If you are a developer, engineer or tech specialist of any variety, you have accepted that learning is lifelong and to remain relevant in an ever-evolving market means keeping certifications up to date, learning the hottest new languages and trying to predict the future in a bid to keep ahead of the game.
Whether you’re a candidate with a top digital agency or disruptive company, we face this same challenge; keeping development a high priority to be productive and grow. When speaking with Luminary CTO, Andy Thompson on the topic, he added: “We’ve realised, in order to maximise technical outcomes it is important to really work on communications.”
luminary, a digital agency with a specialisation in Kentico websites, understood they were limiting their access to talented Kentico developers when hiring only staff based in Melbourne. The agency decided to look further afield and for the past 12 months they’ve been transitioning from an agency that only had one office in Melbourne, to being a distributed agency across Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Bali.
Managing such a geographically diverse team has highlighted to Andy the importance of continued professional development, not only in technical skills but also soft skills and communication in order to most effectively work as a unified team, regardless of location.
So what can you do to keep yourself or your staff ahead of the game?
Conferences and events
When choosing events it is different strokes for different folks. There are a myriad out there and relevance will depend on your role, however, Andy recommends the likes of CSSConf, JSConf or Web Directions Code, particularly for front end developers – “They are a great environment for meeting other people and learning what are the latest things that are happening”.
News, blogs and social media
Not only reading but also writing – “That approach of sharing what you’re doing and staying up to date with those who are doing that really actively is where the latest stuff is”. Again, the best sources will depend on your area of specialisation. “Whether you’re in front end development, or .NET, they all have their own specific blogs and people who are talking about those topics. Many of the most cutting edge development experts or thought leaders are very active on social media such as Twitter too, and following them can be a great way to stay up with the latest trends and techniques.”
For .NET devs:
– This developers life podcast
– Azure Friday podcast
Subscriptions with the likes of Pluralsight allow access to a host of courses from learning new programming languages to learning soft skills. Andy suggested, “particularly for developers, they should be looking in areas beyond just their technical ability and that is areas like working in agile teams or being able to present their ideas so that they get what they want; communication skills can be really powerful.”
Weekly Training Sessions
Specific topics range from a Git masterclass, to a deep dive into configuring Kentico CMS for performance, to a series of front end developer lightning talks. “A developer may be given a particular area; say Git and they want to make sure everyone is aware of how Git works and how we use Git. During that session, they will work with the training manager to put a training schedule together,” said Andy.
Review Past Sessions
Conducting regular sessions is one thing but capturing these valuable pieces of knowledge is a surefire way to build up your internal library of resources and save time on re-training. “Every training session that we run becomes an artefact for re-use. If we have a new developer starting they can be trained on Git even if they missed the training session or if it was run 6 months ago,” Andy advised.
Engage External Trainers
The likes of Slack, Airbnb and Luminary all grasp the importance of external specialists when it comes to training in non-traditional tech areas, such as communication. Each have engaged Silicon Valley consultant Ward MacDonald to run workshops with their teams around communication covering “things like how to get the most out of meetings, how to get to the bottom of what a problem is, how to present an idea clearly. All things that make a difference when briefing a developer in or getting the most out of a project team”.
As Andy put it, “You see the developers who really get along; make it further, are those who don’t stick to the developer stereotype. The people who get ahead are those who are able to communicate their ideas clearly and take others on that journey.”