How to Make Learning to Code Part of Your Job
But as we all well know, while gaining new skills is important, there often aren’t enough post-work hours in the day to do so. In an ideal world, we could make that sort of professional development part of our day-to-day lives.
Well, in the case of coding, that dream is becoming a reality at more and more companies.
Take Zappos, for example. After realizing the number of employees in all departments who wanted to learn to code, two employees started an inter-office group, called FOCAL (Fellowship Of Collaborative Accelerated Learning). The group meets each Tuesday for a quick talk on something technical—“What’s an API?”, say, or “How does the internet work?”—followed by group or individual sessions where employees can learn everything from HTML to Ruby. Some people choose to work through online coding courses together, others build their own web pages and features, and everyone connects over the fact that they’re expanding their tech knowledge together.
Similarly, NYC-based edtech startup Thinkful recognized that many of its non-technical employees were taking courses on their own and wanting to learn web development skills, so it now assigns programming mentors to all of its employees. It’s a way for senior developers to try their hand at teaching, junior engineers to learn new skills and languages, and everyone to gain new skills. (And they really do—every one of Thinkful’s employees now contributes to its codebase.)
Want a program like this but not sure what the business argument is to convince your boss? In today’s job market, where tech know-how and engineers are ever in-demand, it just makes sense for companies to start building that skill set among their teams. It makes each employee even more valuable and promotes employee happiness and retention. In fact, several FOCAL members have landed junior roles on the Zappos dev team because of their growth during the program.
Want to try it at your company? Whether you’re the management team or not, consider suggesting these ideas to boost your co-workers’ coding skills:
- Host weekly or monthly “Ask a Dev” session, where one of your engineers gives a quick lesson on something technical.
- Like Zappos’ FOCAL, hold a weekly lunchtime meetup, where employees come together to take online courses or talk about technical concepts.
- Hold an all-team hack day, where everyone has to write a line of code or design a new feature for your website. (Just be sure to have some friendly developers on hand for lessons and questions!) Check out Erin Greenawald’s tips for a successful all-team hack day to get started.
- Give each team member 1-2 hours each week that should be fully devoted to learning a new tech skill, whether that’s leaving work early to attend an in-person course or spending an hour each morning on a learn-to-code site.
- If your company has the budget, see if you can offer a professional development stipend to employees to pay for classes along these lines, or partner with an organization like Decoded to bring the class straight to the office.
Do you have other ideas? Is your company doing something awesome to encourage team members to learn how to code? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Photo courtesy of Tim Snell.
Scott Dockweiler crafts witty headlines, writes fun articles, and generally lends a hand to the editorial team at The Daily Muse. When he’s not Musing, he’s trying to get his acting career off the ground and racking up Delta Airlines frequent flier miles between NYC and LA. You won’t find him on Twitter—yet.More from this Author