5 Ways to Invest in Professional Development

Here are five ways that we invest in our team and we think you should too. Some of these are specific to engineers, but they are still great examples of how to grow your team. Which suggestion is your favorite?

 

Full Transcript Below:

Andrew:

You really like backend stuff or you really want to be a full stack developer, we can start moving in that direction.

Cris:

Employee interests play a big part in how we develop our team.

Andrew:

People can be working on things that are engaging to them. It's super valuable.

Cris:

Areas where you know your team wants to grow. You should take notice of that as an admin staff.

Cris:

This is kind of an interesting topic that I want to talk through. I think this can be both useful to give some insight for us, how we like to obviously develop our teams internally, but also just, I think as a useful educational piece for anyone trying to figure out how do I motivate and develop and grow my team professionally?

Identify your employee’s interests

Cris: Number one for me is employee interests play a big part in how we develop our team. You obviously can't have your entire company just grow in whatever the direction is that everyone on your team wants to go. I always joke, we'll put out staff-wide surveys and stuff, but you're never going to make everybody happy. But I think focusing on employee interests and areas where you know your team wants to grow, you should take notice of that as an admin staff.

Andrew:

Well, certainly, individual developers have their own interests. Maybe they want to go more into backend development or frontend development or mobile development. So I think trying to assess that so that people can be working on things that are engaging to them is super valuable. I think one of the kind of saddest things I've seen is when someone will come to us, that's maybe worked here for a while and they're like, "I have this opportunity to do this thing I've always wanted to do over here." And it's like, well, we could have sent you in that path. Maybe it's not related to our field, but in many cases it is. And so if we just understand their interests, we can maybe not necessarily immediately let them do whatever they want in that capacity. But we can, again, if you really like backend stuff, or you really want to be a full stack developer, we can start moving them in that direction. And so it makes them happier and more engaged, which ultimately makes for happier clients. Because the developers are very engaged in what they're doing and doing it at an excellent level.

Opportunities to work on multiple projects

Cris:

For us, this is something that I think comes a little easier because we are a staff augmentation company. We're actually backfilling other teams and that sort of stuff, or building projects from scratch. We get to see a variety of projects. I think that's very helpful. So how is someone maybe that has like a product, that maybe they don't have like a variety of projects, how does someone continue to engage their team?

Andrew:

Well, I mean, there's different ways. I mean, one option would be, say like some kind of internal projects or internal initiatives. Allowing people to wear different hats. They've got their primary focus, but then maybe like there's a QA aspect of them that they might enjoy or learning scripting to do something or running selenium tests or whatever it might be. So allowing people to kind of move around and get out of just their primary focus, where maybe that's what they know super well, but it can get boring after a while.

Enterprise online tutorials

Cris:

Yeah. One thing that we've been able to benefit from over the years, that again, depending on the size of your company and how deep your bench is on development and actually being able to coach kind of the next generation is there's these huge libraries of enterprise, like online tutorial type stuff. This is something that didn't exist 15 years ago when, when Bixly was really in the trenches kind of building itself out and now to have that.

Andrew:

It was in books like this.

Cris:

Yeah. It was in books like this. Exactly. It was physical books and we still have these stacks of books around the office and we'll look back at them, be like, oh, that's awesome. But everything is moving to online tutorials and there's a deep, deep library, and a deep bench of these things. And so having these enterprise tools, these online tutorial type tools built into your company and allowing the team to continually integrate and take lessons and learn new stuff, I think has been extremely beneficial and very helpful for us. And I think is something that can be useful for other companies trying to figure out, okay, yeah, maybe I have that single product focus, but how do I reengage someone? Well, go get them a Udemy subscription, and let them actually work on these courses, that sort of stuff. So anything else to add on that?

Andrew:

Yeah. I mean, I've used Udemy quite a bit, and I really like the courses that have the kind of mini projects in them, but also have quizzes as you go through it. It's very, like, forces you to be very engaged and whatnot. So it makes a big difference how good the teacher is. But yeah, the value is off the chart for the cost.

Contribute to open source projects

Cris:

That's good. Open source projects. How does that help professional development?

Andrew:

It allows them again to experience a variety of projects. If they're working on something where there's a lot of maybe standardization, maybe even beyond what we deal with. Because I mean, we're not a huge company, but you might be working on open source project that there's hundreds of people contributing to. There's going to be standards and just really different things that they're going to bring to the table about the way that project is managed, that one allows them to grow. And two allows them to kind of bring those things back to Bixly and we can adapt what fits and what doesn't.

Andrew:

It's also really good just for their ... I mean, I like to even think in terms of, these developers probably aren't going to be with us forever. And so an added benefit to them is they're getting to develop their portfolio, they're getting to say, oh yeah, I worked on Chromium or whatever it is. And it's really nice too when we're talking to clients to be able to let them know that, hey, we contributed to this, that, and the other. So I think it serves a lot of purposes, both Bixly, the developers, and the clients too.

