In the workplace, most people develop a specific level of knowledge and skill based on their role in the company. You are lucky if you have the opportunity to continue to learn and build your skills at your job. However, it’s pretty rare to be given a chance to be educated on a broader range of topics, even ones that fall outside of your daily job but offer an added value.
About once a month at NextJump, we have a session called Next Jump University, or NxJU. These sessions give a NxJumper the opportunity to teach their fellow employees about a topic they are knowledgeable about. It can be anything from an introduction to Photoshop from our lead designer, how to write better SQL from one of our pod leads, or even how to properly do your taxes. All of these sessions are open to anyone in the company.
I love NxJU’s because they provide the opportunity to continue learning new and exciting things. I think it’s easy to get stuck in a rut as an engineer, especially if you deal with the same problems or programming tasks each day. You can quickly become stagnant and stop learning or growing your skill set. While I get to work on different things all the time at my job, it’s still great to be able to learn about something that I normally would have to learn on my own time (and not get paid to do it). This keeps me passionate and motivated about the work I do as a programmer.
As well as attending these, employees of all levels have the opportunity to teach too. I recently taught my 2nd NxJU. I co-taught my first NxJU with my manager about a month or two after I started working at NextJump. We had upgraded our version of PHP and we needed to let all of the developers (and anyone else who was interested) about the new features that came with the upgrade.
Looking back, it seems insane that someone who had been at a company for less than a month was given the opportunity to give an hour-long presentation to the company. Needless to say, public speaking is not the strong suit for most engineers, especially the ones that just graduated college. It was pretty evident when I watched my presentation again (all presentations are recorded) that I needed to work on several things. But that’s another great thing about NxJU’s: not only do you get to work on preparing presentations and mastering a specific skill or topic, but you get the incredible benefit of practicing your public speaking. After the session, people who attended are asked to fill out a survey and give feedback on how you did. On top of the feedback from coworkers, watching a replay of your presentation is a fantastic way to critique yourself.
My 2nd NxJU was titled “CSS: Coding with Style” and covered proper practices for CSS as well as our current CSS code and plans for future iterations and improvements. I focused on bettering myself on several of the things that I struggled with the first time around. I worked on things like PowerPoint design (no more boring slides with tons of bullet points and text), pace of speaking, volume, and how I presented content. I think all of these improvements lead to a respectable NxJU, but I still have a lot of room for improvement. When I have the opportunity to give another one, I plan on being even better and hopefully teach somebody something new and useful in the process.