Increase your Productivity

Here are a couple of things you can do to improve your productivity and/or communication skills as an engineer:
  • Attend a C4E masterclass facilitated by Chris Laffra. The masterclass is packed with interactive exercises to improve communication techniques, empathy, and collaboration.
  • Listen to the Tech Lead Journal Podcast for an in-depth interview with Chris on how to communicate better as an engineer.
  • Read the C4E book. It provides software engineers with a self-paced method for becoming more productive, more impactful, and happier.
  • Listen to How to become a 10X engineer for a discussion with Patrick Akil of Xebia, on productivity, emotions, stress, and imposter syndrome.
  • Read The Secret to Developer Productivy; a compact book discussing developer productivity. The content was provided entirely by ChatGPT. Only the prompts and images were provided by Chris Laffra.
  • Sign up for a career coaching session with Chris Laffra.

The C4E Book

The C4E book helps engineers become better communicators. A good introduction to the book is given by Urs Hölzle:

"Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most crucial life skills to learn. Through communication, we transfer information to produce a greater shared understanding. Communication is multi-faceted. You can share information verbally or through written media, such as books, websites, and documents. You enrich your communication visually using graphs, charts, images, and maps. Finally, you complement the picture with non-verbal communication such as body language, gestures, tone, and voice pitch. All these communication techniques are addressed effectively in this book. It is the first example where all the insights related to communication for software developers come together in one single, nicely organized collection of actionable advice.

As an engineer, we care a lot about our code. It defines us. We study the programming languages we use in great detail. We become experts in the tools we deploy. We fight with other engineers who are not using the same editors we use. Education tracks for software developers focus on the development of technical skills. We learn how to write compilers. We learn multiple programming languages. However, "softer" skills get less attention. Examples of those softer skills are: how to collaborate, how to get consensus on an idea, how to articulate our thoughts, and how to listen to others.

At some point in your career, you can no longer communicate effectively just by talking with others. Stand-ups, planning meetings, and peer programming sessions all have their physical limits. This effect applies to you sooner than you think. At that point, you need to switch to asynchronous communication techniques. In short, you need to switch to *writing*. Those who can write well suddenly have a headstart. Through well-written communication, your influence suddenly grows exponentially.

As an engineer, you should invest in your communication skills. This book provides an excellent plan, combined with a methodical approach. It contains actionable advice in its various chapters on communication skills.

Reading this book leads to you becoming a more successful engineer. You will become more impactful. More importantly, you will be a happier software developer. Enjoy reading!"

— Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President of Engineering and employee #8 at Google

Read the C4E book now:

The Secret to Developer Productivity

The Secret to Developer Productivity book helps engineers and teams become more productive. This book was written entirely with ChatGPT in one Sunday afternoon. Chris asked all the questions and 99% of the content was offered by OpenAi's ChatGPT large language model.

Read the Secret to Developer Productivity book now:

C4E Masterclass

Why attend?

As engineers, we care a lot about our technical skills and code. They define us. However, communication skills tend to get less attention. Examples of those softer skills are: how to collaborate, reach a consensus on an idea, articulate our thoughts, and listen to others.

This masterclass provides a simple plan, a systematic approach, and actionable advice for improving your communication skills. It also includes two books and a printed handout with comprehensive materials on the same topic.

This masterclass already helped hundreds of engineers develop their communication skills to an advanced level.

Who will benefit?

Attending this masterclass will make you a more successful software developer, impactful engineer, and happier engineer. When you improve your communication skills as a software developer, three different types of communication partners will benefit:

  • Stakeholders. Your management, product owners, peers, and customers will greatly appreciate working with you when you can articulate why a certain solution uniquely solves a specific problem. You will learn how to summarize and present easily with the right empathy level. You will know how to give technical direction using story-telling techniques. You will resolve conflicts in your team using well-developed emotional intelligence skills.

  • Yourself. You will more easily discover and be given opportunities to work on exciting projects. People will fairly recognize you for your contributions. You will feel a happier engineer and increase your impact on your team, your organization, and the entire company. You will define your growth plan, engage others for help, and become the best you can become.

  • Others. In addition to improving your relationships at work, you will enhance your understanding of others in your more personal relationships. People will recognize you as someone who can communicate well and see you as a role model for their development. They will love being in your company. Your charisma will light up a room when you enter it. Friends and family will like you.

What's the process?

This masterclass consists of three different sessions with numerous interactive exercises:

  • Selling. This section explains how to make a technical proposal. The whole process includes treating yourself as a brand. We’ll review aspects such as structuring your presentation, email, design document, elevator pitches, and even napkin proposals. Key aspects include empathy, focusing on the problem, introducing yourself, telling a story with data, and using consistent messaging when interacting with the rest of your organization. Interactive exercises will provide you with practical takeaways.

