Presentation: Syntactic Sugar for English: Pragmatic Eloquence



11:50am - 12:40pm

Day of week:



Key Takeaways

  • Understand the role of effective communication in our lives as software professional and how you can improve how well you communicate.
  • Hear how you can apply an algorithmic approach to how you speak and communicate.
  • Learn concrete steps to improve your ability to communicate with others.


In this session, we'll focus on an algorithmic approach to speaking authoritatively and authentically by identifying "word smells" and learning new "sentence patterns." This approach fuses together over a decade of Wendy's software experience with the basics of executive coaching and mixes in over 1000 hours of her training in mindful practices.

You will walk away with concrete steps that will get you in the habit of not only winning friends and influencing people, but improving your career. Back in 1936 Dale Carnegie's research deemed that regardless of domain, our ability to communicate accounts for 85% of our career growth. While technology and the Internet have given us new ways to communicate, they have not reduced its value. If anything, the abstraction they add has increased its importance.

Software runs so much of the world, yet we, its creators, have so little influence. If we invest 10% of what goes into creating eloquence in our programming language into our spoken language, we would dramatically shift our power. While Carnegie's book and many others contain valuable ideas and philosophies, developers think algorithmically and we need strategies rooted in logic and clear rules.


What is your role today?
I wear many hats. The last year, I have really been focused on the mom hat. I had a baby last year in April, so I am just beginning to transition back into focusing back on coaching. I teach Yoga and various forms of fitness as well and my coaching is focused on really creating collaboration and highly effective people and teams.
What will this talk do for people along those fronts?
Probably upset a lot of people.
Why so?
Well, it is about communicating and when we communicate, we are speaking through our truth. But there really are many truths: your truth is based on your experiences; my truth is based on my experience. And to really become an effective speaker, you really need to speak in a way that’s tangible to everyone. So you have to peel away your layers of BS and a lot of people don’t want do that.
What recommendations do you give in your talk to peel away the layers?
Just like in programming, we have code smells. You can look at the way people speak certain phrases and keywords, and recognize smells actually are in the language that’s saying "this isn’t actually true: this is a story". We have a lot of stories and a lot of these stories aren’t true but we treat them like they are true. We speak about them as though they are true. When someone hears a story as though it is true, their first response is to assume that it is true. And so just to recognize that something is more of a judgement is a huge step towards effective communication.
What will the audience walk away with after hearing your talk?
I would love for someone to go back and be like "I want to take this back to my team at our retrospective." This is the smell. I think if we focus on the smell, we’ll actually be able to shift our communication style. That would like a very pragmatic way to do it. Or even like a ‘ah-ha!’ moment of "I didn’t even realize. You know my spouse says this all the time and it is always driving me crazy. Like I just can’t understand what she (or he) is saying" and the reason why you can’t, is because you don’t see those smells. You are not connecting on the same truth.
So it’s the kind of talk that may help you on a personal level or may help you on the career level. And I don’t want to be attached to which level I hit for you, because if you help someone on their personal level, it is going to help in their career. Because we bring our junk with us everywhere we go. We bring it to our job. We bring it into our relationships. We bring it into our family. But our junk has no boundaries.

Speaker: Wendy Closson

Technologist Coach

Wendy Closson has over a decade of experience immersed in development and championing agile practices. After surviving a rare and highly aggressive cancer, she traded her keyboard for a yoga mat and set out to find health. Through her travels, she gathered a unique tool set to overcome overwhelm, create clear communication, and increase business influence. Fusing her expertise together, Wendy coaches technology leaders to manage effectively, respond reasonably, and navigate the choppy waters of business. She is a certified Naam Yoga teacher with over 1000 hours of training in holistic methodologies such as meditation, spiritual counseling, and non-violent communication. In addition, she was groomed in executive coaching by Kelley Black, founder of Balancing the Executive Life, and studies privately with Dr. Joseph Michael Levry, founder of Naam Yoga. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.

Find Wendy Closson at


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