Building a Culture of Learning

Building a Culture of Learning

Or really: Effectively Building a Self-Sustaining Culture of Learning

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Joseph Mastey

March 09, 2015
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Transcript

  1. (EFFECTIVELY) BUILDING A (SELF-SUSTAINING) CULTURE OF LEARNING JOE MASTEY |

    @JMMASTEY | JOSEPHMASTEY.COM
  2. ABOUT ME • Manager of Internal Learning at Enova •

    Software Engineer for twelve years • Teacher for zero years* * this is okay, we can work with this
  3. ABOUT MY COMPANY • Fast paced in a good way

    • Deadline driven in a less good way • Dozens of Rails codebases from 1.2 to 4.2 • Hire lots of green developers
  4. WHY “LEARNING AS YOU GO” DOESN’T CUT IT

  5. GETTING THE REASONS RIGHT

  6. GETTING THE REASONS RIGHT • Attract amazing engineers • Reduce

    attrition, especially of senior folks • Increase “bus factor” and cross-role knowledge • Bring fresh ideas into the organization • Reduce wasted effort and increase delivery speed
  7. A NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF THINGS THAT DON’T WORK

  8. – Me, a long time ago “We really just need

    the CTO and the CEO to make this a priority.”
  9. – Someone like me “If we could pause our current

    projects and deadlines for a few weeks…”
  10. – Not me, thankfully “We’re dedicated to investing in our

    people, but we’re really in a crunch right now.”
  11. A LEARNING CULTURE IN 3 STEPS

  12. FIRST, A CAVEAT

  13. YOUR PEOPLE ARE NOT MY PEOPLE ! YOUR CULTURE IS

    NOT MY CULTURE
  14. THERE IS NO PRECISE ANSWER

  15. PHASE 1 BUILD CREDIBILITY

  16. WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? • High resistance to the

    value of targeted learning • Individuals learning as part of their work • Disorganized training (usually by oral tradition) • One or a few folks driving learning efforts
  17. WHAT WORKED • Don’t wait for permission — take ownership

    of your company’s culture • Think opportunistically and get some victories • Low time and effort investment, fast returns • Focus on improving people at their primary roles
  18. WHAT WORKED • Attend Meetups • Open Book Policy •

    New Hire Buddies • Internal Blogging • Cross-Team Code Reviews • Lunch Workshops • Screencasts
  19. OPEN BOOK BUYING POLICY Idea: If you’re willing to ask

    for the book, I’m willing to purchase multiple copies. ! Tradeoffs: Making people ask seems to have eliminated abuse. Copies already waiting for you. Expensive…ish? People don’t read about 50% of the books they ask for.
  20. NEW HIRE BUDDIES Idea: Provide each new hire with an

    experienced technical and cultural helper. Make it someone from a different team. ! Tradeoffs: Awesome friendships between teams. Great pressure relief valve. People with the right attitude for it are less common, which makes the time commitment high.
  21. DANGERS! • Overcoming inertia is really tough • People have

    a fear of looking dumb • Low credibility (people latch onto failed attempts)
  22. PHASE 2 EXPAND REACH & CREATE IMPACT

  23. WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? • New hires learn a

    lot, existing employees don’t • People want to learn more, but don’t feel empowered to take control • Some teams start to learn as a group • Small, somewhat organized onboarding • A small core of folks driving learning efforts
  24. WHAT WORKED • Look ahead and start to anticipate needs

    • Opportunities that take a while to pay off start to be possible now • Broaden focus to cross-training engineers • Rope in more internal collaborators • Seed good role models around the department
  25. WHAT WORKED • Host Meetups (and Speak at Them) •

    Half Day Internal Workshops • Attend Conferences • Dedicated Onboarding Process • Weekly Tech Talks • New Hires as Buddies
  26. JUNIORS AS TEACHERS / CODE REVIEWERS Idea: Have recent hires

    do code reviews for new hire training. ! Tradeoffs: Recent hires get even better at code and code review. Their pain tolerance is still low and they remember learning. Less organizational wisdom, less context.
  27. WEEKLY TECH TALKS Idea: Fifteen minutes to talk about what’s

    interesting to you right now. Four speakers per week. Same time, same place. ! Tradeoffs: Watching for one hour is a low commitment. Four new ideas spread to the org every week. Public speaking is hard. People will start skipping if you’re boring twice in a row.
  28. DANGERS! • Key personnel leaving now can be crippling •

    Perception of “wasting too much time” is a threat • Old guard may be too comfortable
  29. PHASE 3 SHIFT THE CULTURE

  30. WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? • People start to see

    learning as a normal part of everyone’s job • Momentum and reputation start to sustain new learning efforts • Dedicated training for new and existing engineers • Active chaos of new ideas
  31. WHAT WORKED • Make them forget that learning and teaching

    was ever not part of their job • Everyone in the department gets involved • Broaden focus to topics outside of software • We can try riskier things without destroying momentum
  32. WHAT WORKED • Dedicated Training • FOSS Contribution • Apprenticeships

    • Sabbaticals • Code Spikes / 20% Time / Exploration • Mentoring as a Job Requirement
  33. DEDICATED TRAINING PROGRAM Idea: Provide roadmap, context, (tons of) resources,

    and verification for all the skills we want new hires to master. ! Tradeoffs: Necessary for scaling while raising the bar on skills. Huge time commitment. We don’t ship on day one. Candidates love it, and it alleviates Impostor Syndrome.
  34. APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM Idea: Six month concentrated learning program for fantastic

    candidates who need more technical skills. ! Tradeoffs: High time and attention cost. Huge reputation win. New amazing coworkers.
  35. DANGERS! • Efforts with long-term payoffs are hard to measure,

    but their costs are immediately evident • Nobody feels personally responsible for pushing on the culture • Chaos needs some guard rails or it hurts everyone • Losing the learning habit (deadlines again!)
  36. A PARTING ANECDOTE

  37. MY REQUEST TO YOU THANKS! JOE MASTEY @JMMASTEY JOSEPHMASTEY.COM