Like most other consultants at Redpoint, I’m on a small team at a client site. Many of us are working on interesting projects. We’re encouraged to keep our skills sharp and continue to learn. Many of us have personal projects or side projects as a way to do this. Some of these projects are commercially successful while others are just for fun. In our ranks are folks who put on conferences, lead user groups, and are leaders in their disciplines and various technologies. We come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of interests. I am fortunate to work with a lot of very bright people from whom I can learn a lot. Unfortunately there aren’t very many opportunities for us to get together as a group and get into any of this stuff.
I have young children, including one in his second year of pre-school. He seems to enjoy it. He especially enjoys when it’s his turn to bring home the Sharing Bag. The Sharing Bag is his school’s version of Show & Tell – bring something from home to share with the class that you think is interesting or cool or whatever.
Enter the Show & Tell.
Earlier this year, we put out our first call for participants for a Show & Tell and got quite a few responses. We had no set meeting format. We only knew we would get together in some open workspace in our office after hours and do what we learned how to do in pre-school: get up in front of everyone and share. Anything even remotely relevant to our work as developers would qualify.
We saw many very interesting projects during our first session. Among them were a social media aggregator, a couple of mash-ups using geolocation data from the City of Chicago, a video game, a side project for a restaurant, and an arduino-based DIY Segway clone. A second session was held last week. There we saw an interesting and possibly first-of-its-kind solution to a complex problem for a client project, an overview of some emerging technologies, and a web sockets-based presentation server.
More importantly, at these sessions, each of us got an opportunity to share a skill or an interest that we have that we might not normally get to use at work, and through that each of us was exposed to a wider variety of technologies and real uses for those technologies – all of which makes each of us more effective at our craft. Any of these projects could provide a starting point or influence a solution for a client, or inspire a new project from any one of us.
So, why re-invent the wheel? Something that many of us learned when we were just starting to attend school and interact with our peers continues to be an effective way to share interesting material with and learn from each other, benefitting everyone involved.