Most software development companies boast about the knowledge sharing going on inside their teams and even publish job offers featuring catchy gems like: "Great working place where you can learn from the best and grow." Sounds pretty neat, right? Two questions remain, however—What does that even mean? And should it matter to you as a client? Long story short, it should.
The knowledge-sharing attitude is essential not only for newly onboarded people to grow but also for the software development process to improve. Developing software requires integration of different people mastering different areas that are all affected by each other’s performance. In order to be able to deliver high quality products, these people need to share their expertise.
Knowledge management is regarded as a must and knowledge sharing, in particular, has been identified as an important part of it. Because of the importance of knowledge sharing, a vast amount of software development companies have implemented tools to support it, hoping to bring successful products to their customers. Monterail is no different.
You probably heard the popular saying “Sharing is caring” once or twice. And we fully agree. That’s why for the last nine years, we’ve been busy establishing and refining new ways of making knowledge sharing one of our top priorities when it comes to company culture as well as a crucial tool to become more efficient.
By learning new things, we promote the development and adoption of best practices, encourage an emphasis on quality, and improve both the experience and the services we offer, which ultimately influences the outcome of your project.
When working with Monterail, you don’t get just a three-person team. You get the knowledge and know-how of over ninety people, accumulated over the course of nine years. So without further ado, let me tell you a little bit more about how *everyone* on our team can contribute to the knowledge-sharing process and how it impacts your software development project.
1. Presenting during dev (and other) meetings
Once we learn something new and exciting, our developers can (and are encouraged to) share their knowledge during different meetings: Dev meetings, Elixir meetings, Elm meetings, and software architecture meetings. Those are our internal meetups dedicated to learning new things within a specific field.
We love them for many reasons. First, they give our devs a chance to practice their public speaking skills, which also come in handy when working with a client. Second, it’s an opportunity to learn about different solutions from different projects using different technologies. It helps our team be more aware of technology and trends in software development, and thus offer better services.
Thanks to those meetings, we make sure that specific know-how is not limited to just one person who “knows it all,” making the team dependent on them. Instead, we promote an open approach that allows us to always have the right people on your team. Furthermore, developers committed to continuous learning generate fewer errors and bugs, thus improving software development speed and quality.
But this particular approach to knowledge sharing is not just limited to programmers at Monterail. Our design team also holds regular design team reviews (DTRs), where they explore various new tools or improve existing processes. Our project management team has their PM co-working meetings, tailored to their particular needs.
2. Organizing and attending events
Our office was designed to encourage local meetings and spending time together, also outside of work contexts. Thanks to an auditorium in the center of our offices, we’re able to work toward fostering the local community—over the past years, we’ve organized a number of events and even held some of them here, including UXWro, DRUG, meet.js, and many others.
None of those events would have taken place if it hadn’t been for someone from our team—endeavors like these are a very important part of our culture and employer branding efforts, and offer anyone from Monterail the opportunity to give back to the community. The desire to give back to the community also drove our decision to organize the first worldwide Vue.js conference. The event ultimately gathered over 300 developers from all over the globe, who came to Wrocław to listen to superstars of the Vue community.
We also support personal growth through participation in conferences, and technology and business events, both at home or abroad. To give you an example, in June 2019, our Growth Team attended Techsylvania, while some of our devs took part in the ReactNativeEU conference (look for their insights here!) last year.
Kasia and Alex at Transylvania conference, Source: Techsylvania
Our dev team at the React Native EU2018 conference
3. Launching, coordinating, and participating in Initiatives
We allocate a company-wide budget for Initiatives, both individual and collective efforts, aimed at improving Monterail as a company. Such endeavors have in the past included, for example, creating and improving processes and gathering/organizing important knowledge and practices.