Working on internal projects

Cris:

Yeah. Being able to put that in our portfolio that we have worked on X, Y, Z open source project. Yeah, you're right. That is impressive because you get to take that larger group, as you said, and pull it back in-house. And that's something that if you're not thinking along those lines of contributing to open source, you are narrowing the scope of the knowledge that you have within your company. So it's a very easy way to kind of open the doors up to gain experience, but not necessarily have your employees leave. Because they feel that they get to be part of something larger, which is true. But you also get to build that identity of, all right, what do we like about that? How does this relate to our company and who we are as a team? So that's good.

Cris:

You touched lightly on internal projects. So let's kind of close up on that. How are internal projects useful? And I would also say, how can internal projects kind of be a snare? Because we've seen internal projects, and just being honest, be a bit of a snare over the years even at Bixly. So what's a good, healthy way to do internal projects. And what's a way that maybe could be kind of detrimental to the company or even the health of the employees?

Andrew:

Yeah. Well I think the ones that have been of a snare are more ones that are a product that we, that maybe Bixly doesn't use, but we think would be valuable elsewhere. So the ones where we're not subject matter experts, we're not super passionate about it, but we're like, oh, there's an opportunity to make money over there. Let's build this thing. And then it kind ends up being a giant time suck. I think the ones that have been more beneficial are ones that our staff knows, that directly affects our business.

Andrew:

We did one where it was like, let's create a ... When we started offering roadmap to clients, let's create a roadmap of a clothing app and how all that was going to work. And so we walked through this whole process and built out this whole roadmap and it was an internal project. We didn't end up selling it to anyone, but it really prepared us to be able to deliver that value and talk intelligently about it. And also it allowed the developers to ... And really, it was very design, heavy, allowed our design to do a lot of new things, experiment with new things. And I just feel like it was a really valuable experience.

Cris:

Yeah. Internal projects, I think, and yeah, I'll just really quickly ... Internal projects, so you said where they're focusing on something that is going to allow the team to grow or allow you to actually build something that you can integrate back into your company and help processes. We've even focused more on, okay, what are we wasting time doing? Or what can we do more effectively? Well, is there a project, is there an integration, is there an app of some sort that we can build, that's going to help us be better at doing our jobs? Let's focus on those internal projects. And again, the projects that are not just the, this seems like a cool way to make money. Do people actually want this? Go do the market research and then be like, yeah, let's develop this internally. So that's good. Anything else, other things we haven't touched on that you think would be healthy and useful ways to professionally kind of develop your team internally?

Andrew:

Yeah. I mean, just circling back to the employee interests. A question I like to ask of people, initial interviews I'll do this. And sometimes if it's like an employee review or something, is again, kind of circling back to, they're only going to be with us so long, is really trying to like ... I'll phrase the question something like, okay, just imagine that you were only going to work here for five years. Let's just say this is a five year contract. And then we both accept that at that end of time, you're not going to be here anymore. Like, what would you want to come away with five years from now as far as like your skillset, like things that you can do? Because initially when you're asking them what their interests are, they're just parroting whatever it is your website does, because they want the job.

Andrew:

But when it's more like that, I think it more kind of detaches it from that about them pleasing us and more gets them thinking about like, okay, what do I really like? Who do I want to be five years from now? And we've gotten some interesting answers and I think it's good to like ... This is just the reality of it. We're not going to have anyone forever. So how can we make sure that we're investing into them and that really like, this is a journey that's beneficial to them and beneficial to Bixly?

Cris:

Yeah. And on the flip side of the coin, if you sat down and honestly talk with someone and say, where do you want to be in five years? And you're the company that actually guides them on that path to be that person, I would put some money down that in five years, if you have helped them reach and attain those goals, they actually probably don't want to leave which is actually kind of sneaky, but pretty awesome. And it is useful. And that's where that comes back into play. If you think about developing people as individuals, yes, you make them more sellable, more marketable to other companies. But if you're the company that provided that road and that plan for them, it goes a long way. And you do have a resource that is extremely valuable to you and someone that really cares about the company.

Cris:

So it's a paradigm that we've kind of accepted. I think we've grown a lot of great people because of that have gone on to do other things at other the companies. And we've also developed a lot of people internally that are just the juggernauts of our company. And it's a great Bixly because of it.

Alexandra:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. I hope you enjoyed that conversation between Cris and Andrew, as they talked all about the different ways you can invest in the career development for your employees, particularly if they're software engineers. If you have any questions at all, go ahead and leave them in the comment section down below, and we'll get right back to you. And don't forget to check out the description box down below. We have a bunch of really helpful links in there, including a link to our free custom software guide, which walks you all the way through the process of developing your own app idea, and getting it ready for development. You can also check us out at bixly.com and right at the top, there's a button that says start my roadmap. And that gets you a free 60-minute call with Cris to talk about your next app idea. Until next time, this has been an episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday.

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