Why write a company tech blog?

For a long time I’ve felt about writing a blog the same way I feel about Twitter: I love the idea of it, I just don’t have anything useful to say. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it:

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.

As you find yourself reading this, it is safe to assume I’ve found something useful to say (or believe I have at least). I’m the Lead Developer at Tech Will Save Us and we’ve decided to launch a tech blog to talk about what we do, how we do it, why we do it and the things we learn along the way. This inaugural post outlines why we decided to start this blog and what we think it can achieve; hopefully in the future it will inspire others to do the same.

Writing my first blog post

So why do I finally have something to say? Due to our early(ish) adoption of new technologies and our desire to create amazing experiences for our users, we often find ourselves doing weird and wonderful things with tools that might not necessarily have been done before. Documenting and sharing our experiences could surely help those who come after us. This provides the first motivation for writing a tech blog:

Contribution to the community

We’re a small team that likes to make big things happen. Our ability to do so is greatly aided by the flourishing ecosystem of modern JavaScript. Not just the plethora of awesome open-source frameworks (React, React Native, Electron etc.), or the open-source libraries without which we would be simply unable to produce the experiences we do (e.g React Drag and Drop, Lottie React Native) but also the proliferation of helpful guides, tutorials and blog posts that are available to steer us through the often murky waters. We owe this community a debt.

Two years ago we used Electron to build a cross-platform desktop app that allows us to communicate between the browser and USB devices, so kids could program their Mover Kits. Last year we built our first React Native app, a visual storytelling experience to guide kids through the Dough Universe. Both Electron and React Native are relatively new technologies that enable JavaScript developers to work on an unfamiliar platform. This results in people without a massive amount of confidence and base-knowledge working with a technology where the way to do things is not always obvious or easy.

So you get into crazy situations where you’re able to build an animated story-telling framework in a week, but working out how to have your logo appear nicely when someone opens your app takes three times as long. When you’re in the midst of one of these issues you feel lost, frustrated, and demotivated and your productivity plummets. So once we’ve figured it out we want to ensure no-one has to go through the same experience we did.

In terms of knowing whether we’re actually contributing by writing a blog post, I figure it’s worth it if we’ve just solved a problem that:

  • Took a long time
  • Has a relatively concise and transferable solution
  • Has limited/no documentation or online discussion
  • Is likely to be something that other people will want to do in the future

Overall this altruistic desire is great, but we’re a startup and we have a load of things to do and not very many people to do them. If we’re going to take time away from our projects to start blogging, we should be able to justify it to ourselves and to the business. So I believe the first major benefit to the business is:

Increased company profile

We spent the first half of last year recruiting new members of the tech team and we got a surprisingly low number of applicants for what I would consider a dream offering: Modern tech stack, building fun products, working with hardware, creative design-led company, making a positive impact on the world, the opportunity to see my face every morning…

As a result of this we’ve decided to make extra efforts to increase our presence in the tech world. People should be aware of who we are and what we do. An increased tech presence through people reading our blog, will hopefully get more people excited to work with Tech Will Save Us.

There’s two ways that might play out, firstly someone might be reading one of our blog posts and think to themselves “Who are these super-awesome people at Tech Will Save Us? This seems like somewhere I’d like to work, I wonder if they have any job openings?”. The second way assumes someone has come across a few of our posts in the past, and then upon seeing one of our job ads think to themselves “Oh! That’s that company that writes incredibly informative and witty blog posts, I must apply immediately!”. They might do neither but end up buying a few of our kits for the kids in their life.

In reality though making people aware of your company’s existence is one thing, but convincing them to apply to work with you and then to devote a significant amount of their life to sitting next to you is another thing. Which leads me to providing:

More information for job applicants

I’m a bit of a stalker when it comes to deciding to work for a company. I’ll look up the team, what they do, who they are, what interviews or presentations they’ve got on YouTube etc. All this is an attempt to make myself more informed about the company and the people within it. I find this kind of information gives you a true insight into your potential team.

Some information you get from the job advert, some from the website, some from the press, some from the slightly awkward questions you ask at the end of an interview. You end up making a decision that has a very significant impact on your life without a lot of info and after a very limited set of interactions with your future team members. Hopefully our blog can provide another avenue for applicants to learn about us and ultimately feel more comfortable in their decision-making.

There’s another side to this too: I’m a white, British, middle-class male with a degree from Oxford University, I’ll apply for whatever job I want and I’ll be fine. People from different backgrounds might not have the same confidence that I do to apply and might be more concerned about the team or environment in which they would be working. My theory is that if people can have more of an insight into the work we do and the culture we have, they will be more comfortable applying to work with us.

So hopefully we’ll be giving back to our lovely community and at the same time improving our ability to hire a talented and diverse team of people. Sounds great, although it’s probably quite a lot of effort writing a load of blog posts, who can really be bothered? Which brings me on to my fourth and final point:

It’s great for the team

Blogging should be a fun activity, that’s away from what we usually do and gives us a chance to exercise different brain muscles. It’s a good chance to work on a different set of skills:

  • Creative writing
  • Communication of technical subjects
  • Internet humour

Having opportunities to do this regularly at work should help build everyone into more rounded and multi-talented people, and make our work a more enjoyable experience.

Having a great time blogging

So it’s essentially win, win, win. As a team we get to do something fun, that uses a different part of our brain, we get to give back to a burgeoning tech community that has given us so much and we can justify it to the business as it will raise our profile and improve our hiring efforts.🤞

So here we are with my first ever blog post and the birth of the Tech Will Save Us Tech Blog. Thanks for reading.

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