In our small days, when we all worked in the same room, one could just speak out loud and the whole team could get the news. If Ben found something useful about a particular technology, all he had to do was say “Hey, look at this…” and the rest of our team was up to date. Learn something about a hot platform or a model that might help a customer or a project? Simply turn around and draw it on the whiteboard for everyone to see. Unfortunately, this system stopped working well when we grew to 20 people, then 40, then more. A communication tool like Slack helped, if only a small improvement over HeyLookAtThis™. There was opportunity for more efficient communication if we built a foundation.
To be a leader in the digital solutions space, it is our responsibility to thoroughly understand the bleeding edge of technology, the upcoming trends, and the pitfalls to avoid when adopting them. This is vital information that will guide our partners in the right direction. Growing is great, and when our team reached larger sizes the cozy little whiteboard was lost, but we found that the growth enabled new and much better ways for us to get the latest in our digital world.
The first thing that evolved from our ad hoc conversations or whiteboard sessions is our “Brown Bag” demonstration series. Every few weeks, we pick a topic to present and discuss over lunch with anyone at L4 interested in attending. The topics have been diverse: anything from functional programming, advanced git techniques, and even origami were shared. The demonstrations allow for a deeper knowledge of a topic interesting to the team, findings from a project, or even help with tools that we work with every day. It’s also a perfect opportunity for a team member who wants to gain experience presenting to a group with a friendly environment and comfortable topic. As an added bonus, all of our Brown Bag Demonstrations have been recorded and integrated into our L4 Video internal project, for reference for team members who may have missed the live demonstrations.
L4 Video is one of several internal projects that we’ve built over the past couple of years as a part of L4ge (pronounced ‘El-Forge’). L4ge encourages people to join projects with co-workers they don’t typically work with and gives people an opportunity to develop new skills. This could be anywhere from trying out a new development language or testing out a project role in a lower pressure environment. More information about L4ge can be found at https://l4digital.com/l4ge/ and we are excited to see what comes out in the next L4ge Day of Judgement.
While L4ge and the Brown Bag demonstrations are two of our more informal and optional initiatives at L4, we’ve also created some more structured formats for keeping our team up to date on our development platforms. Each official L4 development platform holds a monthly meeting for all of the developers on the various projects. In these meetings there are demonstrations of new technologies, sharing of the latest industry news, and a forum for decision making within the group. For example, one group recently updated to the latest Swift version on an iOS project, and the monthly platform meeting was an opportunity to share and demonstrate this experience with others. We’ve had our conference attendees on the team give trip reports on the next big thing with regards to these evolving platforms. The meetings are also a venue for discussing our best practices, updating our coding standards, or evaluating new libraries. It’s great to carve out a time on a regular basis to make sure L4 delivers a consistent and high-quality solution for our customers.
Other than our internal initiatives, the L4 team is encouraged to attend and engage in several industry events. You can find us sharing our experiences and perspectives with the community with such examples as our QA team hosting a talk on Jenkins test farms, our award-winning design team revealing the hidden human interface guidelines, or our product team speaking on media experiences in the age of cord cutting.
We also send a number of folks to large conferences like WWDC, Bluetooth World, Google I/O, GDC, Build, and Re:Invent; and maybe even more importantly, to the emerging technology events covering AR/VR, IoT, Machine Learning / AI. These events, where someone can take time away from a project and fully dedicate a few days to learning, are key to accelerating growth on the team. For some, conferences and presentations might not be the best way to learn, so we also have a tuition reimbursement program, where team members have taken classes to advance their skill sets.
Keeping up on the latest updates in technology is tough. Things continue to change at a lightning-fast pace, and we’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to do this on your own or within a single project. As L4 has grown, our team has introduced new ways to make the whole much greater than the sum of its parts. Every time someone joins the team, he or she brings in a new set of experiences that we are excited to hear about and learn from. We are moving away from the old style of tribal knowledge to a fully supported and connected suite of tools that anyone at L4 can enjoy. If this interests you, send us a message or check out our L4 careers page and find a role on our team. We’d love to share our insights and hopefully learn something from you one day.