All good technologists are hungry to improve. Your team wants to succeed with test-driven development, with continuous integration, with infrastructure automation, and with Scrum and story writing. We have a long history of mentorship at West Arete, and we are adept at working side-by-side with teams to help them gain traction and deeply understand these techniques.
Often you know you have the right individuals on your team — they have the right talent and the right motivation. They have aptitude and learn from standard materials well. But they’re stuck in their technical progression. Perhaps delivery time has been slowing down, or quality is not where you’d like it to be. Or a new initiative is simply taking too long to gain traction.
Unlike getting familiar with a new library or package, there are some skills that don’t lend themselves well to learning via a book, tutorial, or seminar. And simply spending more project time in isolation doesn’t help either. These are often the skills that require a fundamental shift in thinking, like functional programming; or a fundamental shift in habits, like test-driven development.
For these scenarios, the developer should get as familiar as possible with the new technique or technology using high-quality learning materials, and then once a plateau is being reached, it’s a good time to introduce mentoring. This is the boost that helps people get from beginner to intermediate.
Our mentoring approach relies heavily on pair programming. One of our developers will pair regularly with one of your team members for a substantial duration. They’ll be working on a real project that delivers value to your organization.
Our clients will often pair mentoring with our application development services or a service contract. This helps your team build new skills and habits on the exact code that they will eventually be maintaining themselves. This can provide an excellent roadmap if the strategy is for West Arete to provide a boost to your team and then gracefully transition out.
By pairing shoulder-to-shoulder (whether virtually or in person) for weeks or months at a time on a valuable project, messy and relevant real-world problems are encountered — the kinds of problems that require experience and a judgement call, rather than a hard-and-fast rule. There’s room for the subjective philosophical discussions that will help to define the person’s future style. It provides the opportunity for habits to transfer and grow. And it uncovers those invaluable “aha” insights that you won’t find anywhere else — “so that’s how people do it”.
West Arete has always been an application development firm, with an emphasis on pair programming and collaboration.
Perhaps your team is struggling to make the transition to Test Driven Development (TDD); some team members have made the transition and some haven’t, and there’s tension between the two sides.
Or perhaps your team is making the transition from procedural languages to an object-oriented language, or from object-oriented languages to a functional language. These transitions are less about changing languages and more about changing your entire way of thinking about programming problems.
The push towards Continuous Integration can also impact a developer’s daily habits. We can help to guide incremental changes that allow developers to make the transition so that they’re confidently deploying weekly, or even multiple times per day.
The DevOps world has been one of the more exciting areas of technology during the last few years. With the advent of tools like Terraform and Vault, and entirely new layers like containerization, entire categories of problems are being solved at a pace that would have been unthinkable several years ago.
Review our DevOps capabilities page. West Arete has been building automated solutions for university infrastructure since day one. Coupled with our knowledge of application development and our emphasis on collaboration and teaching, we can teach DevOps expertise with a broad perspective that few firms can match.
Our team has always relied heavily on Scrum in order to predictably deliver working software, even while the vision of the end result evolves. We have a Scrum Master and Product Owner on staff, certified by the creator of Scrum.
There is certainly an art to these roles, and to introducing Scrum to your organization. We’ve found that while good schooling and education provides an important foundation, there’s no match for peer support and advice on how to implement Scrum for your particular team and environment.
Given the sheer volume of projects that West Arete has done over the years, we can provide a valuable perspective on where your team might develop some best practices that are suited to your situation.
Interestingly, the progression of an intermediate developer to a true expert often involves more giving than receiving. Once your developer as acquired all of the skills and techniques that they can from pairing with our team, they’re usually in a good position to begin mentoring to junior developers within your own organization. Over time, this process of explaining, writing, and demonstrating provides the pattern recognition and insights to boost them to the next level. We can provide coaching for this progression as well.
The first step is often a zero-pressure phone call to answer questions and explore whether we both feel that there could be a fit.