Developer Success Lab
Advance your understanding of how software developers work, learn, and thrive with evidence-based research focused on developer satisfaction and success.
Who we are

Our Approach

We’re a team of scientists studying how software teams work, learn, and innovate. We publish original research projects that use the best science on developer productivity, learning, and wellbeing to provide models for human-centered software development that radically progress developer experience. We’re on a mission to share developers’ voices with the world!

Evidence-based research

Our Research

Browse some of our latest research focused on effective software teams.

Voices of Developer Thriving Elli
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Article

Voices of Developer Thriving: How Software Jack-of-all-Trades Eli Mellen promotes Developer Thriving

Kristen Foster-Marks

Setting agreements around ways of working, learning culture as a secret work obsession, and the connection between task-scoping and motivation

Brilliant Blobs: A Developer Success Lab comic
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Article

Brilliant Blobs - A Developer Success Lab Comic

Carol Lee, PhD

If you want to mitigate AI Skill Threat, create learning and belonging cultures instead of contest cultures!

Voices of Developer Thriving Series with Kathy Lavoie
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Voices of Developer Thriving: How Senior Software Engineer Kathy Lavoie builds for Developer Thriving

Kristen Foster-Marks

Freedom to learn, teams that achieve beyond expectations, and the human component of crafting software.

New Developer Whitepaper
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Article

The New Developer Whitepaper

Cat Hicks, PhD, Carol Lee, PhD, Kristen Foster-Marks, MA

Based on the latest research from the Developer Success Lab, this white paper shares a human-centered, evidence-based framework to help developers thrive during this transition to AI-Assisted coding.

AI in Software Development
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AI in Software Development: Results of a pilot study of an intervention to overcome AI Skill Threat

Kristen Foster-Marks

As AI is increasingly being used in software development, AI Skill Threat is emerging as a risk to developer experience.

Thriving blobs comic
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Article

Thriving Blobs - A Developer Success Lab Comic

Carol Lee, PhD

If you’re trying to improve developer experience, focus on developer thriving, instead of happiness or satisfaction.

Why I Created an Institutional Review Board at Pluralsight
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Why I Created an Institutional Review Board at Pluralsight

Carol Lee, PhD

I recently spent the last few months getting a federally registered Institutional Review Board (IRB) together at Pluralsight.

Cat Hicks Transformation Webinar
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Webinar

Busting Transformation Myths

Cat Hicks, PhD

Watch how to foster an environment that emphasizes problem-solving, collaboration, and genuine developer growth.

Carol Lee transformation webinar
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Webinar

Improving Team Health

Carol Lee, PhD

In this webinar, we share research-backed insights on fostering a positive environment, ensuring mental well-being, and building trust among team members.

New Developer Research Paper
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Research

The New Developer

Cat Hicks, PhD, Carol Lee, PhD, Kristen Foster-Marks, MA

The New Developer research paper introduces a framework engineering leaders, teams, and developers can use as they adapt to AI-assisted software development and navigate this new era.

The New Developer Toolkit
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Toolkit

Generative AI Adoption Toolkit

Kristen Foster-Marks, MA, Carol Lee, PhD, Cat Hicks, PhD

Harness the Developer Success Lab’s findings around AI Skill Threat, Identity Change and Developer Thriving to help your teams adopt AI-assisted coding tools and practices in a human-centered, evidence-based way.

Developer Thriving White Paper 3
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Research

Healthy software metrics: How successful software teams measure their work

Developer Success Lab

Engineering leaders are facing pressure from board leadership to quantify engineering performance. This has led companies like Twitter and Salesforce to rely on severely flawed metrics such as lines of code written.

Where We’re Going Wrong with Developer Productivity
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Where We’re Going Wrong with Developer Productivity - LeadDev London 2023

Cat Hicks, PhD

Are you writing enough code, keeping up with the latest technology, or driving product progress? Developer productivity is a top priority for developers, engineering leaders, and businesses.

Use Developer Thriving in Your Next Job Hunt
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4 Tips Developers Can Use In Their Next Job Hunt + Example Interview Questions

Cat Hicks, PhD

We’ve studied what we can learn from how those teams succeed, and we’ve found that Developer Thriving includes four factors: Agency, Learning Culture, Motivation & Self-Efficacy, and Support & Belonging.

How organizations can measure productivity to drive engineering success
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Research

How Organizations can Measure Productivity to Drive Engineering Success

Cat Hicks, PhD, Carol Lee, PhD, Morgan Ramsey

We propose differentiating between measures of production, productivity, and performance as an important step for engineering organizations, and one that helps to suggest next steps for improving how we measure the success of engineering teams.

Successful Hackathons Increase Team Morale
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LeadDev Flashback: How Hackathons Increase Team Morale

Carol Lee, PhD

Carol Lee breaks down how hackathons can increase belonging, decrease anxiety and help people imagine new identities in tech at LeadDev in New York.

Developer Thriving white paper series 2
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Research

How Visibility Leads to Higher Performing Teams and Better Business Outcomes

Cat Hicks, PhD, Carol Lee, PhD, Morgan Ramsey

We dive more deeply into how visibility contributes to improved engagement, performance, and productivity from both individuals and team members.

how successful hackathons can increase team development
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How Successful Hackathons Can Increase Team Development

Carol Lee, PhD & Cat Hicks, PhD

Decades of psychological and behavioral science consistently show that it’s the intangible outcomes that not only drive the tangible outcomes, but also key long-term sociocognitive processes for employees such as motivation, performance, and productivity.

