New Horizons Program - Cultivating Self-Development Within Our Teal Team

New Horizons Program - Cultivating Self-Development Within Our Teal Team

Wojciech Marusarz - March 21, 2022

Self-development is key to success in any field. It allows us to grow as individuals and become better professionals. That’s why at nexocode, we offer the New Horizons Program - a 24-day a year program that gives our employees the opportunity to cultivate self-development within themselves. This program is designed to help participants learn new skills, expand their knowledge, develop projects and participate in various workshops. It is essential for cultivating self-awareness and self-improvement within our team. We believe that space for self-development at work is vital for individual growth, and we are committed to helping our team members reach their full potential!

But before we dive into the details of the New Horizons Program, let’s figure out why self-development is crucial for employees as well as employers.

The Importance of Self-Development in the Workplace

The need for self-development in the workplace is nothing new. Numerous studies have shown that self-development can lead to several positive outcomes, such as increased job satisfaction, creativity, and productivity. In fact, self-development is so important that it has even been linked to lower rates of work burnout.

How to Create Space for Personal Development at Work?

There are many ways to create space for self-development at work. One way is to provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and knowledge. This can be done through training programs, workshops, or e-learning courses. Some companies offer free access to pages with online classes, access to professional libraries, or budgets dedicated to personal development. Another way to create space for self-development is to encourage employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities. This could involve giving them assignments that stretch their abilities or leading projects. Finally, personal development can also be encouraged by simply creating an environment that values personal growth and development. This might include offering coaching and mentorship programs or giving employees the time and resources they need to pursue their goals.

Whatever approach you take, it’s essential that you make self-development a priority in your workplace. By doing so, you’ll not only help your employees reach their full potential, but you’ll also create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone.

Fueling Creativity and How to Deal With Developer Burnout

Burnout is a common problem among software engineers, and self-development can be one way to help address this issue. When we take the time to focus on our growth and development, it allows us to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and find ways to improve ourselves professionally.

Software engineers are particularly prone to work burnout for several reasons. First, the job can be stressful and fast-paced. This can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Second, we are often expected to work on the same project for months or even years. This can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from our work. After a while, not every coding task on the to-do list is something new or creative but somewhat repetitive in nature, which causes feelings of frustration, fatigue, and boredom. Third, we may not have a lot of opportunities for personal and professional development at work. This can cause us to feel stagnant in our career growth. And when these negative emotions start to accumulate, it can be tough for software engineers to maintain their productivity and motivation, taking a significant toll on our personal lives. This is also the point when some of us start looking for a new job as the sole opportunity to improve our situation.

Self-development and setting professional goals allow us to take a step back from our work and reflect on our own goals and values. It helps us find purpose in our work and connect with why we do what we do. This is why, along with providing a sustainable development pace and calm and supportive team environment, it is crucial for software engineers to have space for personal development at work.

New Horizons Program - Our Way to Secure Time for Personal Growth and Explorations

At nexocode, we believe that self-awareness is key to preventing burnout. We know that if our team members are aware of their own needs and motivations, they will be better equipped to manage their work responsibilities healthily.

At first, like many other IT companies, we offered our employees opportunities to join conferences, workshops, or access to online courses. After a while, though, we noticed that many do not use this kind of offer as it is not actionable. We saw that ad hoc and passive participation is not challenging enough and does not create space to utilize knowledge gained. So, as a teal organization, we decided to take a different approach and created the New Horizons program.

The New Horizons program is designed to give our team members the time, space, and resources they need to explore their interests, set professional goals, and grow as individuals by setting challenging projects. The program is open to all team members. It offers a variety of opportunities with the main focus on developing bigger projects and creating a safe, playground-like environment to test new skills, tools, processes, and learn.

The New Horizons Program is essential for self-development and can help software engineers and all other employees at nexocode avoid work burnout. Through this program, we can learn new skills, expand our knowledge, pursue coding projects and participate in various workshops - all while working full time! We believe that this program is crucial for the individual growth of our team members and the success of our company. This program is essential for helping software engineers avoid burnout and cultivate self-awareness and self-improvement attitudes.

New Horizons Rules

When creating the program, we first created a set of ground rules that we felt were essential for the success of the personal development plan.

