The journey started when we arrived at Heathrow Airport on a beautiful October morning. After we searched the local facilities to find the perfect spot for the traditional pre-flight pint, we were soon merrily boarding a massive airbus, which was to take us across the globe, to India, to begin our 6-week training course also known as TWU (ThoughtWorks University).
Welcome to Pune!
Fast forward a couple of days and it’s Monday, the day we officially begin TWU. A few small buses pick us up at the hotel and we navigate the insanely busy roads of Pune to get to the office. It’s chaos. We see cows and scooters, goats and motorcycles, chickens and vans. There are even some pigs. And dogs, loads of friendly, stray dogs. What a sight to behold. Red lights mean nothing as we zoom through another busy crossing. Finally, we arrive at the destination. The office is calm and air-conditioned, and as we walk in, we spot a pool table and a ping pong table. It’s going to be a great few weeks! We begin with welcome talks and various introductions and icebreakers, we learn about the structure of the next few weeks and we get divided into groups. We are also assigned our GOTO trainers (mentors), to keep us in check work-wise but also to make sure we’re doing OK mentally. They provide us with useful feedback (more on that later!) and tools to monitor our progress during the course of TWU.
Over the coming days, we’ll be attending lectures: to learn about various consulting skills, programming languages, the structure of the company and many other important topics, necessary to make us, the wide-eyed grads, into full-time ThoughtWorkers. We’ll also have dojos – classes where we finally get our hands into some coding. These we always do in pairs. We learn how to drive (i.e. be the one who actually types the code on the keyboard) and navigate (share our train of thoughts with the driver, who then codes it up). Pairing is a technique we use often at ThoughtWorks. You work closely with another person to ensure good quality of your code and minimise potential errors. You also learn from one another in a simple, organic way. You don’t even notice when you suddenly become a pro!
Another, very important aspect of TWU is the ‘client engagement’. This is fun. The trainers put on their PO (product owner) hats and fully embrace their new role of being a client. They task us with a project and we are eager to deliver. We dive right into coding and we break everything. We fix some things, then other things break. We learn new techniques (toggles rock!) during lectures and quickly apply them to fix our previous mistakes. More things break. It’s fabulous. We work hard, learn a lot and become a really close-knit team. We start making progress and things look a little more optimistic – did we actually just push something to production and it worked? Well, well, well, aren’t we brilliant!
Outside of coding, we also improve our skills as consultants. We learn how to hold effective meetings, how to communicate with clients and how to present our ideas to the public. This culminates in everybody doing a pecha kucha. What’s a pecha kucha you ask? Excellent question! Pecha kucha is a presentation based on 20 slides, each of which is presented within a 20 seconds window. Slides change automatically, so there is no cheating, once they’re gone, there’s no going back. This technique teaches you how to get your point across in a short, precise manner and that your presentation does not drag on forever. As a bonus we learned a lot about each other, as the presentations were on people’s hobbies and things they are generally passionate about.
If there’s one thing you take home from TWU is the term ‘feedback culture’. You hear it all day, every day, give feedback, receive feedback, ask for feedback, how to give feedback, how to receive feedback, how to ask for feedback. I start to think that this whole feedback thing might be important. Fine, on it! After each dojo session, client engagement session, pairing exercise, presentation exercise we give each other feedback. We learn, we grow, we improve, we become better ThoughtWorkers. Our feedback is later reviewed by our GOTO trainer and they give us insights into how to work on it. We learn about a plethora of ways to deliver feedback, whether that be in person, on post-it notes or via email.
In all honesty, the 6 weeks you’re out there go really fast. Yes, it is intense and yes, you are often tired and sleep deprived but your teammates are there to support you. Your GOTO trainer is available to chat and offer advice. And you learn, so, so much, it’s unbelievable. You learn about the company and its principles, you learn about other offices around the world and meet amazing people, forming lasting relationships. And most of all, you learn how to be a great consultant at ThoughtWorks. In just a few weeks you become confident in writing unit tests, working in pairs, receiving and giving feedback, discovering new programming languages and techniques, running stand-ups and so much more. It’s an incredible experience and we all look back at it with a lot of fondness.