Motivating a Development Team Through User Empathy

Reza Shirazi

Senior Product Manager at AffiniPay



I was working with a disengaged dev team who did not feel ownership of their work, nor did they care about the user they were creating it for. There was no hunger for improvement and our retrospectives were very stale. I had to figure out a way to get them engaged in the development of the API product.

Actions taken

First, I found one of our partners that uses our API to be an alpha for us. They would take previews of the product that we were building, test them out, and then give us feedback. We did so in three, incremental preview releases. Second, I found one of the new partners who was integrating with us and talked to them about this new feature. I suggested the idea of sending them early-draft documentation on it and having them become a beta customer. They were very interested in it. As they started developing, they had questions and so I had my development team talk to their developers. This was the first time they were actually talking to users of their product.

Lessons learned

  • The end result was my team taking on a new sense of ownership and engagement. It was a much better work environment where they felt like this was good work for them to be doing. In turn, they actually started thinking about creative ways for our partners to integrate with our API.
  • The development team was able to understand the user and developed empathy for them which allowed them to feel more connected to their work. They aligned themselves with the concept that they aren't just building things in the abstract, but rather for a purpose that they can now feel connected to.
  • After my team spoke directly with their users, they were really excited and wanted to know how quickly they could get the product to production so that the partner could use it.

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Reza Shirazi

Senior Product Manager at AffiniPay

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