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Cat Hicks, PhD

Social Scientist | Data Scientist | Storyteller

Hi.    I'm a research leader, an empirical interventionist, and a creative entrepreneur. 

I'm the VP of Res
earch Insights at Pluralsight Flow, where I study how innovative Developer teams learn and thrive and lead the Developer Success Lab. 

I also lead Catharsis Consulting, an evidence science consultancy that connects businesses and nonprofits with small teams of domain expert scientists to produce world-class intervention & impact research.  

I've always thrived at the intersections: a data scientist who cares more about how we measure things than the bigness of our data, a rigorous researcher who is laser-focused on practical change and the messy interactions of the real world. I love using data and stories to make better sense of the world and drive real, transformative change that improves people's lives. 


My research has driven forward evidence science and our understanding of human behavior at large tech companies, small nonprofits, and everything in between.

I specialize in
applied social science that helps real peoplecausal inference and statistical methods with observational data, human innovation, thriving, peer support & learning in technical work such as on software teams. I am passionate about good use of evidence and behavioral science in the world.

I hold a PhD in Empirical Quantitative Psychology from UC San Diego (a department ranked top 15 in overall Psychology, #1 in behavioral neuroscience, top 15 in innovation, top 10 in research productivity from sources like US News & World Reports rankings & Association for Psychological Science), and was a postdoctoral fellow in Computer Science & Engineering and Cognitive Science at the Design Lab at UC San Diego. My research work has garnered 17+ academic awards and scholarships, led to over $500,000 in funding, and played a key role in multi-organizational partnerships between world-class organizations like Google, Duke University, Vanguard, UC San Diego CSE, Stanford University, Coursera, and others.

Much of my applied research has been within organizations. However, I have also published and presented in academic peer-reviewed venues such as CHI, the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, Developmental Science, the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, the Journal of Workplace Learning, the International Convention of Psychological Science, Coursera Partners' Conference, and Infant and Child Development.

Some of my selected public research: 

Hicks, C., Lee, C. S., Ramsey, M. Developer Thriving: The four factors that drive Software Productivity across industries [research report]. The Developer Success Lab at Flow (2023). 

Hicks, C. (2021) It’s Like Coding in the Dark: The need for learning cultures within coding teams [White Paper], Catharsis Consulting. []

Weatherholtz, K., Grimaldi, P., Hicks, C., Hill, K.M., Freeman, C., Akbayin-Sahin, B., Coker, C., Ma, J., & Henneman, L. (2020). Use of Khan Academy Official SAT Practice and SAT Achievement: An Observational Study. Mountain View, CA: Khan Academy.




I frequently speak at industry conferences, technology centers of excellence, academic research centers, and business events to audiences such as engineering leaders, technology teams, digital transformation laboratories and consultancies, and groups that want to elevate their understanding of research, data, and the science of thriving software teams.

My talks have been described as
"epic," "warm and brilliant," and "made me feel like I'll be the smartest person in the next room


I prioritize events that have a demonstrated commitment to Black speakers and LGBTQ+ speakers, accessibility such as virtual attendance options & student scholarships, and safety in providing high standards of ventilation-based covid19 mitigation in venues (e.g., HEPA fans, high standard filtration, and adequate room size).


Some recent events:


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