Masha Reko - Apprenticeship Blog

What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing. (Aristotle)

Day 73 and 74: Masterpiece Thoughts

Only two days left until the start of the Masterpiece Phase, and to be honest I feel the level of stress rising with each passing day. I don’t know what exactly is making me feel this way. Perhaps it’s the time limit, or the fact that I still don’t know what exactly I’ll be working on, or my huge wish to deliver something that will make a mark on the company, however small. On the other hand, most probably it’s the combination of all of the above.

In an attempt to lower the pressure, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past two weeks contemplating what I’ve seen in the company so far, and what I could possibly do to make at least one teeny tiny part of it even better.

And this is what came to my mind.

First, this is a company that strongly promotes learning and knowledge sharing. Just the fact that this Apprenticeship program is the only one of its kind in Germany (and the majority of Europe) says a lot. Then there are slack days, pairings, mob programming sessions, and so on - each of them encouraging the employees to work together and learn from each other. Why don’t we make this knowledge sharing even easier? Wouldn’t it be great if I could have one place where I could say: “Give me a person in the Munich office that knows Scala” and immediately get an answer? There were attempts to create something like this through a simple Excel sheet, but - honestly now - who has the time or will to browse through a very boring document like that?

Second, what I really think would go well with the skill sharing feature is being able to give recognition to someone that helped you in the time of need. It wouldn’t just be a soulless endorsement like on Linkedin, but something more personal - a positive review of sorts. After all, HolidayCheck is the place you go to for reviews, is it not? Why don’t we make these reviews serve another important purpose - encouraging each other, praising each other, pushing each other forward - while making all that transparent, and therefore more meaningful.

Then we can make all of it go even one step further: through recognitions, promote our company values; promote team work, promote trust, promote courage, promote loving what we do. And the best thing is: we can do all this with a single app!

This is how the idea for my masterpiece was born: have an internal platform with three major features:

  • Skill Sharing, that allows employees to add their own skills and enables them to search for other employees depending on the skill they need
  • Recognition System, that allows employees to give recognition to each other for a job done well
  • Achievement System, that allows an employee to earn a badge representing a company value (for example: if you get 10 recognitions for project work, you get a badge for Team Work)

There are three problems with this idea, though:

  • Limited amount of time. Would I be able to deliver all this in two months? Perhaps not all of it, but a nice-looking MVP I can certainly do. If we make this a team project (it is possible that my fellow apprentice Anastasia joins as well), we can deliver even more. Therefore if I decide to go for it, I’ll have to find a way to realistically plan what I can do, and what I can’t.
  • Authentication. How do I handle authentication in my system? Who creates the accounts? Ideally, employees would be able to log in with their company accounts, but I don’t know if that is managable in this case. Would it be enough if instead I had my own database and an administrator that creates the accounts for the employees?
  • Promotion. How do I inspire people to use my system? This is something I haven’t really thought about at all. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that something like this would be a part of my Masterpiece (at least not during the two months that I have for it). Of course, I understand that talking to the stakeholders and seeing their needs is an important part of every software project, and that I cannot just program something because I personally like it. There has to be a need for it and it has to provide some value. I just don’t know if I can manage both promotion (that I have zero experience in) and development (in the technologies that I’m fairly new to) in just two months. But then again, even if I change the idea entirely, the issue of promotion still remains. All this is kind of discouraging, to be honest. And I don’t know what to do about it.

So how do I proceed with this? Well I talked to some people in the office and they seemed to like the idea, so I won’t just give up on the first obstacle. The plan is to go to the HR department tomorrow, try to pitch the idea to them, and see how things unfold. Maybe someone there sees value in it and decides to help me with the promotion part, who knows. Fingers crossed, as I would really love to develop a system like this. The alternative is to continue working on an already existing system and add features to it, which is certainly nice and useful; however, I wanted to have something of my own - my very own baby. And this idea seemed like a perfect opportunity for it.

In any case, whatever happens, I’ll keep you posted :)