Learnings & Takeaways from the Expert Thinking Reboot 2022
I joined Expert Thinking in June 2021. During my interview the leadership team at the time (John Shortt, Ben Fry and James Whinn) laid out their plans regarding the company’s direction and vision, which was one of the main reasons I joined.
Their vision was clear; the business would grow significantly, and they would add a number of exciting clients. And whilst Expert Thinking would continue to grow, it would never get to a size where you would just be a number or another bum on a seat.
Working as a consultant for Expert Thinking means you have the chance to make a real difference to the customers’ businesses. Unlike some of the larger consultancies where you would struggle to be seen or make an impact; there is no place to hide at Expert Thinking. Everyone’s contribution is vital. The company’s vision, to bring together some of the world’s best cloud architects and engineers under one (remote) roof, was also a huge draw – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that!
In the 18 months since I joined, those goals and promises have been delivered and being one of the earlier members of the permanent team you really feel that you have an input in shaping and delivering those goals.
As with many workers around the world, we often plan over video calls and track our projects using collaboration tools. The last three years have proven we don’t have to sit five feet from each other to get things done. But everyone agrees that it’s still important to get together in-person, so we can discuss how the business is doing, ask questions, and strengthen relationships.
Recently the Expert Thinking team came together in London for a Reboot workshop.
We spoke about some of the great work we’ve done, where we can improve, and how we can make 2023 even better than 2022.
Here are some of the thoughts about the Reboot that have stuck with me:
The path ahead
It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the strategy for the next 12-18 months. The team size has increased noticeably since I joined, so it was positive to get a detailed update on how the company progressed in 2022, and how the leadership wants to build on that next year.
It was also a chance for myself and colleagues to ask questions and get direct feedback that is difficult to capture over a Teams call or messenger. Everybody came away from the Reboot with a clear idea of the company’s overall goals and how we can achieve them.
Roles and expectations
One thing I was keen to find out was clarity on my role, and the expectations around it. I joined Expert Thinking because of its vision, and because I saw it as the perfect place to achieve my personal goals.
During the Reboot, Ben and the leadership team told us how we’d be moving to a squad-based delivery model. Whilst ET want to still keep the attitude of a “Flat” structure where egos are left at the door regardless of position, we now have more clarity on who to go to when blockers are hit and a clearer escalation path.
For myself and the other consultants who make up a squad dedicated to a customer project, we’ll sit underneath a lead consultant to whom we can raise any concerns we have. That lead consultant will liaise with OCTO (Office of the CTO). It means I know where my boundaries are and can be left to continue progressing my other tasks.
Always room for improvement
The Reboot was a reminder there are always areas where you can improve.
Since I joined the business, I’ve been generally happy with the consulting and development work I’ve produced. I’m comfortable engaging with the customer to recommend services and changes to ultimately make their lives easier and add value to their business (after all its what we’re there for!).
During the workshop we took part in a consultancy role play which was a real eye-opener. There was a scenario of talking to different stakeholders in a customer’s organisation and, using our consultancy knowledge, we had to prise information regarding the stakeholders painpoints and what they wanted to achieve. Being in different positions (Infrastructure Project Lead and the other being the CTO) both had conflicting viewpoints of what was and wasn’t important to get out of the project; we as consultants had to make them come to common ground as well as scope what is right for the business itself during the pre-sales analysis.
Working from home we’re often left independently and forget just how much we learn from one another when working in the same space. It was great to listen and learn just how other members of the team approached the issue as it showed me that, as consultants, we need to speak in-depth with our clients about their issues and consider how we can solve them together.
One of the key takeaways I got is that the answer you give might not be the one that they (the customer) are expecting or agree with at first but you have to build up trust. You need to showcase your technical expertise to prove it is as good as you say it is! Not only that but you also may have to delve into some of the customer-side politics using that trust to align conflicting stakeholders and drive positive change in their business.
A consultancy with a difference
Every workplace comes with its own set of problems as at the end of the day, nothing is perfect.
What separates Expert Thinking from my previous roles is that management genuinely want to know the concerns of those on the ground and rectify them. Ben and John are always keen to iterate that the door is truly always open for any squabbles we may have no matter how big or small, and that our feedback is always taken on board.
Myself being very career orientated, I feel management are also very keen to progress me as an individual which I didn’t feel happened in my previous roles at some of the larger consultancies. There was a lot of carrot dangling and talk but very little action, whereas ET are very eager to progress me to the next stage of my career by setting meaningful personal development plans and allowing us to carve out training days from our work week to upskill in areas we are interested in.
Finally, ET’s work ethos is something I share. I have previously seen projects be stretched out way longer than they should in other employments. But here at ET, if we are to maintain that we are the “world’s best cloud architects and engineers” then ET maintains that we should be working for a customer no longer than we need to be. If we can leave a customer without their stabilisers on, then we have done a job we can be proud of.
A final note
It is not often that I come away from meetings thinking “that was productive” (come on, we all know the feeling…) but it was certainly worthwhile to catch up with the team; building connections with those we don’t work with day to day as well as meeting some of the newer members not previously met.
It was refreshing to also see a clear plan and answered a lot of the burning questions I had regarding the future and direction we are taking as well as selfishly my own career path.
One of the final sign-offs was that we are officially making quarterly meetups the norm so will be looking forward to meeting the team again early 2023!