  1. An opt-in option for all employees - I’m writing this blog post from the software engineering perspective, but New Horizons is available for all employees at nexocode - you can work as a UX designer, product manager, or be responsible for sales and marketing activities. All these positions can significantly benefit from personal development. We want our team members to choose and feel that they are in control of their development path.
  2. Create a personal development plan - Think about what you want to achieve and discuss it with the team to create a program that is achievable and challenging at the same time. Find partners and project allies - either somebody to work with or a peer to mentor and challenge your efforts with a different perspective. Personal growth is all about a positive attitude, so keep it positive.
  3. Set time and block your calendar - personal development should not be an ad hoc activity. Dedicate selected days to your personal development activities and mark them in our New Horizons Google Calendar for everybody to see. Let your team know that this is the time when you will not be available for other tasks, and respect this time for what it is - valuable time spent on developing yourself!
  4. Demo what you achieved and share with others - A crucial part of personal development is sharing your findings with others and getting feedback. This will help you validate your efforts and ensure that you are on the right track with their constructive criticism. It will also help fellow employees learn from your efforts and get inspired.

The New Horizons Program is open to all employees at nexocode. However, it should be noted that personal development takes time and effort. That is why we decided to create two separate learning paths or program variants one might follow, depending on challenge complexity and self-development needs.

We named them Opportunity and Perseverance, just like rovers from NASA missions to Mars, because they both embody challenges and the path of going beyond the known limits, which are essential values for the program.

Opportunity Variant

Opportunity - professional development in the workplace

The first path is called “Opportunity” and is focused on the tutorial approach. It is designed for employees that want to gain new knowledge or practice a new skill in their chosen field by participating in workshops, conferences, or going through the available materials, documentation, online courses to deepen their knowledge on the given subject and reach new career goals.

You have 3 days per quarter to use with the Opportunity learning path. It allows you to learn about smaller matters: a new library, a new framework, a better understanding of the tools used.

On the New Horizons slack channel, we describe what we want to do, add events in the New Horizons Google Calendar, and approach our project.

Demo the outcomes of your project by creating a blog post, presentation, or a short tech talk to share with fellow employees.

Perseverance Variant

Perseverance - professional growth at nexocode

The “Perseverance” variant is designed for employees that want to take on a bigger challenge and work on a long-term practical project with measurable outcomes. This learning path is designed for those who want to put their knowledge into practice by working on a project internally to test new ideas.

It is designed for individuals that want to set and achieve professional goals by working on self-contained projects with measurable outcomes. This might be developing a new project or application, creating open-source tools or integrations, or anything else that would be beneficial for you and the wider company goals. We want to concentrate on the practical part of developing projects that are in line with the development path of our organization. For example, the subjects to cover for software engineers include (among many) exploring projects with a focus on Data-Intensive Applications (Hadoop, Spark, Kafka), Azure Cloud, GCP, Data Science, and Machine Learning.

You have 24 days per year to use within the Perseverance path. Make sure to use it wisely by planning ahead and getting the most out of it! We create a short meeting with the team to discuss our idea - does it make sense? Maybe someone has an idea for a better, more helpful project. Since we’re going to spend more time on it, it’s better to close all the gaps at the planning stage. You can do the project independently or as part of a team. Whichever path you take, you’ll always get the support of your peers.

Also, failing with a project or getting opposite results than the goals set at the beginning is just as worthy, but it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and reflect.

We encourage our team members to share their findings and results either with co-workers or the tech community through open-sourcing their projects, preparing presentations, or tech talks so we can all learn from each other’s efforts.

Both variants have their advantages, so it is vital to choose the one that best suits your needs. There is no wrong choice, as long as you actively work on personal development.

Both paths offer a variety of opportunities and many benefits. Still, the main difference is that Perseverance focuses on developing more significant projects and creating a safe playground-like environment to build confidence, test, and learn new things. In contrast, Opportunity emphasizes self-paced learning with an opt-in/out structure.

What We Already Achieved - Exemplary Projects From Our Engineering Team

Software engineers at nexocode are constantly self-developing to keep up with the rapidly changing trends in technology. Here are some exemplary projects from our team that showcase this dedication:

Creating TypeScript Dictionaries for Angular Projects

Michał Wójcik, our Frontend Software Engineer, created code that enables superfast key-value dictionary creation for coordinating frontend and backend communication for dictionary fields. We use it daily in our projects, which saves a lot of time for dev teams.

Cypress vs. Protractor - a Comprehensive Comparison

Wojciech Parys, our Frontend Software Engineer, tested and documented a comprehensive guide on the differences between two of the most popular front-end testing frameworks - Cypress and Protractor. If you plan to implement end-to-end tests in your Angular project, make sure to reach out to Wojtek.

