Technical Empathy

From software to sneakers to sofas, the best designs are executed from the point of view of the user, maintainer, or owner - NOT from the point of view of the designers themselves. The terms “usuability”, “intuitive”, and even “innovation” are (or should be) inextricably linked with the perspective of the recipient, not the creator.

As IT practitioners, we solve for this by taking time up-front to nail down the desired feature; by creating small incremental changes rather than sweeping monolithic updates; by collecting metrics on usage and flow; and by maintaining a “fail fast” mentality where we can pivot quickly. But all that might miss a key point: do we understand how the intended beneficiary of brilliance thinks? Do we know not only what they want, but why they want it? Or how they want it?

The ability to see things from this perspective is called “technical empathy”. In this talk, I’ll define what technical empathy is; describe how having technical empathy enhances our design choices, smooths the road to execution, and leads to better outcomes; and provide ideas on how developers and engineers can build technical empathy in themselves and foster it within teams.



Leon Adato


Developer Relations Advocate, Itinerant I.T. tale-spinner

Leon Adato is a Developer Relations Advocate and has held multiple industry certifications over his 33 years in IT including Cisco, Microsoft,