  • Growth. All engineers aim to progress in responsibility, impact, pay, power, or recognition. To get there, we need to focus on personal growth. This requires careful planning, execution, and help from others. Only sometimes does our perception of our impact or contributions meet reality. We will go over why that may be the case. We will discuss strategies for giving and receiving feedback to become an impactful and happy engineer.

  • Collaboration. Nobody writes code in isolation. We are all part of software development teams. Those teams perform much of their synchronization in meetings. These same meetings result in context switches and reduce the ability of engineers to focus on their work. This session will discuss how to make meetings more effective and productive. We will discuss what meeting types exist, what makes meetings effective, and how you can get out of meetings!

What's the outcome?

Attending this masterclass will make you a more successful software developer. You will become more impactful. Moreover, you will become a much happier engineer. You will effectively explore the many dimensions of communicating well with other engineers and stakeholders. You will learn how to become more impactful and productive by improving your communication. You will acquire various soft skills to help your work as a software developer/engineer.

What do people like about this masterclass?

When asked what attendees learned from the course, answers included:

"Branding yourself can be fun."

"Communication helps me improve my career."

"To communicate well, I need to focus on controlling my emotions."

"You are a brand. Not only when you are finding a new job, but all the time."

"Communication is not just talking to people, but it is happening all the time"

"This course taught me to see how my experience aligns with others."

"I can do code reviews better."

"Writing is an important skill to develop!"

"Everything is connected. The way you reply to emails, write tickets, write documents, write code, comment on code reviews. Everything plays a role in your "brand" and in how people see you. Doesn't matter whom you're talking to in the "hierarchy chain", you need to be polite, objective and effective when communicating. Thinking about engineers (encoding, decoding, channels) make a lot of sense when thinking about communication."

"Tickets are communication tools."

"This workshop should be mandatory training at JP Morgan!"

How to attend?

There are a few ways to join a masterclass:

  • As an individual at Xebia's offices. Use your individual company learning budget and sign up today!
  • At your own office, with your colleagues who work at the same company or organization. Contact your continued learning department, tell them you want to organize a C4E masterclass at your company, and have them contact Chris for more details.
  • At a technical conference. For instance, C4E will be held at Goto Copenhagen 2024.

Attendees receive a signed copy of two books: C4E and The Secret to Developer Productivity. Moreover, attendees receive a printed handout with all the interactive exercises and slides that are presented.

To schedule a course, or discuss more details, please contact Chris.

Career and Leadership Coaching

Chris Laffra is an experienced, passionate, and talented software engineer, with a strong drive to help other engineers grow. Chris understands what motivates engineers. He understands what stresses them out. He understands how to help them define and achieve their dreams.

Using his advanced communication skills, Chris is able to help engineers discover the right path for their professional and personal development. Chris has been a manager, tech lead, technical lead manager, advisor, mentor, researcher, and staff software engineer with companies such as IBM, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Google, Uber, Plato, Sourcegraph, and JP Morgan. This wide variety of experiences ensures Chris can use his empathy to understand someones situation quickly and make meaningful suggestions to help engineers grow to the next level.

Mentoring, guidance, and coaching on hard and soft skills is what allows engineers to grow to the next level. Achieving maximum happiness and energy within a team requires deep insights into how the entire software development process is organized, the role the team plays in this, and how all this impacts individuals. Through decades of personal experience, Chris Laffra has analyzed and summarized this entire field into numerous blogs, presentations, and books.

The summit of Chris's work is his Communication for Engineers book, and the accompanying interactive C4E course. The one-on-one Career and Leadership Coaching sessions described here add an extra dimension, by providing a personalized experience for each engineer. The sessions include an analysis of someones situation, gauging their current set of skills, establishing their goals, and mapping a plan for success and maximum impact.

Every engineer, even the most successful one, hits a bump in their career at some point. Usually this happens when they reach a certain level and wonder if this is all there is. In other cases, it may be an existential question about whether to continue as an individual contributor or as a manager.

Sometimes engineers struggle with motivation, have a harder time contributing creatively, lack the passion they used to have, become more cynical, and see work as a job, not a hobby. All of these are red flags for stress or burnout. However, those situations need to be destigmatized and normalized. Companies like Sourcegraph lead the way, giving each of their teammates 10 therapy and wellness coaching sessions. Similarly, Chris does his own to normalize stress, burnout, and the imposter syndrome himself in a popular LinkedIn article.

Career and Leadership Coaching sessions with Chris Laffra focus on stress reduction, while increasing your productivity, impact, and happiness. The sessions were designed to normalize counter-productive experiences engineers may encounter in their career and life. The goal is to allow them to find back their passion in engineering. At the same time, the sessions focus on personal goal setting, improving communication, collaboration, and leadership skills. With his mentoring and coaching, Chris helps other engineers achieve their dreams.

If you are ready to sign up for a coaching session, head to and book a slot now.