By Scio Team
A software developer is a person who likes to learn as a trade, try new things, look for different approaches, experiment with new languages, and be part of a community that exchanges information, knowledge, and tips. Especially today, with our world more driven by software than ever, the possibilities look endless, so to choose a place to apply your skills is also to choose a place that gives you something in return, like the opportunity to learn and teach everything you know.
Such places brew communities that go beyond the workplace; it creates a culture of sharing that benefits everyone in the organization, from programmer to programmer, from team to team, and from partner to partner. Encouraging this mindset is one of the main goals of Scio, and for close to ten years now, our organization has been focusing on an approach in which every one of our collaborators can set their goals, work towards them, and grow.
However, what does this process look like? What do we offer our engineers, and every collaborator in terms of growth, no matter if they are just starting their careers or more seasoned veterans looking for a new challenge?
The joys of learning
“I was in my last college semester when Luis and Helena came to my school to give a talk. They were looking to open positions for interns at Scio for the first time, and a teacher encouraged me to apply”, says Carlos Estrada, a Lead Application Developer and member of the Coaching Committee at Scio. “And 12 years later, I’m still part of this company”.
His story is not an uncommon one, but it helps illustrate the approach of Scio to its collaborators. “I am a Systems Engineer specializing in Networks and Web Technologies, which was mostly about handling cables and connecting routers, and when I joined Scio as an intern, I realized I had some gaps that I wouldn’t have if I had chosen Software Engineering. A lot of the concepts I wasn’t familiar with, like SCRUM or Unit Testing, I had to learn as I collaborated on my first projects.”
The realization that school maybe didn’t teach us everything we need is something we are all too familiar with, but you also eventually realize that our learning process never really stops, no matter if you are a Junior, Senior, or Lead Programmer. As we mentioned, around the time Carlos joined our team, we also started developing a way for our collaborators to share and obtain all the skills they wanted: Sensei-Creati, our coaching and workshopping program where every Scioneer can share and grow their skillset.
“Sensei-Creati is a mix of both coaching and mentoring, where we offer support to help you grow as a collaborator. It’s a whole exchange process between the Sensei (Coaches), and the Creati (Coachees), where we create a culture of help and mutual support in every aspect”, explains Yamila Solari, Co-Founder, General Manager, and Coaching Leader at Scio. “A Creati approaches a Sensei, and if the Sensei accepts, the Creati starts a process to learn what they are interested in, choosing which technical, soft, or personal development skills they want to improve. After all, the Sensei may have completely different viewpoints or experiences, which allows the Creati to expand their options and vision.”
The advantage of this program is that it is not directed only to junior staff looking to “level up”; anyone can be part of the program, be it as a Creati or as a Sensei, no matter their level of seniority. “If someone in IT is interested in Quality Assurance, they have the opportunity to add that to their skill set through this program. Scio’s not an organization that only values your current skills; we want you to grow as a whole, and if that’s what you want to work on, we can gladly help you”, continues Yamila about the goal of the Sensei-Creati program.
The only requisite to becoming a Sensei is participating in the program as a Creati beforehand, and then taking a short course on coaching to teach you the best ways to share your feedback, opinions, and advice. “Coaching is not telling people what to do; it’s helping them to do what they want to do, with no judgment and through active listening, offering empathy and a communication space focused on strength to emphasize how it can be used to overcome challenges”, concludes Yamila.
The joy of teaching
“Even when I didn’t know the theory, I was practicing and learning new skills, which is something you need to do a lot in this industry; every month or so, it seems like a new version of the framework you were using comes out, and you need to adapt to it quickly”, continues Carlos.
This is true; as an industry that’s always moving forward, any programmer and engineer passionate about their work will look for ways to keep updated, experiment, and apply any new skill they get. “We still have interns [now called Apprentices], and I always make sure to tell them to choose their specialization carefully and choose what they want to do, to avoid making my mistakes.”
Due to his seniority, Carlos eventually was invited to be part of the “Coaching Committee”, tasked to bring their input to everything related to the developers at Scio, like reviewing the performance of developers to give promotions, designing technical tests for new candidates, or in the case of Sensei-Creati, developing more workshops oriented for the more senior staff. After all, the Sensei-Creati program aims to be interesting for everyone, and having the point of view of someone with as many years of experience as Carlos is invaluable.
“I remember how nervous I was when I started to become a coach because at the very beginning I didn’t know how to be a mentor. However, the first time a Creati approached me to learn a technology I knew, we hit off quickly because we shared the same interests and affinities, and with my first apprentices, the code I was showing them was bugged and I had to fix it overnight, which also taught me to prepare myself better. After that, with the help of Yamila, you get the hang of it, and now I have tons of apprentices and Creati that I know how to help in everything they need”, Carlos tells about the experience of becoming a coach at Scio.
This is a cycle of learning and sharing that still drives much of the community of software developers in the industry, and one that Scio wants to keep encouraging. “I like to think of our profession in terms of brotherhoods. We are in the same business, we see value in cooperation, and we are colleagues. We always consider new points of view, and stories of success and failures are the prime currency for us”, says the Argentinean blog Pienso Luego Pienso about the collaborative nature of programming. And that can’t be truer; curiosity is what drives software, and every innovation is built over a shared knowledge.
“Coaching in Scio started about 10 years ago, as a way to facilitate the work of supervisors and evaluate the performance of people. That was our more traditional approach, which didn’t work the way we wanted until we came to realize that people only learn when they are open to it”, continues Yamila about the development of this program. “So after many iterations, this program became voluntary and without a supervisory element to it. It’s a lot more powerful this way because nobody is telling you to do something, you do it because you want to”. And will keep being the goal here: becoming a place that goes beyond a job, into a place where you can focus on yourself as a developer, a person, and a collaborator eager to learn more.