Developing a community

We’ve gone from a small bunch of developers to a thriving community in the thousands. Here’s how we do it and why it matters.

You might have seen the stories of the different work our developers do and the problems they help us solve. But did you know that we have more than 2,000 people taking part in our developer community? 

Avid readers of Loop will probably recognize the name Software Innovation (SI). Like the name implies, it’s a sector focusing on software development and SI has been tasked with helping build that community since 2014. While it means we can act like an engine, it doesn’t mean we’re the entire car - we have software enthusiasts all across Equinor.



“It’s well-known that Equinor has some of the best geologists, geophysicists and petroleum engineers in Norway, but I don’t think it’s that controversial to say that Equinor also has some of the best IT minds in the country.”

Pål Grønås Drange

Portrait of a man

It’s time for us to find out where this community is, how they came to be and why it’s so important to have them in-house like we do. Let’s start off with the easiest aspect of the story: finding the community itself. Where are all these seemingly mythical creatures we call developers? On Slack, of course! 

“Slack has really become the place where the community exists. It’s the place for discussions, asking for help from colleagues or sharing any sort of knowledge,” Pål explains. 

“You would have to wait quite a while if you had to file a support ticket, but with Slack usually someone has an answer to your questions in a matter of mere minutes. And it’s all happening naturally by people helping each other out,” he adds.

Why an internal software community?

  • Better understand the nature of software and data - and adapt its culture and ways of working
  • Lets Equinor be a competent buyer of digital solutions and services
  • Build teams that continuously share, deliver and learn together
  • React faster to change by continuously learning
  • Value curiosity, courage and transparency 

Sharing knowledge

If you don’t know, Slack is a communication platform, complete with direct messages, channels and more. The party started way back 2014 and then there were a mere 20-30 people on Slack. Now, there’s more than 2,700 of us. 

“The great part is that all you see is a name, so it doesn't matter who you are or where you are. All that matters is that you're interested in software development,” Pål says.

“Sharing knowledge on what new things really do work is very important, but it’s just as important to share what doesn’t work and fails. And failing is important, or else we’re not learning anything."

Pål Grønås Drange

Pål has been working as a leading advisor the last 3 years, but has now headed off to become a professor at the University of Bergen. While we’re sad to see him leave, we’re also quite happy at the thought of one of our own inspiring and encouraging future IT students.

50 ways to Slack

One of the teams that might be what you call Slack power users are the Scout team. They’re a grand total of 16 people spread across three different squads; the Red Pandas, the Owls and the Sloths. Their different projects are spread across 12 Slack channels.

“I think we use Slack a little more than most, but it’s not just because we’re a large team. The last 4 years we’ve worked with consultants outside of Bergen and Norway, so we’re used to this way of communication," team lead Markus Fanebust Dregi says.

Some of the channels are purely for the squad, others are for software and its users, and one is for meeting minutes to make sure everyone stays updated. All this information flowing around means you need a system and rankings to make sure you’re not just reading messages, but Slack is also a treasure chest of information.

“It’s also a great way to have a look into what the different teams are working on across Software Innovation, even when we’re working from home,” Lars Petter Øren Hauge says.

 

Portrait of Lars Petter Øren Hauge, who works as a software developer in Equinor



“If I have a problem, one of the first things I do is to search for it on Slack - it’s almost like our own Google or StackOverflow. If I can’t find anything I head on over to the specific channels to ask, and you’ll always get an answer if you explain your problem properly." 

Lars Petter Øren Hauge.

Stay in the Loop

Want to be notified when we publish new Loop stories? Subscribe to the newsletter to get an email when a new story is ready.

Welcome to the seminar series

But building a community is more than just Slack channels - it’s also about letting people know about the different work that’s being done and connecting people. One way of doing that are the Seminar Series; weekly Teams-talks by our own developers.



“Usually, someone presents a project they’re working on, and a technical challenge or solution related to it. The main idea is just sharing knowledge so that everyone knows what’s going on and can learn from each other.”

Torgeir Haaland

Portrait of a man

Torgeir is part of the organizing committee with Margaux Ledieu, Erlend Hårstad and Li Deng. The Seminar Series started in the Fall of 2020, and has had talks on robots, Advent of Code, and CAD model preparations - with many more to come. And like everyone else, they’re also benefitting:

“It helps me broaden my “technical horizon” by learning more about technologies or ways of working that I haven’t tried before. Plus, I know who to contact if I have a problem with something that I know someone worked on before,” Torgeir says.

