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What we do

We work with early-stage startups and mid-size technology organisations to deliver cultural outcomes that drive business benefits.

We do that by teaching, growing teams, and leading by example.

Teaching

Customised apprenticeship program

Many companies employ a sink or swim approach to educating less experienced employees, relying on on-the-job learning. This leaves critical gaps in knowledge. Business As Usual (BAU) assignments are vital for your product(s) but do not reliably offer opportunities to pick up new skills, or to keep up with the changing nature of our industry.

Hooroo (now Qantas Hotels) recognised this and engaged Blackmill to deliver the six month pilot of their engineering academy.

The result was a diverse cohort of engineers who understood more of the full stack, were able to make better informed decisions, and exhibited greater autonomy. Code designs became cleaner, better architected, and the testing regimen improved. They are less often inclined to take shortcuts in face of difficulties. Consistency between “generations” of employees will increase as everyone gets on the same level over time. In short, we delivered a decreased 'Time to Value' for new employees and increased skills for veterans.

The program focused on:

  • up-skilling less experienced developers;
  • allowing intermediate developers to build upon their already strong foundation;
  • incorporating senior developers as mentors and educators;
  • reducing cost of acquisition and churn;
  • covering technical skills such as Ruby, Rails, clean code, design patterns, Git, test driven development, databases; and
  • developing interpersonal topics such as effective communication and how to do code reviews.

Elle joined Hooroo to help us establish what is becoming a very successful Engineering Academy. The process of assessing needs then designing and delivering the programme was incredibly thorough; from the interview process to the thoughtful curriculum which is tailored for Hooroo and is full of sound engineering principles and practices.

As well as excellent attention to detail, quality of work and communication, the most surprising thing about working with Elle and Blackmill are the benefits you get in addition to the stated project or programme. In our case this was a modelled interview process designed to be inclusive and objective but also efficient.

I highly recommend working with Elle and Blackmill and would be happy to expand on this recommendation in person.

Stu Liston , Head of Engineering at Hooroo (Qantas Hotels)

Culture workshops

We offer workshops on team communication, workplace culture, and hiring practices.

Blackmill worked with Web Directions to run a workshop on engineering hiring at their first Code Leaders conference. The success of the cultural sessions that day directly led to the creation of Web Directions Culture, a full day of cultural workshops for engineering and technology leaders at the annual Web Directions Summit conference in 2017 where Blackmill delivered workshops on workplace culture and hiring.

A talk based on the latest related material was delivered at the Bifrost Tech Leadership Conference in Toronto, Canada, in November, 2018.

We can deliver workshops to your team on these and similar topics.

Elle and Lachlan have a knack for creating a safe learning environment and helping participants of all levels get involved. I left their workshop inspired, with a few new tools under my belt and the confidence to put them in practice.

They know the web community inside-out so speakers they bring in are top notch. Would highly recommend them to any development team looking to level up.

Steve Gilles , Founder at Lookahead Search

Skills workshops

We offer technical training on topics such as Test-Driven Development in Ruby on Rails, using Git and GitHub for better workflows, and refactoring techniques.

Growing Teams

We work with you to add rigour, consistency, and predictability to your hiring and interview process. Use of structured interviews with rubrics, better job descriptions with open and inclusive language, and skills assessments that look like actual work greatly improve your predictability for hiring people who will do well.

Objectives and Key Results

We guide organisation-wide implementation of OKRs. In consultation with executives and every layer of the organisation, Blackmill can assist your implementation and roll-out of OKRs by guiding structure and reporting, and by coaching staff on how to write good OKRs for their team and themselves.

Lachlan's contribution to the Engineering and Design team at Data61 has been extremely well received. He came on as a maternity leave backfill for our FED team leader, working on project delivery as well as coaching the team resulting in two successful promotions.

On the back of this, as well as his broad and highly professional (and great positive attitude) we engaged him further to provide production operations coaching to various early stage technology project teams needing advice on technology stack, team culture and production goals as well as Data61 Executive Team coaching for the organisational implementation of Objectives and Key Results.

I look forward to working with him again.

Hilary Cinis , Director, Engineering and Design at Data61

Effective development teams

We assist with hiring processes and hiring for diversity. We coach tech leads in effective management practices, and we improve overall engineering processes.

Technology companies survive by their ability to hire and retain fantastic employees. With software engineers that means supporting an environment that offers autonomy, opportunities for learning, and values craft.

Organising targeted training and on-boarding lets employees contribute to the business fast, without sacrificing quality. Every new software engineer needs to understand your technology platform, your culture and your shared vocabulary more swiftly so they can meaningfully contribute earlier. We include veteran employees as much as the new ones. This leads to increased retention and higher skill levels across the board. In many companies, deadlines edge out professional development but this approach improves total outcomes for everyone involved.

We will partner with you to develop and maintain a lasting culture of learning that can:

  • recruit great candidates;
  • improve interview processes for those candidates, with less unconscious bias, and better results, in less time;
  • keep top performing employees interested and productive;
  • raise the bar for current employees; and
  • fill the long-standing knowledge gaps that hold employees back.

Leading by example

We work directly with your engineering and product teams. We serve as role models and mentors while delivering features and improving code maintainability. We review your codebase and provide an assessment.

Code reviews

We analyse and review your codebase to identify its key practices and conventions. We report back on code quality, for example percentage code coverage, suggestions for Ruby and Rails best practices and conventions that have not yet been followed, object-oriented design flaws, and Rails anti-patterns.

We then detail recommendations for improvements as needed and can work with your team to put practices into place to ensure the improvements in regards to better architecture, scaling, and performance are adopted.