The success of the bol tech community

What makes a tech community successful? And why should an organisation even bother starting one? As manager Tech Community Training & Onboarding, Michaela leads a full-fledged team of community builders at bol, organising dozens of successful events annually. With us, she shares the pitfalls, challenges, and triumphs she has encountered over the past five years. “We have grown tremendously over the years. Yet above all, we always stay in tune with the needs of our engineers. This community is for them, but also largely thanks to them.”


Communities within a community

“When I started working at bol in 2019, our tech community consisted of ‘only’ 500 to 600 people. Now, it’s nearly a thousand.” Michaela remembers that time well. “It was a bit of a search in the beginning. The desire within the community to start initiatives was there, but it was up to me to streamline processes and make them work. So, I started by reaching out to our engineers.”

Michaela began mapping out ideas and desires. “It quickly became clear to me that engineers and data scientists have an immense intrinsic drive to share knowledge and information. For this reason, we have set up several subcommunities. Think of the Women in Tech community, the Stream Processing Guild, and the GO community. Each community has its own group of ‘firestarters’; bol employees with whom we determine the monthly activities calendar and organise events. These could be roundtables, hackathons, or knowledge shares. Our motto? Engage, Grow, and Attract. We want to continuously encourage our tech employees, provide good onboarding and training, and excite talented IT professionals outside bol too.”

Tech-specific onboarding

Providing specific onboarding just for tech has only been a recent development. Michaela explains: “The methods used within tech are quite specific, and we have created lots of tailormade tools within our bol landscape. For this reason, we developed multiple workshops with our engineers as part of the general bol onboarding. In these workshops we cover our processes, but we also pay attention to communication methods, tools, and of course, the community. We find that this way of onboarding builds trust right from the start, and new colleagues now feel confident enough to immediately start working with bol-specific tools.”

With the addition of onboarding tasks to her workload and a significant influx of new engineers, Michaela found herself in need of assistance. One new colleague came on board, followed quickly by another. “I have now transitioned into a leadership position, where I deal with much more than just community guidance,” she reflects. “Not one day at bol is the same for me, and my role knows very few boundaries. That’s what truly excites me about my job – I have the freedom to mould it according to my vision. The trust I have been given from day one is incredibly rare and special, and I treasure that immensely.”

The Spaces Summit is curated entirely by the bol tech community. You build it, you run it, you love it - that's really what we're all about.

- Michaela Radstaat - aus dem Spring, Manager Tech Community Training & Onboarding

For engineers, by engineers

What is Michaela most proud of? “Looking back over the years, we have launched such great initiatives. For example, we organise a programming competition several times a year (Spaces Championship), engage in chaos engineering during Chaos Day, and help children develop their digital skills through the Bollebozen project.”

“But the coolest thing is undoubtedly the Spaces Summit – an engineering conference that has grown immensely over the years, with around 750 bol employees attending annually. While I find it nerve-wracking to be on stage in front of hundreds of people, dozens of bol engineers willingly sign up to give talks about their projects, insights, and knowledge. It’s a truly special day, and what makes it even better is that the entire program is curated by the bol tech community. You build it, you run it, you love it – that’s really what we’re all about.”

The importance of a community

The community now stands as a solid foundation, which benefits both bol employees and bol itself. Michaela explains: “As an organisation with a good community, you are able to both attract and retain great people. Additionally, we offer something truly unique for international employees and expats. Once they start working, they immediately get to know a huge group of people and are embraced by a special community where they quickly feel at home. While engineers work quite autonomously, there is always that drive to connect and learn from each other. And that’s exactly what you find here in the bol tech community.”