What We Learned About Learning with 8th Light and Makers Academy

  • Lisa Hon
  • AUTHOR: Lisa Hon
  • Posted: 15/09/2017
What We Learned About Learning with 8th Light and Makers Academy

Breaking from the CTO pizza tradition, a bountiful buffet of hummus, falafel and chilis, for those that could handle them, greeted us at the 8th Light offices along with a selection of various craft beers of fantastic global origins.  Already feeling that this event was different, and that was just the food, it was the time spent chatting prior to the presentations which really set the tone for the evening. 

Recruitment practices were topic of choice, more specifically how online hiring algorithms have changed.   Stories were shared of how candidates and friends-of-friends have learned to bypassed these algorithmic processes, which is intriguing in idea but seemed an awful lot of work in practice; and thus the evening’s learning environment was created. 

Paul Pagel, CEO of 8th Light asked us all to raise one hand.  After admitting that yes, indeed our arms did work, he coached us through an interactive presentation of case studies where he welcomed what he called ‘opinions’; which were really questions from the audience asked in an off- the-cuff, interrupt the speaker style exchange of ideas.  The case study’s successes and failures proved that leadership and strategy is vital and that it’s equally important to learn as much as you can from them.

"We are constantly learning" said Rachel Davies, Lead Engineer at Makers Academy.  This is true for anyone in or outside of office hours, but “how we go about fostering a learning environment that’s valued and not reprimanded for being on task” that was topic of discussion.

Rachel reminded us that every day is a school day and that we should always keep learning as that is the heart of development and quite often the heart of businesses where that business is concerned with something measurable like retention rates.  When we think about software, we should keep in mind that it’s malleable and changes when you build your team around you.  “Sometimes the [nature of a] project changes and you still need to complete it with the same team of people.”  We try to fit people into molds by ticking boxes of skills, but when it comes to building a culture where you learn about skill and what you are doing, it’s vital to remember that people don’t come ‘off the shelf’, that they shift and are able to ultimately be successful.

What are some ways that we can shape learning within an organisation that’s valued and fosters successes?


  1. Drive and motivation.

People want to be good at a job.It’s important to give others the opportunity to be good and to grow skillsets.Creating a culture where ideas are shared can be very powerful.


  1. The element of choice.

Choice is crucial when it comes to learning.What helps to drive a learning culture is providing an openness and creating new ways of learning; rather than focusing on giving choice to what is being learned.


  1. Offer commitment.

Establish a calendar with regular times for peers to share and showcase their skills.This can take on many forms such as an exchange of departments with retrospectives or through mentorships.“You don’t have to be super-senior to be a mentor” said Rachel, some people might feel more inclined to share and teach their knowledge than others or having “a mentor of mentors helps to create an understanding that learning is a commitment” and time is spent to assist others in learning.


Create a culture where everyone at every level is learning and to learn that we are not all experts.  This will foster innovation that can make a big difference to your company and for people to feel that they can grow within it; which ultimately creates a loyalty to the company. 


There’s lots of different sources of learning – it doesn’t have to be a conference or an event – it could be through establishing team rituals where learning and trying new ideas is celebrated and then rewarded.  At Oliver Bernard, we’re quite convinced of the importance of becoming involved outside of an organisation and bringing that knowledge back to share, it’s why we will continue to partner for events such as CTO’s in London because we too value the importance of what was learned yesterday and what is important to learn today.


For more on engaging at work click here.


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