In my previous articles I have written about are you investing in your own career and starting out in software development. But there is another important question, is your company investing in you and your career?
In my current role, I am lucky to work for a great company that values it's teams / employees and have been able to implement / roll out the following for my development and test teams:
- For the development team, individual PluralSight subscriptions. The test team use Ministry of Testing amongst other channels
- An hour per week self study (watching Pluralsight videos, etc) to learn about any development / test subject that they are interested in
- An hour per week for each team to get together and discuss improvements / changes they would like to make to their environments / processes
- A weekly 1-2-1 to discuss the previous week, what they have learnt and any progress against objectives. Annual reviews become a highlight / review of that year's 1-2-1 notes; allowing much more time to concentrate on and discuss the plan for the coming year
- The ability to attend any free day conferences on relevant subjects (we do also go to paid conferences)
- Group trips to community events in the local area
- Pair programming team development exercises
To start with an hour per week self learning might not sound much, but it is a small, constant amount which over the course of a year adds up to 45+ hours (once you take into account holidays, etc). This is similar to the time you'd spend if you went to devWeek or a similar conference every year; which I'm sure you'd agree is a pretty nice benefit. I also recommend that the team don't spend this time learning about anything they are currently working on. Since we've been doing this the team have learnt about, recommended and agreed various new technologies that we are and will be using on future projects. We've learnt about features / libraries in different unrelated programming languages which we've since applied in our day to day usage of .NET. This simple process has paid back at-least ten fold for the time we've invested in it and the team are constantly learning new things.
Similarly, the pair programming development exercises have been really successful. Picking a particular task / challenge we've run several sessions trying full on TDD (something we are using in our new system and slowly introducing to our legacy code base), recoding to remove primitive obsession and removing any conditional logic.
We're also investing in training up new developers / testers to help build a balanced team and give something back to the industry. Those new starters get a great founding from the above, plus the rest of the team get the opportunity to learn by being a mentor (which research says aids retention of new skills).
So far we're finding this is working really well for us, the teams are engaged, constantly learning and really happy; which is leading to obvious productivity benefits for the company. Strangely, given the obvious benefits, this approach seems pretty unique in the software industry, even Google appears to have abandoned it's famous 20% innovation time. I'd be interested in hearing from people who's company has implemented something similar and their experiences, as I'm sure we can't be the only people doing this.
If this sounds like something you'd like to experience and are looking for your first opportunity or a new challenge, then check us out as we're a growing team and often have openings. Just remember the most important point; it should be a joint investment in your career!