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Empowering engineers at Culture Amp with interactive Ruby, Rails, and TDD Training

Culture Amp is a leading employee experience platform. They are focused on building a company that truly puts culture first. Their mission goes beyond just building a business tool. It includes a commitment to providing the education, community, and support to bring a culture-first approach to organisations. Culture Amp is a values-driven company, and their values are fundamental to how they approach everything they do.

Culture Amp engaged Blackmill to design and deliver a three day training program. The training focused on Ruby, Rails, and Test Driven Development (TDD using RSpec) best practices.

At Culture Amp we engaged Blackmill to help us with some upskilling around Ruby, Rails, and TDD.

Elle was amazing in this engagement. She connected with a large number of people across our engineering group to fully understand our needs and ensure the training would have the greatest impact for us.

Grounded in this listening she then pulled together a really effective training course and delivered it to a cohort of engineers. People who attended found the course very engaging and it provided really effective learning for them. It was very interactive, involved lots of pairing, and built connections between people in addition to the Ruby learning.

Elle's experience and capability in building high quality maintainable systems in Ruby and Rails is super high. And she is a wonderful teacher who has a lot of empathy for people. I'm grateful that we were able to have this opportunity for a bunch of our engineers to learn from her.

Paul Hughes, Director of Engineering Enablement, Culture Amp


Culture Amp has a big engineering team with a wide range of engineers from new to very experienced. They wanted to unlock productivity by standardising their development stack and focusing on Ruby on Rails as their default stack. They were moving from a separation between frontend and backend towards a more T-shaped approach so that people can build out horizontal teams more easily. They identified a challenge around lack of time and support to help people become more capable in broader areas.

Culture Amp also recognised the opportunity to:

  • Live up to their company values by supporting their engineering team.
  • Continue to enhance code practices and engineering standards.
  • Increase the sense of career progression and development for staff.


In order to overcome their challenges, Culture Amp wanted to upskill their staff to

  • Uplift the engineering standards and incorporate good industry practices around Ruby, Rails, and TDD (writing clean code, have solid understanding of good fundamentals and code architecture);
  • Boost the standard of excellence; and
  • Increase the rate of value delivery to customers.

With a focus on Ruby as the primary language in their stack, they engaged Blackmill to design a three-day training program for Ruby, Rails, and TDD with RSpec.

Project phases included:

  1. Discovery phase to inform the shape of the training, including cohorts and content.
  2. Content creation and customisation.
  3. Delivery of directed in-person 3-day training to a 20 person cohort.

Benefits for Culture Amp:

  • Addressing productivity concerns the team had identified.
  • Continuing to meet the standards of excellence that Culture Amp upholds around staff retention through professional development.
  • Connection with others by going through an in-person training together.
  • Tailored content addressing Culture Amp’s needs.
  • Fast program delivery using pre-existing materials that were tweaked accordingly.
  • Potential for future training, following the pilot program.

The plan for the training was to

  • Focus on good industry practices around Ruby and Rails.
  • Concentrate each day on a different aspect of training: Ruby, Rails, and TDD.
  • Learn from the first cohort to apply learnings to following cohorts.
  • Practice and practical demonstration of TDD.
  • Utilise interactive delivery format.

The training format was in-person, interactive and included presentations, discussions, code-alongs, and a lot of practical hands-on activities. Participants worked in pairs, and rotated pairs regularly.


The training achieved its goals of introducing best practices, how to better architect code to reduce future technical debt and increase code quality, and contributing to participants' sense of career progression.

Additionally, all the topics in the draft proposal were covered plus a few more. Almost every topic had a corresponding activity in session. The Rails app used was on theme with Culture Amp: a survey app that is based on the Culture Amp Learning Basics materials. A 56-question quiz on the topics was also shared with the group at the end of the training. The purpose of the quiz was for self-evaluation and as a prompt to help participants remember the materials using repetition.

Feedback was extremely positive, with a median experience rating of 4 out of 5 and participants finding the training useful and applicable to their work with a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Content-related feedback included:

  • Beginner friendly content
  • Clear explanations of the reasons why
  • ActiveRecord and TDD were a favourite
  • Impressive amount of content for the time we had
  • Good software engineering principles, not just language basics and syntax

Training format related feedback included:

  • Balance between teaching and hands on experience. Good combo with explanations and exercises.
  • Ruby → Rails → TDD structure was good.
  • Diving into and learning how things work as a group.
  • Pairing with others!

And lastly, feedback around the benefits of the training included:

  • Demystify Rails to continue to learn more
  • Helped to cement concepts for better understanding.
  • Having practical examples I can reference in the future.

Suggestions for future sessions were minimal and centred on delivery rather than content.

What people said about the best part about the training:

  • “I've really liked the course structure in general and how the topics where spread during the 3 days of training.”
  • “The amount I’ve learned and the exposure I got to what others teams in Culture Amp are doing and also the industry/ruby community best practices put in practice during the days.”
  • “Getting a pragmatic view of TDD for a real Rails project.”
  • “Pairing, good content, hands on experience on Ruby/Rails.”
  • “Learning more about Rails and how a web app is put together — this is what I attended the workshop for.”

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