Florian Gamper on working agile: “There is no finishing point”

In February, Florian Gamper, a freelance CTO and agile evangelist and coach will be speaking at Leaders in Tech | Berlin. The talk is titled “Working Agile – not dead, but badly misunderstood!” and grows out of Florian’s experience, first as a coder and in game development, and then working in business software and helping companies with digital transformation. Based on his experience in consulting and serving as a freelance CTO in many different companies, building new ventures and helping existing companies optimise their processes, he brings a wealth of experience on how agile works (and doesn’t work) in different contexts and environments. In his talk, he’ll share some of the recurring pitfalls and issues he’s encountered in transforming and supporting agile teams.
 
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
 
Where did the idea for your talk come from?
In agility, there’s a huge educational problem. People buy a product and then they think they’re agile. Agility is a mindset, and you cannot buy a mindset. You have to experience stuff. Every good agile project is different. People try to adapt it to environments that are different and wonder why it’s not working. It’s a bit like you buy an electric car and you wonder why in the desert you’re not going anywhere because there’s no infrastructure for it. 
 
What’s a common misconception or mis-implementation?
For example, there are scrum masters who say, “If you’re not doing scrum by the book, it’s not worth it.” Look at what scrum does as one of the agile frameworks: scrum at the end has a meeting that’s called the “retro” [retrospective]. The idea of a retro is to find out what in your current process is not working for you and to change it. How can I do a job by the book, if the last meeting is to change it? It’s not possible! You need someone who asks:

What can we do differently?
How can we change it so that the idea of what we should do is preserved and done?
If I’m not doing it, what am I trading away?

You have to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You have to re-evaluate the process over and over. You will never be ready with getting agile, never. There is no finishing point. You cannot implement and say, “we’re done, we’re now agile and everything’s done.”
 
When did you first encounter a real transformation in how a company worked?
My first company was a very command-and-control company where I worked and where I wrote my thesis. The second company I was in, had consultants come in to help them build a new process because they realised the old way wasn’t working. The good thing there was that the consultant who implemented that process stayed afterwards to do it. He knew it all, and it was not just “look here’s the PowerPoint and now we go away” situation.
 
What is one thing that people miss when they try to teach agile?
The agile mindset transforms you, but you have to experience it. I can tell you all about agility, you can still say, that’s one opinion of the world. Someone else will tell you that waterfall is the best thing since sliced bread. These are all opinions. To change your mindset, you have to feel it. You have to do a project with me where we work that way, where you say: “This thing was actually working that much better than before. I did all the other stuff. I want to do that again and again and again and again. This is how you get a mindset into someone. I think it cannot be taught. It can be told, but you have to experience it, to inherit it.
 
What distinguishes your philosophy or mindset as a leader? 
In IT, there are a lot of people with intrinsic motivation. If you see them leave, it’s often not because of money, but that their needs – in terms of what they want to achieve – are not fulfilled, or they don’t see that they could thrive here or come to their best. You have people that want to climb the ladder. You have people that want to build good products. You have to find a way in a team to balance that, so that everyone can have a share of this. Then you get great outcomes for the company. You have to align that a bit, move it a bit, channel it a bit, but then you can get great outcomes. 
 
But it has a lot to do with the culture you bring in and you live. For example, if my team works late, I work late too, even if I can’t contribute. They probably have to work late because I made an error, so I stay. That, for example, makes a big difference. Also my background is engineering, and I code also as a consultant sometimes, just to know what their problems are. 
 
Every one of us is different and has another idea how [leadership] works. But if you look at the ones that are really successful, there’s always this guy that is relatable, not just in his ivory tower who comes down to spread the knowledge. I’m good at what I do, and I still can code, so I can have a proper discussion on tech. That gives me another reputation than just being the guy that counts the numbers and says: “this is your new salary.”
 
Who are you directing your talk to? What kind of person would you like to come, and what kind of questions should they have in mind?
The talk is about examples of how I tackle problems I’ve faced. The first bit is origins, because most people don’t know what agile originally wanted to tackle. What is the thing that it wanted to solve? Why was it invented? Even in leadership, or especially in leadership, if you don’t come from an engineering background, but a management background you may never experienced working that way.
 
