Thriving during a lockdown: The Zemoga Study Group

We were all faced with a lockdown during the pandemic and more free time than we wanted. Read how our team came together to take advantage and grow together.

It’s been nine long (or short? We can’t tell anymore…) months since Zemoga shut its doors along with the rest of the world and began working from home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Now our routine is a bit more normal, but rewind back to March and recall the time when everything was shaken up.

When the world entered lockdown, we saw a global increase in the participation of baking banana bread, solving puzzles, and trying our hand in tie-dye or a new craft, but individuals at Zemoga were looking for new ways to fill their newly mandated free time. So what happens when you have a team hungry to learn, who get along well, rely on each other, and have a bit of quarantine space on their hands?

Individuals from our technical teams came together to create a space where they could connect and learn different topics of interest – and from this was born the Zemoga Study Group – a space created to provide an opportunity for learning and growth in both technical and soft skills that seek to generate value in the life and career of its participants.

The beginning of something new

For the first three Saturdays at the start of the lockdown, a small group would log on and connect into a video call to watch and learn from a presentation prepared by a team member.

The group began with these initially three scheduled sessions and the idea of diving into the fundamentals of Javascript. The initial launch was a success to say the least, so after seeing a desire for more, the group continued to evolve and since March has been dedicated to the learning and improvement of a multitude of different topics like programming essentials, approaches to computer science problems, and more.

And it’s not just one person giving a presentation – it’s an extremely collaborative group that’s maintained an openness to welcome new ideas and share peer feedback on how one presents, reports, and expresses the material in which they’ve chosen their focus.

Some more objectives of this dedicated space include:

  • A goal of improving both professional and personal development
  • Writing and sharing written articles on different topics, which include contributions from individuals who want to explain technical matters in their own word
  • A video library of all recorded sessions for peers to review and reference

The above are part of the group’s goals, but in both the articles and video presentation, peers are welcome to give feedback or comments with a goal of reaching an optimal final output.

The focus of the feedback of the articles, which is done during early stages of drafts, is given on how they’re read and are comprehended, lending an opportunity for the original author to improve on the topic’s clarity and explanation via their writing skills. With videos, having the sessions recorded provides not only a space to refer to each session, but allows opportunities for group members to suggest areas for improvement within the presentations given. Both parties get to work on their communication both in giving and receiving constructive criticism, and everyone’s a winner!

Since March, the sessions have continued to transform and evolve with the participation of all, continuously addressing the feedback and tailoring the sessions from what the team members collectively suggest and want to see, since each session’s topic is proposed by any member and decided on by many.

More than just the ‘teachable’ stuff

The original purpose of the group was to create a space to learn technical skills, but during its evolution, team members discovered that the group’s existence had been proving itself more than just a learning group – it had also become a workshop – one that was also improving a different set of skills.

The nature of the group’s openness and collaboration was improving soft skills in this aspect – something that we’ve learned has gained a whole new level of importance and relevance during a time when everything is transmitted virtually. We’re no longer connected in-person to get that deeper feeling of human energy or to understand the nuances in our expressions. Skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and critical thinking have been developing to a deeper level through virtual meetings, and the invitation for peers to effectively and proactively provide and receive feedback has given new meaning to collaboration – especially since the study group is made up of self-motivated volunteers. Though we wish we thought of it first, this by no means was a top-level organized initiative.

A small sprout in the growth of Colombian talent

At Zemoga, the most important aspect of our company has always been our people. A people-centric company that’s done everything possible to create an environment conducive to learn together, trust one other, and make sure every individual feels safe and valued. If you put people first, everything else that’s good will follow. And we’re proud to say that this view has not only helped in the well-being of our people and the success of our partnerships, but it continues to allow us to be part of the bigger picture in growing talent here in Colombia and becoming one of the top locations for sourcing talent.

Over the past decade, Colombia has quickly become one of the fastest-growing regions in LatAm with its technology industry leading up this growth, and there are no signs of slowing down. In fact, Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technology recently announced that $1bn USD would be invested to develop smart cities and construct educational centres in a bid to spur the country’s digital transformation. It will be the largest project in the ministry’s history, which is evidence of the country’s unbounded talent within the technology sector.

Zemoga is proud to have been the first company in Colombia to provide digital outsourcing technology services to companies within the US, and as pioneers, it fills us with joy to see the industry progressing as it is. We’ve worked hard, but in giving credit where credit is due, it’s the raw talent and drive to make a difference that every individual within Zemoga carries. We learned this early on and have since been putting our people first, which has been paramount to our success and a value we’ve found to be imperative in scaling our operation. Throughout the course of the pandemic alone, we’ve been able to grow our team by just over 10% each month and have plans to continue expanding within the region as the demand for Colombian talent increases.

Evolving as individuals, a team, and as a family

The study group was born out of the restrictions the pandemic forced upon us all, but rather than see this as an obstacle, our team created an opportunity, and it was an initiative completely created by peers as a voluntary group to better a variety of aspects within us.

And there are bigger plans for the future! What started as a session on functional programming ended up evolving with the most recent topics having a focus around Frontend development processes. Recently, to expand the learnings even wider from the originally set goal, the group will begin to touch on topics outside of their main focus, like UX and other areas that are useful to become knowledgeable in with relation to the work they do.

A way to share knowledge was founded and created as a space for learning, and we hope to continue fostering a culture that allows for spaces like this to be born. Not only does it help our company, it develops the professional and personal growth of the individuals that make up the booming digital industry in Colombia.

Zemoga thrives because we live out our passions but we push each other to succeed. We lift each other up and naturally motivate one another, naturally giving benefit and paving the way in the work we deliver for our clients.

Zemoga always has an eye out for talent and drive that can join our team. If you’re interested in working with us, apply today for a position within our jobs page on Linkedin.