How to make "development" not just a slogan, but an action

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Important for candidates applying for positions in our company, as well as for those that already work with us, and whom we want to support in their self-development and quest for fulfilment, this subject is so broad and important that we regularly readdress it at RST. We support our employees in their development of soft and technical skills, we subsidize their foreign language classes, provide them with substantial support and assist each one of them in the process of change. But what exactly does it all mean?

We invited Natasza Kuźniewska (HR Guide at RST), who on a daily basis cooperates with 7 teams and has been directly responsible for the area of development for the past 2 years, to speak on the subject.

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How do you understand development and how do you talk about it with employees?

It can be said that the notion of development always concerns all of us and serves our mutual benefit. It is an indispensable element of a larger whole in an organisation. By individually honing their skills, our employees support RST in its implementation of the strategy and achievement of the company’s goals. When we act together to address the changing market, the dynamics of technologies, and new solutions, we learn how to adapt to conditions in the IT industry. Frankly speaking, it benefits both parties involved in the process – an employee faces new challenges, thus developing their competences, and an organisation can utilize new solutions, as well as build and develop their technological products and products of our clients.

But what if somebody want to develop but does not necessarily know where to start?

Supporting an RST employee is the role of HR Guide, i.e. a person from an HR department who is responsible for a particular team. Together with Technical Lead and Architect they address this matter individually. We ask the employee about their needs, their idea for development, the direction they want to take and how they perceive their career path and development. According to my experience, I can say that everyone of us has the germ of an idea and their broadly understood career, but sometimes they do not really know where to start. This is the moment when we swing to action and offer our support.

And what about career paths? Is there any pre-defined road to development?

Such a system is of significant importance to many people, which can been concluded from feedback sessions and our daily conversations. Indeed, on one hand we value people more than processes, but on the other we have a minimum propensity for acting within some sort of a framework. And people want to know: who is a junior, when does a junior become a regular, and then a senior, what are the responsibilities of a leader, what skills does a certain position require and what can they do in order to follow a particular direction. I am the last person who would lump people together and we value an individualised approach more than anything, but everything depends on a particular person.

Who can count on your support when thinking about development?

Every employee, without exceptions, as long as they want to achieve something and progress. In fact, all they need to do is to fill one line in a spreadsheet, automatically purchasing educational materials or booking a place in an event of their choice. Provided that what the employee asks for is within our educational budget and is related to the broadly understood subject of IT, at the same time addressing our company’s technological needs, no further authorisation is required. We incentivise our employees, provide them with opportunities, talk about them, but the initiative always lies with them.

I see… so let’s assume that I have ordered a book, participated in a course or that I am going to a conference – and then what? Does the organisation have any expectations towards me?

Internally, we cultivate a culture of exchanging knowledge that is deeply-rooted in our history. Therefore, we talk, encourage our employees to share information so that knowledge is shared rather than accumulated for one’s own use. All in all, we are all moving in one direction and such an exchange can be done only through discussions, workshops, community meetings or by means of a blog article. Sometimes it is just enough to hold a quick meeting with a team, record it, and then share internally with all interested parties.

Is every idea for development worth pursuing?

In extraordinary or unusual situations it always helps to talk to Architect, HR Guide or CTO. Whenever we make a decision, we take into consideration how a particular trip, conference or training could benefit our organisation. We also try to evaluate how particular knowledge will contribute to our work, what needs it will satisfy and whether it is going to be profitable. It is important that we approach this subject from the perspective of knowledge that can be shared within our organisation.

Listen to what Łukasz (CTO, Vice President RST) has to say about opportunities for development at RST.

You have mentioned community – how is this area developing at RST?

These are grass-roots initiatives of our people, who most often want to work together, share the effort of looking for solutions, share ideas, and help each other. The passion is always theirs. At the moment there are three technical communities functioning in our organisation: testing, frontend and devops. It is something that cannot be commissioned. A person simply feels the urge to own a meeting and takes more people on board. We do our best to support them and share our knowledge every step of the way.

Can you recall an unexpected situation or a huge surprise during your work?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I remember one of our regular developers, who started as a junior with no prior commercial knowledge. By constantly asking us how can we improve our work, questioning the status quo, striving for knowledge and always prioritizing the needs of the client, with our support they quickly assumed sole responsibility for the backend of the entire project. I derive a lot of satisfaction from such experiences. Some need to be spurred to act, while others take a proactive approach.

Spurred by HR, the team, or maybe by themselves? What can motivate someone to try something new?

Another example I would like to share was when a team named one of their colleagues as technical leader. While working on a project they noticed that one person had the right skills and was predisposed to this role. The choice could not have been better – it is a proof that it is worth listening to people. I could go on forever talking about similar examples; there are a dozen of people in the organisation, who completely changed their field of work as a result of experimenting with technologies that they had been unfamiliar with.

I think that what best summarizes this initiative, the proactive approach and willingness to learn is the fact that the previous year saw as many as 370 cases of our employees taking the initiative to develop.

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