Seeing that other people handle stuff the same way as you do, gives you an idea if you’re on the right track. Doing stuff differently and seeing how other people relate to problems gives you a new perspective. Telling stories from what I have experienced and how I solved it, gives the new [managers] a look into, “Okay I’m on the right track.” The ones who are experienced, they can say “This is another approach I can try.” And the ones that are super experienced, can also learn that “I’ve done this and it worked out – or not.” This is a discussion I can have with them afterwards, which gives me some feedback from other people trying to solve the same problem. There’s also something for me, I’m not just there to spread my knowledge, I want to learn too!
 
To learn more about fostering agility both in engineering teams and their surrounding organisations from Florian, come to see his talk at Leaders in Tech | Berlin on Wednesday February 12th, 2020. Contact [email protected] for more details.

„The role of the leader is to suck out the poison from the system“

 
In December, Csaba Tamas, principle solutions architect at AWS will be speaking at Leaders in Tech | Berlin. The talk “Cultural ingredients of high performance, innovative teams” will bring together Csaba’s experience starting his own company, working in the finance sector (both Mittelstand and in startups), and now at Amazon. Based on this real-world experience and a robust theoretical framework on motivation, Csaba will share why it’s crucial for leaders to rethink how to build and scale organisations. In particular, for technology companies and knowledge workers, what does agility and flexibility look like? How can organisations structure themselves to provide autonomy to teams, without descending into anarchy and losing focus? 
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
 
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be where you are now.
I started my professional career as an anchorman on Hungarian national television, but very quickly switched into computing, which was my other love and hobby. I started building digital television studios in early 2001-2002. Digitising analog studios had a huge advantage for companies because they could reduce their studio costs from literally millions to hundreds of thousands. I then created a small company but I burned through all of my money in one and a half years. I was this tech guy who had great ideas in his garage (actually it was in the attic) but had no clue on how to sell it, how to position it, how to do marketing, how to do communication, PR, anything like that.
This was the reason why I teamed up with a guy who sold physical security for banks. He had relationships with banks, but he didn’t have the knowledge or know-how for the IT security part. During this cooperation we got to know an Austrian company of banking and service automation. Eventually the Austrian company said they would like to start a subsidiary in Romania with us. This was a company where I needed to learn to trick a lot of the system to deliver the service levels which banks were used to getting from bigger enterprises with hundreds or thousands of employees. We needed to be very efficient all the time. We couldn’t have any waste because we were only a few people.
 
When did you get interested in how organisations are structured and can transform themselves?
[The Austrian banking company] invited me to become part of the management in Austria and guide them through a so-called digital transformation. At that time, I approached it in a somewhat technocratic way, more from the process point of view. I knew how a well-oiled Swiss clock should work, so this was the original idea. I thought that in a few months I will just reorganise them, and I will show them how to deliver more with less. This turned out to be a three-and-a-half-year very hard-learned lesson for me. It was also a very hard time, understanding a lot about human nature and human psychology, about how much people are influenced not just by the facts, but also by fears, their impressions and their emotional side.
By definition I’m more driven by facts than by emotions but on the other side I needed to understand how to persuade people to change old habits and the old guard to give up some things. I did an MBA in Romania and the most interesting classes where around organisational behavior, organisational design, so the human aspect of business. It also opened my eyes in the direction of Simon Sinek or Daniel Pink.
 
You talked about the acronym VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. What can you tell me about these types of environments and the types of teams that are working in them?
The type of work in digital innovation is not very repeatable, it’s not very predictable. We have a lot of companies who try to be agile, who try to be fast moving reacting to the customer needs. They’re still applying a lot of old-world reactions or muscle memories on how they should structure teams, how they should manage teams, how they should lead teams, how teams are motivated, or what motivates teams. In this new world, nothing is really fixed, no two days are comparable. Every day you do something different. How can you build an organisation and how can you scale an organisation in a way that you become successful? 
 
What is an example of these old-fashioned team structures?
We can look a little bit at how different companies are achieving success and see it also through the cultures of these different companies. Looking at this Austrian Mittelstand company, these kinds of companies are very strict and very hierarchical. You always need to request or ask for permission to make a decision and move something forward in the organisation.
At the same time what we see at Amazon is a concept of two-way door decisions and one-way door decisions. What the management says: the majority of decisions are two-way door decisions, meaning that you open the door, you make the decision. It’s like you opened the door and you cross the door and you look in the other room. If you like the result, you stay there. If you don’t like the result there, you just turn around and you come back right. 
There are some decisions of which you cannot turn back. For example, if you make a PR mistake, that’s super hard to be turned around. This is typically is a one-door decision. The organisation says whatever decision is a two-way door decision, it’s yours to make. This gives a lot of agility and edge to the organisation, because each and every employee can decide.
 
