A culture of learning is essential for the craft of software development. Paul Pagel, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of 8th Light, articulates how cultivating an educational environment and focusing on team composition increases productivity and engagement.
Cultivating Today’s Software Teams
The software industry has changed so much in the last 15 years since Paul Pagel co-founded 8th Light. He reflects that the work he did in his early days might seem unrecognizable to today’s junior developers. “I remember my first year of programming was in C++, and it was constant error-driven or memory leak-driven development,” Paul says in the new episode of Collaborative Craft. “Now you can do a Hello World and build a blog with very simple instruction sets. So I think the career itself is more accessible, and the first feedback loops are much less frustrating … you can build on that momentum and get people hooked on making something.”
Software’s evolution has not been unilateral. As software applications have become more accessible, the underlying architecture and plumbing have grown increasingly complex. Whereas previous teams of generalists were able to deliver every element of an enterprise system, nowadays we need to collaborate with experts who have deeper knowledge in specializations such as frontend development, data engineering, architecture, operations, and so much more.
This reality means that an element of continuous learning is unavoidable — and Paul has spent his 15 years at 8th Light helping teams not only accept, but embrace this reality. For Paul, learning is a critical ingredient for any high-performing team. “The highest productivity teams I've ever been on are places where all the members of the team are learning something brand new, and that's creating a sense of engagement and quite honestly, excitement and optimism,” he says.
What these teams show — and what makes software so engaging and rewarding — is that the learning is inseparable from the making. Today’s frameworks and tools are the result of the collective efforts of developers and designers around the world, who have spent the last few decades finding new patterns and forging new infrastructure. The tools we’ll be using 15 years from now would likely be unrecognizable to us today, yet we know that we’re the ones who will help build them.
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