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Sandra Illi Villarreal & Maria José Hernández Roncancio - Mindset Refactor: Scaling Slack Developer Success

API The Docs 2023 Developer Success & Developer Portals Recap

This talk was presented at APIDays New York 2023, Developer Success & Developer Portals track on 17 May. We are glad to present the video recording and the talk summary.

Visit the talk listing page for an overview of all presentations!



Developer Advocate at Slack

Sandra Illi Villarreal & Maria José Hernández Roncancio's presentation (video recording)

The Slack API started out in 2015, and it was followed by the Slack app directory. As the Slack platform evolved, the team adapted to trends like modularity and serverless computing. After identifying pain points and gathering feedback from developers, Slack created its Next Generation Platform which introduces modular automation, integration with Slack, and an end-user driven model.

The main features of Slack’s developer onboarding process:

  • Transparent, inclusive, and engaging
  • Encourages feedback
  • Prioritizes documentation
  • Targets different learning styles

Creating the Next Generation Platform had its own challenges:

  • Constant iteration: the team had to keep adapting to changes.
  • Limited resources.
  • Limited documentation available: the team had to create their own documentation.
  • Introducing a product that was still in development.

These hindrances had a negative impact on the early stages of the product’s lifecycle, but the team used these obstacles as motivation to learn and grow.

The “mindset refactor”

The team adopted a new approach to their own product. Cultivating a “beginner’s mindset” allowed them to:

  • build empathy with users,
  • document their experience,
  • and focus on the pain points.

The cornerstones of a beginner’s mindset

Developing empathy made it possible for the team to understand their own product better, gather feedback, and document their experiences in order to help others. Letting go of their ego allowed them to detach themselves from their work and embrace starting over from scratch, as well as serve their audience more effectively and ask for help when needed. Slack has also developed a unique approach to addressing discomfort: by “hugging the elephant”, they openly confront and discuss the issues that cause unease. By reframing the mindset around challenges, they view obstacles as opportunities to learn.

In order to truly embody the beginner’s mindset, the team also needed to practice curiosity. For Slack, the team’s open-mindedness resulted in a culture of innovation and collaboration, and it also boosted knowledge sharing.

Main takeaways

  • The journey of learning is not linear: it’s characterized by peaks and valleys.
  • Adopting a beginner’s mindset can help transform frustration into empathy.
  • Embracing humility can help approach learning with the openness and eagerness of a beginner.
  • Change can be a powerful catalyst for innovation.

The result of this mindset shift was a comprehensive developer learning path that is designed to reduce friction and scale developer success. With their new mindset, the team was able to tackle challenges like low adoption and incomplete documentation with solutions like: Open-source sample apps that cover a wide range of use cases.

  • Educational videos that cater to different learning styles.
  • Comprehensive tutorials for those who prefer written instructions and self-paced learning.
  • And world-class documentation structured for easy access.

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