What about motivating people? How do companies differ in this area?
Daniel Pink in Motivation 2.0 says that in order to have motivated people, you have to have three major cornerstones defined: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You give autonomy for decisions. For your employees, you give them a reason, you give them a vision, you give them a direction where to go: that would be purpose. Mastery is the skills which have to be there, and you need to scale up your people. Only when these three things are altogether, can you have a team which is really performing well. If you just have the skills and you have the autonomy, but there is no purpose, there are false starts. People are frustrated because they don’t understand the direction. 
We see this very frequently in startups and not just startup organisations, also in Mittelstand and enterprise companies where the C-level somehow locks themselves into an ivory tower and forget to communicate the vision to the rest of the departments. Then they are wondering why people are not behind their decisions.
 
Why is this important? What is the sort of greater social context that this is taking place in?
For me the starting point is that the complexity of our businesses is growing. By having higher complexity, there is no one person who can oversee everything and who can follow up on everything. The role of the C-level is no longer the all-knowing sage who receives all the input data and calls all the shots. Because this would definitely slow down the organisation just by the simple fact that you need thousands of decisions to be made every day. What you need to do to enable an organisation to evolve quickly is to give them the ability to make decisions by themselves.
 
How does this fit into your own personal journey as a leader and a manager?
When I went to this Austrian company, I told my wife in the first year that I was so frustrated. It’s five o’clock now and I couldn’t work yet. I just had meetings and I was just speaking to people — nothing useful. I did nothing useful! She said, “Have you considered that from now on this is your job? To align with people and help unlock the bottlenecks they have?”
This resonated a lot because a few years back, my organisational design and behavior professor said that the role of the leader is to suck out the poison from the system. At that time I kind of understood, but not really. It really took me some time, some years later, when it started to make sense. People, when they interact, people, when they have different motivations, especially when organizations are bigger and especially if performance and meritocracy are not in place, and it’s not clear what good looks, then there is a lot of poison in there.
 
Are there any other thoughts you’d like to include for people considering coming to the talk?
Any type of leader who is in the tech business and are wondering how they could inspire their colleagues to succeed together, how they can improve the togetherness, how they can create glue in their teams to create this feeling of belonging, to create this feeling we are one family, we are marching towards one goal and to have people who a bunch of people who believe the same things and they move mountains. How do you unlock the potential in the good intentions of people, and how you can transform your organisation into a better performing organisation at the end of the day. This is the story of creating a cult, creating a culture in your company of performance, a culture of belonging, a culture of changing the world together.
 
Learn more about building innovative technology teams and structuring for uncertainty from Csaba, join Leaders in Tech | Berlin on Wednesday December 11th, 2019.  To join contact [email protected]
 

Peter Minev captivates Leaders in Tech crowd with stories from building Careem’s tech team from scratch

Building a technology team from zero to 130 strong in two years, for most companies and managers, sounds like a huge challenge, if not downright impossible. In October, Peter Minev shared his experience doing just that as Director of Engineering at Careem’s R&D Center in Berlin. The group of technology leaders in Berlin was gathered on the top floor of Omio’s office in Berlin-Mitte to listen to what Peter cautioned is “not a cookbook… it always depends on the context and your domain.”

Despite this “warning”, the evening was full of useful insights and anecdotes about what it was like to build an engineering team from scratch, in a country where no one had heard of Careem or used its service. Peter’s talk for Leaders in Tech was called “Scaling tech: planning for uncertainty” and in addition to speaking about what he learned and experienced at Careem, he also invited the attending managers, CTOs, department heads, and engineering leads to talk about what they’ve learned from leading growing tech teams. 
Careem began as a ride-hailing company, but is now expanding its services across its platform, including payments, delivery and mass transportation. Peter brings years of experience as an engineer and a manager to the subject, from working in a variety of organizations like VMWare and SAP as well as his own startup.
Susi Krieg, Senior Regional Director North for Austin Fraser in Germany, officially kicked off the evening’s proceedings, introducing the event host, Omio’s VP of Engineering Tomas Vocetk, who then spoke briefly about Omio’s vision for travel. 
 
