To a layperson, IT companies today seem like Disneyland. Ping-pong tables, saunas, free food and a lot of action on the social scene. The perks seem attractive to anyone outside the industry or the junior IT specialists only entering the job market. More serious players seek the action in the projects and the development opportunities everyday work offers.
In Helmes, we mostly create business critical software – these projects account for clients’ business wins (and possibly losses) with almost as many digits as telephone numbers. Extreme agility is paramount since introducing the systems/features sooner can bring about huge gains in revenues or in savings. With the independence given to teams in serving their clients, there are not only a lot of opportunities, but also an urgent need to constantly develop and improve.
Getting and staying in good shape
The choice between the many ways of getting and staying in shape is up to the person and the team to make. Do you like trainings? Attend them. Enjoy reading? Surf our library. Like conferences? Go on; find a good one that suits your level of expertise and fly over. Every penny the team invests affects the earnings of the team and its members in the short run as well as long run, so the decisions are guaranteed to be smart and reflect the team’s values. No central body gets to make the decisions about who learns what, why, how and when in Helmes.
The fact that teams can make their own independent decisions and also see the direct influence of their actions on business results is probably the best teacher besides more traditional learning methods. It gives a totally different perspective to various aspects of work, making it obvious that in order to contribute meaningfully, one needs more than just technical skills. Maybe that is why the “soft skill” trainings have been the most popular among our specialists.
The best version of your team
Individual learning is one thing – sometimes we just need that new impulse, that breath of fresh air, no matter how practical the training. Team learning is another element entirely. I really believe this is what makes all the difference in our everyday work. With our “culture over the process” philosophy, there are only a few mandatory things teams must do and one of them is holding well-facilitated retrospectives with religious consistency. Of all the methods I know, this is what accelerates team (and possibly individual) learning the most, because people take commitments to do things better/differently in the near future. It provides continuous follow-up and links to the everyday activities with results – a quality that most other ways of learning lack.
The more traditional approach to learning together has its own secret advantages. Flying over with the whole team or business unit to Brussels to meet the leading Service Designers for a practical seminar is not only a good way to get a glimpse of a new domain. It’s an awesome way to spend time together, understand each other better on the personal level, develop positive dynamics and invest into good relationships ever so essential for good cooperation and trust.
Catching the new waves
To learn about things that the current projects might not teach but the future projects will require, Helmes has Hack Day. During Hack Days we can dig deeper and see what is below the surface of the most recent hype in the industry. Usually we hold a seminar first and learn about, say, machine learning, big data or other industry hot topics. Then we try to put it in practice and see how our projects (real ones or pet projects) could gain from it.
DIY world class training experiences
If you do something on an expert level, it is really hard to outsource training to gurus who know more than you. Helmes has very strong experience in software integrations, for example, and if we want to further train our people in that field, we don’t have many options but to invest in designing our own trainings. Luckily we have experts with more than 15 years of experience in a project with 24 parties, 16 different organizations in 7 different countries with successful integrations between 33 systems. So we take the time to package the world-class expertise into the world-class training format to tailor the training for all the critical roles of software development projects.
Kick-start to careers in IT
While much of what I’ve described is directed to creating the best learning possibilities for the experienced specialists, there are many opportunities also for juniors or even people just passionately interested in development. We want to kick-start careers in IT. While many other companies have summer universities, we introduced a summer “bootcamp”! It’s an accelerated practice-based learning experience for anyone who wants to get in shape for software development: an ex-lawyer, a student, a junior developer or a math teacher; whoever has the interest and the basic knowledge of development. Thus far we’ve hired 70% of all the participants right after the bootcamp is over. Considering how picky we are when hiring junior specialists, it shows that those brains are in good shape after an intense month of practical work, seminars and guidance from our best technical specialists. The mentoring continues also after onboarding: everyone gets a mentor and a personal development plan that is reviewed with technically more advanced colleague at a certain interval or on request.
Change is inevitable, growth is optional
It’s been an unofficial goal of Helmes to provide the accelerated growth to everyone who walks through our office door. That might be a student who just came to check out what a real IT company looks like, our specialists or partners, or even the clients and or the businesses of our clients. We truly believe that while change is inevitable, growth is optional. We aim to develop our magnetic abilities to attract people looking to filter lessons out of life situations.