People often wonder, why should we invest in people, what if they leave? Better ask yourself, what if you don’t, and they stay?

The Java unit at Ordina Belgium has always been amongst the most profitable and respected units of the entire group. Yet, we’ve seen a big change in management style a couple years back. While during the financial crisis the primary focus had to be on continuity and securing revenue, the last couple of years have been revolving around the people and their careers.

The Java unit has been rebranded to Ordina JWorks, a separate identity with a well-defined mission. We want to help our customer strategically, by co-creating solutions that help them disrupt their respective industry. To do that, we had to become thought-leaders in our field, recognised for our expertise by both the tech community and our customers.

In today’s market, hiring only the very best profiles doesn’t scale well. Hence, allowing people to grow is the only way forward. Aside from books and online courses, internal trainings and competence centers are a great way to get people to the next level. JWorks organises at least one training or knowledge sharing session a week. During winter and summer, entire training programs are being organised both for junior, medior and senior profiles.

This begs the question though, how do we keep these trainings relevant? The gap between repeating what others have said and found out, and actually performing new qualitative research, is what makes all the difference. Being able to experience learnings firsthand allows people to really dig into subjects and deeply understand the trade-offs and decisions that led to solutions we use today.

Part of researching a given topic consists of talking to international subject matter experts. Thanks to the open source community we get to work in, people are very approachable. It’s quite straightforward to get to know core committers, well-known architects or developer evangelists. Yet, the best way to really pick someone’s brain is to meet them face to face. JWorks facilitates this by sending our people to conferences and events around the world.

San Francisco, New York, Seattle, London, Barcelona, Las Vegas, Austin, Berlin, Kiev, Riga, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Washington DC; only a few of the cities we’ve frequented during the past couple of years. We encourage people to take a couple days extra to enjoy the city and do some sight-seeing. Conveniently labelled “learning holidays”, this type of trips really create a community feeling inside the company. If people are having fun, they’ll be much more motivated to go the extra mile.

Upon return, the accumulated knowledge gets put into good use by giving input in training material, creating blogposts with differentiating content or by helping to shape customers’ vision and facilitating technical decision-making.

We also encourage people to be vocal about the things they love, by giving a workshop, speaking at internal events, or becoming a rock star speaker at international conferences.
By becoming public speakers ourselves, we really get to know the nitty gritty details of whatever subject we’re talking about. Taking a seat at conferences’ speaker dinners also helps to network and enter the world of the greatest minds of our industry.

This is how JWorks builds a community of highly motivated thought-leaders.

Andreas is a Principal Java consultant at Ordina, passionate about the Spring ecosystem, microservices, REST, clean code and best practices in general. An avid open source enthusiast and Spring contributor. Helps fellow developers as Competence Center leader for architecture and best practices by giving workshops, talks and courses about the newest technologies.