At the university I learnt a lot about computer science, but also about chemistry, physics, mechanics, hydrodynamics, electrical engineering, law, etc. Whenever I jumped into a new field, it was initially hard to understand the basic terms and basic principles. I wished to see the path, what to learn first, what next, and how one topic builds on another.
At Catalysts, we want to provide a more supportive environment
- where the paths to knowledge (“development roadmaps”) are clearly visible for every relevant skill area (like software development, software architecture, requirements engineering, quality assurance, etc.)
- where each development roadmap shows where to start (basic), what to learn next (advanced) and what to master in the end (expert), see also “3.4 Company-Wide Learning”
- where you can also check which colleague already has advanced or expert skills in an area
- where the experts in an area take responsibility to curate their development roadmap, e.g. to order new books and to put them on the basic / advanced / expert shelf.
- where passive knowledge (books) and active knowledge (expert colleagues) are easily accessible
- where sharing knowledge and helping others to build up knowledge is encouraged
It should be really easy to get started in a new field, to continue some more, to gain advanced skills or even become an expert – just out of curiosity and because the environment facilitated it well enough.
Whenever new fields (like artificial intelligence and machine learning) become relevant, new development roadmaps are created and the material is organized appropriately. Hence Catalysts can quickly react to new trends – quicker than any university can adapt its curricula.
Intrinsically motivated team members can learn whatever they want. Self-organizing teams can build up whatever knowledge they need. The entire workforce is enabled to learn more with and from each other.
So far I have described how we support developing technical skills. Let’s see what we do to develop leadership skills.
Every team member is invited to take over responsibility. Initially just a little, but over time as much as one is willing to and capable of. Our leadership roadmap looks as follows:
- Team Member
- Candidate Onboarding Coach
- Onboarding Coach
- Candidate Team Leader
- Team Leader (from small and simple projects to large and complex ones)
- Business Area Leader or Location Leader
- Company Leader
The first step for a team member is to volunteer to become an Onboarding Coach for new team members (see “4.3 Onboarding With Your Personal Coach During the First 4 Weeks”). After some internal training, team members become “candidate onboarding coaches”, i.e. they are well prepared to act as an onboarding coach with the next opportunity, which then turns them into “actual coaches”.
In a similar way, people can volunteer to become team leaders (or they may be nominated). They receive some internal training and become “candidate team leaders”. While they are still regular team members on a project, they may already be enlisted by the acting team leader to take over the project after some time, i.e. the team leader gives them a lot of opportunities to learn the ropes, hands over more and more responsibilities, and finally prepares everything for the candidate team leader to take over. Once the hand-off has happened, the original team leader may still act as a guide and sparring partner for the new team leader in critical situations.
Not all projects are equal, some involve more risks and are harder to manage. Hence, we need to understand quite well which projects require how much experience from their team leaders.
Some leaders will grow to lead an entire business area or a location. And a few may even become company leaders.
To sum it up:
- We make it easy for our team members to grow their technical skills
- We provide them with a lot of opportunities to grow their leadership skills.
Nobody has to step into a leadership position – we even have safety nets to prevent people from getting into a leadership position if they will most likely not be capable of it. And it is fine for people to step back from a leadership position. We love our engineers – they can remain “just engineers” for their whole life (and still get more and more impact and hence salary).