At Promaton we finish every single quarter with a dedicated growth week. It has proven to be one of the best investments we ever made in our people, and therefore our company. Simply put, during our growth week:

  1. We free up the entire week from your regular work. There are no meetings, and no deadlines. If you have outward facing responsibilities (customers, candidates, etc), we try to minimize the time you need to spend on that.
  2. You can spend all that time on any topic or project that you think makes you a better at your job, makes Promaton’s products better, or makes Promaton better as a company. That’s right. Any topic. Any project. You choose.
  3. You’re free to team up (or perhaps create competitions).
  4. On Monday you present what your topic/project will be and what you hope to learn and accomplish. Then on Friday you present what you’ve learned, created or achieved.

This might sound like a radical idea, but it is in fact just a small step from what is already a proven concept in some of the leading engineering companies. The concept was pioneered by companies like Atlassian with their “Ship it days” and Google with their 20% rule, and manifests in most software companies as “Hackathons”. During a typical hackathon, the idea is that you can let go of all the normal work and work on any project (or theme) for a week. This spurs innovation, and leads to happy engineers. This is how we started at Promaton as well.

While the Hackathons were a success within Promaton, producing all kinds of innovation, interesting research, useful tools for daily use, and leading to very high employee satisfaction, we (the management team) saw two issues:

  1. It was exclusive to engineers, creating a bit of a privileged culture, in which only part of the team was enjoying this perk.
  2. The personal growth was limited to the domain of “software we can hack in a week”. This meant that studying fundamental topics or working on soft skills didn’t really happen.

As an experiment, we changed the hackathons to “growth weeks” and included the entire company. No exceptions.

We could not be more happy with the results:

  1. First and foremost, our people are growing and becoming a better version of themselves four times a year. This alone is reason enough to do it.
  2. Our people are very happy: they get four full dedicated weeks a year to invest in themselves. How’s that for a training budget!
  3. We see very hard problems being tackled, interesting books and courses being shared, and a lot of knowledge being injected into the company.

Let me give you an example of the things that have come out of these growth weeks:

  • Several new machine learning models that improved our products directly or improved our understanding of the tech for later planning
  • Inspiring presentations on positive psychology: knowing the traps of the human mind and how to avoid them (to live a more fulfilling life)
  • Many of our internal tools that make our day to day lives easier originated from a growth week. Things like easy ways to launch and share ML experiments and share the results within the company
  • A new way of organizing responsibility with our teams, to move towards a more “empowered team” structure, setting everybody up for more autonomy and success.
  • Several introductory courses into AI; improving the understanding throughout the company of what the AI engineers are doing

We would encourage everyone to give it a try! And if you’re not in a position to make this change at your company, share this blog post! Or you can of course join us! Check out our vacancies at https://careers.promaton.com/

Cover photo by Aaron Burden

This post was originally posted on Promaton’s tech blog

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