Made Tech Blog

Made Tech engineering book club turns 1!

It’s been 1 year since the first official meeting of our engineering book club. So 12 months on I’m taking time to reflect on what it’s meant to our community. 

When I joined Made Tech in April 2022 one of the values that really stood out for me was the importance of learning and mentoring. Being a part of the book club is one of the ways I can give back to the engineering community and give opportunities to others. 

What actually happens at book club?

Traditionally book clubs take a whole book at a time and summarise it, meeting every couple of months. But we wouldn’t be Made Tech if we did everything by the book (don’t mind the pun). 

In the engineering book club, we meet on a Friday afternoon once a fortnight and break our chosen book into bite-sized chunks. This helps us focus on the specifics and makes the amount of reading more manageable. Somewhat handily most books are written in chapters, so we read a chapter at a time. But there’s no set rule. The delivery book club, for example, splits their reading into 2 or 3 sections and meets on a more ad-hoc schedule which works equally well for them. 

For the sessions themselves, we use the chapter content as guide rails and the facilitator of the session will usually have prepared a productivity or visualisation board with some talking points. Then we just allow the conversation to flow around it. We recently held a book club retrospective and shared the responsibility of facilitation. This is working really well and brings lots of new dynamics to the sessions. 

Really, it’s about community building

Reading together really helps to bond people and build interpersonal connections. That’s something especially important to us, as in the consultancy sector we rarely get to work together on projects.

Generally speaking, the club will give most folk the chance to read a book that we wouldn’t have otherwise read – which diversifies our experiences. We focus on more technical books so there’s opportunities for learning while reading, and for asking questions or challenging the content directly. So we get a more communicative, more educated community with authentic relationships.

Book club has been a great way of seeing people come together and where we aim to foster an environment where everyone is happy to contribute. But we’re always looking to expand. We’ve recently read a couple of books that have really engaged the Made Tech Academy graduates. It’s been awesome seeing them come along, getting to know them and hear their perspectives.

It’s not just reading…

But it’s more than just reading. Book club gives us some accountability. It makes us much more likely to actually read the book if we’re going to talk about it afterwards. It’s a great platform in a safe space for anybody to contribute and it also helps us improve communication and facilitation skills. We go to book club not just to have an intellectual debate, but to apply what we learn from each other in our deliveries. I think that can be summarised in one of my favourite quotes from American entrepreneur Jim Rohn, “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to action.”

Book club is a great way of building relationships with people we wouldn’t have otherwise met. We share similar values and principles, but we don’t often get to work together so spending this time with other readers is great. It’s also a great way to challenge yourself. For me, I like stating my opinion and hearing a conflicting idea or different way of looking at things and then talking about it. 

I can sometimes find it hard to back up my opinion with hard evidence. Recalling specific examples can really help to make your point more personable and I can struggle to recall the experiences in my past that have led me to believe something. But these are all things the book club has really helped with. 

Meeting virtually is also a big equaliser, but it does mean there’s no communal cake. That’s a trade-off I’ve begrudgingly accepted over time.

What’s next for book club?

In short, we don’t know exactly. We try to make our decisions democratically but we have a few options. Our architecture capability is growing quite quickly so it might be fun to get involved and kick off some discussions around those kinds of topics. 

It could also be nice for the engineering and delivery book clubs to do a joint venture on a book like Team Topologies – something we can all relate to. We’d love to give our sessions more variety – the delivery book club had a guest author come along and get involved in one of their sessions, so we could do more things like that. I also want to make sure that we’re not working against equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives and make appropriate, relevant book choices that broaden our perspectives. 

Here’s to the next 12 months!

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About the Author

Reuben Hillyer

Lead Software Engineer

Reuben helped to establish the engineering book club on his arrival at Made Tech in April 2022 and he likes getting to the heart of complex domain challenges. At the Home Office, Reuben advocates for automation over manual effort and helps the business and their suppliers navigate the path to technical assurance. His love for sports and statistics means Reuben’s primary objective every year is to win the Made Tech fantasy football league.