The Why and How of A Learning Culture

Jennifer Wyse
September 21, 2017
College professor in front of massive blackboard array
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

Richard Feynman

When I first met our founder, Ryan Wyse, one of the things that immediately stood out to me was his intelligence. Here was this teenage farm boy who hated school, but seemed to pick up knowledge like you or I might pick flowers from a field — with ease. It wasn’t until I really got to know him that I came to see the driving curiosity and passion for understanding and excellence that fueled his ease of learning. As we walked through our teenage years and stepped into young adulthood, I watched as he took dead-end jobs and turned them into opportunities for growing his skills. Whether working as a bank teller in a small community bank or answering support calls in a corporate call center, he was always looking for ways to improve the company he worked for, and spending every spare moment learning new and more advanced skills so that he could advance. It’s no surprise then, that a bedrock of Code Koalas’ culture is learning.

What is a learning culture?

From the moment of inception, a culture of learning has been more than a buzzword around here — it was and is an absolute necessity. Launching a web development company from our basement with no prior business experience meant that a great deal of learning had to be done extremely quickly in order for us to survive. As a startup, you are either learning and growing, or you are failing. In those very early days, there was no in-between. We learned because we had to, but we continued to learn because we were driven to. As we have grown, adding developers and support staff and welcoming new clients, we have sought to maintain and grow our passion for learning and our skills — not only to survive, but in order to thrive, grow as a company and as individuals, and better serve our current and future clients. That is what our learning culture is all about: the relentless, passionate pursuit of growth, excellence, and mastery of our corner of the world and beyond.

What does that look like?

If you ever have the opportunity to come spend some time in our office, it will not take you long to see the evidence of our learning culture all around you. You’ll see Kindles scattered here and there on desks, an employee perk that allows us to read a book together every 8 weeks. We sit down as a company to discuss our thoughts and takeaways from every book we read. Our departments also seek out pertinent books to read and discuss together. You’ll see our 3D printer, purchased by a group of our employees who pooled together their monthly learning stipends to invest in it and learn to do something new that interested them. Drop in on a Wednesday at lunchtime, and you’ll have the chance to sit in on Workshop Wednesday, where one of our own team members presents something cool, innovative, or important that they’ve recently learned. You’ll see interns sitting with team members and learning what web development looks like in real world applications — because our learning culture means we’re not just students, we’re teachers. We teach and train each other. We teach random folks off of the street on the first Friday of every month. We write down what we’ve learned and publish it on our blog, and do our best to spread it as far as we can. We sit in conference sessions and glean from industry leaders, and we get up and present our own learnings. From the our receptionist to our CEO, we are all engaged in becoming the best we can at what we do. That’s what a learning culture looks like at Code Koalas.

Why a learning culture?

Why would any company spend time, energy, and precious resources on these things? We stand by a learning culture, because we believe that everyone deserves a chance to pursue their passion and excel at it. We believe that there’s a chance at greatness, at mastery, at genius, in all of us. We believe there is untapped potential in the college dropout, the disheartened dead-end job worker, the laid off and out of luck. We believe it because we’ve lived it. We ARE the college dropouts, the workers at dead-end jobs, the unemployed, the ones who had no choice but to spend every spare moment we had teaching ourselves new skills and passionately pursuing excellence that on paper we were in no way qualified to achieve. We’re still in pursuit. We love it, and we’re not quitting anytime soon. In fact, we’re just getting started.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Does this sound like you? Drop us a line, we’re always looking for new faces.

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Ryan Wyse