As a good developer, you have to constantly improve your skills, learn new libraries, and master new frameworks and solutions. One of the best methods of doing just that is to share knowledge and the know-how with a community. We noticed that we were already doing so but it but only in casual desk conversations or coffee break talks. So what to do about it? Just include every knowledge-seeker, both in our company and beyond, to some internal projects!
That’s a great opportunity to create some dedicated think-hubs to share our experience and knowledge with anyone who is interested. Maybe someone has faced similar problems before or maybe someone wants to present and recommend a just-discovered great, new tool or library?
“You can DREAM BIG here” is a series of articles presenting internal XSolve initiatives which help us spread and transmit our knowledge and passion to the community, and of course, just have some fun along the way.
“From devs. For devs.” XSolve Tech blog
The original idea came from our Java Developer, Maciej, who noticed that every now and then our developers were posting questions and answers among themselves on our internal Slack channel. After a while, useful content was getting lost in the conversation history and the same questions were being asked all over again.
We needed an easy-to-setup and easy-to-contribute-to storage space, where all topics could be quickly found via basic categorization, like a blog. The idea was to go out to the world and exchange knowledge not just with our developers but also with anybody outside the organization. That’s how we came up with the XSolve Tech Blog.
We have had just one objective in mind when creating this blog: maximum usability. Therefore, visual quality wasn’t the most important factor for us (not that we completely ignored it either). Instead, we focused on removing barriers and creating a space where you can post, for example, a short piece of code or just a simple pro tip.
To meet our needs we have chosen Gatsby, a static site generator. Thanks to that, submitting new content is as easy as opening a new pull request with an article written in Markdown, which can even be done directly from GitHub.
Once the blog was live, we began to encourage other XSolvers to share their problems and solutions on it, thanks to which our content base has grown rapidly. We have also decided to involve developers outside our community in the content creation and we have encouraged them to share their daily experiences with others.
Whatever you have – a brief solution to a difficult issue or a longer explanation of a particular topic – it doesn’t matter. Share it! Our main motto is “From devs. For devs.” Any helpful contribution is welcome!
“Front ideas that never end” – FrontClub community growth
At XSolve, we have a great community of experienced and passionate front-end developers but sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of each other. Ola, who represents this group, decided to set up meetings as an answer to the lack of knowledge transfer. That’s how the FrontClub started.
She thought that everyone who’s in love with frontend should have an opportunity to exchange knowledge, tricks and inspiration with others. Also, not to consume too much time, no more than one hour per week is perfect.
With our own brand and a fast-growing community, we felt involved in those meetings, creating something bigger than just a talking shop for our passions. After some time, we began to record the meetings allowing us to find previously-discussed topics without difficulty.
FrontClub received a lot of positive feedback from other XSolvers but it was still an exclusive initiative for the internal community. We decided to extend it, to share our knowledge with developers outside our company.
During Front-Trends 2017, we firstly announced our community outside the organization and discovered that other people also felt excited about the idea. Following that, we organized FrontClub Open – the first full frontend meetup in Gliwice, and now one of the biggest in the Silesia district.
The FrontClub community constantly develops. Apart from the internal meetings and regular events, there is also a YouTube channel with tutorial videos, lectures and technical tips from XSolve front-end developers. New ideas are still bubbling away, so who knows what will be next?
“Exploring a new approach” to machine learning at XSolve
A strategic need for a new approach was defined by the company’s future direction but more importantly, we found out that people who were interested in AI topics were looking for some information.
In July 2017, with our founder, Piotr Majchrzak, we invited everyone concerned to create the Machine Learning Chapter, to discuss and plan the next steps which would help us understand the topic and acquire all the necessary skills.
We decided to explore some ready-made solutions for implementing machine learning. In order to verify their usefulness, we built a list of use cases where machine learning could offer business value. Then we started a few parallel mini-projects in small teams, and every week we shared the outcome of our research within the Chapter.
This way we were able to better understand how machine learning could solve business problems and which tools were worth exploring further. The result of one of our projects has been open sourced so that other developers could make use of it in their applications and also help us with its future development.
After summarizing our results and observations, we conducted some brief research to find potential aspects of our current projects where machine learning could be useful and bring business value, then asked our clients whether they would like us to create a prototype.
This way, we started a new project to support the manual moderation of products. In order to keep potential losses to a minimum – in the event that the prototype was unsatisfactory – we used Amazon Web Services as a low-cost but effective solution.
In the meantime, we began a series of internal presentations to dig deeper into different machine learning models and approaches. Quite a few of us also took part in Practical Machine Learning workshops to improve our skills and learn more about Python tools we could use in future projects, e.g. Keras, TensorFlow, XGBoost and sci-kit-learn.
Also, we learned how to work with large volumes of data, carry out feature engineering, and implement solutions based on deep learning and other ML models.
At the moment, we are organizing an internal machine learning hackathon for our developers to exchange knowledge, inspire others to join the Chapter, and simply have fun working together on solving real business problems with machine learning.
XSolvers are free to handle things in their own way. If we feel the tension and want to take action, we do it! Our holacratic approach supports individuals who recognize a need and immediately respond to it. Thanks to that, we have easy access to information, know-how is shared, and the community is well-integrated.
New ideas are still coming to us and we remain hungry for new internal initiatives.Luckily, there are many proactive individuals at XSolve willing to create new and innovative spaces.
In the next article in the series you’ll discover some more of them for sure. So see you there!