Director of Product Engineering | Certified Agile Leader | Software Craftsman

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Pair Programming

Overview of my journey with pair programming.

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Test Driven Development

My journey with Test Driven Development.

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My experience with the SOLID principles and how they can benefit any project.

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Automate everything and enjoy the reclaimed time.  My experience improving the path to production.

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I do best

My Skills

I am a Sr. Software Engineering Manager with a solid technical background. I have experience empowering software engineers to improve their process, products and productivity. I like to observe and understand the entire delivery pipeline. I look for the technical debt, lack of automation, and the single points of failure that are the quicksand of software development. I like to talk to the product owners and understand how our customers use our solutions and what improvements they need. I also want to understand how we use analytics to drive product and technical decisions to make the most significant impact for the customers. Driving outcomes is key.

I have introduced Gradle to my development teams. I have also introduced the concept of a three-word build which compiles the code, runs all tests, runs static code analysis, code coverage reports and produces a simple success or failure status that is easily integrated into a continuous integration and deployment pipeline. I have collaborated with both product and technical staff to automate the path to production for all products in our portfolio. I have introduced Test Driven Development, Paired Programming and SOLID to multiple development teams. I have empowered teams to take ownership of improving their craft by embracing Code Katas and Technical Book Clubs (Clean Code, Effective Java, The DevOps Handbook, etc.). I have also pushed decision making down to the lowest responsible level. I have coached both Scrum and Large Scaled Scrum teams. I have built relationships with key stakeholders that impact our customers experience to find out how they think we could improve.

I feel like the items listed above are just the start of a long journey towards leadership excellence. Soliciting feedback has helped me improve the way I lead and coach. Some of the best feedback I’ve received has come from one on ones and 360 surveys. I’m continually looking for ways to improve and make a more meaningful contribution to the organization and society. Eventually, when things do go wrong, I take responsibility. I lead blameless root-cause analysis sessions. I ask the five whys. I work with Product Owners to get risky technical debt prioritized. Operational excellence is critical for great customer experiences.

Culture is also key! I encourage my teams to create their own identity and own it. I encourage cross-team collaboration and discussion. I encourage my teams to celebrate successes and make the workplace a fun place to be. I support honest and forthright communication with an emphasis on face to face communication. I encourage my teams to innovate and have fun doing it!

Agile Leadership

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Steve on multiple company-wide transformation initiatives. He’s the teammate you want by your side— Smart, Dedicated, Hardworking, Tireless. As a peer, I’ve had the opportunity to see him progress as a leader. He invests in his team members to help them grow and is one of the few leaders I have seen take a whole team to that next level. He instills a passion for the craft, best practice, and quality in all he does.

Elizabeth Zeh
Clinical Director, Content Systems and Quality - Wolters Kluwer

I have worked with Steve for several years now. Steve is very easy to work with. He explains things at a very basic level so everyone in the room understands however if you want more details, he will gladly provide them and get more technical. I have watched as his direct reports have grown under his leadership. The transformation of our organization into an agile workplace has changed Steve's role. He adapted and changed on many levels and is a great leader because of it. He understands how agile works and is a great advocate for agile and his direct reports. Under his coaching, the team has implemented numerous agile development techniques. The team is now doing TDD, pair programming, continuous integration and deployment, code katas and even implementing lunch and learns. I truly enjoy working with Steve.

Elliott Metzler
Product Owner - Wolters Kluwer

Having worked in the IT industry for over 20 years, I can say with experience that it’s rare to find talent who has both incredible technical breadth and the ability to be an outstanding manager and leader. Steve Katra is one of these rare finds. I have been particularly impressed with Steve’s drive to continuously learn and improve and his innate ability to lead others to do the same.

I originally interacted with Steve when he was a developer, but most of my experience working with him, has been during his tenure as Senior Manager of Product Development (over the last four years.) While we started out as peers, I also reported directly to him at one point and can personally speak to his excellent management skills. I truly felt supported and appreciated by Steve and continue to value feedback from him when we collaborate.

Under his leadership, he has led his reports to embrace best practices that often get lost in other organizations and developed training plans that have increased their skill-sets which added significant value to the organization. Steve also advocated for and created a career path for his employees that had a huge impact on morale and employee retention.

Steve is an exceptionally talented individual that any organization would be fortunate to have affiliated with them. He doesn't shy away from the hard parts of the job, but he also brings a sense of humor, introspection, and flexibility, that makes working with him, a pleasure.

Linda McCreery
Scrum Master - Wolters Kluwer

I worked within a development team constructed by Steve Katra. Steve is a fount of knowledge when it comes to web based development and ideal software development practices. I am surprised by the amount of things that I was able to learn by just observing him work. I am intrigued by his opinion over development or team management issues because they are straight forward ideas but have the ability to win over any arguing side. His troubleshooting skills are admirable. I felt more confident and comfortable while coding; and was able to see myself grow as a developer under his supervision.

Kartik Yadav
Intern - Wolters Kluwer

Steve and I worked together as IT consultants for NVISIA. We were both assigned to the same client in down-town Chicago. From my experience you can expect two things from any NVISIA consultant 1) well above average technical ability and 2) a genuinely nice person with whom it is a pleasure to work. Steve is a great example of someone who has both of these characteristics. He is naturally extremely bright but he is modest also. I've witnessed his ability to pick up new technologies and run with them quickly and I've also witnessed him take time out on multiple occasions to be a mentor to others and/or lead by example. When something needed to be done, Steve CONSISTENTLY just jumped in and did it. In no way is this a bad reflection on the rest of the team (that perhaps they didn't do the jumping in), but it is a reflection of how smart, how quick, and how committed Steve is with regard to his work. Steve also has a great attitude -- very positive as well as very encouraging of others. It was a real pleasure working with Steve at NVISIA. I wish him the best of luck and continued success going forward. As I told him on many occasions, "Steve -- You're a star".

Eddie Meyers
Tech Lead - NVISIA

Steve Katra is a dedicated worker who will give back to the company more than he is given. He is a trusted friend and colleague and I have witnessed his late nights and hard work pay off in some of the nicer features of our intranet. For coming directly out of College and being hit with a full work load, he has handled it gracefully while still finding time to help others reach out for new learning experiences.

Peter Double
Tech Lead - Allstate