Presentation: Engineering Engineering Culture With Memes

Track: Building Great Engineering Cultures

Location: Seacliff ABC

Duration: 2:55pm - 3:45pm

Day of week: Wednesday

Level: Intermediate

Persona: Architect, CTO/CIO/Leadership, General Software, Technical Engineering Manager


You can’t impose culture on a team, but you can induce it.

Have you ever noticed that when you work with the same group of people for a while, everyone starts to use similar phrases, metaphors, and jokes? Those are legit memes: self-replicating concepts that form the building blocks of belief systems that drive people’s behavior.

By skillfully curating the memes that are introduced and reinforced within a team, you can have an outsize influence on how team norms evolve. And this isn’t just for bosses. It’s inherently egalitarian, because anyone who can inject compelling memes can steer team culture.

But there is an art to it.

In this talk, I’ll describe a bunch of real-world examples of memes that helped shape engineering team culture during my years at Google and play an epic role at FullStory today. I’ll also discuss tactics for developing your own effective memes, how they can help with tricky topics like management and diversity, and how to make sure they’re sticky without being...schticky.

Speaker: Bruce Johnson

Founder and COO @FullStory

Bruce is a founder and COO of FullStory, where he's accelerating his professional mission to make life online suck less by arming well-intentioned teams with impossibly powerful tools. Before FullStory, Bruce founded Google's Atlanta Engineering office, which created Google Web Toolkit, Speed Tracer, the Java runtime for App Engine, and other "so crazy it just might work" sorts of technologies.

Find Bruce Johnson at



  • 21st Century Languages

    Compile to Native, Microservices, Machine learning... tailor-made languages solving modern challenges, featuring use cases around Go, Rust, C#, and Elm.

  • Architectures You've Always Wondered About

    Architectural practices from the world's most well-known properties, featuring startups, massive scale, evolving architectures, and software tools used by nearly all of us.

  • Beyond Being an Individual Contributor

    Beyond being an individual contributor. Building and Evolving managers and tech leadership.

  • DevOps: You Build It, You Run It

    Pushing DevOps beyond adoption into cultural change. Hear about designing resilience, managing alerting, CI/CD lessons, & security. Features lessons from open source, Linkedin, Netflix, Financial Times, & more. 

  • Performance Mythbusting

    Real world, applied performance proofs across stacks. Hear performance consideratiosn for .NET, Python, & Java. Learn performance use cases with OpenJ9, Instagram, and Netflix. 

  • The Practice & Frontiers of AI

    Learn about machine learning in practice and on the horizon. Learn about ML at Quora, Uber's Michelangelo, ML workflow with Netflix Meson and topics on Bots, Conversational interfaces, automation, and deployment practices in the space.

  • Going Serverless

    Learn about the state of Serverless & how to successfully leverage it! Lessons learned in the track hit on security, scalability, IoT, and offer warnings to watch out for.

  • Microservices: Patterns and Practices

    Stories of success and failure building modern Microservices, including event sourcing, reactive, decomposition, & more.

  • Evolving Java

    Java continues to evolve & change. Track covers Spring 5, async, Kotlin, serverless, the 6-month cadence plans, & AI/ML use cases.

  • The Art of Chaos Engineering

    Failure is going to happen - Are you ready? Chaos engineering is an emerging discipline - What is the state of the art?

  • Security: Attacking and Defending

    Offense and defensive security evolution that application developers should know about including SGX Enclaves, effects of AI, software exploitation techniques, & crowd defense

  • Stream Processing In The Modern Age

    Compelling applications of stream processing using Flink, Beam, Spark, Strymon & recent advances in the field, including Custom Windowing, Stateful Streaming, SQL over Streams.  

Conference for Professional Software Developers