Building a learning culture at Stride

Building a learning culture at Stride
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Having a “learning culture” is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot when folks talk about hip tech companies. It is very trendy to promise your employees continuous learning and opportunities not only to grow their expertise, but also to share it. This makes loads of sense, but how does one actually go about facilitating a “learning culture”?

How our learning culture initiative began 

A group of Striders (Kirsten Nordine, Justin Schulz, and I) founded a Learning Culture Initiative group, lovingly referred to in its first iteration as the “Derek Zoolander Center for Striders Who Can’t Learn Good.” Wacky name aside, we were interested in finding out how we could help Stride develop more of a learning culture, and of course to help Striders “learn good.”


Derek Zoolander Center for Striders Who Can’t Learn Good


We started off by creating a mission statement for this initiative:  

“Cultivating a learning culture at Stride is important because people are happy when they’re learning and stimulated. We believe teaching is a great way to deepen learning and develop mentorship skills. Our continuing mission is to empower Striders to learn and teach. We will do this by facilitating and cultivating learning opportunities here at Stride.”


Discovering what fellow Striders want to learn and teach

To fulfill our mission statement, we first went about discovering the areas in which Striders wanted to learn, by sending out a survey and by reaching out to people individually. We also were contacted by multiple people! Through this survey, we wanted to suss out topics that folks were most interested in learning. With those potential growth areas in hand, we could then match them up to subject matter experts and get learning. 

Another outcome from the survey was that we had an opportunity to help Striders put together group learning sessions, such as workshops, lunch-and-learns, and book clubs. It is important for us to ensure that we are providing a diversity of ways for people to learn. Our initiative promotes these events through a variety of channels, to make sure that all Striders are given the opportunity to join.


Making plans to learn!


Creating opportunities for sharing knowledge 

Informed by the results of our inquiries, we wanted to find ways for Striders to share the things that they already know with their peers. This has taken two main forms: lunch-and-learns and lightning talks. Thus far, we aren’t curating the topics of these sessions; we’re just letting folks who are excited to teach something do so. 

Eventually we may start proactively asking people to give talks, but as of right now we have so many submissions and ideas! Thus far in 2021, we’ve had three rounds of lightning talks and two lunch-and-learns, and we have many more planned!

Investing in continuous learning

It isn’t enough just to provide opportunities, throwing random calendar invites into the black holes that are everyone schedules.

Having a learning culture requires investment—incentives and allowances that allow and encourage folks to show up. A true learning culture has to be both top-down and bottom-up!

One of Stride's core values is “Nurture the curious impulse,” which pretty directly relates to this topic. I have to (and am happy to!) give our leadership team a big shoutout for putting Stride’s money where its mouth is. We are given lunch budgets as well as flex time during work hours to attend these events. Everyone learns better on a full stomach!


What comes next? 

As we launch into Q2 of 2021, we are excited to try out new things, find new formats, and learn a lot! We hope that by using the two-pronged approach of giving opportunities for Striders to teach what they’re excited about, as well as curating specific topics which Striders want to grow in, that we’re able to help create a Stride where people are passionately learning every day. 

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Principal Software Engineer

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