What is WKS
Nowadays, every IT engineer is inundated with a huge amount of information from the industry, which requires the programmer to constantly evolve, that is, to quickly comprehend and implement the knowledge gained. In order to support our employees in their personal development and knowledge acquisition, we have introduced weekly meetings called Weekly Knowledge Sharing.
Weekly Knowledge Sharing is an initiative, where our team members share their skills and interests among their colleagues. Thanks to this proactivity, our team is always up-to-date with the latest technologies. During our meetings, we cover topics in many areas such as technical, alongside business and soft topics.
What we achieved in 2021 (compared to 2020)
In order to improve everyone’s WKS experience, we decided to create a form to gather feedback, desires, and ideas from our colleagues. This gave us all the information we needed to start acting and make WKS even more awesome and achieve a great “market fit”.
To put this feedback to work, we added a few new WKS session categories and improved existing ones. The new categories allowed people to jump in presenting on WKS with a lot of new, diverse topics. The number of video sessions that we held in the absence of those willing to present decreased by half. You can read more about this initiative in the Session scheduling section.
An integral part of WKS is the tooling we develop around it. This year has been very fruitful when it comes to new features of our slackbot. Read more about them in the Tooling section.
All those exciting achievements would not have been possible without the expanded WKS crew that grew from one person to four with “Presentation” and “Engineering” divisions.
Let’s see how all these look in numbers!
Feedback from team
We are regularly receiving positive feedback from our colleagues. This mostly includes Slack messages on our WKS channel but also verbal ones.
In May we ran a WKS Survey to learn how others are perceiving this initiative. Results came out to be very positive (over 80%) with over half of interviewees attending every session and just 5% skipping more than half of those. Thanks to their feedback, we were able to provide a better selection of topics and session types (like project highlights, lightning talks) and give them appropriate priority.
One of the first challenges that we decided to tackle was the irregularity of the topics. The sessions were scheduled one or two weeks in advance at the maximum. Sometimes when Friday came, there was no scheduled topic, and we had to fall back on watching conference videos. Our team decided to solve it by introducing a few session categories, and assigning a target time interval to some of them. The categories were:
🆕 Project Highlights. Deep dives into Appliscale’s projects to learn the best solution and apply them across the company. This not only allowed us to share knowledge that tends to stay inside the projects, but also see where the company is headed.
🆕 Tech Review. Summary of exciting news in the IT industry. We include different categories of news: AI, Blockchain, Web Development, Cloud, Business, DevOps and IoT. Thanks to this, our engineers stay well-rounded on an ever-changing spectrum of technologies.
⬆️ Lightning Talks. Short and sharp presentations highlighting interesting topics. Although it still requires a lot of effort to prepare a good presentation, the engagement level increased because talking for up to 10 minutes seemed more approachable. 😁
⬆️ Panel Discussion. A departure from the presenter-audience model, we wanted our developers to engage in some brainstorming together. This year, we exchanged some ideas about job interviews, and compiled a very useful list of personal coding productivity tips.
Thanks to these changes, during the last few months of the year, WKS was consistently scheduled up to 2-3 months in advance. This gave us a much-needed breathing room, allowing us to find new topics and volunteers without a looming threat of a topic-less Friday.
This year was full of innovations in the process of managing WKS meetings, not only by humans. Our Concierge slackbot gained a lot of functionality (and a 3D-printed figure) that made our day-to-day tasks to be a piece of cake. The codebase grew by 300%, reaching over 4000 lines of code, and now it has twice as many tests for it. We have tests for all the various stuff including end-to-end ones which are making sure that our conversations with Slackbot will run smoothly, hit all expected 3rd party services and provide answers back to the user. Our biggest focus was to streamline the process of scheduling topics and providing our colleagues with extended info regarding past and upcoming sessions. We think that the current functionality is more than enough, so next year we will be limiting our efforts just to the maintenance, which definitely proves that we created a great internal product.
What we plan to improve next year
We are excited to bring many improvements to WKS in 2022. Let’s give you a glimpse of what we are planning to do.
Firstly, we plan to pay more attention to what are the specific interests of our team members. This will help us choose topics for future presentations and find people that would be thrilled to present.
Secondly, we want to make our internal slack bot more friendly and easy-to-use. This includes simplifying the bot to include only the essential commands and creating a guide on how to use it for newcomers.
Thirdly, we plan to introduce some improvements to our session formats: one idea is to use breakout rooms during Panel Discussions to facilitate further knowledge sharing.
This initiative is part of our wider R&D culture. More on this topic can be found here.
We hope the topics discussed here will match your interests and are valuable to you. If you would like to work on similar challenges as our colleagues, we are actively hiring. Feel free to check our career page.