Way back in December of 2017, I wrote about an awesome activity that developers at gap intelligence get to participate in, called Dev Days. Check out all the juicy details here. Although we loved our Dev Days back then, we’ve since then altered our process, and made some tweaks that have netted some great results.
Before I explain the changes we made, let me first recap the original format. Once a month developers at gap get to work on any passion project they’d like to. You can pair up with another teammate or go on a solo mission. It’s your chance to shine and improve your developer skills. You don’t necessarily need to write code on that day either, developers can choose to self-improve, which can include: reading a book, learning a new technology, trying a new programming language, listening to podcasts, etc.
The original Dev Day format was definitely a success for us. The proof is there with all of the great ideas, projects, and features that have been born out of Dev Days. So if Dev Day is so awesome, why did we make changes to it? There are several reasons why we chose to evolve our process. First, we found that once a month wasn’t the best cadence for us, there are times when we need to focus on getting features out the door. We love our clients and they are a priority, so sometimes Dev Days had to get pushed aside so that we can finish very important epics for the business. Once a month sounded great, but it wasn’t the most realistic.
Additionally, within the initial format, the rules were very flexible, in that you didn’t have to code/build anything on Dev Day. Even though learning in any capacity is a win for the company and the developer, we ultimately wanted to see more coding/building going on during Dev Days.
Change is Good
We collaborated as a whole team and developed 2 potential new formats to choose from and one of these ideas was unanimously voted in. The biggest change we made was splitting up the “learning” from the “building”. For the learning portion of this new process, each developer gets 4 hours a month to use, on company time, to “learn” anything they’d like. This is your time to read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a presentation, take a tutorial, learn a new language, etc. Perhaps even use some of that time to lay the foundation for your next Dev Day project. At the end of every other sprint (once per month), as a team, we talk briefly about the things we learned with our 4 hours of learning time. For the building portion of this new process, we now have a Dev Day every quarter, and its not just one day of building, its now 2 full days!! We then host our Dev Day demo for the entire company the following morning.
We have completed one of our new Dev Days so far, the results have been amazing!!! As the Dev Manager, I too get to participate and get to experience these Dev Days. We have identified some great benefits from our changes already. From a developer perspective, I felt that I was able to pace myself. With 2 days it also allows for pivoting if you need to change course along the way. The bottom line is, as a developer, I felt that with 2 days to work, I’d be able to demo something useful. In the original format, which was essentially a 6-8 hour all out sprint, it was much more difficult to get to a place where you would be able to demo something that you were trying to build. Another side effect was the quality of the code I was writing. When you are in a hurry, during a one day Dev Day, you don’t always end up with beautiful code. I will be honest though, with stretching out the event to 2 days, this naturally meant expectations would rise. That being said, there is nothing wrong with challenging your team to do great. And that’s EXACTLY what this team did….they rose to the challenge and produced some magic!!
Don’t just take my word for it, here is what our CEO Gary Peterson said following a Dev Day Demo:
“Boy oh boy, if you didn’t see today’s Dev Days demos, you missed a fireworks show.”
This is what it’s all about! I’m so proud to be a part of a team that’s willing to put in some hard work and create solutions that gets the whole company really excited! It’s days like this that propel the company forward, especially on a technical level. Speaking of these successes, let’s get into some of the recent Dev Day highlights.
The Highlight Reel
So far I have talked a lot about the changes we implemented, but I also want to make sure to highlight some of the deliverables that originated on Dev Day.
High Five is an internal tool, born on a Dev Day, that we initially built to help gappers manage and track their goals. This product has consistently been iterated on and now has all sorts of cool features, like managing quarterly reviews and an ideas section for gappers to share their ideas with the company. With the help of Aileen Bull & Shavkat Samatov, you can now like, upvote, tag, comment and filter ideas in this component. We even created a slack channel to keep gappers in the know.
A really cool feature added last Dev Day, was delivered by my teammate Jenny Pletner, which gave gappers the ability to give out virtual high five cards. gappers handed these cards out around the office when we wanted to recognize the great work of our coworkers, with everyone going remote we didn’t want to miss out on opportunities to let gappers know how awesome they are doing!
If you caught Joanna Sullivan’s blog recently you might have heard we have a new Tool coming to our Dashboard: Notes & Changes, where clients can quickly see what is happening in the marketplace, this was born on a Dev Day!
Most of our Dev Day projects are focused on our internal & external clients, but sometimes we come up with ways to improve our development process too. For example, one of our main projects has tons of data in it, so much that its almost impossible to download a copy of production-like data locally to your machine. So Aileen Bull, created a script that will generate a mini version of the production data to work with locally that will allow us to more easily work on features or the occasional bug.
The last Dev Day project I’ll highlight here, is of course my own. I spent the last few Dev Days working on a mobile application, written in Ionic, that helps people find products they are interested in.
I would love to shout out the Dev Day work from every member of our team, but some of those projects are still in their foundational phases and super secret.
Choosing to evolve our Dev Day process was a great idea. I can’t wait to see what the future Dev Days hold. All I know is, with our team of rockstars, the sky is the limit. Lets goooo!
For more than 17 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.