How lightning talks foster a learning culture

How lightning talks foster a learning culture
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A few months ago, Stride launched an ongoing series of lighting talks as part of our Learning Culture Initiative. Let’s talk about what they are and why we do them here at Stride, and link out to some examples! 


What is a lightning talk?


A lightning talk is the espresso shot version of a lesson, whereas a lunch-and learn or seminar is the drip coffee. In real-person talk, a lightning talk is a presentation that lasts a few minutes, in which someone presents a topic at a rapid pace. Anything above 10 minutes can start to feel like a lightning-and-also-thunder talk, which just isn’t nearly as catchy! 



Lightning talks are classically presented back to back, several to a session—a practice that we do here at Stride. The only constraint on the topic is what the presenters are interested in talking about. And if the audience isn’t interested in that particular talk, they have only a few minutes to wait! Usually we can pack four into a given session, which allows us to cover a wide range of topics. Usually they’re work related, but sometimes not! 


Why the Learning Initiative chose lightning talks



Having a short-form option for folks to share their passions, interests, and experiences is great for a variety of reasons, not the least of which, unironically, is that they are short.


The duration of lightning talks provides the opportunity for folks without much experience in public speaking to give a chat, since they aren’t required to fill as much time. The lower lift means less pressure, and less pressure means it’s easier to take risks and have a much quicker feedback loop. This means there is a low barrier of entry and a good point for people without much experience public speaking to do so.


Short talks also really help keep up a culture of learning, since one usually feels as if there are many things to learn. You can be introduced to a whole new topic in less than 10 minutes, without having to invest any serious time. And then, it’s up to you whether you want to dive deeper—through either the dedicated Slack thread that the Learning Culture Initiative puts together, some googling later on, or even reaching out to the presenter directly!


Plus, the range of topics keeps it fresh and gives people at the company a chance to meet each other and learn together. The talks don’t even have to be about some hard skill or technical aspect of one’s job. Some of my favorite lightning talks have been about things only tangentially related to work. 


Examples of lightning talks at Stride


Here are some of the lightning talks that folks have done here at Stride: 

  • The Planning Onion: A Product Management Concept
  • What is Kubernetes?
  • How to Give a Kick-Ass Talk
  • The Testing Fractal
  • Building Your Lean Software Development Toolkit
  • AWS Secrets Manager: A Quick Introduction
  • How to Save Money and Retire Early
  • Avoiding Commitment Traps

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Principal Software Engineer

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