Guilds at Pluralsight
At pluralsight we encourage people to form guilds. What is a guild you may ask? Guilds are self-organizing groups of people that share common interests. Although guilds at Pluralsight do not need to be technical in nature, this article will speak more to the ones that are.
Benefits of Technical Guilds
Guilds can provide
A sense of community.
Opportunity to further develop skills in certain areas.
Shared knowledge on some of the latest technologies.
Answers to technical questions as they arise.
Holding regular discussions with others about technical topics can expand your knowledge of things, help you identify people that can be considered good resources in certain topics, and build connections.
A technical guild is one place you can go to seek those that have ideas that can help solve the problems you are facing. A while back I was on a team that had a need for writing some code in Python. Considering that our main proficiencies were in other programming languages, we needed some help in navigating around the Python world. We got stumped when attempting to write some testing code and so we decided to post a question on the Python Guild’s slack channel. Within a few minutes we got some help from people that were well versed in Python and we were able to successfully release our features within a reasonable amount of time.
Established Guilds at Pluralsight
Pluralsight has a number of guilds that are generally either targeting a specific technology or a broader topic. Some of these guilds include:
Architecture Guild - Share architectural direction, learnings and technologies which will support our journey to delivering a platform on which we can democratize learning across the planet.
Ops Guild - Bring together folks across Pluralsight to discuss subjects related to Ops, DevOps, Product Development & other related topics.
Ethics Guild - A place for all Pluralsight employees to discuss the ethics of technology, related to our products, our processes, and our mission.
Some technology specific guilds include those focusing on NodeJS, Python, Typescript and .Net, among others. Additional guilds include those related to accessibility, product, leadership and many more topics of interest.
How to Increase a Guild’s Impact
Guilds should be organic and grow in the direction that will benefit its members the most. Although there are not hard rules that a guild must follow, there are some ways in which a guild can increase its impact.
Determine if there is a need for the guild to meet together either in person or remotely. If there is value in meeting, then also establish how often the guild should meet. At the end of your first meeting is an excellent time to decide the cadence of meetings. Since after the meeting people will then understand what to expect during meetings, it will help them gauge how often they would like to participate.
Acknowledge that not everyone might be able to make a guild meeting, and that a recording and/or taking notes could help those that can’t make it.
Maintain a standard channel of communication. At Pluralsight we use Slack as our main way to communicate with each other. At any given time of the day anyone can post something in a guild’s channel and expect to get some sort of response within a reasonable amount of time.
Other things that can help engagement.
Schedule presentations or workshops.
Read a book and discuss it.
Announce any relevant local events, conferences or online training to the group.
Share relevant articles or links to resources.
Ask questions and get feedback from your peers.
Feel free to experiment. Try some of these suggestions, or other things not mentioned here, and determine what works best for your guild.
Avoiding Burn Out
Sometimes guilds can die out a little, for better or for worse. Maybe the group has run out of fresh topics to discuss, or maybe the main driver of the guild has parted ways and there is no one else willing to organize further meetings. Sometimes guilds have run their course and disbanding them is a reasonable option. Other times it just needs a little extra attention and some fresh excitement to get it back up and running.
If you feel like you need help, then ask for it. Pass around sign up sheets for presenters or lightning talks. Regularly rotating the presenters, the person in charge of an activity, or organizers will reduce the chance of burn out and increase the chance that the guild can go on, especially if the main people in charge of the guild ever leave.
Conducting discussion via the lean coffee approach can promote more organic conversations and reduce the need for formal preparation of topics beforehand.
Consider meeting less often if you as an organizer feel overwhelmed or if you find that discussions have dried up or repeated topics are happening a little too often.
Ask for feedback from guild members and see what things can be improved, hopefully before they result in people disengaging from the guild.
Other forms of guilds
I would argue that local tech groups that hold regular meetups or that may communicate via a slack group are a form of guild as well. They share the same main characteristic of guilds, which is a group of people coming together that share a common interest. By seeking out opportunities to either organize or to take part in guilds within your company, as well as meetups in the local community, you too can take part in the benefits of a guild.
Ultimately there are no hard rules to creating a guild. If you are passionate about something, and you think others might be as well, then make it happen. Worst case, you will realize that you have very unique interests. Best case, you will have a meaningful group of people with which to share ideas and grow alongside together.