Creating a technology learning culture
How we’re creating an environment where our digital talent can continuously develop their skills.
Digital Transformation has been a watch phrase over the past few years. It broadly describes the adoption of modern technology within an organisation, as well as the introduction of new methods and tools such DevOps, Test Automation, and Cloud computing. Lloyds Banking Group has been no exception. We’ve undertaken our own programme of digital transformation, from building our own technology community to launching hackathons to inspire our engineers and grow their skillsets.
Colleagues in our Chief Technology Office considered how we could help our engineering colleagues develop these new skills. We explored how other large organisations had carried out similar changes, and generated ideas to suit our own circumstances. The approach to learning we chose for our engineers had three focus areas:
- Collaboration – building a community where colleagues could work together to develop new skills, share their experience, and generally improve their networks
- Experimentation – creating a safe environment, away from live bank systems for colleagues to try out new technology, explore ideas and generally play with new tech
- Continuous Learning – creating a culture where learning is the norm and colleagues regularly devote time to build their skills
"We had a large engineering community with a substantial appetite to learn new technology."
One of our first activities was to create a tangible engineering community as a framework for collaboration to begin. We looked closely at the roles people were carrying out, and over time built a picture of who was truly part of the engineering community. We consolidated this by creating a series of Engineering Job Families that better reflected distinct roles across Software Engineering, DevOps, Cyber Security and more.
We also changed how we engaged with our people to reach the widest audience possible. We adapted our engagement approach away from mass emails and more towards preferred platforms for knowledge sharing and communications like the business’ social media and other platforms like SharePoint.
"We were able to develop some of the new tools and technology the Group had adopted, including corporate social media channels and information sharing platforms, allowing us to reach out to the widest possible audience."
Building a technology presence
There has been a huge rise in the number of informal events and meet-ups organised by the technology community in the past decade, as organisations break away from the traditional secrecy surrounding their technology work and embrace a more open approach to share experience and knowledge. We chose to enter these public channels as a way of sharing stories about the technology work we do, with a view to being better known as a technology employer and demonstrating our modern engineering agenda. We created a schedule of conference talks, appearances at festivals and our own public meet-up series badged Digital Transformation UK.
These events focus on modern engineering and technology topics and attract a broad audience which includes engineers, those involved in technology change, and academics. These external events give us the opportunity to share how we’re deploying technology in the bank and challenge ourselves to look outside the business and learn about best practice from others. Since 2018 we have covered topics including fintech innovation, accessible tech, cyber security, cloud and DevOps, as well as providing a focus on some of our functions like mortgages, payments and economic crime prevention.
Reboot – Our Engineering Hackathon Brand
Meet-ups and festival events were a great start, but we had a large engineering community with a substantial appetite to learn new technology. In late 2018 our attention moved back inwards to organising a large hackathon, with hands-on learning opportunities and tech talks as part of the event. This would provide the perfect opportunity to combine all our objectives around collaboration, experimentation, and learning in one large event to inspire our engineers. Hackathons are problem solving competitions - in our case using code and technology to solve business problems. Held over a short timeframe, they create a busy and fun environment where teams can innovate, try out new tech, and work closely with others to develop ideas. We also created the perfect identity to go with it – ‘Reboot’ – which expressed exactly what we were doing with our engineering culture, technology, and learning.
Lloyds Banking Group was at an earlier stage in its adoption of Cloud computing, so a hackathon was the perfect environment for colleagues to experiment with Cloud technology. The safe environment provided by the hackathon was essential; our engineers were used to working on secure bank systems, part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, and not a place where one can readily experiment with new ideas. We took colleagues outside of the bank and created sandbox environments where they could learn through failure, and rapidly develop their ideas into prototypes without any risk to bank systems or data.
Event support and guidance was provided by IBM’s experienced hackathon organisers, and amazing branding and graphics organised by partners at Publicis Sapient created the sense of a special event. This critical support from partners helped us deliver a memorable day that left colleagues hungry for more.
