How to leverage Notion Databases & institutional knowledge to build skilled engineering teams

The most talented engineers building and coding software for the Internet and related industries today are in a constant state of learning, often with the benefit of beginner’s mindset.

While this can be an exhausting experience for most developers at the start of their career journey, as engineers we quickly learn how to automate and standardize parts of our professional and even personal lives to free up mental energy or time for learning or just living life.

Over time, this learning becomes associated with freeing up more of your time and effective results, which leads to an acceleration of learning and overall company growth in many cases.

In fact, the most effective recruitment and talent strategy for software and Internet businesses is to make the pursuit of knowledge for individual and company-wide growth ethos a core part of company culture, which allows a business to attract rather than find exceptional engineering talent talent over time.

Recently, I’ve found that Notion Databases provides the perfect, friction-free interface and automation to maintain and reference the industry knowledge I leverage everyday in my work. While spreadsheets have been common on the web for a long time now, Notion simply offers the best interface and feature set for quickly organizing and referencing architectural strategy, new technology or APIs, updates in the industry, and so much more.

Why successful software engineers need to build their practice of learning technical topics everyday

Front-end and full-stack web and app development today requires developers to reference a dizzying array of tools, technical choices and options to build out projects and apps large or small.

Although the modern diversity and variety of these options and ecosystems is incredibly valuable from a technology investment perspective for entrepreneurs and engineers alike, each choice has benefits and costs that can vary wildly depending on the needs of the business, project, and team.

Tech and Engineering leads usually have a lot of decisions to make at the start of a large project–for example, a complete build-out of a large new eCommerce platform or mobile app–and they’ll lean on their past experience and research to inform architectural decisions that can have major consequences or benefits years into the future for a business.

Therefore, the incentive to avoid technical debt and get the foundational architecture and library decisions right the first time is extremely high which leads most developers to a constant pursuit of new knowledge to challenge theirselves and their team and grow.

Engineers usually read a wide selection of blogs, Twitter accounts from well-known engineering leaders, and other sources to gather industry updates, trends and innovations.

But the difficult part isn’t finding the information: it’s about retaining it and actually using it critically later on to inform your work well into in the future.

Easily sortable databases in Notion

Automating retention and future leverage of software industry knowledge are where Notion databases come in.

The ability to learn new information is strengthened in a similar way to exercising a muscle. If we fall out of practice we can lose some of our former gains.

Building databases for learning and observations as a web developer or technologist not only helps you better retain knowledge, it also helps you become a deeper expert in your desired field of expertise.

This allows me to instantly grab or only view information about a particular technology space such as front-end frameworks or animations or foundational performance optimization techniques.

In the example below that features effective, modern UX and UI design, I’m able to sort and setup alternate view that display rows only for a specific strategy or industry.

One of my most used Notion databases is a collection of websites and apps that I can easily sort and reference for future client work or businesses. This is a selection of just a few of the rows in this database which allows me to easily instantly sort by industry or a variety of groupings.

Most of my databases for industry knowledge feature a selection of tags, and a notes section to distill the most important details.

How I lead software teams with Notion

Another valuable growth center in my career and businesses that I find also benefits from Notion Databases are the management principals and values I try to live through my leadership and work with others everyday.

While a lot about a person’s management style can seem pretty innate and immutable to outside influence, when training or leveling up future managers I’ve found that directing them to read and discuss the work of exceptional leaders builds both empathy and knowledge: equally important traits for effective and truly successful, long-term leaders.

Empathy can’t be learned, but understanding how your team thinks and operates is the best way to ensure that your business is able to reach its peak performance thanks to employees that are professionally and personally thriving.

Building a database of the best articles and essays from the top engineering leaders in the industry is a way for your team both builds the value of individual careers and the ability for your culture to leverage happy, efficient workers in a purely remote, asynchronous setting that encourages discussion and mutual growth.

Asynchronous, remote work and management with Notion

Asynchronous and remote work communication are also other areas of management where I’m always interested in new thinkers and thoughts.

Notion checklists and other incredibly intuitive features in the Notion Notes UI in Notion also allow me to be a more effective leader thanks to its asynchronous, remote communication and organizational benefits.

For example, I use Notion notes to time block and set aside breaks in between each chunk of work so I can easily switch between coding and business tasks without too much mental fatigue.

When managing or leading software teams, especially in agile development settings, I also use Notion to communicate across time zones without disturbing other team mates with immediate notifications for chat requests. Instead, we can use Notion like a company wiki or project management tool where we record our notes, objectives, and deliverables all together in a live document everyone can see updated in real time.

Leveraging institutional knowledge early-on whether you’re a company of one or a team of many will allow you to set a process and habit to automate the collection of new knowledge while also building a valuable library of skills-based reference materials that current and especially future teams can reference years into the future.

Ultimately, encouraging the curation of business and industry knowledge–such as the explosive growth of Tailwind CSS in 2020–among your team in Notion Databases encourages continuous growth and learning at all levels. For software engineers this is one of the most crucial elements of a long and successful career as a technology expert in your organization and the greater Internet industry as a whole.

Looking for more? The Notion team maintains an excellent guide and intro to databases.

What are some of your favorite ways to use databases and the power of software to improve your work or personal daily life?

Published October 19, 2020