The Internal Meetup Experiment

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.

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.

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!



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Peter Finn

Peter Finn

Software Developer & Travel Enthusiast