Think about tech as something fun

I held an internal Zapier workshop — and we learned much more than just how to create automations.

At PIRATEx, we regularly hold internal team workshops called PIRATE Universities, to spread the knowledge from one team member to the whole crew. Last week, it was my turn — and I wanted to empower the team to implement tech, automations and NoCode as part of their everyday work: as something fun rather than something scary.

In our case, when it came to tech, it usually looked like this: someone in the team would ask me if I could automate something — without having a clue about how it would work. There was always some kind of magic behind tech and automations, something they would not touch because they were afraid of breaking something. It was always a struggle when I or our developer had a day off or were sick — since nobody dared or was even able to touch the automations.

So, I set up a workshop on Zapier, the tool we use in almost all our tech processes that require or have the potential for some sort of automation. My goal was to encourage the whole team to think about their next task and whether they could automate it or not.

In the end, this goal seemed more like a secondary matter — and the key learnings we got out of the workshop were quite surprising.

If you think you don’t have anything to automize, think again.

This seemed rather obvious to me, but in the workshop, I caught myself thinking that the automation topic would not be important for the accounting team, since I had no idea which automations could be useful to them. I planned to walk the accounting colleagues through a few very simple zaps — like creating an asana task from an email in one click.

But, they came up with some ideas themselves: simple zaps like the reminder for people to upload their expenses in the accounting tool or the reminder to write down their project times. So they built a few automations for stuff like that and customized the bot messages with icons and funny texts. So simple, yet it solved quite an annoying problem for them. When they tested their zaps and the slack messages popped up in the channels the whole team cheered for the accounting team.

The more you build, the more ideas you have.

I split the team into three groups in the beginning: the ones who had never seen Zapier before, the ones who knew about some simple automations but did not build a zap themselves before and the ones who were already familiar with Zapier and could build some zaps on their own already.

I thought that the pro group would require the most help from me, since their zaps were the most complex. But the nice thing about NoCode is that once you have a basic understanding of how you can connect different applications, you are able to explore much more on your own. And most importantly, you’re not afraid to try things out.

The three marketing colleagues had a great experimental session and came up with some really cool zaps connecting different apps we never used before, or never used before in the combination with Zapier and other zaps. It felt more like playing around together, building together — with the question “How can we achieve something?” in mind, rather than “what can I break?”. It was a really productive round, even if they did not finish their zaps completely, they went out with many new ideas for new marketing automations.

Building together strengthens the team

NoCode is about empowering people to automate tasks and have more time to spend on the important things. Building together as a team can be encouraging, create an atmosphere of fun and collaboration and enable everyone in the team to play around with software, trying out new things and feeling about tech as something fun rather than something scary or some kind of magic. Just like a hackathon, but for the whole team not only for engineers.

Even if that sounds rather obvious, the example with the accounting team from above showed me how important it is to build together from time to time. The Zapier expert in your team can’t possibly know which struggles every single team member has, especially if your company is bigger than 10 people. Building together gives you also a sense for what the other people in your company do. The understanding for each other that you get by building together can be, in my opinion, a great basis for a good team culture in any company.

Also, building together once again shows that it makes a huge difference, when more people in the team have the ability to build. If your team thinks about tech and automation as something fun, it will help them to focus on the tasks that really matter, find better solutions for not only tech problems, but also boost their creativity.

Long story short — if you haven’t tried out automations internally, do it now. If you haven’t built together with your team yet — what are you waiting for?

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