We actively use our 5 principles in all that we do. We use them in the work we do, working and interacting with teammates, clients, and our communities. Our principles are not vacuous mission statements but actual tools we use to simplify our decision making and bring focus to what’s important.
Our second principle is Share Our Knowledge and Expertise. Even if we are early in the learning process, we have things to share. That sharing will even reinforce what we’re learning. When we’ve gained a level of experience we’re able to help others, to lift them up, and bridge a gap for them. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert yet. No matter how much you know, there is someone who knows less and will be grateful that you shared what you know.
We spent the entire month of May focusing on this principle. That meant that we talked about it in our company retrospectives, in our engineering meetings, and in our 1-on-1s.
We started with a little bit of discovery. We first asked what forms our sharing might take. If you’d like to share your knowledge and expertise, consider these approaches:
- TIL-style - share a short bit on Twitter or dev.to. If that’s still a stretch, maybe share it to a Slack or Discord group you’re a part of (including internal to your company).
- Live Stream - live streaming is becoming more and more popular as a way to share the things we know and love. If setting up your own stream sounds like too much, you could try being a guest first and let the streamer carry the load.
- Pair up with a code school student or other "learner" - if programming is your thing, there is definitely someone out there who is trying to learn what you know. As I mentioned before, you don’t have to be an expert. There’s always someone more new than you.
- Videos - videos take a fair bit more time and effort but maybe the thing you want to share makes more sense as a video.
- Make notes as you go - maybe you don’t even have time to set aside to writing or creating something to share. Could you start by making a note or two throughout your day and then posting once to dev.to, or other platform, at the end of the week?
- Podcast - podcasting has exploded, especially with people sharing what they’re passionate about. My podcast player is full of podcasts about business, programming, game development, gardening, and nutrition. I might have a problem, but the point is that there is probably a podcast about anything a person would want to learn more about. If your knowledge can be shared audibly, try podcasting.
- Online course - this is another in the high-effort category but maybe you’ve got so much to share that there’s no way it fits in one blog post or one video. There are a lot of platforms just for creating online courses. They walk you through it and have a ton of helpful resources.
- Mastermind - masterminds are interesting because they can also be a co-sharing experience. Mastermind groups are typically peer-to-peer sharing around a particular concept. They show up a lot in business circles but there’s no reason you can’t have a goat-herding mastermind group.
- Blog post - this is probably one of the most common forms of sharing. If you’re reading this, odds are good that at some point in your life you started a blog. The internet is full of blogs about everything imaginable. If you really want a low barrier of entry, there are platforms that exist just to help you share. Dev.to is a great example.
- TIL Video - don’t want to hassle with all the production of a full video for Youtube? Pop open your favorite social network app and odds are that there’s a way for you to record a video right into it. If not, you probably have a device that can record a short video for you to upload to one of your social networks. Tik Tok has become a pretty popular place for these short, low production videos.
- Flash cards, creating a game, repetition tools - this is one of my favorites. All of the previous items are things you put out for people to consume. But what if you created something that people could interact with? A set of flashcards about the thing you want to teach could be just the angle someone has been looking for. Everyone learns in different ways. Consider if your knowledge translates to an interactable form.
- Repurpose content in different forms - if you’ve already created some content around your passion or knowledge, could it be repurposed in another form? Could the script of your video, or the transcript of your podcast, be turned into one or more blog posts? It’s great to have this supporting content for the original, as well.
One of the biggest blockers to any of these is time. We all have a finite number of hours in the day. We all have other things we have to do. When I asked the team to make the list you just read through, I specifically asked for the lowest barrier of entry approaches they could think of. The hope was that we could find something that anyone could feel like they could do.
The other major blocker is an expectation of quality. I know I’m guilty of this one. There are so many things that I didn’t even start because I didn’t think I would do it well enough. This is a scary mental place to be because the truth is that your first output could very well be awful. But the danger in it is that you don’t even start. I promise you that anyone you watch, read, or listen to today started with something terrible and got better. You can, too!
So what were the results of our focus on sharing knowledge? Massive delivery. Everyone started from where they were. Nobody set unreasonable expectations for themselves. They did what they could. And I couldn’t be more stoked to see what happened.
In the month of May, the ZEAL team delivered:
4 podcast episodes (http://podcast.codingzeal.com/)
6 blog posts (https://www.codingzeal.com/blog)
3 YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChoskCVZiIDTKxusGPPhLOg)
Here’s the really fantastic part of all of this: a year prior, those numbers would’ve all been zeroes and we have nearly the exact same team.
We didn’t fire everyone and replace them with content superstars (by the way, don’t do that). What we did was talk about sharing, figure out what people felt comfortable with, and invite them to share. When they were stuck or overwhelmed, I’d work with them to find an even more achievable step.
Every member of the team didn’t ship the same thing. They shipped the thing that they could. They took the step that they could. With the right support and encouragement, we’re all capable of sharing our knowledge and expertise.