27–29 September 2017, Churchill College, Cambridge

Cross-skill pairing without the drama

A 45 minute Workshop by:

Irina Tsyganok


Nat Pryce


About this Workshop

Pairing junior and senior developers on tasks is seen by many organisations as a mutually beneficial learning and mentoring practice. However, learning and successful mentoring are often mixed with frustration, disengagement and stalled progress. These difficulties are usually not acknowledged by the organisations and by the developers themselves.

We will look at a range of problems encountered when pair programming across skill levels, analyse causes and effects of pairing ‘sins’ committed by senior and junior developers, and explore physical, technical and organisational impediments and solutions. These will range from the obvious and easily solvable, such as disengagement caused by bad physical space, to more subtle and often overlooked issues related to self-esteem and experts' amnesia about the process by which they acquired their expertise.

The material will be be presented as a series of short sketches interspersed with commentary and audience participation. The presenters will act out at the request of the participants and with the help of a few props. Each scenario sketch will follow this format:

  1. Do it badly
  2. Do it better
  3. Ask participants to notice any differences
  4. Ask participants to suggest further improvements, and capture these on a flipchart or whiteboard
  5. Offer one key tip for tackling the challenge

The session will conclude by summarising the main challenges of pair programming across skill levels and offering some practical tips on how to tackle them. We'll share the summary and participants' suggestions captured during the session with the rest of the conference and wider community online.

The speakers represent opposing ends of the experience spectrum - a junior and a senior developer who worked together and who experienced (and solved!) the aforementioned challenges first-hand. Amateur dramatics will guarantee at least a few laughs - hopefully for the right reasons! Most importantly, this will be a fun, engaging and highly interactive learning opportunity.

About the Speakers

Irina Tsyganok

Irina Tsyganok is a software developer at YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP. She is an active member of the agile and wider technology community and a finalist of the Women In IT Awards in the 'Rising Star of The Year' category. This session is based on, and leads on from, her paper, Pair-Programming from a Beginner’s Perspective.


Nat Pryce

Nat Pryce is a co-author of Growing Object­-Oriented Software Guided by Tests. An early adopter of XP, he has written or contributed to several open source libraries and tools that support test driven development (TDD). He has been a programmer, architect, trainer and consultant in a variety of industries, including e-commerce, media, telecoms, finance and retail. He has delivered business-critical systems that range from embedded devices to large computer farms supporting global business.


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