Softwire’s Key Responsibilities #4 – Take active responsibility for your own personal development

6 May 2014, by

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. At Softwire, we’ve never tried to force training on anyone, as we consider it a very unproductive use of our time. If you’re not bought into training, then you probably won’t get that much out of it, and more importantly, if you don’t care about your personal development, why should anyone else?

In a similar vein, we try our best not to decide people’s career paths for them: we feel like we should get much better results by waiting for people to decide for themselves what they want to do and how quickly they want to get there.

However, there’s a real risk that this philosophy can be used as an excuse for not providing training, support and opportunities for career development. We do our absolute best to ensure that this isn’t the case, and I hope we’re succeeding. Here are some of the ways we provide this support:

Skill levels and mentors

Not everyone is going to follow the same career path in Softwire, but most people’s paths will look quite similar for the first few years (c.f. the Helsinki Bus Station Theory). For this reason it’s worth everyone knowing the kind of skills, both technical and “soft”, that are most useful to Softwire and have historically helped people to rise to more senior positions. So we’ve written them all down and, via our mentoring structure, helped people to understand which ones they’ve already learnt and which ones they still need to learn.

Linking these skill levels to our end-of-year bonuses is just good business sense for Softwire, but hopefully also provides the right level of “nudge” to individual developers to get thinking about them – while providing plenty of scope for people to learn other skills too.

Training tracks, Lunch&Learns, blog posts, conference passes…

It turns out it’s actually really easy to foster a culture of learning when you exclusively hire people who are enthusiastic about technology. People from all levels of Softwire have written training tracks, given lunch and learns, written countless technical blog posts, and found loads of amazing conferences to attend or talk at – including our very own annual SoftCon.

And when we asked people what our social calendar was missing, the answer was “more technical stuff!” – so we now run speed coding challenges, mind sports olympics and plenty of other geeky events. If you don’t learn anything from all that, you’re not trying hard enough!

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