Personal development budgets give team members opportunities to learn and develop skills that are unique to them, it’s a benefit that we’re proud to have in place here at Simpleweb.

For developer Andy, his budget has taken him to the Bath Ruby Conference and he’ll be going to the Brighton Ruby Conference too. However, for the team, the process of monitoring, spending and managing those budgets generally involves a disjointed combination of chat logs, spreadsheets and receipts, which is not the most efficient system.

With that in mind, Andy and front-end developer Cristiano pitched an idea for a tool to manage personal development budgets during our inaugural Simpleweb Playground pitch sessions. The team loved it, especially Operations Director Beccy who currently manages the entire team’s budgets. With her comment of ‘this is AMAZING!’, it was on to the first sprint.

Andy (L) and Cristiano (R) pitch their initial idea to the team at Simpleweb Playground

Getting meta

Andy set about building a simple tool to create and approve budget requests and for an admin to create accounts. The great thing about it is that he built the server in Rust, a relatively new language that incidentally he’s been learning with a book purchased with his personal development budget. Rust is a fast and more memory efficient language and although the team had experimented with it, we’d not yet used it in production so this seemed like the ideal first project (we’ve open sourced a new library that Andy has written).

The simplified user screen (left) and the admin screen (right)

We like to prototype products using Marvel, Invision, or in this case, Sketch. Cristiano, who’s building the front end, experimented with different designs to try and make best use of the data. In keeping with how we like to do things, simplicity is key, so that means a dashboard which lets the user check their balance, make a request and see some request history. As the styling is based on Google’s Material Design, it looks great too!

Allowing individual team members to manage their budgets themselves through the ‘Personal Development Manager’ is empowering and gives the team the autonomy to make the most of what is a great benefit.

Removing the obstacles that may be getting in the way of personal development can only be a good thing, we want to ensure our team aren’t held back in learning and self-improvement, by admin.

Putting it to the test

Our lean approach to the project has meant that Andy and Cristiano have based their work so far on assumptions, so the next step is the all important user testing. Does the product meet the needs of our team? What impact will it have on their personal development and what changes do we need to make?

If personal development budgets better team members on an individual level, then the Simpleweb Playground allows betterment for the team as a whole. Everything we learn, from sharing ideas to programming with new programming languages is all fed back into the work we do and ultimately helps how we help and nurture the startups we invest in.

If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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