Minsky, contextualising tech debt as a form of operating debt organisations take on. Minsky’s theory on this topic provides a compelling analysis of organisations’ borrowing behaviour, and by extension, how tech debt works.

Dana Scheider they/he • @DanaScheider

Dana Scheider (they/he) is a senior software engineer at CashApp. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, he currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. Since 2016, Dana has been one of the core maintainers of Cucumber. He is particularly interested in testing and quality management, diversity and inclusion, and improving processes within engineering organisations. Dana's extracurricular interests include mathematics, opera, foreign languages, Elder Scrolls, and Star Trek. An in-demand speaker, notable conference appearances include SwanseaCon, CukeUp! London, Full Stack Toronto, RubyConf Colombia and Covalence Conf.