Skip to content
O'Reilly home
Technical Analysis

Technical Debt First Steps

Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Identifying problems and gaining control of your maintenance load

Aug. 31, 2021

4 - 7 p.m. Coordinated Universal Time

This event has ended.

What you’ll learn and how you can apply it

By the end of this live online course, you’ll understand:

  • How tech debt impacts a team
  • Why code bases accumulate tech debt over time
  • What can be done to prevent tech debt

And you’ll be able to:

  • Quantify tech debt and predict how fast it will accumulate in a code base
  • Prioritize high-leverage code changes over renovations
  • Coach and incentivize skills that reduce tech debt accumulation
  • Make a case for taking the time to reduce tech debt

This live event is for you because…

  • You’re an engineer, engineering manager, or director who wants to understand and reduce tech debt.
  • You work with engineers or manage large projects and want the code to work, and keep working, without burning out the team.


  • Experience leading technical teams or working with a code base that’s becoming hard to maintain (useful but not required)

Recommended follow-up:


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing.

What is tech debt? (10 minutes)

  • Presentation: Misconceptions about tech debt

How much tech debt are we in? (60 minutes)

  • Presentation: What’s maintenance load?
  • Group discussion: What’s the highest and lowest maintenance load accumulation rate you’ve seen?
  • Hands-on exercise: Determine the practices that distinguish one team from another
  • Q&A
  • Break

Controlling maintenance load (45 minutes)

  • Presentation: Software stewardship skills
  • Hands-on exercises: Determine what good software stewardship looks like; measure the need for good stewardship
  • Q&A

Prioritizing high-leverage code changes (40 minutes)

  • Presentation: Data—what’s taking a long time or causing frustration?; how to spot proposed renovations
  • Hands-on exercise: Prioritize proposed changes
  • Q&A
  • Break

Reducing maintenance load (15 minutes)

  • Presentation: Make features earn their keep and equip engineers to suggest streamlining options
  • Q&A

Wrap-up and Q&A (10 minutes)

Your Instructor

  • Chelsea Troy

    Chelsea Troy teaches Python programming and mobile software development in the computer science master’s program at the University of Chicago and writes code on projects like the Zooniverse citizen science mobile app and the NASA Landsat Image Processing Pipeline. She looks for clients who are saving the planet, advancing basic scientific research, or providing resources to underserved communities. She’s also been known to take projects in mobile development, web development, and machine learning. Chelsea streams some programming sessions to her YouTube channel, where you can watch her code and narrate in real time—and then she turns these recordings into educational materials. She’s also a wide-ranging blogger at

Start your free 10-day trial

Get started

Want to learn more at events like these?

Get full access to O'Reilly online learning for 10 days—free.

  • checkmark50k+ videos, live online training, learning paths, books, and more.
  • checkmarkBuild playlists of content to share with friends and colleagues.
  • checkmarkLearn anywhere with our iOS and Android apps.
Start Free TrialNo credit card required.