One of the best indicators that a developer is passionate about writing code is his or her desire to always be learning. Even the most experienced programmers are always looking for ways to hone their current skills and learn new technologies. While this is no secret to anyone who needs to hire developers, it can be easy for employers to lose sight of the importance of providing professional development opportunities for their engineering teams. We spoke to a few companies about the types of continuous learning programs they’ve implemented for their developers. Here’s what they had to say.
For some developers, continuous learning is most effective when done in pairs. And for some companies, that means putting them to work on just one computer. Will Pate, Head of Strategy at Connected Lab, tells us that his engineering team offers what’s referred to as pair programming. Pate explains that while each pair gets two sets of keyboards and mice, this pair programming environment encourages the teams to build something together on just one machine. He tells us that this program is mutually beneficial for junior and senior engineers. “Our junior engineers get regular rotations of full-time mentorship from the senior engineers,” he says. “And our senior engineers get exposed to new technologies and problem-solving approaches.”
Max Horstmann, a developer here at Stack Overflow, recently encouraged companies to allow their programmers to make their side projects a part of their day-to-day jobs whenever possible. Dzuy Nguyen, CTO at Big Sea, tells us that to encourage its developers to work on their side projects, the company schedules what it refers to as “Ship It Days” on a regular basis. During this time, the company’s team of five developers gets to explore personal learning challenges or projects for 30 straight hours. To make these days even more impactful, Nguyen says the development team has begun including the company’s designers so that both sides can explore the relationship between engineering and design more closely.
Brian Beckham, CEO of BrainJocks, told us his engineering team is always asking for opportunities to learn new technologies. In response, the company implemented a monthly event they refer to as Show and Tells, where anyone on the team can present something interesting he or she has been working on. Developers also use the informal setting as an opportunity to practice their public speaking and presentation skills. Beckham adds, “It’s a great opportunity to share what they’ve learned with other engineers and the broader BrainJocks community.”
While it can be difficult for a developer who’s in the zone to step away from his or her work, everyone needs to eat lunch at some point. Brad Grzesiak, CEO of Bendyworks, wanted to make it easy for even his busiest developers to share knowledge during their lunch breaks, so he created a lunchtime book club for the tech team to discuss the latest technical books. As an added perk, Grzesiak tells us that the company furnishes the books and the meal, which makes it an accessible and fun continuous learning program for anyone on the engineering team to take part in.