Building successful tech organizations: 11 lessons in scaling tech and planning for uncertainty
Peter divided his talk into 11 main lessons across the six phases of his journey at Careem. The six phases are 1) forming the non-engineering functions, 2) forming engineering teams, 3) recognising it’s a marathon, not a sprint, 4) balancing between advance planning and continuous adaptation, 5) scaling and dealing with organisational debt, and 6) getting and keeping an exceptional team.
 
Forming the non-engineering functions
When Peter joined Careem, his job was to build up an engineering team in Berlin. But without a subsidiary or any of the regular processes or people in place that a company needs in order to work, his first task was to create these non-engineering functions like an office, legal, recruiting, and finance. There were three lessons from this phase: 

Never (ever) underestimate non-engineering functions
Don’t take shortcuts, do them correctly from the start
Don’t lose sight that they’re prerequisites to the actual goal, so get through them as quickly as possible

 
Forming engineering teams
Once the fundamentals are in place, the question becomes how to hire the right teams and give them meaningful work to do. Especially when the company is headquartered somewhere else, it’s hard to build trust with key stakeholders early on to get new, interesting areas to work and to be able to work autonomously. There are also three lessons in this section of the talk:

The Berlin teams proved their capabilities by working with other teams on some areas, this helped them when they wanted to open up new domains
Even though it might take a long time and be quite difficult to get there, keep striving to make the teams as autonomous as possible
You need to continuously gain trust: both with the rest of the company and with the team you’re building.

Recognising it’s a marathon, not a sprint
It’s easy to get caught up in single issues or what’s right in front of you, but building a large team is a long-term goal and needs to be treated as a marathon. While you should always be making progress, there are key principles you shouldn’t compromise on, like 

Never lower the bar to hire faster
Never optimize for individuals, you’re building a company
Celebrate achievements!

The main takeaway from this phase of Careem’s development:

We never compromised long-term results for short-term gains.

 
Balancing between advance planning and continuous adaptation
Peter spoke on this subject for a while, explaining that there’s a big difference between thinking through your plans rigorously and overplanning, making you inflexible and rigid. HIs trick for always adjusting to the most pressing issues is his second lesson below:

Do your best upfront planning… but be prepared that it will change dramatically
Always base your 3 top problems on data, not on assumptions. 

Scaling and dealing with organisational debt
Nothing is static, so there are many areas which need to keep evolving as an organisation grows, like architectural alignment, performance management, the principles around which teams are formed, roles and responsibilities, and how remote sites work with HQ and vice versa.
The lesson around this is:

Continuously rethink your organizational design

What worked yesterday, doesn’t work today and will kill you tomorrow.
Organisational debt works similarly to technical debt. 

Getting and keeping an exceptional team
The final lesson in the sixth phase of scaling an organisation is making sure that hires have the right behaviors, and that mindset is an important part of acquiring and retaining a talented team. Key behaviours that Careem looked out for were adaptiveness (since the company was growing and evolving quickly), learning (again growth required continuously, fast learning), ownership (it’s a small and nimble organisation without a safety net), and service mindset (to colleagues and customers).
You can watch the highlights of Peter’s talk here.
Want to see more? You can also watch the entirety of Peter Minev’s “Scaling tech: planning for uncertainty” talk.
Peter also was kind enough to share his presentation slides. They’re available here.
 
Kevin Olsen, Director of Labs Advisory Services at Pivotal Software had this to say about the October event: 
“The discussion around cross-office scaling, how to create new teams that earn the trust of the ‘mothership’ was probably the highlight for me. It was a great reminder about the importance of getting facetime between the two offices and building relationships, as well as delivering some initial wins to earn trust. Also, the moment when the main office does finally delegate a project is a real turning point, and Peter’s point that it’s a high stakes moment for the new office, and requires the new team to really deliver to keep that momentum and earn more trust and autonomy.”
 
Marcel Toben, Lead Engineering Manager for Product & Growth at ResearchGate, decided to attend this Leaders in Tech meetup because he said the title really accurately described his current challenge with the teams he works with. After attending this talk (his third), he said, “I would recommend Leaders in Tech to friends and colleagues. I already did actually! The talks are top-notch and the meetup has a special welcoming & communicative flair. I’ve met many nice and smart people.”
 
