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Culture
August 25, 2020

Tandem Roundtable: How We Spent Our Learning Budgets

Chris Coffin Principal Product Designer, Design Manager
Mina Slater Software Engineer
Josh Linden Client Partner
Gwen Smuda Software Engineer

‘Continuously Improve’ is one of Tandem’s core values–we teach and learn every day! All Tandem team members have an annual budget to spend on learning activities related to their work, like classes, online training, books, screencasts, or industry-related conferences.

Here are just a few of the ways Tandemites have spent their learning budget:

Chris: The last thing I did with my learning budget was going to one of the ‘An Event Apart’ conferences in November. One of my favorite talks was about accessibility and motion graphics: how we can make animation and motion and types of interactive content more accessible. A lot of times people think those two things don’t go together–but there’s lots of fun tricks you can do with code, and the speaker gave real-world examples about the “prefers-reduced-motion” query. I’m looking forward to using some of these techniques on our client projects.

Mina: In the past, I’ve used my learning budget for conference admission fees. And last year, several of us on the engineering team had some leftover learning budget so we pooled it together and did an in-person React workshop. The instructor tailored the class to what we specifically wanted to learn about. What was really cool about the workshop is that we got hands-on problem-solving time. Instead of directly showing us a code snippet to type in, the instructor gave us tasks and it was more relevant to our work.

Josh: I did a ‘principles of design thinking’ certificate — one of the courses inspired me to write this blog post. The course helped me better talk about the things we do at Tandem, and apply the concepts to my larger approach to work and life. Thinking of ways to rapidly prototype is generally applicable to everything: How do we interview people to get the information we need? How do I prove a concept as quickly and cheaply as possible? I’m going to use the rest of my budget this year on a class about storytelling in business.

In the past I’ve also used my learning budget on books–Gwen and I both bought How to Make Friends and Influence People and held a book club examining it through a modern lens.

Gwen: Josh and I had always meant to read How to Make Friends and Influence People even though it’s cheesy, because people recommend it all the time–and I wanted to learn more about business development. Some of the tips seem obvious, like “don’t insult people,” but I guess that’s good advice.

Josh: It was interesting to read and talk about it and learn together. We took a classic and thought about how it applies to our modern technology approach. 

Gwen: With most of my learning budget, though, I got a year’s subscription to O’Reilly’s online resource, which basically gives access to every technical book ever published. It’s my favorite thing: you can read all the books online, and you can search the full text of books. It’s quality content that is peer-reviewed and written by experts in the field, so whenever there’s something I need to know, I use this instead of googling. I’m trying to learn Elixir, so I’m going through a few Elixir books right now. 

Do you want to work in an environment where experimentation and learning are a part of your day-to-day? Check out our current job openings on Greenhouse!

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