These employee-launched Initiatives are held in simple weekly iterations. Just like in Scrum, Initiatives have their Items, Products, Actors, Events and Processes. And the entire initiatives project is kept within Jira, so if anyone in the company has some idea they would like to breathe life into, they can draft a high-level plan and the steps needed to achieve their key objectives, and then get some dedicated time to pursue them.
The initiatives have already proven themselves a powerful tool. They helped our team develop their Elixir skills and introduce Elixir to an essential part of our client’s application. Another Initiative resulted in the introduction of the Event Storming technique, which helped us smoothly align software development efforts with the business needs within a given project.
4. “Ask me anything” aka the #nerds channel on Slack
We use Slack for our daily communication, both between our individual teams and with the client. The ironically-named #nerds Slack channel is a place where our developers can ask about anything tech- or project-related—a space where people can discuss their challenges with someone who might have encountered them before.
From time to time, these brief conversations transition into lengthy, substantive, face-to-face discussions, or solid brainstorming sessions featuring many different perspectives. Having a safe place where people can ask anything produces much faster reactions to current issues. #nerds also works as an aggregator of useful links and technology news.
5. Launching Squads
There’s no way we could deliver a project or hire a new person without the support of our internal experts. So we created squads—open-ended, curated groups of specialists with expertise in a specific area of collaboration with external teams (e.g. Growth/People), where developer expertise is necessary.
Each Squad has its processes and guidelines, all of them written down in a publicly available spot. Our most active squads include the sales squad and recruitment squad. The former assists our business analysts with project estimations, lead calls, and similar tasks, while the latter is responsible for finding the perfect fits for our team in terms of skills, experience, and personality.
Both are a very important part of our organization, all the while offering squad members a unique opportunity to learn more about business, and to have a glimpse of other teams’ work.
6. Creating expert content
The Monterail blog was launched along with the company. Since then, it’s been a place where our specialists showcased their expertise and shared their experience with the outside world. This single idea was what prompted all those brilliant articles you can find there.
Nowadays, our blog is also an important tool in our lead generation and lead nurturing efforts, and has become an essential part of our culture and our marketing activities. Every new team member is introduced to our writing process, while our marketing team always makes sure that anyone, even those who don’t feel comfortable with writing, has a smooth ride with it. Many of those blog posts help our clients understand specific technologies, solutions, and our approach to our work.
One of our internal methods of making sure we’re all on the same page involves our monthly newsletter, called MonteNews. This particular initiative was in limbo for quite some time, until Katarzyna Tatomir, our Head of Operations took it over this March. She assembled a team and kicked it off with a bang (you see, that’s what I mean by *initiative*). Why send out an internal newsletter?
It perfectly encapsulates the Monterail DNA, showing what kind of an organization we are. It features all the necessary information about our goals, current affairs, and project updates. It helps us to stay transparent without being too pushy, and transparency is one of our core values. It’s a place where we celebrate exciting news and recap entire months of company life, creating a record you can come back to at any time.
It’s actually one of those emails you wait for.
8. Supporting leadership
Everyone at Monterail has a leader—a person who helps their mentees navigate their company career path, and is usually the first person they turn to for advice in matters regarding professional development, personal well-being, and other everyday issues they may face. A leader holds regular one-on-one meetings and collects feedback for a mentee. This approach helps juniors and less experienced employees grow in a stable yet calm environment. There’s no bootcamp nor a book out there that would be as helpful as following someone smarter and more experienced in their daily work is.
Furthermore, leaders enhance the personal and professional growth of individuals with the help of the Personal Growth Framework, recently deployed with our development and design teams (other PGFs are on the way!)
On the other hand, becoming a leader is a great way to impact the organization and practice soft skills—which are highly useful in the Tech Lead role and when communicating with clients.
At Monterail, we appreciate new ideas. We also appreciate people thinking about the organization as a whole, even when that transcends their particular role within it. This way, we can give our team members an opportunity to acquire experience in different fields, and give you a team that learns fast and shares what they have learned with each other in order to ensure that your project is a success.