Austin Fraser is creating a community with Leaders in Tech, bringing together CTOs, CIOs, VPs, heads of IT and all kinds of leaders in technology. At these events, attendees hear from speakers who are engaging in key issues in business and technology. They also have the chance to connect with others who deal with similar problems in their work. 
If you’d like to read more about Peter Minev, check out the interview with him on the Austin Fraser blog, “Scaling tech: There is no silver bullet.” 
After the talk was over, many of the attendees stuck around to chat with each other about the talk, and quite a few had more stories to share with Peter about their own experience scaling teams. Thanks to Austin Fraser and Omio for a great event!

Peter Minev on scaling tech: “There is no silver bullet”

In October, Peter Minev, head of platform engineering at Careem will be speaking at Leaders in Tech | Berlin. His talk “Scaling tech: planning for uncertainty”, will draw from Peter’s experience starting Careem’s engineering office in Berlin which grew from 0 to 130 in less than two years, attracting talent and growing technical teams when no one knew the company. He’ll offer insight into how he approached this challenge, and how he developed a strategy that took uncertainty into account.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
 
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be where you are now.
I started my career long ago, probably too long ago, as an engineer. In the early days, I held different engineering positions: C++ engineer, Java engineer, later on architect. At some point, I switched to management roles. I worked in big companies and small startups in various domains. I spent six years in automotive, managing different teams in different geographies. In my work at VMware where I spent also 6 years, I was managing teams in India, in the US, and in Europe. 
 
Was there a point in your career when you concretely decided to go from engineering into management?
I don’t think that there was a strict point where I said, this is really what I want to do. It happened gradually, so from an engineer to an architect to a project manager, and then into engineering management. One day when I woke up, I realized I was managing teams in different continents and different geographies. 
It’s not only when you switch from engineering to management that you need new skills, but also when you broaden your responsibilities.  Bigger teams, remote teams, managing and building remote teams, several teams, different cultures, different geographies, etc. This requires new skills, building on top of your existing capabilities. Many of these are not strictly related to engineering. You need to know a little bit of finance, a little bit of business management, business strategy. All this, the learning process, I find very fascinating. 
 
What are the biggest challenges you faced in growing Careem?
When I convinced the founders of Careem to open an office in Berlin, it was quite an exciting journey. Careem was not a popular brand in Germany at all. Nobody knew Careem, and that was the first big challenge that I had to overcome. Whenever I and our recruitment team approached candidates, the first question was, „What is Careem?“ We had to explain what Careem is in the first place before even talking about the specific positions. Building the engineering brand of Careem here in Europe and in Berlin was a big challenge. 
The second challenge: in all my career so far, I was joining established companies and established offices, where I was building engineering teams. Here, we didn’t have a company in Germany at all. I needed to do a lot of other things before I even hired the first engineer. You need to establish the company, to find offices, to find and establish the HR team, the recruitment team, the finance team, the legal team, office management – you need to have all this before hiring the first engineer. 
You cannot hire an engineer if you don’t have a company or an office. It was exciting – you have this tension, you don’t have the patience to wait. You want to hire the teams, you want to form the projects and you want to jump into this initial phase as quickly as possible.
Then, an even bigger challenge was how to grow so fast, from 0 to 130 people in Berlin in two years while keeping healthy engineering teams at the same time. There are many books that tell you, if you grow more than 2x per year, it is suicide. Teams will be destroyed, they will not be productive or efficient, you will have high attrition. 
Is it possible to quickly build a large team of super strong engineers without lowering the bar, but at the same time make these teams extremely productive, efficient, and healthy? This was an extremely big challenge. I think in the end, it was successful, and I am very happy about this journey because I accumulated a lot of learnings along the way.
 
I would have also said growing a team from 0 to 130 in two years is a terrible idea. How did you develop a successful strategy to make this happen?

There is no silver bullet. This was a series of actions which I took, hoping that they would make it successful in the end. I don’t believe that you can start such activity without any strategy at all. You should, even if you have a lot of uncertainties, list your best guesses, list your most probable hypotheses, and then start with this. I needed to have an initial strategy, but also continuously, all the time, I needed to improve the strategy. 
I have a very simple rule for this. In every single moment, I need to know the top three problems for my team, for my company – the top three. Not the top 30. Not the top 300. The top three. 
You’ll be surprised that this gives you a lot of focus because there might be thousands of problems. But what are your top three problems?  As a company evolves, especially so fast, very often these top three problems will change completely. Six months from now, you will have completely different problems from your top three now. In every given moment you have to have these top three problems. When you resolve these three problems, basically what you are doing, is evolving your strategy.
These top three problems are not what you think that are problems. You have to have data, real data that shows you that these are real problems, not only problems that you think in your head. 
It’s a combination between starting with the best that you can, your best shot, and then always evolving this strategy by knowing your top three problems. 
 
