How Do CTOs Approach Private Dev Training & Upskilling?

By Alex Lobera8 Jul 2020
Reading time: 6 mins

We interviewed ClosedWon CTO, Dennis Zelada. Find out how he approaches dev training and how he upskills his team in this exclusive interview!

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We’ve interviewed quite a few of our past students, each with their own unique story to tell. But there’s one job role we haven’t heard from in a while: the CTO.

To gain a fuller understanding of what goes through a CTOs mind when they look for, plan and approve private dev training, we interviewed Dennis Zelada, CTO at ClosedWon. If you’re a CTO or head of department, or if you’re looking to request further training from your senior manager, his insights will shine a light on what C-level execs think about dev training!

Keeping the Tech Stack Up-to-Date

We started our interview by asking Dennis about his role, his responsibilities, and how he makes sure his company stays at the forefront of innovation. For Dennis, the answer is simple: needs and behaviours.

Throughout the interview, Dennis returned time and again to the idea that needs and behaviours must drive all strategic planning within your organisation. That’s just as relevant for keeping the tech stack up-to-date as it is for approving new training budgets.

Although Dennis used to manage a team of 98 people, he now manages a much smaller team of under ten. Of course, that means how he works has changed. Working in a smaller team has meant that Dennis has had to code more than he once did, but this has brought him closer to the needs of the business and the services he and his team are creating. Now, he is able to bring his wider knowledge of current best practices to what his team needs to know to succeed.

So if there’s one thing that’s clear from Dennis’ insights, it’s this: knowing how and why something is needed, including extra training in a new area, is absolutely crucial.

Managing Seniors & Juniors Alike

The CTO position is an interesting one. Not only do you have to manage a team of varying seniorities below you, from juniors to team leaders and managers, you also have to manage the stakeholders in the boardroom. As a CTO, you must communicate with CEOs and other C-level executives to make sure you align on strategy.

“One of the biggest challenges is having the information created and ready on time because you need to provide information in both directions. You also need to be aware of who and what you are talking about. It’s not the same, talking to business people and marketing people is quite different [...] They measure things quite differently.” 

Dennis told us that having information for both directions at the right time, and being able to translate this information for different disciplines, was integral to the success of the business. Miscommunication can be extremely detrimental, which is why as a CTO Dennis tries to teach people how to work with one another in the company. For seniors, that means learning to be kind and patient with juniors. For juniors, that means being eager to learn.

But ultimately, the divide between seniors and juniors can become a big problem if there is too much variation in experience. It can result in stagnation, as your devs are unable to hit the ground running.

How training teams helps management

For Dennis, it makes strategic sense to get your team extra training when you need to get everyone working together.

Towards the end of the interview, Dennis also argued that when team members go on a private dev training session, they should return to the team ready to share their knowledge. He hosts a weekly tech meeting where everyone can share what they’ve learned.

So ask yourself, can you share your new knowledge from developer team training easily? You must be able to answer why your developers should receive extra training before requesting it.

In addition, Dennis told us that having the right information and at the right time was crucial to getting any training budget approved. He recommended doing your homework and learning who you’re talking to and how they measure ROI to ensure your requests get approval.

A CTO’s View on Mentoring

Having previously worked as a professor, Dennis understood the importance of engaging people on their level and asking them, “How do you want to learn?”

Dennis said this was a crucial first step toward discovering what your employees want from their career and allows you to start mapping out their career path -- together.

This is one of the best ways of helping both the business and the individual employee to succeed. Where skills are lacking, Dennis works with each of his team members to understand their pain points and how they want to overcome them. If they like to read a book to learn a new skill, he encourages that. Likewise, if an individual requires one-to-one training sessions, or to attend a course, he is committed to making that happen for his employees.

What CTOs Need to Know to Approve Training Requests

If you’re an employee looking to convince your manager to approve your training request, Dennis had some advice to share!

When his team comes to him with requests, Dennis first asks why they need this training and how it would help the business. He wants to know why it’s better to outsource dev training instead of doing it internally -- which, of course, can be better but it depends on the needs of the students. Then, he follows up with more areas, including:

  • The reputation of the training provider
  • The training provider’s success rate and testimonials
  • Any blogs the training provider has created
  • How this training provider compares to others -- what makes these coaches better than anyone else?

It’s all about due diligence. Dennis researches training before committing to it, so be sure to do your own research before you make a request for a training budget. We’ve written about this topic previously here.

Private Dev Training with React GraphQL Academy

We work with many CTOs at global organisations to help them upskill their dev team’s abilities in React and GraphQL. Via both remote training and in-person opportunities, we bring your team face-to-face with the best practices they need to succeed with React and GraphQL technologies. To find out more about our corporate training courses, you can head to our dedicated page or contact our friendly team!

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