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Katie Shermer's empathy prework

What role does empathy play in your life and how has it helped you?

Empathy is the basis of all human relationships, and is what makes life worth living. Without empathy, I wouldn't be able to enjoy my own feelings or relate to the feelings of others.

Due to my upbringing, I had a much harder time with empathy and social relationships as a younger person. As I moved into adulthood, I began to develop a stronger empathic response to other people, and my life has been dramatically better since then.

How does empathy help you build better software?

When you are able to relate to the people your software will serve, you're much more invested in its outcome, and you're more motivated to work to make it as useful and helpful as possible. If you can't relate to the people your software will serve, you care much less about how well it functions and how much it would help the user.

Why is empathy important for working on a team?

Empathic skills - includng active listening, acceptance and communication of feelings, and understanding of personal situations - are crucial to the effective functioning of a team. If your relationship with your teammates is full of negative experiences and friction, your product will suffer accordingly, and no one will be happy with their work. If your relationship with your teammates is positive, and you're able to work through emotional problems constructively, your product will be stronger for it, and the team will be more motivated to work to improve the final result of your project.

Describe a situation in which your ability to empathize with a colleague or teammate was helpful.

A coworker at the restaurant I work at was having a particularly difficult time emotionally around the holiday season. After talking with her, I agreed to take on the tables with families, while she took care of the single people and couples in both of our sections. Because I empathized with her emotional state, we were able to divide our work up in a way that made it possible for us to both be effective servers and keep our guests happy.

When do you find it most difficult to be empathetic in professional settings? How can you improve your skills when faced with these scenarios?

I live with mild to moderate anxiety, which can make empathy difficult at times. Since becoming more in tune with my emotional states as an adult, I have developed methods to cope with and reduce my anxiety levels when I feel them creeping up. I can use these techniques in team work to know when to make special efforts to empathize and let my teammates know what my limitations might be on a given day.

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