Boris was an excellent senior developer when we promoted him to become a Team Lead. This position was suitable for him as it was the role that allowed him to use his potential and get the best out of the team he was leading. He knew how to listen to his team, develop their skills and knowledge and keep them motivated and engaged.
Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets an organization has. Companies that nurture and expand the knowledge of their employees are bound to be more successful than the ones who don’t. Here at Enlight IT, we understand the importance of knowledge particularly because of these reasons:
We don’t see this as a phrase — knowledge, its management and continuous improvement are integral to our company. When something is strategically important to you, you create a system around it, not just talk about it. This is why we decided to give Boris, our star team lead, the role of Chief Knowledge Officer. We envisioned this role as a step forward in structuring and improving our knowledge management process.
This might seem a bit strange because usually, it’s the HR department that's responsible for people development, but here we knew that Boris has a talent for developing people, and being one of the developers himself, he knows best how to manage and transmit knowledge and keep other developers motivated.
What does CKO usually do and what are the benefits of having this role? How did we get the idea to include it in our organizational structure? We thought the best person to explain this would be Boris Šijan, our CKO himself – so we talked to Boris about what he actually does and why it is important for the company.
B: My job is to organize and oversee the knowledge management process. That means I am creating and implementing programs that allow us to use and increase the value of the knowledge we have. I think it’s a perfect mix of theory and practice because it makes you think about your knowledge resources in the long term, but you still work on your goals by implementing various day-to-day activities that help us get to where we want to be.
I help our employees of all seniority levels create the right career development path for them, organize training and keep up with innovations in the industry.
In a nutshell, I do everything that’s required to help individuals and teams develop and increase their knowledge in a way that will develop them and the company the most.
B: Well, there is more than one way to manage knowledge. Different situations require different methods and we have many types of projects in place to ensure knowledge is flowing through the company. Some are more and some are less structured, some are seasonal, and others are on a weekly basis. Some of them are:
B: I believe there is a significant gap between the knowledge we get from the university and the knowledge we need for working on commercial projects. We understood this and we wanted to create an opportunity for young and fresh-out-of-the-college people – like Alex – to gain this other type of knowledge as a preparation for working with clients.
Moreover, we emphasize that this training should be personalized, so Alex would get a mentor who would help and guide him. At first, he would be working on an internal project as a way to prepare for working for clients. We don’t want Alex to be pushed into a high-responsibility project without preparing him for that kind of responsibility.
This is why our priority with new employees is to bridge this gap and upgrade the technical knowledge they have from the university with the necessary skills and knowledge for working on commercial projects.
There are three key points we focus on during the entry-level training:
So basically, Alex would spend a three-month period (or less, if we all realize they are ready before the three months pass) working on an internal project according to their personalized training plan and supervised by their mentor. During this time, we will work on developing his soft skills, as well as project management skills, and help them understand how it is to work on a project for a client and what to keep in mind.
After that, they will feel more prepared and confident in their abilities to work on commercial projects and our clients will work with a talented and motivated, but also skilled young person.
B: We continually follow all our employees' development. Team Leads have a crucial role in this – they can recognize their people’s talents and potential and help them develop them, or they can see if they are struggling with something and need additional help to overcome such obstacles.
This estimate is the key when creating the roadmap for a personalized training and career development plan. We will figure out together with Alex what they would like to specialize in, what kind of training they want or need and in which direction their career is going.
We also keep track and analyze what kind of employee profile we need. We define a set of skills needed for this based on our plans for the future and what is needed on the market so that employees can use that as a guidebook to choose in which direction they want their career at Enlight to go. It takes a lot of knowledge and data, but also a little luck to identify and foresee what requests the market will state and have people who have been prepared for that.
The motivation of our employees is another key aspect of this process. We want Alex to learn what he is interested in the most. We want them to develop in the direction they want, but we are here to guide them through that process by identifying what the company needs and what will be useful on the market.
B: Last year, we started cooperation with the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad through the FAROS program. The goal of this program is to provide practical experience to students and show them what it’s like to work in the IT industry. So, they come to Enlight on an internship that lasts for 6 months or longer. Their internship, in fact, resembles the entry-level training I described earlier. They work on a project they choose with their assigned mentor from the company, while also having an academic mentor (a professor or teaching assistant from their study program) so both aspects are covered.
One of the benefits is that they can use this project as their final thesis, while at the same time they get the scope of what it’s like to work on an actual project and are better prepared for when that time comes. Here they also go through reviews, they hold presentations and we have meetings where we discuss their project, so the experience they get is as close to working on a commercial project as possible. They also go through soft skills and project management training to complete this experience. So, our goal is to equip them with practical knowledge and useful insights so they will be better prepared to start their career once they graduate.
B: After each completed project we sit down and discuss the lessons we learned from that project. Here we ask ourselves questions like:
We also consider any challenges we faced and how we overcame them. The point is to turn that experience into knowledge that stays in the company and that we implement in every project that follows.
This practice of continuous improvement evolved into company culture, so this part just comes naturally. It existed much before the CKO position was created and it’s still one of the best methods for knowledge management.
Speaking of continuous improvement, it’s also important to mention regular meetings between the Team Leads. They have the best perception of the project and their input is priceless. These meetings allow us to identify possible challenges and exchange experiences from different projects. Then we adopt the best practices we learned and keep them in mind for any similar situations that might occur in the future.
B: There are several indicators we use to measure the success of our knowledge management processes:
B: I cooperate closely with HR. Together, we are a team whose task is to enable the best version of professional development for our employees. The role of HR is very important in aspects like organizing the internships and promotions, but also in developing the soft skills we mentioned earlier. The idea is to connect two spheres. I would bring technical knowledge and experience to the team since I was a programmer and a Team Lead for a long time before this role, and HR would be responsible for the training and organizational part of the process. So, as a CKO, I closely monitor our employees’ career and capabilities development and make sure they get the right and personalized opportunities to upgrade their knowledge and of course, I do that in close cooperation with HR.
B: I believe the need for this role evolved through our practices and company culture. Continuous improvement, helping our employees develop and grow, and managing knowledge allow us to solve the problems for our clients better and faster and to be competitive in the market.
The decision to have a person with a full-time job who is responsible for knowledge management says enough about the importance we put on knowledge in our company. I’m happy I got the chance to be our first CKO.