In the constant flux of software development, everyone involved in creating new technologies and features must adapt to changes or be left behind. One obstacle facing professional development is lack of support and/or guidance from management. According to a recent survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, only 26% of employers allow their employees to attend continuing professional education courses during business hours. However, all is not lost: change can come from within rather than management. Employees can take the reins of continuous improvement and generate positive change for themselves & their organization. In this session, the audience will learn how to implement a robust continuous improvement curriculum that can be integrated into an organization’s culture – one training class, one conference, one professional group at a time.


Outline/Structure of the Experience Report

I will be speaking from experience about developing a strong Continuous Improvement program at Huntington over the past four years. From the start, I was fighting an uphill battle to bring positive change. Two members of our company co-organized a local conference, yet had to take vacation days for the conference itself. Colleagues would not be reimbursed for the cost of conference tickets. Almost no one within IT attended conferences or professional groups, and only two actually presented (and they couldn’t even share the company name or that they worked for the company). Four years later, our company is sponsoring conferences and hosting professional groups. We had four speakers at the aforementioned conference and over 30 in attendance, all with tickets reimbursed & time billable to a task specifically named "Training". We support training and reimbursement for certifications (PSM, PSD, PSPO, CSQA, CSTE, CJE). We host a bi-weekly book club. We have external speakers come to present and host a monthly Women in Tech series. Our organization recently organized a Young Women in Tech Code Camp for Nepali-Bhutanese refugees, with eighteen(!) volunteers teaching a weeks worth of courses (link to news report here: Now, the momentum is working with us. All this from persistence and sustained success. I’ll be sharing that journey.

Presentation contents:

My Journey -- My start in research science, with a culture of learning & knowledge sharing inspired my present effort

Career Roadmap -- how to create a career roadmap as an individual or a manager to assist in professional development

Foundational Training -- establishing core learning objectives and actually training people on the job

Supplemental Training -- finding those bridges to allow people to shift from one career path to another within the company

Certifications -- a controversial topic to be sure based on personal belief about the value of certifications in the industry

Conferences & Professional Groups -- community outreach to create a culture of continuous learning

Book Club -- internal learning and interaction to bring people together from different departments

External Speakers -- bringing the conferences to your company

Learning Outcome

* Understanding of "development challenges" facing an individual and an organization (culture)

* Identification of Intrinsic Motivators

* Leveraging PDCA cycle to professional development

* Baselining & Benchmarking yourself and your company to build a continuous improvement curriculum

* Learn to uplift other members of your organization to develop a culture of learning

* Be persistent to overcome organizational inertia

Target Audience

Anyone with an interest in continuous improvement (which I hope is everyone)

Prerequisites for Attendees

The participants need only to attend with an open mind.

schedule Submitted 1 year ago

Public Feedback

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  • Thomas Haver
    By Thomas Haver  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply


    Thanks for your comments. It's not common for reviewers to provide feedback on conference submission.

    "What does the programmer need in order to succeed at this?"

    Here are the four primary pieces of advice:
    - Ground-up organizational change is incremental and iterative
    - Be persistent to overcome inertia
    - Create a Personal Development Plan. You are your own best investment.
    - Uplift other members of your team regularly. They will help create a culture of learning.

    It would be helpful for me if you would elaborate a little on what you have to say about each of the contents listed in your outline/structure.

    How much in my talk do you wish to reveal for the sake of reviewers versus the audience? I can provide a PDF of the presentation for review if you'll find that beneficial. If you deem it valuable enough for consideration, I can certainly update the abstract to be seen by conference attendees.

    To address some of your questions directly, the foundational training is conducted by the team members themselves, starting with the person devoted to creating a learning environment. We started by conducting lunch & learns, because this time cannot be claimed by management. People are free to do what they may with their lunch. If the topics are relevant to the interests of the team, attendance and participation can be built slowly over time. With regaards to Conferences and Professional Groups, the activities center around "Promote, Attend, and Present". First, individuals take initiative to start with local events -- both volunteering and attending at conferences -- either weekend conferences or taking vacation to attend during the weekday. Report back to the team and organization on the conference, either during team meetings or a simple email with PPT review of the event. The focus is on awareness at the beginning -- matching conferences an groups that are relevant to the organization. The growth comes from repeated requests to sponsor attendance, and speaking engagements. Persistence is key -- maintaining an active voice about local professional groups and conferences until participation grows and management recognizes the value of being recognized in the community.





  • George Dinwiddie
    By George Dinwiddie  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply


    What a fascinating story! I'm a person who created my own career development, without a roadmap, because of a deep interest in learning. When I was an employee, I found it difficult to generate interest in those who didn't share that deep interest, or in the organizations for whom I worked. This leaves me very intrigued by your session proposal.

    It's not clear to me who you're addressing in your abstract. It's certainly different trying to institutionalize learning from the role of programmer than from the role of manager or executive. What does the programmer need in order to succeed at this?

    The abstract is the place where you sell your session to the right prospective attendees. Help them recognize themselves and their situation, and tell them what benefits they'll get by attending. Give them enough information about the content to convince them that they'll get that benefit.

    It would be helpful for me if you would elaborate a little on what you have to say about each of the contents listed in your outline/structure. For some, such as "Foundational Training," I'm not sure who would be doing what, or how someone would make that happen in an organization that doesn't yet value learning. For others, such as "Conferences & Professional Groups," what activity do you propose and how do you get started?

    The outline/structure is the place where you sell your session to the reviewers. Help them recognize that you'll deliver on your abstract. Give them details about the content and the way that you'll present it to convince them that you'll do a good job.

    See also for an independent description of submitting a successful proposal.

    - George, AgileDC Program Chair

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