An alternative to corporate training

So, a couple of months ago, just before summer, I started a new part-time project with a financial services provider here in the Netherlands. They were looking for someone to help two of their testers grow into automation engineers, and someone else within the company (who I worked with on a different project ages ago) referred them to me.

Now, apart from the corporate training courses that I provide, I’ve done some 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 mentoring earlier in this year, but the time we would be able to spend together was much more limited, i.e., about an hour, sometimes 2, per week. This engagement, however, would be for a full day every week, which obviously means there’s much more time for learning, for practicing, for building solutions, etc..

I think it’s amazing that there are still companies out there that want to invest in this way in their employees. I mean, it’s not cheap to hire someone like myself for 8 hours per week, for 5-6 months (right now, the contract we’ve got runs until the end of 2023), all to train two of your engineers in test automation.

But I think it is a very smart move from this company.

First, they agreed to onboard me as any other contractor they bring in, meaning I have access to their systems, their applications and their environment. This makes a big difference in the effectiveness of the training and the learning we do together.

Normally, as a trainer, I don’t have this kind of access, which means that the exercises we run in a ‘standard’ corporate training session will be hypothetical and fabricated by me. I’ve learned that one of the biggest drawbacks here is that it’s often hard for people, especially those less experienced, to relate what they see and learn to their daily work.

In this case, however, we are working in their environment, writing tests against their systems, from day 1. This means that every exercise we do, and every test we write, brings value in two different ways:

  • That test teaches their engineers something they didn’t know how to do before, and thereby improves their knowledge, experience and skill set, AND
  • That test increases the coverage of their actual systems

But it gets even better, since we run all tests as part of an automated nightly build, so that test delivers value over and over again. And yes, of course the engineers also learned how to set this up themselves. They did all the work, I just showed them how.

We could have never created this value, and this connection between what the engineers learned and how to apply that to their own daily work, in a ‘traditional’ corporate training course.

A second reason why I think this is a very smart move from this company is that it shows their employees that they are really willing to invest in their growth and their career. Having been an independent consultant for close to 10 years now, I’m not too familiar anymore with the way full time employment works, but I’m pretty sure that these engineers will not complain about the opportunities to learn new things that their employer gives them. It certainly beats giving someone a Pluralsight account and an instruction to ‘go figure it out yourself’.

So, that’s a lot of value for the company, and I think it’s a great return on the (again, substantial) investment that they are willing to make.

Seeing these engineers grow more skilled and more confident from week to week is amazing, and it makes this gig one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in my career so far. I get to work with others and see them grow, I get to see how a reputable company approaches their testing and automation, I learn new things myself as well, and I get paid for it. Not bad!

I’d love to work with more companies and their engineers in a similar way in the future, so I’ll definitely start spreading the word about this project (this blog post is just one of the ways to do that) and see if there are other companies out there that are interested in investing in their employees in this way.

Again, it’s not cheap, especially compared to a Pluralsight or Udemy account, or even compared to a ‘traditional’ corporate training course for a larger group of people, but the return on investment is way, way better.

So, if you read this and you or your company is looking to grow a few (I’d say max 3) of your engineers in a similar way, please do get in touch. I’d love to have a chat and see if we can work together.