Are there any other thoughts you’d like to include for people considering coming to the talk?
From what I saw of previous events there are many people who are quite experienced.  I don’t see this event as me only sharing my experiences. What I’d rather do is to share what I’ve learned, but I also would be very happy for people to share their experiences, more like a discussion. I can contribute what we did here with Careem in Berlin.
I don’t see it like a playbook: that this is what we did in Careem, and this is the one golden rule, go and apply it by the book in your companies. I see it as some key learnings that I applied in some specific situations. If people can take these learnings, think through them, and apply them in their context, I think this will be super useful for many people.
To learn more about scaling technology teams and planning for uncertainty from Peter, join Leaders in Tech | Berlin on Wednesday October 23rd, 2019: 
To join contact [email protected]

finleap’s CTO Tim Duckett breaks down team dynamics with humor for Leaders in Tech | Berlin

What kind of coworker are you? Do you use your power and influence in the workplace like King Joffrey (Game of Thrones) or more like the Russian president? In August, a full house of technology leaders in Berlin convened for the second time this year at MHPLab for Leaders in Tech to explore these questions and their more serious counterparts. This time, the attendees came for Tim Duckett’s talk: “Hacking Power and Politics – A Tech Leader’s Framework” and to hear how other managers, CTOs, department heads, and engineering leads grapple with the challenges of organizing teams. Tim is the CTO at finleap, a fintech company builder, and brings years of experience as an engineer and a manager working in a variety of organizations to the topic.

Austin Fraser organizes Leaders in Tech to bring together CTOs, CIOs, VPs, heads of IT and other senior technology leaders to explore important issues in business and technology, and to build connections between people facing similar challenges. Often hosted by key companies in a city’s startup and technology ecosystem, the meetups attract all kinds of technology leaders. Stephanie Persigehl, senior professional at MHPLab, cited the quality of the leadership talks and the great community as two of the reasons they like to host the Leaders in Tech talks. She also said, “At MHP, we’re delighted to be part of this network and want to foster its continuous growth.”

And network was definitely the word! As everyone entered the building, the team at the reception welcomed each attendee and gave out nametag. Then they had to brave the crowd gathered at the snacks and drinks in the main room. The whole space was buzzing with people introducing themselves to each other and reconnecting with familiar faces from previous events. There were people perched on every space, from the picnic tables in the middle, benches throughout the room, as well as office chairs along the sides for late-comers and those who didn’t want to stand.

Anjo Gaul, community manager for Austin Fraser, officially kicked off the program, introducing both the event hosts and Tim Duckett, the evening’s speaker. You can catch some of Tim’s talk “Hacking Power and Politics – A Tech Leader’s Framework” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Acr7Ve23Kw

The talk was both funny and insightful, starting out with a framework for the different kinds of power and the types of people who wield it. Daniil Pavliuchkov, Chief Product Officer at VAI, commented “I really enjoyed the sarcastic tone and the humour of the talk. It is great when a speaker can connect with the audience and explain complex things in a playful manner that is not childish. All the references and the quirky names really gave me a good laugh.” During the talk, Tim interspersed his slides with anecdotes from his experience working in many different companies. If you’d like to read more about Tim Duckett, check out the interview with him on the Austin Fraser blog, “Sometimes you get a team of people who seem to be all square edges and corners.”
Dmitry Galkin, a DevOps consultant currently working at HERE, decided to attend this Leaders in Tech meetup because he was intrigued by the topic and the speaker’s background. He said it was an interesting presentation, and that he could relate to a lot of the stories from his past experiences. It also didn’t hurt that the surprise of the evening was the burger truck parked right outside the building next to the Spree!

 
As everyone lined up to get a burger and fries, the conversations spilled out into the picturesque outdoor space. Attendees chatted about the talk, how they’d seen the personas and situations that Tim shared play out in their own professional lives. A number of people were continuing to share their experiences and connecting with other attendees out on the patio as the sun started to slip below the horizon. Well after the official program had concluded, people were happy to keep chatting and sharing — thanks to Austin Fraser and MHPLab for a great event!

