DeveloperWeek Europe 2021 DeveloperWeek Europe 2021
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What the Soviet Space Program Taught Me about Digital Product Development

- BST
Workshop Stage 2
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Dean Schuster
Truematter, UX Strategy Expert and Partner

Founder and partner of truematter, a user experience strategy firm, Dean has been advocating for user-centered digital products since the advent of the commercial web. He oversees truematter’s UX practice, leading strategic engagements for innovative regional organizations as well as the Fortune 100.

Dean’s expertise and work includes researching, prototyping, and testing digital products with real users. He regularly speaks, writes, and teaches on user experience design & strategy, usability, user research, content strategy, and building UX-focused development teams. He also organizes UX Columbia.

It’s not all UX all the time (even though it’s close). Dean is also an avid ultra marathoner, trail race-director, reader, and traveler.


The space race between the USA and USSR was one of the great dramatic stories of the 20th century. Our very industry was born as Washington and Moscow relentlessly competed to master the stars.

For space nuts like me, this fascinating time is utterly compelling. It’s also highly instructive for digital product developers. After all, engineers drove the innovation that pushed us beyond earth. The lessons they learned and processes they created can help us today as we make software, apps, and advanced functionality online.

Of course, the Soviet side of the story tends to be less understood. And that’s exactly what we’ll explore. It’s unbelievable stuff, and a cautionary tale for development teams.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- How differing philosophies of development lead to different processes and results.
- What Soviet imperatives parallel modern development approaches.
- Why the USSR led the space race early, but ultimately failed to reach the moon first.
- What we can learn, adapt, and avoid today from the 20th century Soviet model.