Change in our technical environment isn’t a constant, it’s exponential. The opportunities to learn must not only provide the ability to outpace change, but also provide the knowledge and skills to become the ones accelerating change through innovation.
For the April TechKnowCon Roundtable, we invited Alex Krupp (Sr. Product Manager) and Morgan Da Costa (Sr. Program Manager) from Spotify to share how Spotify creates a collaborative environment through peer to peer learning to speed up their innovation.
Why Collaborative Learning
Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, once stated change is inevitable and is the only constant. Companies and teams, especially in the tech world, need to be prepared to thrive in an ever-changing environment. Creating and fostering a stronger learning culture and giving the R&D organizations the tools they need to upskill and reskill became a very important key in helping their teams meet new challenges. In order to help their developers innovate faster and to keep up with the ever changing world, Spotify leans on their collaborative learning culture.
When Spotify thinks of a collaborative environment, they specifically focus on peer to peer learning. “Collaborative” is one of their company’s core values, so it’s natural that it plays a significant importance throughout their day to day operations. Spotify sees three significant ways their collaborative learning fosters innovation:
- It creates larger knowledge networks
- It reduces bottle necks
- It promotes aligned autonomy throughout the organization
Back in 2016, Spotify engineers created a grassroots course called Data University. Data U allowed data engineers to share their knowledge and skills with other engineers and helped to bridge a gap in data engineering skills at the company. It was successful and was off to a great start, but they needed to figure out how to scale the program.
The answer to this was to create a larger Tech University. To that end, Alex Krupp founded Tech Learning in 2018, a team that builds courses created by Spotifiers (their employees) for Spotifiers to increase the breadth and the depth of the employees’ technical skill sets. This year, the team is poised to offer 40+ unique courses and bootcamps that teach the students how to do things the Spotify way, allowing Spotifiers to make an immediate impact. As more and more Spotifiers participate, the network of knowledge starts to expand in the company.
Another way Spotify’s knowledge network scales is with the help of “Tech Learning Toolkits.” Though Spotifiers are able to participate in multiple courses through Tech Learning, the best practices and course development tips in the Toolkits empower squads (teams within Spotify) to build their own training, and help the scalability of peer to peer learning throughout the organization.
Spotify also believes that the majority of learning should take place on the job or in social settings. To that end, in early 2020, Spotify spun up a squad to build a new tool that serves as a marketplace for on-the-job and social learning opportunities called Skill Exchange.
On-the-job learning is constant, but ne unique way Spotify supports this concept is through embeds that can be found on Skill Exchange. Embeds are intentional short-term, collaborative opportunities to work on another squad. By offering opportunities to work cross functionally, Spotifiers are able to learn about tech stacks used by other Squads, solve problems together, and share what they learned within their own squads. Not only do the participants learn from one another, but experts at the company are empowered to share their knowledge that will contribute to the knowledge growth of the engineering team overall.
By providing the opportunity for Spotifiers to connect with one another faster and more effectively through different channels, they are empowering Spotifiers to share knowledge, learn from each other, and ultimately speed up innovation, and by helping increase team independence and speed of knowledge sharing, more teams are able to thrive with less reliance on others.
Impact of their offerings at Spotify
By offering multiple opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing by peers for peers, Spotify is able to support Spotifiers to keep up with the fast paced and constantly evolving world of tech.
Tech Learning and Skill Exchange bothhelp democratize knowledge and create opportunities for Spotifiers globally to answer questions, solve problems together, share knowledge, and expand their skill sets for the sake of the greater good for the company.
At Spotify, they are intentional about fostering a collaborative engineering and learning culture to support innovation despite constant change.