• nathanielwatkins

Our secret to building winning teams



What's our secret to winning IBM's Build-A-Bot Challenge? It's the same as our secret to providing the solutions and high-level of leadership that clients have come to expect from such a small (but growing) firm: a real, tangible, company-empowered growth mindset. While many companies like to list employee growth and development as a bullet point in a list of values, Cedrus delivers on the promise to a depth that I haven't seen from anyone else.

I'm relatively new to Cedrus, but I can already see the results of this mindset manifesting in all aspects of the company and how we stand out to our customers. I was told in my first interview that Cedrus cares less about what specific tools and technologies I know how to work with, and more about my capability to learn new things and contribute as part of a team, since new techniques can easily be learned, but one's ability to grow and be a value-adding collaborator are much harder to cultivate. Then, they back this mindset up with an encouragement to go learn whatever we feel is necessary to succeed and grow. Essentially:

  • Take whatever time you need for learning

  • Just don't bill the client for this time

  • Feel free to expense any learning-related costs

  • But we ask that you run it past management first if the cost will be significant

And this goes into effect on day 1: I expensed some courses within my first week. Meanwhile, other companies impose limits, like requiring someone to be employed with the company for a year before any training expenses would be approved or annual spending caps that wouldn't be high enough for a conference or a certification.


Further, this mindset extends far beyond structured or conventional training:

  • Want to read some research papers?

  • Please do!

  • Wanna form a team to enter a hackathon?

  • How can we help?

The company realizes that self-directed, independent learning is crucial to not only growing someone's skills, but also keeping them engaged in their work, looking for ways to reward and empower people who go out of their way to better themselves since it betters the company at the same time.



So when a coworker suggested that we form a team to enter the Build-A-Bot Challenge (with only about 2 weeks remaining), we didn't have to stress out about keeping this side-project secret; we knew that the company would support us in our efforts. Besides the intangible peace of mind, we also were able to do things like: poll our department for feedback on our solution idea, call out work on the project as part of our workload in status update meetings, and even post our submission video on our company YouTube channel.


That's all well and good, but how does a project like this help Cedrus' clients? This IBM hackathon facilitated a level of knowledge transfer, experience building, and design thinking that could not be replicated through other means, and all in a short amount of time and at no additional cost. Together our team went through the entire development lifecycle, from architecting a solution, to planning sprints, developing a prototype, iterating the user experience, and deployment. While many of my team members have been through their fair share of full lifecycles, each time through is a learning opportunity, and I was able to learn so much from each of their strengths this time through, leaving me much better equipped to serve our clients and deliver solutions. And this hackathon isn't a rare occurrence; Cedrus also invests in R&D to ensure our consultants are well versed, knowing when cutting-edge research is the right solution for our customers' needs.



Cedrus delivers growth for our clients by growing people who like to grow.

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