 
 

Real life at Austin Fraser (part one)

A lot of organisations talk the talk. But, at Austin Fraser, we also walk the walk. In other words, when we say life’s good at our business, it’s not just sales blurb – we’ve got facts and figures to prove it – and that’s why we’ve won ‘OpenCompany’ status from recruitment website, Glassdoor. We’re sharing this in a two-part blog, so you can get an insight about what life is like at Austin Fraser.
Let’s start with something fairly basic and fundamental: your pay.
If you compare us to similar businesses, you’ll find our salaries are pretty competitive. We keep an eye on the rest of the industry and review them regularly. What’s more, they come with a range of benefits that are the equivalent of up to 35% extra value on top of your pay.
And speaking of our international offices, there are seven in total – which you could transfer to thanks to our relocation package. You’ll find us in Reading, UK; Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, Germany; and Austin, Denver and Dallas in the USA. Excitingly, there are two more sites coming soon: San Diego (October 2019) and LA (2020). Each site is in a great location in the heart of the city. Go inside, and you’ll find an attractive, modern environment, with great facilities. We’re talking open spaces for collaboration and state of the art tech with dedicated break-out zones. Everything you need to excel and achieve on your terms.

Working remotely is also a reality, thanks to our hi-spec technology. Everyone has a MacBook, whatever their level of seniority. We’re always looking at ways to improve the kit we provide too. As tech evolves, we’re investing in new developments that benefit our staff. 
However, there’s no point in helping people perform at their best if there’s no way for them to progress. We take your development as seriously as you do and make sure you know how you can advance. That’s why our career paths are as clear-cut and transparent as they get. You can see how your role can evolve – and how much you can earn – right from your very first day. Plus, we’ll make sure you have the Learning & Development to build your skills so you can get yourself promoted. This is an aspect of life at Austin Fraser that stands out in the industry. We believe in giving people the support to get where they want along with the freedom to plan their journey. Our end to end training includes modules for new starters, managers and senior managers. What’s more, learning is simply a part of our culture, so it’s considered perfectly normal to take time out for training.
So that’s the important, practical stuff. But life here is about so much more than that. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog, where we’ll tell you why people like working here so much – the warm and fuzzy stuff!

Axel Springer’s CTO shares his cultural hacks with Berlin’s tech leaders

Over fifty people crowded into MHPLab’s kitchen, on a warm summer night in Berlin for the June edition of Austin Fraser’s Leaders in Tech event series. Cold drinks were in high demand as attendees perched on benches and office chairs, and stood in small groups near the hor d’oeuvres getting to know each other as they waited for the main event of the evening, a talk by Sebastian Waschnick, CTO at Axel Springer Ideas Engineering, on hacking company culture.
Leaders in Tech brings together CTOs, CIOs, VPs, heads of IT or other senior technology leaders to engage and learn more about current topics and trends. The talks cover a broad range of topics within the technical, management, and innovation spheres, and draw a diverse crowd of technology leaders. On this particular evening at MHPLab, the audience varied widely in age; many in the crowd were dressed down for the heat (or just in normal startup casual); and based on the chatter, the assembled attendees had come to technology from a variety of different starting points.
After everyone had arrived, grabbed some food and something to drink, the evening officially kicked off with a brief welcomes from Anjo Gaul, community manager for Austin Fraser and from the event host. Then it was time for Sebastian Waschnick’s talk, “You can’t manage culture: Cultural Hacks to try for yourself,” which you can watch here

During the talk, Waschi outlined what he’d discovered about company culture during his career, and how he’d put these lessons into practice at Axel Springer Ideas Engineering by using individual “hacks.” Many of his stories about the different hacks his team tried got members of the audience really excited and curious, they couldn’t help but call out questions. Waschi was happy to engage, and it made the session much more interactive. In fact, even after the talk and the Q&A session ended and people spread out, a circle formed around Waschi to keep the discussion going.
You can review Waschi’s slides by clicking here.
After Sebastian’s talk and the Q&A segment, Austin Fraser community manager Anjo Gaul revealed the surprise he’d teased earlier that day: he’d invited Brewer’s Tribute, a local Berlin brewery, to hold a craft beer tasting during the networking and discussion part of the evening, which spilled out onto the MHPLab’s patio along the river Spree.
One engineering lead told me that he’ll definitely be returning to the next Leaders in Tech gathering. Not only was the setting great, he also said that of all the meetups he’d been to lately, this one had the best food and refreshments. Other attendees had more cerebral (and professional) reasons to keep coming back, like Katja Paar, head of strategy & design at mediaworx. She said “I need to look at the world outside my job and office sometimes, to stay flexible and open-minded.” For her, what sets the Leaders in Tech events apart from other meetups is the “good atmosphere” and that she gets to meet fellow “professionals instead of job seekers”.

