Enabling everyone to teach and learn
DevOps leaders often like to talk about how important culture is as an aspect of transformation. It’s common to hear “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” At American, our delivery transformation efforts have been focused on culture from day one. We recognize how important culture is to every aspect of a thriving technology organization. One of the most important aspects of the culture being built at American is an intense focus on learning.
Earlier this year, a group of us came up with the idea for Interact Studio - a weekly gathering of people from across the Technology organization to share learnings and present different topics. Interact Studio was designed to be a way for delivery transformation concepts to be communicated and for questions to be asked and answered. But it’s grown way beyond that. As a relatively frequent contributor, I’m continually impressed by the array of engineers, analysts, managers and more that regularly dedicate two hours every week to present their own learnings and learn from others. There are regularly more than two hundred attendees representing the entire organization. It’s so exciting to see so many people dedicated to improving the technology experience for everyone at American.
The DevOps Handbook describes the “Three Ways” of DevOps. Interact Studio epitomizes dedication to the Third Way - Continuous Learning. Interact Studio allows anyone to present information that could be useful to others. This enables both the presenters and the attendees to learn a wide variety of topics, from highly technical areas, like automated testing tips or use of Kubernetes in aa.com, to high level topics, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion or building a product mindset. The format of Interact Studio encourages people not only to learn about these topics, but to develop a learning culture for the entire company. I know personally that the most interesting topics are often ones that I might initially think apply to me the least. Because of Interact Studio, I’ve taken on learning a much bigger variety of things, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. American’s learning culture will allow it to continue to innovate and experiment and improve the experience of our employees and customers.
The learning benefits of a program like Interact Studio are obvious. People sharing information is clearly a good thing. An unexpected benefit I’ve seen from Interact Studio is the development of a strong community. This program took off just as we entered the most challenging time at American Airlines, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There was a lot of uncertainty as we canceled thousands of flights and as we all moved from our lively campus to working from home. Interact Studio grew into a way for us all to continue to feel that sense of community. During the pandemic, it has allowed people to get together virtually for a couple of hours every week to have fun while learning.
Interact Studio has been a key part of American’s delivery transformation efforts. Each week, a different initiative of the formal delivery transformation program presents its status, answers questions and receives feedback. Attendees often learn about specific technical DevOps practices, how to improve how their teams work together, or product best practices. Attendees can then bring these learnings back to their squads which pushes transformation forward.
Interact Studio has become one of the most important aspects of American’s learning culture. As we continue to move along our delivery transformation journey, I know learning will play a huge role. I’m looking forward to seeing how we continue to build on our learning culture through Interact Studio and other programs.