Why is it so hard to write code? Grigory Petrov on brain physiology and management of personal and team effectiveness

Team section at the DUMP conference about people and for people. This year there will be no scrum or kanbans, but there will be many tools to improve the efficiency of work in teams. We spoke with Grigory Petrov, DevRel from Evrone. Grisha is a 20-year-old developer, amateur neuroscientist and technical evangelist. At DUMP he will give a talk “The physiology of the brain: levers to control personal performance.”

  • Grisha, Hello! At the 10th Anniversary Dump, you will speak about the physiology of the brain and the levers of personal performance management. We’ve been waiting for your report for a whole year! We know how much and with interest you are researching the topic of neurophysiology. Tell us in more detail what your report will be about?

    • In recent years, neurophysiology has amassed the results of millions of studies, each revealing a small piece of the puzzle. The mosaic refuses to form entirely: there are dozens of hypotheses “how consciousness can work” and zero answers to the question “why is it so difficult to write code”. For the report, I have chosen several hypotheses that I personally like. Through their prism, I will examine our main difficulties: code, procrastination, goal setting, and other things that we face every day.

  • There are many methods for achieving personal efficiency: flow state, single-tasking, time management taking into account biorhythms, and others. This is not enough?

    • There are many books out there like “500 Ways to Be a Good Programmer, Stop Stopping, and Start Getting Started”. In such books, everything is usually collected: working methods, non-working methods, methods that do nothing, and one cistern of water for each printed edition. Neurophysiology, in contrast to truisms, tries to offer hypotheses “how it works.” A good hypothesis reveals patterns, knowledge of which allows you not to learn hundreds of particulars. Why study hundreds of ways of “time management taking into account biorhythms” if knowledge of one regularity will allow you to derive any number of such methods?

  • What methods have you tried to improve your personal effectiveness? What went in and what didn’t work?

    • I don’t want to spoil the report, so I’ll answer in a streamlined way. I’ve tried quite a few different ways on myself. Something worked, something did not work, and then I had to soak from something for a couple of weeks. But this experience is not very scalable. I’m more interested in organizing the work of my colleagues and other developers so that they can do cool things for longer than half an hour a day. About the patterns that allow some ways to work, while others do not – in my report.

  • How did your passion for neurophysiology begin?

    • From my fellow developers. Many years ago, when I was leading the development, something interesting came up. It took me about three years to learn a strong middle, and programmers changed jobs on average once every one and a half years. This blatant credit / debit mismatch made me look for more workable ways to help my colleagues than to throw them into the water hoping to learn to swim.

  • Where do you get information? What sources do you use?

    • Textbooks. 5th edition of “Principles of neural science” I have a reference book: 1400 pages, hardcover, 5 kilograms of live weight. Soon it will be replaced by the 6th edition, and smaller textbooks are helping. PubMed, again. Well, and secret telegram chats of neurophysiologists, of course. Where without them.

  • How do you use your knowledge of neurophysiology in your life and work today? Tell us about your daily rituals.

    • I use it as directed: I explain to myself why I do certain things. What can you do to behave the way I like, and not the way it turns out. I set up experiments on myself and try to make them at least minimally scientific. As for the rituals: there are working things that I would like to talk about at the conference, so that guests have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss everything at the afterparty. So I won’t spoil you: come and hear everything.

  • What if you’re already a planning guru, but your team … is still procrastinating?

    • Study with me the patterns of why they procrastinate. And how you can help them: organize their days in such a way that not procrastinating will be easier than procrastinating. It is difficult, but possible. Come, I’ll tell you how.

  • The main thing that the audience will remember after your story? How will it be useful?

    • Actually, my whole report boils down to one phrase: “we do not what is right, logical or reasonable, but what we are used to doing.” But in order to apply this spell in practice, you will need to listen to a little theory and entertaining stories about the visual cortex, cognition and attention schema.


  • You speak at conferences, participate in meetups, interview cool people … but do you have time to write code?

    • Don’t be distracted, I’m busy 🙂

  • Do you have any hobbies that are not directly related to it, except for neurophysiology?

    • In quantity: computer games, anime, journalism, Japanese. This is one of those that can be talked about in a decent society.

  • How do you switch, how do you rest?

    • I have increased anxiety, so you can forget about rest – I don’t get tired and I don’t get bored. The flip side of such a psyche is the constant desire to switch to Facebook, read something interesting, check out the new patch for Last Epoch. On the contrary, you have to make an effort to focus on work.

  • Your listeners get a mountain of usefulness from your performances. What does working with an audience give you?

    • First of all, I learn to express my thoughts clearly. After several hundred reports, you somehow begin to carefully choose the words yourself, always “land on the specifics” and give examples, ask open-ended questions. It helps when writing code, and at work and in life.

  • What motivates you?

    • My dream is to learn how to train confident middle developers in less than a year and a half. The labor market as it is now is very motivating.

  • Go back 10 years, what do you advise / say to yourself?

    • “Don’t raid World of Warcraft, you will be disappointed. Lead the developers on the stage – you’ll love it!”

  • And who do you see yourself in 10 years?

    • I would like to stay in DevRel and learn how to train developers not only to speak, but also to write code. Every day I use hundreds of software products – I want to be written by cool guys and girls who know what they are doing. And in order for them to know, they need to be trained.

Are there any other questions? You can ask Grisha on May 14 at the DUMP-2021 conference! Offline / online tickets and program of performances here

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