Josh Zimmerman

By on August 4, 2022

Life at Kong: Living Like an Explorer on U-First Friday

One of Kong’s core values is to be an “Explorer” — to be ever curious, always learning, and willing to make bold moves. This value can be demonstrated in many ways, from questioning the status quo to taking on new (and often intimidating) challenges. 

Most of us grow as a function of simply doing our day jobs, but we need to do new things to keep growing and improving. At Kong, we felt that helping Kongers reach their full potential required more than letting them gradually grind their way to new skills through day-to-day tasks. 

Our solution? U-First Friday.

Making time for professional development

As Kongers, we have a lot on our plates. We’re busy building the world’s most popular API gateway, so there’s plenty to do. That can result in learning and professional development taking a backseat. (Or getting tossed in the trunk next to that bag of old sweaters we’ve been meaning to donate.)

Unless you’ve found a way to forego sleep, you’ve probably noticed it can be hard to find space for learning around daily work duties, hobbies, and spending time with friends and family. 

That’s why we launched U-First Friday, a company-wide initiative to take time out to learn and develop new skills. 

What is U-First Friday?

On the first Friday of every month, Kongers dedicate four or more hours to learning new skills. With the support of their manager, Kongers are encouraged to create an individual growth plan to map skills they want to hone and improve. 

U-First Friday means taking positive steps toward improving your skills and knowledge. Ownership of professional development can help Kongers feel more empowered and confident in their abilities. 

What we ask Kongers to do during U-First Friday

During U-First Friday, we want all Kongers across the organization to build their expertise. When everyone in the company is learning, you feel empowered to grow your skills. 

Create an individual growth plan

We ask all Kongers to create an individual growth plan with their manager. In addition, managers are encouraged to hold regular career development conversations with their people. The conversations aim to have open and honest discussions about where you want to go in your career. One of the actions following the conversation is to create an IGP and identify skills you’ll develop during U-First Friday and beyond.

Block off calendars for dedicated learning

The hardest part about professional development is finding dedicated time to learn. We ask Kongers to block up to four hours on their calendars on the first Friday of every month. Clear your calendar, cancel meetings, and prepare for professional development time! When you block your calendar, you’re signaling to yourself, your team, and your company that learning is your top priority.

Access learning and development resources

All Kongers have access to Udemy, an online learning library with courses and bite-sized learning around everything from new technologies to managerial skills.

Here are a few of the things Kongers have been learning about since we implemented Udemy:

  • Leadership development training
  • Using Asana and other project management tools
  • Recruiting
  • Kubernetes
  • Coding languages
  • Project management

Promote peer-to-peer and social learning

Kong is a remote-first company. The majority of our team members are spread across the globe. One way we try to spur learning during U-First Friday is by promoting social learning. Team members are encouraged to do knowledge and information sharing sessions within their teams to promote learning exchanges.

Summary

When you make learning a habit, you’ll more likely make a positive, long-lasting change and achieve the goals that you set for yourself. Finding time for professional development can be a real struggle, but doing so has many benefits. It can help enhance your professional value and build up your expertise, making you more capable when facing new challenges or given new responsibilities. 

At Kong, we’re developing ourselves by implementing U-First Friday. Learning doesn’t only need to happen on U-First Friday either — it can happen at any time as we build a culture of curiosity and continuous learning. We’re living our Explorer value everyday!

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