How we hard-coded learning into our organisation

minute read

We’re a curious bunch here at Lola Tech, and when one of our directors came to us with a proposition for getting more people involved in learning activities, we were all ears.

The core challenge to lifetime learning or professional development is time, or the lack thereof. Not everyone has the opportunity or the inclination to learn new things in their spare time. Equally, encouraging staff to set time aside during their working hours for autonomous learning conveniently ignores roadblocks such as deadlines and client commitments.

Enter Vlad Mandiuc, our director with a passion for continuous learning.

We already knew that if we wanted to overcome the challenge we would have to make learning a priority at the organisational level and commit resources to it. The management team was open to suggestions and Vlad convinced us: if we wanted staff to truly feel empowered to study, we would first have to enable them to study by making time during the working day. During this period the entire company would abstain from meetings, calls, Slack messages and, yes, even client work. Notifications off, phones off, heads down - it’s study time.

And that’s what we did. Every week for two hours our office goes quiet as everyone focuses on a professional topic they want to learn more about or a skill they want to hone. There is no structured learning or mandatory course attendance - we trust our people to spend their time wisely. In fact, that casual and relaxed format was another aspect championed by Vlad, and it has proven to be effective.

Here’s what some of our colleagues have been up to:

Scrum master Delia Abiculesei thinks the key is the regularity of the learning hours, saying, “having those two hours during the working day every week is a great opportunity to improve my skills by reading books that I never had time to read - or by creating a study group.” Delia and other scrum masters have formed a study group that “allows us to experiment with a new Sprint Retrospective technique. It’s been really fun and I hope we’ll continue with this initiative”.

Marius Potor, one of our developers, has been “taking time to learn or recap on some new methodologies, which is always useful.” His focus has been more technical in nature, with him looking deeper into the SOLID principles of Object Oriented Programming and creation of stratified micro frontends.

Fellow developer Cristina Andonie thinks the concept is great because, “it allows you to learn without feeling pressured, which means you take in more information and get more confident in your abilities and skills. I’ve started to study React and have also been learning how to build an e-commerce app from scratch”.

The key is to allow everyone to choose how and what they want to learn. Another important factor is stakeholder support - without management support, initiatives like this one often flounder and are short-lived. We are lucky that the senior team is fully committed to making this a success. As for the rest of the staff, we’re pleased to see the initiative being welcomed by the team and can’t wait to hear more about their new knowledge and skills.

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