How to run a successful Technical Lunch and Learn

17.03.2020 | 3 min read

In these times of uncertainty caused by the spread of COVID-19, we’ve found it important to maintain a sense of normality, through continuing some of the workshops and events (albeit remotely) that we have always enjoyed and benefited from. One of these are our Lunch and Learns.

We’ve had lots of positive feedback on our technical Lunch and Learn sessions since we started running them back in 2016, so we thought it was high time to share some of our experiences with you on what has worked, what hasn’t, and how you can ensure that your staff make the most of these learning experiences, particularly if you’re now working fully remotely.

But first things first – what is a Lunch and Learn? These sessions have different names in various companies, but they’re essentially open, and usually informal gatherings over lunch during which bring people together from across your business with the aim of learning about a given topic. If conducted well, they can drive personal, team and business growth. But ensuring effectiveness is a challenge.

Our Developer Wojtek Kulikowski who has been running our Web Lunch and Learns for the past year, gives you his tips on how you can make these as good as they can be.

What prompted 10Clouds to start a Lunch and Learn program?

In 2016, we were already a company with a large development team spread across three offices, and we realised that we had experts in our midst on a huge range of subjects. We were determined to invest more in the learning and development of our staff, and we thought that aside from external training courses, and books, a great way to promote learning is through internal knowledge sharing.

What have you found to be the main benefits of running Lunch and Learn sessions?

There are loads of benefits, but I feel that the main ones are:

  • The possibility of meeting co-workers who work on a range of different projects, different to your own.
  • Being up to speed with all of the latest technologies. In the world of software development, something is always changing, and it’s important to stay on top of these changes.
  • A way of inducting and upskilling junior developers and designers.
  • For the host, it’s a great method of gaining experience in public speaking, the delivery of presentations, improving self-confidence and building interpersonal skills

What advice do you give to your hosts? Is there any specific preparation that they should do before a session?

Our aim is to keep the sessions as open and relaxed as possible, so we don’t have any rigid frameworks for preparation. Most of our hosts do a simple slide-show, which can then be easily shared on our internal messaging system. We always ask for the code to be written out in large font so that it’s visible when the presentation is streamed. We allow up to five hours of non-billable time for preparation.

How can colleagues access the Lunch and Learn?

They can do so in person of course, but it’s also streamed remotely. At 10Clouds, many of our developers work remotely to some degree, and are based in various different locations. Lunch and learns are a great way for them to be able to come together wherever they are, and participate in a peer-run training session.

How do you select the right topics and speakers for your Lunch and Learn?

Often these topics are generated organically, usually through projects that we’ve been working on. If we know that there is somebody new who has joined the team and is an expert in a particular language or framework, we might ask them whether they would like to host a lunch and learn. We also keep our ear to the ground when it comes to news of new technologies, particularly on the very useful resource, Hacker News.

We hope that you find the above points useful. If you have your own ideas for how to run your own effective internal training sessions, we would love to hear from you.

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