A Team That Trains Each Other

A Team That Trains Each Other
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

I tend to assume people are smart. Engineers are no exception – anyone who can deal with some of the esoteric “features” of computers (Javascript, I’m looking at you) has to be pretty smart. They also tend to want to learn and grow in their roles. After all, it’s the only way you can succeed in an industry where it feels like there’s a new development every week.

The field is so vast that there are a huge number of specialist areas. Machine learning is a common interest for engineers, but I’ve encountered people spending their spare time looking at test-driven development, refactoring, graph databases, or event-driven architecture. (Personally, I’m currently experimenting with SvelteKit.)

Outside of engineering, you’ll often find people taking an interest in how the team does what it does while also providing expertise in areas it can be incredibly useful to coach engineers in.

One very useful tool we used on Sainsbury’s Chop Chop was a grid outlining who had experience in what area. Everyone on the team was listed – engineers, product owners, designers and marketing. We then also indicated what each person would like to learn more about. For example, I wanted to know more about product development and the business, while one of our team wanted to know more about Test Driven Development.

Now that you’ve got a list of areas your team have expertise in and areas they want to learn, you can start finding ways to help people learn. For example, on seeing that a lot of the engineering team wanted to learn more about the business thinking that went into the product, the senior product manager volunteered to run a session taking everyone through the rationale in more detail. At a smaller scale, a hidden talent or a previously unknown side project can lead to some great conversations amongst the team.

Realistically you can do this with a board, some markers and some post-its, but if you’d like a more permanent record that the team can constantly revisit, I’ve created a Notion template.

You can get the Notion template I use for coordinating team learning here.

@robl@hachyderm.io | @robl | github.com/rob-lowcock