Discover Dino Riders, the BIL Developers community

You created the Dino Riders community two years ago. What were your objectives and how did you get the initiative off the ground?

Our main aim in creating the community was to bring people together and generate some healthy competition to spur us all on. Working collaboratively with the developers, we turned our vision into a reality and identified what we would need to achieve key goals such as

  • Sharing knowledge and best practice
  • Discussing issues and how to resolve them together
  • Coming together with a view to innovating

Regarding the name of the community, we put it to a vote and “Dino Riders” was the unanimous choice because of its fun, geeky tone (it’s a reference to a 1980s cartoon).

How often do you organise events and what themes do you cover?

We organise an event every week or two. We try not to hold more than two a week so that we stick to a sustainable rhythm.

We’ve always wanted to include as many people as possible. That’s why anyone can take part and we have the support of team leaders, who share information with their teams.

We like to make sure we have a variety of speakers and topics. These are prioritised based on participants’ requests and anyone can make suggestions.

Recurring formats include:

  • Brown-bag lunches: a member presents a technical or novel topic over lunch. Past topics range from functional programming with vavr to introductions to Vim, Kafka, Clojure and F#, as well as testing practices such as consumer-driven contract testing, property-based testing and much more.
  • Book club: we organise sessions and we read books such as “97 Things Every Java Programmer Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts” and “Monolith to Microservices”.
  • Code dojos and workshops in general: we often have members of the community share their knowledge by creating code katas – this is a great teaching tool that helps everyone to enhance their skills.

This year, for example, we have explored

  • junit 5 with Wilfried
  • How to distribute transactions with Rodislav
  • Kotlin with the help of Kotlin Koans

In light of recent events, this year also saw us bring in new formats that are better suited to remote working, such as “Lightning Talks”.

Lightning Talks are one-hour sessions where several different people each have 10–15 minutes to present a topic. This allows us to grasp new concepts and paves the way for deep-dive sessions or a reassessment of our routine practices.

Recently, these sessions introduced us to the ArchUnit library, which can be used to test Java architecture. We implemented its use at the bank on the back of the Lightning Talk, allowing us to improve the quality assurance of our deliverables.

At the end of each session, we publish the content used on our KnowledgeBase. This KnowledgeBase, created by and for the community, also enables us to document our development projects.

Thanks to this momentum, we have had around 30 different speakers to date and attract an average of 20 participants per event.

To what extent does BIL support you with your initiative?

We’re fortunate to have a management team that not only supports us but also fully understands the rationale and value of the initiative. The very existence of our team proves that.

So far, whenever we’ve needed resources (budget for events, spaces in which to hold them) we’ve been supported. We also regularly receive messages to the effect that we should take the time we need to ensure quality and avoid racing to adopt new features.

How do you see the future of Dino Riders?

We hope to keep up the current pace despite the temptation to get swept up in other tasks and day-to-day routines. It’s important that we continue to keep ourselves up to date and that we maintain these strong links among developers.

The community is very lively and there are always more topics we’d like to cover together than there is time available.

Scheduled and yet-to-be scheduled future events will cover new topics such as Checkmarx, GraalVM (with the goal of understanding how this could help us in our day-to-day work), OpenFaaS, Akka and more. Of course, we held an end-of-year event too, with a quiz and a prize in the form of an Amazon gift card for the winner.

It is also our ambition to open up this community to people outside BIL, which is why we’ve started a parallel Meetup group. However, this year’s events have forced us to review this plan. We hope to be able to relaunch this initiative in 2021.

To conclude, Dino Riders is more than just a community to us. It’s a way of life and a set of values. Developers must update their skills constantly and taking part is a way of investing in your career.

The Managers perspective

Nicolas Schell, Consumer & Partner Daily Banking

"A community of developers, often compared to a well of knowledge that everyone can drink from and give feedback on to ensure it never runs dry, enables the company to optimise the upskilling of its members and stay up to speed on new technologies. At BIL, this community offers participants an opportunity to share their knowledge, often acquired outside the bank through a passion for IT, as well as set themselves challenges and see how they measure up against their colleagues. The motivation isn’t a ranking system but rather a constant drive to stay at the cutting edge of this expertise-led profession in which the pace of change is always increasing.

Lastly, we often highlight this community during the recruitment process because it allows us to demonstrate the extent to which the IT department leadership recognises the value talented individuals can add. As such, it promotes mutual assistance and feedback in a virtuous circle where today’s learners are tomorrow’s instructors.”

Laurent Kaiser, Head of Digital IT

“BIL is in the midst of a transformation programme whose aims include replacing the Core Banking System and Data Warehouse while also introducing new technologies to pave the way for its digital transformation.

The array of technologies in place, the range of challenges ahead and the number of teams involved (both internally and externally) mean that we must set up tools and structures for transferring and sharing knowledge, assuring/improving IT development quality and monitoring technological advances to keep skills in step with market solutions.

In this context, we have launched two major initiatives: the developer community and the CraftMen team.

The goal of the developer community is to facilitate discussion among all development teams by drawing on factors such as architecture solutions expertise, the introduction of co-design sessions (to ensure maximum efficiency during projects’ initial phases) and various other knowledge-sharing initiatives. The community immediately received a warm welcome from several teams that were already used to applying more agile/collaborative approaches. In next to no time, it was having a beneficial impact on the implementation of new solutions and earning positive feedback from participants in the various discussion forums. This brought in lots of other participants and helped to boost the virtuous circle.

In the same collaborative vein, the CraftMen team was also set up (with close links to the Enterprise Architecture team) to provide coaching directly to the development teams in order to promote best practices (code review, pair programming, coding standard), help with a range of technical issues as they arise and support developers engaged in the CPD process.

Lastly, none of these initiatives could be a success without a handful of key individuals actively promoting them from the start or without the active support of management to facilitate systemic change.”

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