The Internal Meetup Experiment

Peter Finn
Jan 31, 2019 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Every company struggles to find alignment in their engineering teams as they scale from a small start-up into medium or large-sized organizations. The early days are incredibly exciting. The speed at which you can build new features is a rush of adrenaline not found in most larger companies. However, after you find market fit, you might start to see a change as your team scales to meet demand.

Fast forward an entire year: you’re adding React to your tech stack because suddenly your JavaScript framework is dead. Someone introduced JavaScript linting while you weren’t looking and prettier code formatting is now preventing you from merging your pull requests. You’re investigating GraphQL to add as a data-fetching layer because AJAX isn’t quite cutting it. Your unit test tool has changed three times, plus even more chaos hiding just under the surface.

Suddenly you’re hearing the same thing from every developer.

“Does anyone know what the heck is going on?”

You used to have three engineering teams, and best practices were up to whoever was writing the code. It was never really a problem, and when it became an issue you could figure it out with a small discussion. However, as you grow, you might start to recognize a more desperate need for standardization. This transition away from cowboy coding will help you immensely as you scale your teams, but it will, unfortunately, come with some real growing pains.

In the case of our frontend ecosystem, things were changing so fast and so frequently that developers had trouble keeping up. As a result, we tried to put Team Over Self to solve this issue of fragmented standards and knowledge for the organization as a whole.

Image for post
Image for post
SalesLoft Core Values

When we put our heads together to try to solve this issue, we realized that we really needed something more than documentation or slack channels could provide; a platform for discussion, debate, and a more personal learning experience.

Enter the Internal Frontend Meetup, also known as a Knowledge Feast, (the term Lunch and Learn doesn’t quite capture the spirit of this event). The Knowledge Feast is something we hold for around one and a half hours, beginning at lunchtime, on Tuesday once a month.

We use this time to host two large presentations and a few smaller lightning talks. Our larger presentations are focused on new technologies, best practices, or tools that we’re introducing or investigating for SalesLoft engineering. The lightning talks can be about anything that’s new or exciting in the frontend world and are great for injecting some energy in the middle of each large presentation. The entire UI Engineering team is standing by, integrated into the crowd and ready to support anyone who gets lost, answer questions, or debate our ideas.

Image for post
Image for post
The only constant on the Web is Change

Now, some of you might still be wondering how a glorified lunch and learn helps your team with managing change. After all, getting your entire engineering team together for an hour and a half is an incredibly expensive meeting just to share best practices.

At SalesLoft, we’ve found these Internal Meetups to be pretty successful ways to share information with a large group of engineers, although we’re constantly trying to improve as we go. There are a lot of benefits, both technical and strategic, that we’ve found.

  1. Better alignment of best practices by guiding engineers through new tools and best practices
  2. Helps your engineers practice their public speaking skills, and perhaps even sparks them to submit similar talks to conferences
  3. Empowering non-UI Engineers at SalesLoft to dig in and experiment with our newer Frontend technologies
  4. Recording these presentations serves as an easy teaching tool for your new engineers (Having this as an onboarding tool is invaluable)

…and more!

We use our Internal Frontend Meetup as a chance to get together and guide engineers through the tough topics, having UI Engineers standing by to help them when they get lost. We also use this as an opportunity to share our ideas about the future and get feedback from our peers in an open environment. We’re not just having a lunch and learn; we’re helping support our engineers through the stages of change to a place of experimentation and integration.

If you’re finding that you’ve got similar growing pains, give this a try at your organization!

SalesLoft Engineering

Peter Finn

Written by

Software Developer & Travel Enthusiast

SalesLoft Engineering

Working to bring you delightful features and solve complex problems - guided by our company's core values. Learn about the unique challenges, perspectives, and decisions of our team of engineers, architects, product managers, and designers.

Peter Finn

Written by

Software Developer & Travel Enthusiast

SalesLoft Engineering

Working to bring you delightful features and solve complex problems - guided by our company's core values. Learn about the unique challenges, perspectives, and decisions of our team of engineers, architects, product managers, and designers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store