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Presentation: How To: Developers' Community Driven Career Growth

Track: Optimizing You: Human Skills for Individuals

Location: Pacific DEKJ

Duration: 11:50am - 12:40pm

Day of week: Monday

Level: Intermediate

Persona: Developer

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Hear about Game of Roles that booking.com uses to grow their own developers into senior or leadership positions.
  2. Find out how the framework came about, how they are using it, and the results obtained.
  3. Learn how to apply the framework in an organization.

Abstract

Forget about classroom trainings - they are boring and can give you knowledge, but not practice nor skills. At Booking.com there are two developers, who invented the new way of education - online community marathon with heavy focus on self-reflection and practice - which already helped dozens of their colleagues grow and get promoted to Senior developer role. We call it Game of Roles and it already became an internal "franchise" to help people grow in other career roles (e.g. Team Leads).
In this session you will learn about how did we come up with such concept, what does it mean in details. You will learn about the framework behind each training, and, most important, how can you apply same principles at your organization without much effort but with high outcome.

Question: 

What's your talk about?

Answer: 

The talk is based on my own experience about a new approach of how do we teach people, how do we educate our people. Here at booking.com we have a different career process. The typical career pathway for a developer would be to become a senior developer or to become a team leader. And there is a problem for our senior developers for example, because that's a role with clearly defined expectations, what senior developers should be. However, there is not much clarity about how to become a senior developer, what you need to do to become one. There is a description of how the process about promoting somebody to senior happens, with nominations and promotion committees. However, there is no guidance on what exactly do you do to become a senior developer. And that's because the senior role is not only about skills you have or not about knowledge you have. It's more about behavior demonstrated. It's basically about 'Do you care about your products, do you care about other people around you? Do you own systems? Do you teach others?'

A colleague of mine and me had a meeting, just a regular coffee, trying to think about what can we do for this problem. How can we help developers around us grow? Out of nowhere we came up with this concept of an online marathon. We called this Game of Roles and our goal was to create an environment where people could experience the new role, play this role for a while. I mean a senior developer role, and through this experience they can learn more about the role, they can learn more about the behavior, and what's more important they can learn more about themselves, what is their reality, how do they meet the requirements right now, what is missing, what they can do about it.

We created a group of people, we picked up a magic number of 15 people in the group, all of them are developers, and we put them in the online group. We use Facebook at Work. We created the group, you can think about as a normal Facebook group. We put those people there and throughout two weeks we were posting one assignment per day. It were same assignments for everybody, different assignment every day, and then we asked those people to complete those assignments by creating a separate post with their findings, results, outcome.

There were two types of assignments: first was practical, go somewhere, fix a bug, or help implement a feature or something like that. What senior developers usually do, stepping in the other areas of responsibility and fix some issues there or propose the architecture or something like this.

The second type of assignments we had was about self-reflection. The very first question we asked was: read about the expectations of a senior developer role and try to think where do you match, where you do not match and what you can do to actually get there. Having that kind of assessments help people to self-reflect and see what is their reality right now and what they can do about it. So the whole idea was, if we provide this training spread across two weeks we were hoping that we can create the right momentum, we can create a habit of doing unusual things on top of their usual work. It wasn't a classroom, we didn't ask them to come at a certain time in the room. We were posting those assignments online in the morning and then people could work on them at their own pace. That created a habit for people to do things outside of their immediate responsibilities, doing something which senior developers at booking.com can do, developing this momentum to make those things happen even after the training ends.

Question: 

What happened? What did you find out?

Answer: 

We were collecting feedback from our participants. First of all, 80% of people or even more were really positive about going through this training. They were surprised by the fact that they were not only asked to do some practical tasks but also self-reflection. We got a lot of feedback saying: “I didn't expect to self-reflect but I find it really useful”. That was a real match for us. Another piece of feedback was that people understood, got more clarity about the role. One of the quotes was that a person finally understood that the senior role is not about what you do but how you do it. This was a really nice outcome for us.

And the third outcome was a demand we got from people. When we just first planned the training, we aimed at 15 people to start with, we didn't really expect to have more. However, after the announcement we made on our Facebook group, we got almost 80 applications from people to participate in this training. We had to create a waitlist, several rounds of the same training, and in the end, we got a hundred people going through this training. We also applied the same concept to train team leaders as well.

Question: 

Who are you talking to, software engineers, senior software engineers, about leadership? Who is the main audience?

Answer: 

It could be everyone. Though, I think it will be mostly beneficial for seniors and leads because they have people to grow. At the same time, it can be also beneficial for those who are in the development position and would like to grow because by this they might think that self-reflection is important and that they don’t need to wait for someone to come and help them grow, they can make it themselves.

Question: 

What are the behaviors that define a senior developer?

Answer: 

For us it is ownership, what we call a role model, what people would like to become. Force multiplication, helping other people grow by mentoring, by coaching, leading by example. Deep knowledge of some area, or broad knowledge of many different areas at booking.com. The combination of hard skills and soft skills, with soft skills having the major impact.

Speaker: Georgiy Mogelashvili

Senior Developer & Team Lead @bookingcom

In his 10+ years experience, Georgiy had a chance to work for small local companies, country scale enterprises, non-profit organizations and international corporations.
Today Georgiy is working at Booking.com, world's leading online travel agency. His role there - Senior Developer and Team Lead, and he is responsible for company products development as well as people management.
Georgiy believes that the main skill each manager should have is openness - ability to honestly and fairly talk to your direct reports and people around you in order to achieve results together.
In his spare time, Georgiy likes constructing Lego Technic creations, planespotting in airports around the world, and spending time with his wife and little daughter.

Find Georgiy Mogelashvili at

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