Yearly development momentΒΆ

Tags: nelenschuurmans, python

The company where I work, Nelen & Schuurmans asks you to fill in a “personal development plan” (in Dutch persoonlijk ontwikkelings plan, POP) every year at the start of the year.

I like filling it in every year. Like every company-wide form, there are problems with it, but I like the idea and what it gives me.

Others don’t like it. A colleague wrote a blog post about it which is interesting if you’re into personal development. His core argument, if I summarize it correctly, is that personal development should be a continuous process. And anything that hints at time limits, like a yearly form does, is inherintly bad as it restricts you in your development.

The second problem he mentions is that it is a personal development plan. Where is the team in that? Where is the company in that?

I myself am, in contrast, quite positive about the yearly form. Thinking about it, I guess the main reason is that I’ve got a different attitude towards the yearly development plan.

  • I agree that personal development should be continuous. I always develop myself continuously, a form won’t change that positively or negatively.

  • It is essential for me to step back a bit from the continuous development once in a while. What am I learning? What is my direction? What am I ignoring? I’ve got limited time, so a bit of focus is needed. A yearly development plan is a nice trigger, a nice moment, to take a higher-level view. I do it more often than once a year, but this way I’ve at least got a yearly trigger.

  • It is a form I fill in for the company. So I naturally think about the company and the team. What is the direction we should take? What is my opinion? What should we focus on? I then translate that to what I could do.

  • Something I really need to put in more effort and attention: REST APIs. Consuming them and building them. So I’ve put that forth as a focus for me this year. (At the same time this sneaks in the suggestion that it’d be a good focus for the company.)

  • Hey, a form where the company asks me how it can help me to develop. In other words, I can give them a shopping list. I’ll develop myself just fine, but, yes, there are things the company can help me with:

    • I’d love to attend djangocon.eu again this year. I’ll learn a lot there and meet people and sharpen my understanding and opinions. And as I make blog summaries of all the talks, the rest of the team profits. (So: allow me to go and pay for it).

    • This year I want to improve my generic geographical IT knowledge by attending the German-spoken fossgis conference in Berlin (a cheap one: 140 Euro for three days. Add a hotel and a train ticket and you’re done). I attended once before and as a team we got for instance the useful mapproxy out of that one. That one sure saved us a lot of money in the Deltaportaal project!

    • There are a bunch of backend systems and unglamorous necessary behind-the-scenes technology at our company. Our internal sentry instance hasn’t been updated in a year. Who is going to get it going again? Last year, buildout moved to version 2 and at the same time the distribute/setuptools unfork happened. I spend a bunch of time making sure it all kept working for us. Not many have the interest or inclination to do this kind of work and I like it.

      So... in the interest of the company and the team and in the interest of sharpening my own skills, I’d like to regularly spend time on it. So I’ve requested a weekly time budget! Some of that time goes to regular maintentance work, but, and that’s my motivation: some of the hours I spend are going to save the team even more hours of work! Some of the work I do makes others’ work easier. A bit extra attention to a README.rst can mean the difference between “blech, how does this work” and “hey, I can easily fix up this debian package myself”.

  • Hey, the “top brass” is going to read this document. So I take the opportunity to state some preferences and my opinion on the direction and make a comment on one of the company policies. A form like this is the perfect opportunity :-)

Now does it work? Such a form? Well, it works in that it got me standing in front of my whiteboard at home from 21:00 till 3:00 in the night... Thinking deeply about my job :-) And that’s a good thing: doing some explicit thinking!

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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