We also have our own Equinor Developer Conference, which in 2019 had more than 300 attendees! The three-day conference featured workshops, keynotes, learning sessions and social activities for everyone to take part in.

Meet the others in the organizing comittee behind the seminar series! Top row: Li Deng (left) and Magrete Torland, sector manager SI. Bottom row: Erlend Hårstad (left) and Margaux Ledieu.

What we do to shape our community

  • Host hackathons
  • Developer Playgrounds every Friday
  • Host our own developer conference EDC
  • Participate in national and international conferences like NDC, TechTown, Javazone, and others
  • Weekly seminars 
  • And more!

 

A new type of gathering

In normal years, we also host sector gatherings where all of Software Innovation gathers in one city to get together, learn and workshop. But in the times of social distancing, our 2020 edition moved into the virtual world. 

First, everyone gathered on Teams before they were split into smaller groups to work on a task of their choosing. Everyone had two days to work and then present their final product. But it wasn’t just about the end product.

“Even though it was very intense, we still took the time to ask questions and explain things to each other. We also made sure we did everything with best practices in mind, had frequent sync-ups and we were also always in a Teams meeting with someone else so we could talk to each other.” 

Anette Uttisrud

“I’m actually surprised that it worked so well working online with people I hadn’t met before, but I think the steps we took was part of that,” Anette adds.

Anette and team Leto were one of the winning teams during the gathering. Team Demeter was the joint winner, who also took the same approach to their work. The team had different fields of expertise, but they made a conscious effort to not team people together by skills, Anna Kvashchuk explains.

“If you didn’t know something you could always ask and learn. It was a good balance between initiative and learning, and a very good mix of different skills within the team," Anna says.

IT professional network 101

  • Meets monthly and full day quarterly (Chief Engineer and Leading advisors)
  • Consists of 10 leading advisors and selected advisors
  • Leading advisors is a temporary role, which could possibly hold the position for four years at a time
  • The different fields covered by a leading advisor changes as focus areas change.

Building a professional network

Now we know where the community is, at least in its online form, but why do we think it’s so important to have our own IT community? Couldn’t we just purchase the software we needed? 

Portrait of a man



“In some cases, there’s no one else that can solve a challenge. We have the domain knowledge, we have the data and expertise, as well as the developers needed. This is an important part of digital transformation: using our own capacity to automate processes that used to be done manually."

Knut Erik Hollund, Chief Engineer IT

Knut Erik is our Chief Engineer IT and heads up the IT professional network. The way it works is that while developers are part of a sector, such as Software Innovation, they are also part of the IT Professional network.

And it’s here that we’ve found all these talented people to help build and be a part of the entire IT community. One of them is Keth Iren Braut. She’s been the leading advisor for cloud infrastructure since February 2020.

“I think it’s an important network to have especially because the leading advisors fields aren’t static. They change with our focus and needs, but also make sure we don’t come to a standstill since the people and focus areas change,” Keth Iren tells us.

“And I’m not saying that just because I happen to be a leading advisor, that was my opinion even before I joined,” she laughs.

More of a sparring partner 

Her main task working with cloud infrastructure is to build bridges towards a future of infrastructure as code. Basically, bridging the gap between those who have always worked with code, and those who have only worked with purchased solutions and never seen a line of code before themselves.

Even though they come from different fields of interest, they all have one thing in common - working as support for everyone working in IT. 



“Personally, I think of us as more of a sparring partner than a network. We don’t have any other bias than what direction to take in regards to tech, but you can still get feedback and have discussions with us. And even though these discussions can seem challenging, it’s just because we want to make sure we are all pulling in the right direction.”

Keth Iren Braut

We’ve covered some of the bases that make up our foundation, but in a couple of years (maybe even months) things may have changed drastically. The only constant will be the people who make up our software development community. 

Either way, we’ll be back with more stories from our software developers in Equinor so make sure to sign up to our newsletter below. And if you want to be a part of the community itself, check out our Careers page for available positions. 

Until next time, stay safe and take care!