Continuing Education at Collective Idea - RubyConf 2016

Implementing LunchConf into our culture of continued learning and professional development

Team Business Meeting by Unsplash is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0

I had the privilege of attending my first RubyConf this year! Most of my experience there was spent attending several soft skill talks like creating a culture of feedback and how to recognize and grow the skills that differentiate junior, mid, and senior level developers. Perhaps the most interesting one to me though was on the topic of continuing education.

While I learned something from each talk I attended, I was blown away by the ideas Katherine Wu outlined for continuing education oportunities at work. All of her suggestions are easily implemented, adaptable, and fun.

Conferences and Collaboration

In her talk, Katherine Wu talked about various facets of learning such as going to conferences, collaborating with team members, and reading books. She touched on how conferences are a great source of information applicable to our daily learning. Katherine also shared personal experiences about collaboration. For her, working and doing things with other team members, colleagues, or friends is much easier to do AND much easier to learn from than if she had tried to read that tech book all by herself.

Continuing Education at Collective Idea

At Collective Idea, we always encourage team members to take (and make) time for professional development. We have an arsenal of books in the office library available for use. We also have companion digital copies available for our remoters who don’t have access to the physical office library. Additionally, Collective Idea makes it a point to encourage the team to write blog posts, go to conferences, speak at conferences, and expand our skill sets in any way we feel beneficial.

LunchConf

Katherine’s observations ring true with a lot of our values regarding professional development and continuing education. One section of her talk that I think we can use at Collective Idea was on something she calls LunchConf. It’s a conference that is held during the lunch hour where a group of individuals watch a conference talk (or online video of any kind) together then spend the remaining time discussing it.

There are a lot of benefits to this type of learning. We can all agree that conference talks can contain good information and share a lot of practices and experiences that can be applied to our daily lives as developers, mentors, and learners. However, I would like to think we can all agree that a 3-day conference of constantly absorbing information is not the best form of learning. Katherine outlined several reasons why LunchConf is the better kind of conference:

  1. It’s a single talk. - A one talk conference means you can truly focus on a single topic and have the ability to gain the most insight from it.
  2. You learn more because there is time to digest the information and talk about it with your peers. - This discussion often leads to more insightful and retainable information. Individuals share what they took from the talk which is often diverse. As a result you learn not only from the talk, but from others who watched the talk. Discussion also helps solidify what was learned and is more likely to be retained.
  3. It’s a small time commitment and low cost. - The talks are available online for free and only take 30-45 minutes to watch.
  4. It’s unobtrusive. - Since the event happens over lunch, it is unobtrusive to the daily schedules of developers.
    I just started our own LunchConf at Collective Idea and can’t wait to see where it goes. We will make it accessible to our remote folks and carry on a discussion directly after the talk concludes. If the discussion bleeds over the lunch hour, we can continue conversations asynchronously in Slack.

Will you start a LunchConf at your office?

Photo of Laura Mosher

Laura is a Calvin College Computer Science grad who spent time in Kansas City before returning to Grand Rapids. She is a full-stack developer who dives into code with passion and excitement.

An admitted tech, puzzle, and game nerd, Laura also loves knitting and crocheting. She’s also involved in a plethora of local groups and meetups.

Laura lives in Zeeland with her husband, Michael and hedgehog, Princess Kitana.

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