A day in the life: swapping jobs at FutureLearn

Sam, a Developer, and Alla, a Designer, recently swapped jobs for half a day at FutureLearn. Here they explain why, what they learnt and how you could do your own job swap.

On a job swap: a camel in the acrtic

Learning and collaboration is a big part of our culture at FutureLearn. We have spoken and written about it a few times.

At FutureLearn, people from different disciplines work closely together: content producers, designers, developers and marketing folk all collaborate. Each have different expertises and face different challenges, and in order to work together better, it helps to understand what these are.

So far we’ve been achieving this through pairing sessions, learning hours, internal lightning talks, coaching and mentoring, among other things. But to take this a step further, we decided to carry out an experiment and do a job swap for half a day.

Why swap jobs?

You may be wondering why you would choose to swap the comfort of your own job for the challenges of someone else’s. But if you do, you just might:

  • learn something new;
  • understand each other’s roles better;
  • get an insight into what your colleagues do on day-to-day basis;
  • share experiences;
  • and have (lots of) fun.

On the day of the job swap

‘Twas the night before Christmas (give or take a couple of days), and the office was quiet. Sam (aka wannabefro), a Developer, and Alla, a Designer, had an idea that would shake the world (office) to its core. We announced our “evil” plan on Slack, our internal messaging tool:

Announcing a job swap on Slack, our internal messaging tool.

In a designer’s role, Sam helped to make improvements to our homepage, while Alla worked on improving how comments work on our site. Of course we needed a lot of help from each other along the way, and the final outcome we produced couldn’t be used in its raw form, but that wasn’t the main point of the experiment.

What’s important is that we enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot from it.

What we learnt from swapping jobs

It can be easy to take for granted the work that your colleagues do. Taking time to gain a better understanding and develop empathy can only lead to a world of better collaboration.

Sam now knows how to create clipping masks, and what smart objects are for. He also learnt about the basics of colour, composition and triangular patterns. Most importantly he can now create the most delightful images with a vibrant Hollywood feel to them (although we decided not to add the explosions to the homepage).

Alla got to experience the joys of Jasmine JavaScript tests, as she helped implement improvements to commenting on our site, which will hopefully see the light of day very soon. She really enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that came with taking a design from idea to implementation.

Coming away from it, we both feel like it was something that we would like to experience again and we would encourage our colleagues to do a job swap too, even for a few hours.

While it’s important for both parties to enjoy the experiment, we also had to make sure that the job swap felt rewarding and a worthwhile  investment of both our time. Having completed what we consider to be a successful job swap, here are some thoughts on how to make it work.

How to make a job swap work

Be interested

First and foremost, both of you need to be genuinely interested in the swap and want to give it a go. There’s no point forcing it on anyone.

Plan your time ahead

Choose a suitable time, when you both have some bandwidth and are not under the pressure of deadlines. Make sure you plan the day out with your colleague and let the rest of your team know what you’ll be doing.

Choose a suitable task

Give your colleague a relatively straightforward task to do, with clear instructions. Don’t just drop them in at the deep end, instead make them feel empowered by giving them a realistic goal that they can accomplish.

Sit next to each other

Arrange your desks so that you sit next to each other and are always available to each other for guidance and support. Use this opportunity to answer your colleague’s questions and give them a feel of what happens “behind the scenes” in your daily role.   

Leave space to experiment

Give them the tools to get the job done, but don’t prescribe them the solution. Allow them to be creative and express themselves in the task they’ve been asked to do. And who knows, and they just might surprise you.

Got any job-swapping tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments below. Want to know more about the way we do things? Reading more of our Making FutureLearn posts.

Category Making FutureLearn

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