This blog post is the second part of the blog series named The Imaginary Company
Learning is the core, in whatever we do. Either we succeed or fail doesn’t matter. What matters is if we did learn something in the process.
This leads to two things: better actions the next time and avoid repeating mistakes that we learned in the process.
Learning is the parameter that determines the answer to some of your important questions. At any given point of time, this parameter will have one of the below values.
Learning at least one new thing every day or every few days: Good, keep it going. I am glad you are having fun! Have more if you wish to.
Learning a lot of new things every day or every few days: This is good too. But be careful not to burnout. If you feel burnt out, try taking a break/nap/sleep/leave/vacation. You could always pick up back from where you paused. One of the possible reasons for burnout is that you are learning too much at work and also at home (for example: learning some new tech for side projects). In this case, try finding a casual balance between them. This is hard (at least for me) :D I usually get tired by all the learnings at work that it becomes very hard to focus on learning after-work. Something I have been trying to find the balance to do.
Not learning at all to just a little of learning: Your job had become a very repeated process that there is no more learning at all; you end up doing the same thing every day. Well in that case, if you feel ok to be doing it for a while, then ok; easily do your work and focus your power on learning after-work and why not learn at all and spend time to relax for a while! Once you feel like you want to work on something new to learn more, you could approach your buddy at work to see if they could find a project that you would be interested in doing. But if things seem to be like an every-ending cycle where you don’t like what you are up to or perhaps try exploring something new, then you got to start looking out for a newer opportunity and probably preparing for it. An opportunity that you think will help you learn more and make you better!
Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.
– Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia
Wikipedia is my favorite place to learn something new. If you want to learn something new, the first natural action could be to read up the Wikipedia page about it. I think this could be a great indicator of assessing how much knowledge are we intaking.
So, I wish to see a whole lot of Wikipedia links hovering in the team/private chats and RFCs inside the company.
This not only applies to Wikipedia links, but also to things like links to open source code, blog posts, etc.
You take a break when you are bored. Usually to visit something that you are interested in. I call this the natural way to serendipity.
Sharing is caring :)
Sharing what you learned will influence your friends for the better. It will allow others to discover new things and get ideas from you. It is one of the best conversation starters.
To facilitate this, we will have public channels in the team’s messaging app (probably slack) where anyone could share what they are learning.
#books - books they find interesting, want to read, reviews of books they read, etc.
#blogs - blog posts they find interesting, RSS feed of blogs of all the people in the company.
Also, you are very welcome to write blog posts on things you learned.
Spoiler Alert: Yeah, we are going to have one! ;)
Sometimes we might find ourselves bottlenecked on money for learning something new.
Example: you don’t have the money to afford a physical book that you think you will read in free time (over months or years).
I propose that the company provides regular funds as a learning budget to all.
We will come back to this at the end of this post.
I appreciate that there is this culture of having a library in startups.
But I feel it as limiting. Why? Because of contention!
Usually, there are only one or a few copies of a book. What if there are more than one people wants to access it over the same weekend. Well then, you are left with first come first served.
Additionally, you need to return it. It is not going to be with you forever in this kind of environment.
I have a different viewpoint in this regard, a pretty unconventional one.
What if we could get a copy of the book for each and everyone who needs it and let them have the book forever.
The book will stay yours foverever like the knowledge you gain.
Knowledge is permanent, so should be the things that spread it!
A learning budget is allocated for everyone in the company.
Everyone can spend $20 every month on anything that they think will help them learn something!
Some examples of how to spend this budget:
- Buy a book. (It’s yours forever!)
- Online courses and platforms for learning like pluralsight.
- Buy a domain name for side projects.
- Hosting costs (cloud bills: AWS, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, etc.) for side projects.
- Buy conference ticket
Why $20? Because most of the learning platforms have this number as their monthly plan. Also, this might be a reasonably affordable rate for the company: $20 a month is $240 a year.
But note that $20 is not a strict number. We could probably do some + or - some money on it. We could probably revise this number every year as we grow!
If you need more ask. We could probably allow you to spend in advance and subtract it from the annual budget allotted.
What happens to the money that I don’t spend? I want to answer this question in another blog post. But short answer, it won’t be credited with your salary. This is a strict “spend only on learning” money.
To do this entire process effectively we will need a tool in place.
A tool to easily request for funds: in public - so that the other team members are also motivated to spend their budget and learn or perhaps at least collect something to learn in the future.
This tool should easily let the company easily track expenses on budgets like this and make the reimbursement process hassle-free.
Ok, now go read!