When visiting a new country or city, a tourist guide is invaluable. It offers a quick overview of local customs, top sites to see, how to get around, a pull-out map, and the places to find the best food. Every software engineering team should have a similar guide to welcome new team members. Most teams aim to grow. Even when the team is not growing, attrition ensures that existing members get replaced with newcomers who have to start from scratch. Do you have a “Lonely Planet” guide for them?

A good 10s personal introduction is key to making people listen

The one minute pitch, also known as elevator pitch, is a great template for convincing other people to adopt a certain solution. Here is a breakdown:

Some tips when you are good or bad with names

A painting called “Deux hommes en pied” by French painter Edgar Degas
Deux hommes en pied by Edgar Degas

I always have a hard time remembering names of people I have met. There are tricks that have helped me over time. I understand I am not alone. If you are good at remembering names, congratulations. It’s a great skill to have. In that case, you can actually help people who are bad with names, or who have face blindness.

When you are good at remembering names, here is what you can do:

  • When meeting a person, say your own name, even if you have already met them in the past. If possible, use a physical name tag or badge…

Strategies for tumultuous times.


Uncertain times, whether they are personal or external, can lead to serious self-doubt, stress, and eventually burnout. No one is alone at this and strategies for coping exist, without marginalizing the feelings you have.

“Everyone is OK, but I am not.”
— Everyone.

You probably have heard the Billy Ocean song, When the going get tough, the tough get going!. Well, that is a catchy song, but just getting tough is not a strategy for handling stressful situations. …

COVID-19 will have the lasting impact of making remote working the new normal in the Tech Industry

For general tips on communicating better as an engineer, check out my recent book, C4E.

In 1973, during the so-called “Autoloze zondag” (car-free Sunday), my uncle took me biking on the A9 highway in the Netherlands. I still vividly remember how surreal that felt and what an impact that made on me.

News Updates
May 02:
50% of Goldman Sachs could work at home forever.
May 11:
Google and Facebook extend work-from-home until 2021.
May 11:
Productivity loss of working remote is 1%.
May 12
: Employees at Twitter can work from home forever.
May 15:
Salesforce lets employees work from home until 2021.
May 15:
Microsoft’s CEO misses physical meetings.
May 18:
Square employees can work remote permanently
May 21: Coinbase Will Allow Employees to Work Remotely After Lockdown
May 21:
Zuckerberg: Majority of Facebook will be able to work from home
May 22:
Shopify moves to…

Some surprising approaches to calculating Pi

Calculating Pi using 5 Pizza Pies.

Each year on March 14, we celebrate Pi Day at Uber Amsterdam. This year, we were planning to celebrate Pi Day on Friday and to look at a couple of algorithms using PyAlgoViz. Due to COVID-19, the in-person celebration of Pi-Day got canceled, and instead we did a video call with the whole Amsterdam Tech Team at Uber Amsterdam. We did do a few live runs on one estimation, and the results can be found below.

In 2006, Akira Haraguchi recited 100,000 digits of Pi from memory, taking him 16 hours. How many can you recite?

In this article, I…

COVID-19 caused a world-wide WFH experiment. What now?

The home office of my colleague Alexey Györi of Uber Amsterdam — Picture taken April 7, 2020.

Whether you work from home structurally as a remote employee, or whether you are part of the world-wide WFH experiment caused by COVID-19, working from home will be different to most of us. Here are some tips to make working from home effective. For general tips on communicating better as an engineer, check out my recent book, C4E.


If you normally spend most of your time in close connection with your colleagues, working from home will make you miss out from a lot of subtle communication happening around your desk, the micro kitchen, or at lunch.

Effective remote work requires…

It’s all about Communication

“We want our interviewees to solve real-world problems. So while you balance this binary search tree, I’ll be changing the requirements, imposing arbitrary deadlines and auditing you for regulatory compliance.” forrestbrazeal.com

A technical interview might be seen by some people as an event where the candidate tries to sell their qualities and the interviewer does the most to challenge them. Instead, it is a two-way discussion filled with communication opportunities.

During an interview session, the candidate is selling their skills. But, at the same time they are reading signals from the interviewer about the people that they are going to work with, how professional they act, and how well at communication they are.

An experienced candidate might be interviewing with multiple companies, and a good candidate will get to choose from…

22 Ergonomic and Productivity Tips

If you suddenly find yourself working from home as a result from Covid-19 and you wonder how to set up an effective home environment, scroll down to tip 13 that describes my home setup. Also, check out the article How to work from home effectively that specifically discusses communication techniques when working remotely. For general tips on communicating better as an engineer, check out my recent book, C4E.

Whenever people see my desk, they often ask me about my interesting keyboard setup. One person suggested I spend some time to write down my various productivity hacks I picked up over…

How to structure technical documents effectively

Different kinds of documents exist. Some capture decisions. Others aim to structure work. Again others serve to teach a topic. Here are the type of documents you are likely to run into at work:

Chris Laffra

{ country: “Holland”, mission: “Make other engineers impactful”, jobs: [“IBM”, “Morgan Stanley”, “Google”, “Bank of America”, “Uber”], site: “chrislaffra.com” }

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