Do you know this proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” What if you decide to go far and fast... together? This is what we experience here at Netguru. We know that we are strong only as a close-knit team. We must go together. Besides, the more the merrier. We want to reach ambitious goals rather than rest on our laurels. We want to go far. Finally, we know that we can go far as a team only if we quickly react to market trends. We have to move fast in a truly Agile way. Under such circumstances, we must constantly make sure that we are all on the same page. How do we do that? The answer is simple: knowledge sharing.
When you want to start something new, dream big, but start small. Iterate. Then grow. Most of our educational activities start with a very simple thing - a new Slack channel with a champion who coordinates the idea. We love Slack for the flexibility with which people may self-organise into smaller or bigger groups that are focused around any initiative. Wanna hold a book club? Join the #book-club channel and ask who’d like to discuss a given title with you. In love with sustainability initiatives? Jump on #sustainability to share and discuss recent media coverage regarding zero waste movements. Constantly on the lookout for new features on Confluence? Go to #confluence channel and keep an eye on the recent changes your peers spotted on the platform. Some of these channels gather dozens of people, others, just a few. Some build-up into R&D projects or happy hours meetings where people come to ask questions, while others lose momentum after an initial pilot. Both directions are good. We do not force people to follow specific subjects. The most fun comes from engaging in initiatives that bring you the most joy.
Have you ever attended a webinar? Subscribed to a podcast? Listened to an interview on the radio? I am sure you did. Now, was it always captivating? Or maybe were you thinking: “this has nothing to do with my reality”. We love running internal webinars, workshops, and seminars purely because they have everything to do with our reality. Where else can you find a better mentor than in your own organisation? Therefore, any employee, irrespective of tenure or seniority, may run a workshop for any unit in the organisation or a webinar for the whole company. When a developer loves trying out different text editors, she runs a company-wide presentation comparing the pros and cons of the tools available on the market. When Quality Assurance specialists bring a new testing framework to the team, they hold a case study presentation to show what circumstances might require using it in a project. It is not obligatory to attend any of those meetings. Yet, all have participants, because they respond to the actual needs of people.
In fact, we like giving talks and workshops so much that in 2018 we ran our first internal conference called Netguru Tech Talks. It was a whole-day conference dedicated to our IT department where developers shared knowledge about ongoing projects, problems they encountered, and the solutions that have been implemented. Such knowledge exchange is quite hard on a daily basis because our employees are scattered around different cities. The event was organized like a normal conference. We had one track with 14 presentations and a second one with 4 workshops. Speakers had to respond to a Call for Papers and were selected by a committee. Before the event they took part in a professional self-presentation training which resulted in successful appearances on the event stage. The topics of the presentations were very different: leadership in technology, end-to-end testing, deep learning intuitions, and many more. We loved it, so in 2019 the whole company took part in a day-long Burning Minds conference. Going from a meeting only for developers to a company-wide gathering was quite a transformation. After the success of Netguru Tech Talks we decided to combine it with an annual team retreat and open it up for more topics. Again, we opened a Call For Papers and ended up with 50 speakers and 44 workshops split into 5 paths. Our internal conference grew from 80 participants to 400 in just one year. And we are just getting started.
Knowledge-sharing culture is very important for us and we are trying to emphasise it as much as we can. Such initiatives give us a great opportunity to show the world that this is not only an empty phrase.
Do you have any mandatory programmes, you may ask? In fact, just a few. They are related to onboarding. When you are new to the organisation or new to the role, you are invited to participate in a dedicated onboarding programme. New employees have an online onboarding on the first day of their work, after which they are acquainted with a peer who introduces them to the ins and outs of the organisation. When you decide to follow a leadership path, the Knowledge and Development team invites you to the leaders’ onboarding programme, which acquaints you with the specifics of your new role. Both newbies’ and leaders’ onboarding follow the 4C structure, according to which employees learn about the context of their role, how the organisational culture fits into it, what compliance elements have to be completed, and finally whom to connect with when you do not know where to start.
Some of us do not want to limit knowledge sharing to the organisation, and some of us simply get hungry for bigger audiences after running their first internal presentations. In fact, we love to give talks at industry conferences and meetups (online as well). Since the beginning of 2018 we gave 136 presentations at external events. Our speakers take part in big conferences such as PyCon, Element Talks or Frontend-Con, but we are also present at local meetups like PyStok, KRUG or meet.js. Although speakers usually do not pay admission fees, oftentimes they do need to arrange the logistics by their own means. At Netguru, you will not pay for it from your own pocket. We will cover the cost and give visual, subject-matter as well as public speaking feedback on your presentation. What's more, you will get a speaker bonus and a fancy t-shirt. No more excuses! Go and conquer the stage. For those who are not yet convinced to step into the big conference world, we can offer being a speaker at our own meetups that we organize. Every quarter we organize a couple of meetups/ online events under the name Netguru Hangout where we invite external speakers and guests to share knowledge and network a bit.
Maybe you are not an avid speaker, but still would like to support a cause. What then? In such a situation, you may become a Netguru College mentor. These folks organise regular workshops for people who want to learn more about what you do: project management, Ruby on Rails development, design thinking or quality assurance. We do not keep all our knowledge just to ourselves. We feel proud of our processes and invite people who want to start a new, fascinating career, to regular Netguru College workshops. Workshops are organized in two ways. One is a two-week-long edition where we invite participants to attend workshops every day for 8 hours in our office in Poznan. The other is a weekend edition where the program only lasts two days and it takes place in one of our nine offices. Till now we have organized 4 long editions and 15 weekend editions with the result of recruiting 37 new employees.
Is knowledge sharing only about internal initiatives? How about someone wanting to read a few important books about management? Maybe wanting to attend a conference as a participant? Learning a new framework with the help of an external platform? Brushing up on their English pronunciation? Sometimes, knowledge needs to be acquired from the outside world, and you need to pay for it. For this reason, employees get access to an individual development budget which they may devote to any educational endeavours related to their job.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” But if you want to go fast, far, and together, engage your team in knowledge sharing. Do not force too much on them, as they know quite well what they need. Do not enforce any constraints, as they will be much more creative without rigid frameworks. Most importantly, make sure that your team understands why we go fast, has the ambition to go far, and finally, the openness to go together. Under such circumstances, most of your L&D trouble will be to... find enough time to support all the bright grassroots initiatives that show up whenever the need arises.
Authors: Joanna Antkowiak (Senior Employer Branding Specialist and Team Leader), Joanna Falkowska (Learning & Development Specialist and Team Leader)