5 Ways We Foster a Growth Culture

August 31, 2022
Aug 31, 2022
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5 Ways We Foster a Growth Culture

Growth is a foundational part of 1904labs. In our growth culture, we focus on continuous learning, feedback and collaboration, and building the right environment for growth to happen. 

There are many (many) ways that 1904labs puts these growth principles into practice, but here are the top five:  

1. Lunch and Learns

The 1904labs lunch and learn program is one of the major ways we foster a growth culture. Team members get together to share information over lunch about a project, idea, or any topic that they feel would be helpful to others in the labs. This can be technical topics like how to build a simple game or non-technical topics like someone from talent acquisition conducting a session on how to interview candidates. 

Not only do teammates learn new skills, but they may also learn more about the responsibilities of their colleagues in other roles, leading to more and better collaboration. 

“Being part of a growth culture means two things: constantly being challenged and constantly teaching. Any culture where you are encouraged to grow is going to be challenging - your assumptions will be challenged and you will very likely be pushed out of a comfort zone into a new thing to learn or do. But, part of that is being in an environment where everyone else is ready and willing to help you get through it, teaching and supporting you. And that also means, when someone else is being challenged, you're ready and willing to teach them something, too.” 

- Noah Tatko, Software Engineer

2. Personal and Professional Development Funds 

Another way 1904labs fosters growth is by providing funding for training, office equipment, or (within reason) anything else you need to grow personally and professionally. 

With this $1200 annual stipend, employees can use the Personal and Professional Development Funds (PPDF) program to grow. This could include education, training, purchasing books, attending seminars, conferences, and certifications - and even to enhance their home offices or cover gym membership fees. 

3. Innovation Hours 

Money can certainly help you grow, but you also need the time and space to do so. Our Innovation Hours program allows team members to step away from their day-to-day jobs and focus on their own ideas for 10% of the work week. Employees can spend Innovation Hours time in four categories: working on yourself, working on a startup, working on the community, or working on the labs. One of the main things we look for when hiring is people who are passionate about what they do - not just in their jobs but also outside of work. This program allows employees to pursue their interests as a whole person, not only a software engineer on a client project. 

“From my perspective 1904labs was created as a place to build people and not products.   Having a growth culture means that everyone is encouraged and supported to grow and learn and ultimately better themselves in various ways.”

- John Ross, Agile Engineering Lead

4. SPARK roles 

Special Projects and Reusable Knowledge (SPARK) is one of the many servant leadership programs in the labs. This program allows someone in the labs to turn a passion project into a paid position. One area where people can dedicate their Innovation Hours time is working on the labs. This can be in an area where an individual sees a gap at the labs (such as managing the labs’ conference calendar) or as part of an employee-led group (such as the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Group). Over time, these contributions can be formalized in a paid SPARK role. 

1904labs is an organization where anyone with a good idea can implement that idea, make the company better, and be justly compensated for doing so.

“A growth culture to me means you have the freedom to fail.  When you aren't afraid of failure, you are open to trying things outside your comfort zone. Some of these things won't work but some will - which is where personal growth comes from.” 

- Carmen Wiedenhoffer, Director of Talent Acquisition

5. Community Training Programs 

Teaching is another big way that 1904labs fosters a growth culture. In addition to the lunch and learn program for internal knowledge sharing, we also have two external programs to share our skills with the community: Hours with Experts and 1904coders.

Hours with Experts

1904labs Hours with Experts is a free 8-week course, designed to assist growth-minded individuals interested in learning about the Big Data space or transitioning to a new career as a data engineer. The course will teach the fundamentals of Data Engineering, including working with a pub/sub system, building a data pipeline, working with a streaming data framework, and interacting with NoSQL databases. Technologies used within the class include Kafka and Spark. The purpose is to grow the Big Data ecosystem in St. Louis by teaching developers key skills. Volunteers from labs act as instructors, serving as one-on-one mentors to answer questions and provide directed guidance throughout the course.


1904coders helps middle school students at Lift for Life Academy learn how to develop their own smartphone apps. Over the course of this 8-week program, volunteers from the labs act as instructors to help students bring their ideas to life. 

Beau Herndon, a Client Delivery Executive, used his Innovation Time to create the idea of Coders:

“The idea behind Coders is that we wanted to do something that could make a difference, and we used technology to do that. Within the very first class together with the students, we make a simple app where they are able to press the button and make some sound, and they built it and this switches in their mind to think “I can create anything, I can create Snapchat, Facebook and I could be a billionaire!” This creativity comes alive, and by the end of the program, they are creating an app that they designed themselves. The point is that we have fun, celebrating their accomplishments, and at the end of it, we just have an overwhelmingly positive experience doing something new, and we use technology to do that.”

These are just a few of the many ways that 1904labs fosters a growth culture. If personal and professional development are important to you, check out our open positions