Written by commercetools Developer Evangelist Tori Hall – Brown bags. Hackathons. Learning days! Software developers today are facing constant pressure to stay apprised of the latest technology trends, which are moving faster than ever before1. Great leaders know that the value of training in these technologies—whether it be individual, guided, or collaborative—cannot be understated. But for leaders juggling team size, time, and budget constraints, it is less clear how to make an investment in that training, and for which employees.

Accelerating growth in technology

1Technology is growing exponentially, meaning there is always something new to learn

At commercetools, we know the importance of training developers, both internal and external to our company. Our trainings introduce not only the commercetools platform and features but an entirely new way of architecting a web shop, so we recommend that all of our customers and partners participate. These leaders then have a few questions to consider: who should I send to training, and when? What expectations should I put in place? How do I ensure the money I invest into training and certification will grow my business? In short, leaders are looking to maximize their ROI, and whether you are growing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, minimizing risk, or any other number of goals, thoughtful consideration is required to get the most out of your training budget. 

As the lead technical trainer at commercetools, I would like to share my recommendations: first on selecting the right people for training, and later on enabling those employees to make the most of the opportunity. So let’s jump in: here are three qualities I see in developers who provide the greatest return on a training investment.

1.  Self-starting mentality
It is a common joke inside the development community that a developer’s greatest skill is the ability to Google effectively—and this is based in truth. Even the best developers will never have all the right answers, but they will ask the right questions. It then requires motivation to seek out first-class solutions among varied resources, which can include documentation, online forums, support channels, peers, and mentors.

With increasingly many new technological puzzles and potential solutions arising every day, developers can no longer approach problem-solving with static, soon-to-be-outdated solutions. Rather, a self-starting mentality becomes necessary: those with a passion for searching out the optimal (and sometimes unfamiliar!) solution return training investments many times over. They will know how to apply today’s new tools to tomorrow’s challenges, and the technical world spins on.

2. Foundational experience
PIM, CDM, and OMS: these are only some of the opaque acronyms that exist in the ecommerce world. Every industry has its own language and vernacular, and for new employees—either early-in-career or transitioning from another industry—these terms can seem inscrutable. If an employee enters training that assumes foundational knowledge they lack, they may find themselves more focused on searching definitions than on the advanced content being presented.

Developers attending training will get the most out of the opportunity if they have previous relevant experience—enough to be familiar with industry norms and pitfalls, which they can compare to the new solution. If you have a promising employee to train, but one who doesn’t have this context, I recommend offering something as simple as a glossary to help bring them to speed. A crash-course in industry paradigms or a few months of mentorship is even more effective. With a strong foundation, training attendees will more easily connect the dots between old and new ways of working, leading to maximum returns.

3. Communication style
How important is it to be a good communicator? In the world of software development, we sometimes view this quality as being ancillary: a nice-to-have, yet not critical for a career that requires heavy one-on-one time with a computer. But what about the problem-solving mentality we spoke of earlier, which requires communicating both in-person and online? Developers who can clearly articulate their ideas in these formats are more likely to receive relevant feedback, and they can provide feedback to others, up-leveling an entire workforce as opposed to any single individual.

Internal and external networks alike encourage fresh and innovative ways of thinking, thus making it more likely that a chosen solution is the and not simply the most familiar. If you train a poor communicator, lacking a network, the return on investment will end with them. But when you train a gifted communicator—a leader, a mentor, or even a well-spoken new hire—that learning will be translated to their peers, providing returns many times over.

Companies navigating a digital transformation know that training in new technologies is critical, and leaders who invest in self-starting, experienced, and communicative employees will find exponential returns on their investment. At commercetools, we train our employees, customers, and partners alike in API-first, headless, cloud-native, omni-channel commerce — terms that meant little a decade ago, yet are practically required to build a modern shopping experience today. To learn how we train on these innovations or request your own training session, visit our website here.

Ready to take the next step? Stay tuned for a follow-up with actions a leader can take to help their employees make the most of a training opportunity.

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