Angular Schematics

In this project, Wojciech managed to develop something that brings significant benefits to one of our key business projects. Generating code using schematics in Angular that supports complex logic is a powerful option and a huge time saver. This project is an excellent example of how personal development goals can be in line with business growth and goals

Aggregation Pipelines in MongoDB

Łukasz Kucik, Software Engineer at nexocode, decided to dig deeper into specific use cases while working in MongoDB. In his exploratory work, he covers aggregation pipelines - a framework for data transformation used in many projects.

Reactive Programming

Piotr Kubowicz, who works at nexocode as a Software Engineer, decided to dig deeper into reactive programming with Reactor used in Kotlin projects. He chose to focus on more complex issues like performance traps, testing, and error handling.

Testcontainers

Piotr also explored and prepared a tutorial for others on Testcontainers, a Java library that supports JUnit tests, providing lightweight, throwaway instances of common services like databases that can be run in a dockerized environment.

ArchUnit

Exploring ArchUnit library helped Piotr (and ultimately our whole team) uncover unknown benefits of this library as something much more than a tool to check your system’s architecture. You can read more on Piotr’s findings on the use of ArchUnit in his recent article.

Thymeleaf vs. kotlinx.html

For some time for generating HTML templates, we relied on the Thymeleaf library. Maciej Cebula, our software engineer, decided to explore an alternative in the form of kotlinx.html which is a Kotlin DSL for building HTML.

Gitlab Pipelines

I myself also managed to use the New Horizons program for my personal development and skills building. I took on the challenge of improving our teams’ development processes by implementing Gitlab Pipelines for one of the projects I work on and for all the new projects we set up at nexocode.

I’m happy to say that after my explorations, we have a CI/CD pipeline set up that runs automatically on every code push and detects errors early on. Despite the role, every team member now has a clear and practical understanding of our CI/CD pipelines. You can get more for yourself on the subject from my tutorials: Understanding Gitlab Pipelines - Creating CI/CD Flow and Gitlab Pipelines to Kickstart Your Web Application.

Kafka and Avro

Kafka is a solution I am personally very interested in (you can sometimes see me at conferences and meetups talking about it). I also took on the challenge of learning and understanding Avro - a data serialization format often used with Kafka. I created a presentation explaining how you can use the Avro serialization system in your Kafka-based projects.

New Horizons Program is not only about success stories. We did some projects that one might even consider as fail stories. And that is perfectly fine. The program allows us to experiment with new technologies, ideas, and projects without the burden of possible failure.

An example of a fail story would include:

Arrow and Kotlin

Piotr evaluated the Arrow library’s use for typed functional programming in Kotlin. He created a small project to see if it is possible to use Arrow in production. Unfortunately, the library was not providing the benefits we hoped for and in our case, it caused more problems than it solved. After this thorough investigation, Piotr decided to abandon the project. Imagine not having this exploration space and being forced to implement a tech solution in a production environment just for the sake of it.

As you can see, self-development at nexocode takes many different forms, and there is something for everyone. We encourage our team members to explore new technologies and share their findings with others (also check our Zero Legacy article series to see what our engineers currently develop). This helps us all learn and grow together.

Personal development is a process that never really ends. As our team members showcase, there is always something new to learn and explore - whether it is a new technology, tool, or framework. The self-development space that New Horizons Program offers is crucial for any software engineer that wants to stay relevant in their field and avoid work burnout. With so many new technologies and frameworks being released daily, it is impossible to keep up with everything without a dedicated space and time for personal development. I’m happy that our team has this program in place, and I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with next.

It’s Not Only About Your Personal and Professional Growth - With New Horizons We All Grow Together

A team of self-aware, fulfilled, and happy employees is a productive team. We want our team members to feel supported in their self-development journey and work-life balance. We believe that by investing in their growth and well-being, we are not only helping them reach their potential but also benefiting the whole teal company.

If you are a software engineer and are interested in personal development, we encourage you to join the nexocode team and make use of the New Horizons Program! We are confident that you will find working with our teal team to be an invaluable experience. Visit our careers page for open positions and more information.

About the author

Wojciech Marusarz

Wojciech Marusarz

Software Engineer

Linkedin profile Twitter Github profile

Wojciech enjoys working with small teams where the quality of the code and the project's direction are essential. In the long run, this allows him to have a broad understanding of the subject, develop personally and look for challenges. He deals with programming in Java and Kotlin. Additionally, Wojciech is interested in Big Data tools, making him a perfect candidate for various Data-Intensive Application implementations.

Have some questions?

We’re happy to answer! You can directly
contact Jarek, who’s got all the info you may need.

Jarek Jarzębowski
People & Culture Lead

jarek.jarzebowski@nexocode.com

ASK JAREK on SLACK

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