Friday, March 12, 2010

Feeding Body and Mind

Software development is an ever changing field. Some might even say volatile. Languages, tools, methodologies, paradigms, philosophies, manifestos. Structured programming. Functional programming. OO programming. Agile principles. Extreme Programming. TDD. Continuous integration. Acceptance testing. Automated testing. SOA. Pascal. ADA. Lisp. C. C++. Java. Python. PHP. C#. Ruby. Grails. Haskell. Scala. Cloud based computing and more...

How can one keep on top of this?

Well one very effective way the engineers have applied over the last few months is a regular "lunch & learn" session. The idea of something like this has tended to go in and out of vogue for years in Perceptive. There's always been plenty of topics that would be interesting: "Talk people through the latest work you've done," or "Show us what you've learned about the new technology your last project employed."

The big barrier of course is the substantial investment of time required to deliver a coherent and valuable session. And then to do that regularly, even monthly, even if the task rotates...well it just seemed really hard.

A few months back though, we hit on the solution. Google (amongst other sources) post a huge number of fascinating presentations and talks on a multitude of topics. And they're delivered typically but top thought leaders in the software development field. And they're free too...they're just a click or two away on or similar.

So we started running lunch & learn sessions. We'd start with watching a video that someone had picked out as interesting. Pizza would arrive. And when the presentation was done we'd sit and chat about it. We found it to be a really easy way to get exposed to new ideas and technologies. It required very little preparation effort which has allowed us to keep this up regularly, and in fact there's so much value coming out of this we're increasing our frequency from once to twice a month.

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