Over a hundred colleagues signed up to form part of a hacker team, but we wanted to take things further and inspire more engineers to revitalise their learning. So, alongside the main hacker competition we hosted stalls with information from some of our teams and suppliers, and a series of workshops and lighting talks on a range of topics. This meant over 300 colleagues could take part in a fast-paced and fun event.
Over the course of 18 months we held more Reboot hackathons across London, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Bristol, each time increasing the learning opportunities and working with other partners including Google, Microsoft, TCS, KPMG, Wipro and IBM Red Hat.
"Over a hundred colleagues signed up to form part of a hacker team, but we wanted to take things further and inspire more engineers to revitalise their learning."
Covid-19 and our response
In early 2020 we brought colleagues together at The Oval in London for our fifth major event, at the start of what was promising to be a busy year for events aimed at boosting skills. But the situation would change rapidly, and the Covid-19 lockdown that followed shortly afterwards meant that our event plans were put on indefinite hold, with no clarity about whether the situation would last weeks, months or even years.
As the crisis deepened, colleagues in the bank were delivering fundamental changes to services faster than ever to ensure we could meet our customer’s changing needs. It had never been more important to support the learning and development of our engineers, who needed to deliver innovative solutions, safely and at pace. But with large events no longer possible, what could we do to maintain our popular Reboot brand and its ideals of learning, collaboration and experimentation?
And so Reboot TV was created; a weekly schedule of talks covering a broad engineering and technology remit - sometimes short introductions, occasionally longer and in-depth explorations of a topic. We invited bank experts and industry speakers to contribute, and the audience was able to ask questions and engage in conversation on the topics through internal social media channels. The presentations were also recorded and made available through our new internal Reboot TV site. This growing archive boasts 12 channels of content and over 300 recordings covering diverse topics such as Advanced Coding, Microservices Engineering and Fintech Innovation.
As well as the weekly schedule of Reboot TV broadcasts, we created two themed online learning campaigns each year, featuring twice-daily tech talks and a host of other online materials being offered to colleagues to access in their own time. During this time we shifted our Digital Transformation events to being purely online and discovered a new audience who had previously been excluded from the face to face events by distance and other factors. We also introduced the Pluralsight learning platform to boost pre-certification learning in Cloud and adjacent technologies, and provide detailed training in a range of other engineering topics.
Re-emerging into a changed world
All of these activities continued throughout 2021 and beyond as we emerged slowly from the crisis. Reboot TV and our learning campaigns remain popular, attracting up to 1000 attendees at each event and generating thousands of replays each year.
By mid-2022 we were hosting Reboot Edinburgh, our first major event post-lockdown. Hosted within our own Port Hamilton office in Edinburgh, and with Covid safety precautions in place, we attracted 400 colleagues to hugely successful event. Colleagues welcomed the opportunity to reconnect after more than two years apart, and for many it represented their first day back in the office since the start of lockdown. Once again we were delivering on our objectives of learning, collaboration and experimentation.
Bringing colleagues back into the office after a long time apart inspired us to deliver some local events in our offices during September 2022. ‘Reboot Local’ travelled to four offices over the space of two weeks with a smaller version of a Reboot hackathon. A speaker schedule, exhibitor stands and a hands-on workshop teaching Infrastructure as Code using Terraform attracted over 700 colleagues.
Closing 2022 we held our largest Reboot event yet in London, with 500 colleagues and guests attending. This time we included a focus on careers, allowing colleagues from outside of technology, as well as some early careers guests from outside of the bank to explore what it means to have a career in technology in financial services. Events are squarely back on the map and 2023 will see learning events play a major part in delivering technology learning and inspiring career paths for colleagues across the Group.
Brian is a Product Owner in the Chief Technology Office at Lloyds Banking Group. He works to build community and capability for our technology teams through events such as hackathons, online learning events and campaigns. Brian is also involved in activities to support emerging technology talent, and organises public events to share the technology stories of the bank with the wider tech community.
Brian is an accredited Business Analyst with 25 years of experience in financial services, and has led analysis activities on programmes of work in the areas of bank integration, customer systems, cyber security, and technology resilience.
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