Quantity is for Production, Quality is for Performance
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Quantity is for Production, Quality is for Performance

Carol Lee, PhD & Cat Hicks, PhD

Moving past misconceptions about how we define & measure productivity to unlock sustainable software team success.

why engineering management needs science
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Why engineering management needs an evidence science

Cat Hicks, PhD

You hear a lot about the outcomes and the frictions being felt by other teams, but you know that your job is to understand what’s really happening with this team.

The developer thriving framework
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Research

Whitepaper: The Developer Thriving Framework

Cat Hicks, Carol Lee, Morgan Ramsey

Based on the latest research from the Developer Success Lab, this whitepaper will dive into how to foster a thriving environment for software developers.

the four factors of developer productivity across industries
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Research

Developer Thriving: the four factors that drive Software Developer Productivity across industries

Cat Hicks, Carol Lee, Morgan Ramsey

Read the first major research project from the Developer Success Lab: The four factors that drive software developer productivity across industries.

feedback for performance
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Article

Measuring developer experience: The superpower of today

Cat Hicks

As a social scientist and Pluralsight’s VP of Research Insights, Cat Hicks examines how employees respond to their work environment, colleagues, managers, and other senior leaders.

feedback for performance
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How to give feedback for performance in tech

Cat Hicks

When it comes to the developer experience, how you give feedback is as important as the metrics you’re delivering.

feedback for performance
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Building long term developer success through positive experiences

Carol Lee

Research shows that there are two key factors that increase behavioral engagement, while boosting mental wellness: self-efficacy and value building.


PDF downloads

Publications

Download the full-text PDF reports for each research report published by the Developer Success Lab.

The New Developer Research Paper

Hicks, C. M., Lee, C. S., Foster-Marks, K. L. The New Developer: AI Skill Threat, Identity Change & Developer Thriving in the Transition to AI-Assisted Software Development. [research report]. The Developer Success Lab at Flow (2023)

“Is Our Organization Actually Measuring Productivity?”

Lee, C. S., Ramsey, M., & Hicks, C. (2023). Is Our Organization Actually Measuring Productivity? How Contrasting Organizational and Individual Measures of Engineering Success is an Opportunity to Drive Engineering Transformation. arXiv preprint arXiv:2305.11030

The Four Factors that Drive Software Developer Productivity

Hicks, C., Lee, C. S., Ramsey, M. Developer Thriving: The four factors that drive Software Productivity across industries [research report]. The Developer Success Lab at Flow (2023)

How Successful Hackathons Increase Belonging, Reduce Anxiety, and Create New Self-Concepts for Future Skill Growth

Lee, C. S. & Hicks, C. How Successful Hackathons Increase Belonging, Reduce Anxiety, and Create New Self-Concepts for Future Skill Growth: Research Insights from Hacking the Pluralsight Hackathon. [research report]. The Developer Success Lab at Flow (2023)

Cat Hicks, PH.D.

Cat Hicks, PhD

Social & Data Scientist

Cat Hicks is a social science leader in tech with expertise leading applied research teams to explore complex areas of human behavior, empirical intervention, and evidence science.

Cat is a research affiliate in STEM education research at UC San Diego and an advocate for increasing education access. She holds a Ph.D. in Quantitative Experimental Psychology from UC San Diego, was an inaugural Fellow in the UC San Diego Design Lab, and has led research at organizations such as Google and Khan Academy.

Carol Lee, PhD.

Carol Lee, PhD

Clinical Research Scientist

Carol Lee leverages her expertise in mental health and thoughtful measurement to study how developers cope and thrive through stressful circumstances. Carol has over a decade of experience leading academic and industry research in clinical health, measurement, and human behavior.

Carol serves as a research fellow at the Integrated Behavioral Health Research Institute and as a clinical science advisor for Bravely Mental Health. She holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UMass Boston.

Kristen Foster-Marks

Kristen Foster-Marks

Principal Developer Experience Engineer

Kristen Foster-Marks is passionate about applying evidence-based science to help software teams learn, work, and thrive. She combines eight-years in software development and engineering leadership with extensive knowledge in learning science, pedagogy, and classroom-based research to develop innovative workshops, interventions, and curricula that promote effective behavior change on software teams.

Kristen actively contributes to the engineering community through writing articles and giving conference talks, aiming to demystify empirical research on software teams for those best equipped to utilize its insights.

Announcements

In the Media & Community

Catch up on all the latest updates with the Developer Success Lab team

Engineering managers on the frontline of transformation
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Event

Watch Cat Hicks, PhD and the Developer Success Lab researchers for the Developer Success Summit

The Developer Success Lab researchers have a conversation with engineering managers about common challenges and success stories in transforming the teams they manage.

LeadDev London 2023
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Event

Join Cat Hicks at LeadDev London on June 27th

How I learned to stop worrying about Developer Productivity and love Developer Thriving

Watch dev thriving webinar on demand
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Developer Success Summit Series: The four factors that drive Software Developer Productivity across industries

Cat Hicks, PhD and the Developer Success Lab researchers present their findings from the Developer Thriving: the four factors that drive Software Developer Productivity across industries study.

How to thrive podcast
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How to Thrive, Belong, and Lead in the Tech World

Cat Hicks, PhD presents a framework based on her team’s research on over 1,200 developers called Developer Thriving, which engineering leaders can use to create high-performing development teams that are happier and more collaborative.