Wed 21 August 2019

Sharing technical knowledge at Codethink

Codethink’s culture stems from the world of open source software. A large part of what it means to be a Codething is taking part in the sharing of knowledge across the company and learning on a daily basis. This practice drives the development of understanding in different areas of software, programming and allows staff to generally learn as a collective.

One way knowledge is shared around Codethink is through peer-led classes. Recently Daniel, a solutions architect at Codethink, has organised and led a series of classes for other Codethink engineers around Rust.

Rust is a relatively new programming language (Rust 1.0 was released in 2015) but one that is increasingly popular, achieving status as ‘most loved programming language’ in Stack Overflow’s developer survey each year since 2016. Rust boasts a very friendly, and growing community, reliably releasing regular updates, making it an attractive option for developers looking for a project to contribute to.

Rust has been turning heads as a modern alternative to some of the more traditional programming languages. As a memory-safe language, Rust is designed with security in mind -- it’s protection against memory corruption vulnerabilities has prompted security engineers to explore its applicability. Focus is increasingly placed on software security in the automotive industry and recent research has pointed at memory safety as a critical problem which needs addressing. This points to Rust as a potential solution and makes it a very relevant language for Codethink engineers, who work on automotive projects frequently.

“It’s *possible* to write good safe clean code in any language but some, such as Rust, make it easier to *not write* bad code in certain senses.” - Daniel Silverstone

Daniel’s Rust course was set up with the ultimate objective that attendees should become comfortable writing code in the language and for the whole group to agree that classes are no longer required. By setting the overall course objective with the group in mind instead of the individual, an environment of collaboration is fostered, where attendees are encouraged to help each other reach a common goal. This is a positive attitude to encourage and one that ultimately benefits a company in their day to day activities.

The schedule for the Rust course was set up with attendees’ work schedules in mind. Daniel delivers 1 hour of lecture style class each week which is recorded for future reference, and attendees agree to a matched amount of signposted, but self-directed, learning. Homework is also set for attendees in the form of programming problems, for which the lecture will be needed in addition to the self-directed learning. Although the course is set to be able to work around attendee schedules and company work comes first, a certain level of commitment to learning is required, which is made clear from the start.

The feedback of the course was positive, the engineers in Codethink share a passion for learning and improving in what they do and the opportunity to take part in Daniel’s Rust course proved popular. As a result of the high interest, the course will be run for a second time with another, larger group of engineers attending. Daniel enjoyed being able to teach other enthusiastic engineers about something he’s interested in and encourage discussion on the topic.

The sharing of knowledge in a company like Codethink is important and allows for technical competencies to develop at a faster rate than normal. This is because staff have more forums to connect on an intellectual level outside of project requirements. For a company where learning is an important part of day to day life, this format proved to be very successful.

“A day without learning is a day wasted. Codethink engineers thrive on learning. Spreading knowledge and skills allows people to improve in all they do.” - Daniel Silverstone

For a company where learning is an important part of day to day life, this format proved to be very successful and allows us to grow our understanding in new technology areas. By doing this we become able to confidently engage with the challenges that those new technologies may bring.

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