"Debug Your Thinking" Recommended by MVP Laila Bougria
Published Apr 11 2024 01:00 AM 1,783 Views

Laila Bougria is a Microsoft Azure MVP, a solutions architect, a software engineer, and a conference speaker worldwide. She has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry and has worked with multiple platforms, frameworks, and technologies over the years. She currently works for Particular Software and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others, especially during conferences, as those face-to-face interactions spark her learning in many different ways. She is also passionate about sharing insights into her work with students who are yet to choose a career direction to help provide a clearer picture of the work in the software industry and correct any misconceptions.


Having worked in the IT industry for more than a decade, Laila had her own view on thought processes. “We’re in an industry that’s moving at an incredible pace, with many tools, frameworks, and techniques at our disposal to solve the complex problems presented to us in our organizations. We spend so much time understanding and learning how these technologies work, but we tend to lose sight of the key component that can make or break the solutions we build: our decisions,” she says. That's why she reached out to people by sharing her ideas of debugging your thinking (Video) in her keynote presentation at NDC London 2024.

Laila at stage_NDC 2024 Keynote.jpg


In her keynote, Laila navigated the topic of critical thinking by drawing parallels between troubleshooting and debugging issues in our systems. Critical thinking can, in many ways, align with how we debug systems:

- We need to slow down and take time to understand the problem we're presented with.

- Just like we inspect our system telemetry, we must understand what we're dealing with: Observations? Friction? Symptoms? Or solutions?

- Even in our thought process, we need to place breakpoints to ensure how we got there and where we're going.

- Just like we inspect variables to validate their values, we need to identify and validate the assumptions we make when making decisions.


Laila shared techniques that can help us build a mental debugger, based on three key practices: 

- Slowing down: this is key to ensuring we're focusing on the right problem and also allows us to catch the biases that drive fast, and possibly, faulted decisions.

- Collaborate: by involving people with vastly different perspectives, who have completely different backgrounds, education, and maybe even professions, can help widen our horizons, think outside of the box, and validate our thought process.

- Write it down: Although it may not immediately sound exciting to do so, writing things down can help us bring clarity to the problem we’re solving, explicitly define the context we’re in, create a comprehensive overview of the alternatives we’ve considered, eventually, leading us to our proposed solution in a well-structured and through-through fashion.


Laila says, “As the industry continues to adopt AI tools such as Microsoft and GitHub copilot, it becomes increasingly important to further improve our critical thinking skills, allowing us to make well-balanced decisions that can help us use these tools more effectively.”

Laila_NDC Keynote speech.jpg


Laila’s keynote was extremely well received, and attendees were overwhelmingly positive as her findings resonated well:

“Wow, I’m not sure how you did this, but I believe you just summarized my entire career in a one-hour talk.”

“This was by far the best session of the conference.”

“You’ve really inspired me to go back to work and take on a completely different approach to problem-solving.”


From the first session Laila’s ever presented at a conference, she’s paid a lot of attention to clarifying the needs for technology, framework, or architectural style, in which use cases it’s useful, before getting into the how. She says, “I strongly believe that as an industry, we’re exceptionally good at documenting how technologies and tools work. Still, we need to spend more time and effort in conveying why and when it’s useful, or even desirable, to use the tooling and teach us how to make that decision. I will continue conveying that in future presentations and workshops.”


You can find Laila in person next at Techorama Belgium and DevSum Sweden in May 2024, NDC in Oslo in June 2024, and many more.

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