At Modus, we strive for team member excellence. While we value highly skilled individuals who excel at their craft, Modus equally values other skills. To be a good fit, one must have an “I want to learn and I want to teach” mentality. Why is this important to us? We have found that people who are constantly exploring, growing, and sharing information tend to be strong communicators, excellent consultants, and excel in a remote first work environment. For Modus, this is a key to not only our success but the success of our customers. So, how can other organizations empower and enable their teams to move toward this mentality? What can an individual contributor do to create a personal growth plan? Here are some tips to get you started.
The Future Is In Your Hands
Recently, I was chatting with a newer employee about the exciting Modus Labs open source contributions our team is doing. I shared:
“That’s the thing about Modus…it’s up to you to decide how much you want to grow while working here because the opportunities are endless. You just have to put in the effort to find them!”
Whether you are at Modus or elsewhere, it’s up to you to determine your personal and professional growth. I’m lucky to be at an organization that values it and allows me to pursue it daily. As a manager or leader, help your team members understand the importance of constant learning. Encourage information sharing, whether it’s something large or small. Reward behavior so others see it’s valued. In conclusion, support your team.
During my tenure at Modus, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined before I joined. This is thanks to the team that surrounds me. People take chances on their co-workers and encourage them to grow and shine. That being said, my personal growth is up to me. I took risks and found opportunities. Just because you’re hired doesn’t mean the trajectory of your growth will look like mine or someone else’s.
Hiring for Constant Learning and Teaching
We approach building our team in a few specific ways. Obviously, as demand grows, we must hire. Hiring for technical skills isn’t easy, but it is measurable. On the other hand, finding people who value constant learning and teaching is much more subjective. Every interview I’ve conducted with prospective Modites, I try to understand if they will embrace this key value as it’s pertinent to being a good fit at Modus. Whether you are speaking with the co-founders, management, or members of our awesome delivery team, this mentality runs deep.
We are confident that hiring people who possess great technical skills and our values is how we continue to be successful. We need empathy, understanding, and cohesiveness. People who want to not only grow personally but also encourage and support their teammates and Modus to prosper. So how do we do this and what steps could your organization take? Our interview process is intense and focuses on many aspects, not just technical aptitude. We include communication skills, collaboration skills, technical skills, and experience. Regularly, a candidate will speak with 5-6 members of our team ranging from recruiters to project managers, architects, and technical leads – teammates with specific project experience with actual clients. This level of vetting has allowed us to find the right people who understand how important continuous growth is to our organization and our customers. In addition, the interviewee can ensure Modus is a good fit for them. They can ask questions of many people throughout Modus and ensure their personal and professional goals will be met working with us.
Embracing Inevitable Technology Changes
As a company that delivers technical solutions for our customers, our team understands and is experienced with the ever-changing landscape in technology. New technologies are released every day and old ones slowly disappear. At Modus, we understand keeping up with technology changes and innovation is very challenging for many companies. Change is expensive and requires a large time commitment. So how does Modus do this and what can other organizations do?
Our team is active, visible, and relevant in the software community by contributing to open source initiatives, leading workshops, speaking at conferences, blogging, writing books, etc. This isn’t specific to consulting companies or Modus. Anyone can contribute and commit to this. Does your company encourage this behavior? Is it rewarded? For an employee, set personal goals for these contributions with management. If that is not an option, set personal goals.
Many members of our team hired for a specific technology end up focusing on something entirely new throughout their tenure. While at Modus, many have decided to step outside of their comfort zone and in return, learn new things. They do so by working with leadership and co-workers. If you’re hiring talented individuals that can work across your organization and not just in one specific area, help support them! This has allowed us to continuously help companies transition by sharing our expertise, by educating their teams and partnering with them to build world-class software solutions. Imagine the benefits if your team members were also doing this?
Sharing Is Caring
I’ve also learned how rewarding it is to be on the teaching, coaching, and mentoring side of continuous growth. Sometimes, this means your own personal growth or specific goals may be put on the back burner for the betterment of the team. Sacrifice isn’t easy, but it is also a great growth opportunity.
Whether you’re helping a colleague learn a new technology, become a better communicator, or sharpen their leadership skills, being open to sharing your knowledge is the first step. Anyone can be a leader and help colleagues grow. Have you seen a colleague struggle with something you have expertise with? Proactively offer your help to others. While they may not always take it, at least it will be known you are available to assist. Regularly, the best conversations I have are with co-workers facing an immediate problem and need to talk through solutions. Taking the time to be an ear is sometimes all that’s needed. Everyone can be a teacher by sharing information and lessons learned. Not every learning opportunity has to be monumental and life-changing, but that is NOT to say they won’t be helpful and save your teammates time, energy, or money!
At Modus, everyone is given the same authority, autonomy, and guidance to grow personally and professionally whether you have been here for years or just started. The team has equal opportunity and access to resources, and most importantly, each other.
Each organization and individual is different in how they approach and embrace growth. A few key ways Modus does this:
- Learning is a key value to hire for. Technology changes but if you have the right people, they will adjust as needed. You can’t ask “do you value learning” and assume the candidate is good. What you can do is ask other questions, such as ‘What have you taught yourself or someone else recently?’, ‘What books/blogs/etc do you read to stay current?’, or “Tell me about a problem you recently solved?”.
- Encourage team members to be learners. At Modus, our Slack channels are full of acknowledgments, accolades, and praise for people solving problems. Problem-solving doesn’t have to be revolutionary. Invite co-workers to join you in solving a problem or tackling a new opportunity.
- Enable anyone to be a teacher. While deciding to be a learner or teacher depends on the person, an organization can support or stifle this. Are there easy ways for people to share information, such as communication tools (Slack) or a wiki? Do you do brown bags? Are employees able to self-organize?
If your company’s culture doesn’t align with continuous learning like Modus, there are still things you can do for personal growth. Ask questions and spend time listening to others. As you learn more, find ways to openly share the information with colleagues. This may seem small, but it is a great way to start. Also, set personal goals. Whether this is with your manager or yourself, determine what you want to learn and where you want to be in 6, 12, 24 months. This mentality can’t be dictated by people, but we can constantly encourage and reward it.
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