When I moved from Chicago to open 8th Light’s London office in January of 2014, 8th Light already had a couple of clients in the UK. We had been working alongside IDEO, a design firm, for several months to build a new website for the Royal Academy of Arts, and we were prepared to stay on the project to help support and extend the application after its launch. However, it was going to take more than a single client to establish a new outpost for 8th Light’s brand of software craftsmanship. We were going to need to get more clients in order to sustain ourselves.
8th Light does not engage in any true outbound sales or marketing. From the beginning, our client base has been built through relationship selling. We foster personal relationships that lay the groundwork for our productive professional partnerships. Starting these relationships requires getting out there and meeting new people, and it can be terrifying to walk into a room full of strangers knowing that you need to talk about yourself to as many of them as possible. I’ve been fortunate that the people I’ve met in London have been extremely welcoming. In my 18 months in the UK, I’ve met some amazing people and made some great personal and professional relationships.
Turning these personal relationships into productive professional partnerships requires more than a positive attitude, however. We needed to build a team of software craftsmen that could deliver quality software to our UK clients in a way that mirrored the principled approach that 8th Light is known for.
8th Light is absolutely inflexible about one thing: since the company’s beginning, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to only hiring software craftsmen through our modern apprenticeship programme. This apprenticeship teaches developers how to apply the principles and practices of software craftsmanship. This programme allows us to feel confident that every craftsman staffed on a project is a disciplined polyglot who can have a positive impact on a client’s technical as well as procedural sticking points.
This apprenticeship is what gives 8th Light its strength. However, it requires us to spend 6 - 12 months mentoring each developer before they can work on a client project. The investment turned out to be well worth it, as it gave us the flexibility to hire developers from diverse backgrounds. We received tons of applications, but prioritised hiring the developers who were not only passionate about delivering high quality code, but also passionate about giving back to the local software community. Even now, our software craftsmen remain heavily involved in local organisations like Codebar and Founders and Coders.
This investment in the community will remain a top priority for us. We want to establish ourselves not only as experts in the field, but also as teachers who are dedicated to helping the London software community as a whole practice and grow together.
We knew that investing in our modern apprenticeship programme and growing through relationship selling would require an extended amount of time before we could get our office up and running. However, I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and I’m excited about our future here in London. We look forward to working with other developers and craftsmen in the UK, and partnering with local clients to discover and solve challenging technical problems.