Some of the participants were just visiting Berlin, and had found out about Leaders in Tech by chance. Maciej Głowacki, head of growth at Polidea, lives in Warsaw, Poland, and had come to Berlin for a conference. While looking for other events at which to meet people working on technology in Berlin, he stumbled across Leaders In Tech. He decided to come to the meetup because he was interested in connecting with other tech leaders who are facing issues similar to the ones he’s struggling with. It was the right decision. Mac, as he prefers to be called, said “I liked the open and friendly atmosphere of the meeting, which was encouraging to start informal discussions and meet other participants. People were sharing their stories and advice on some best practices to others – you usually don’t get much of such merit-based discussions during meetups.”
As the sun set over the Spree, a surprising number of people were still lingering over their drinks and conversing on the patio. Even an hour after the main part of the event had ended, the attendees still had a lot to say to each other and connections to make — thanks to Austin Fraser and MHPLab!
 

Leaders in Tech | Baden-Württemberg: Clean Code

Leaders in Tech | Baden-Württemberg is back!
Wir hatten die Gelegenheit uns mit Sebastian Betzin zu unterhalten und konnten erfahren was uns beim ‘Clean Code | Wie erreichen sie Investitionssicherheit durch Softwarequalität’ Event erwartet.
Sebastian arbeitet seit 2001 als Chief Technology Officer bei der generic.de AG aus Karlsruhe, die auf die Entwicklung individueller Softwarelösungen mit Microsoft .NET spezialisiert ist. Er ist Experte für nachhaltige Softwareentwicklung und etablierte Clean Code Development als Unternehmensgrundsatz innerhalb der generic.de AG. Seit Beginn seiner beruflichen Laufbahn ist er als leidenschaftlicher Softwareentwickler mit unstillbarem technologischen Informationshunger aktiv. Aktuell beschäftigt er sich mit Azure Cloud Entwicklungen, Machine Learning und Blockchain Technologien.
 

Wer kann am meisten von deinem Vortrag profitieren?
Dieser Vortrag ist speziell für Entscheider entwickelt. Auf nicht technischer Ebene werden wirtschaftliche Zusammenhänge von innerer Softwarequalität und deren Auswirkungen aufgedeckt. Wer die Gründe erfahren möchte warum viele Softwareentwicklungsprojekte scheitern sollte diesen Einblick nicht verpassen.
Was sind, deiner Meinung nach, die drei interessantesten Fragen, auf die wir Antworten erwarten können?

Was ist Innere und Äußere Softwarequalität?
Was hat Bad Code für wirtschaftliche Auswirkungen auf mein Unternehmen?
Wie kann Clean Code Investitionssicherheit in Software herstellen?

Warum denkst du, dass dein Vortrag relevant für die Business Community ist?
Er hilft zu verstehen warum viele Software Projekte scheitern oder über  Zeit zu teuer werden.
Was ist deine Empfehlung für Unternehmen die darüber nachdenken in Clean Code zu investieren um langfristig eine höhere Softwarequalität zu erreichen?
Just do it!
 

 
Leaders in Tech

Leaders in Tech ist eine globale Community für CTOs, CIOs, Head of IT und andere führende Positionen in der Tech-Industrie. Gegründet in München konnten wir die Community bereits in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Berlin und Reading etablieren. Als nächsten Schritt möchten wir die Community in den USA ausbauen.
Wenn du eine Führungskraft im Tech-Sektor bist, kannst du dich hier mit “Leaders in Tech” aus etablierten und / oder innovativen Unternehmen austauschen, um Best Practices zu besprechen, technischen und methodische Fortschritt zu diskutieren oder einfach Menschen mit den gleichen Interessen und Herausforderungen treffen.
Zu finden sind wir bei (der) generic.de software technologies AG, Zeppelinstr. 15, 76185 Karlsruhe am Donnerstag, den 29. November um 18:30 Uhr bis ca. 21 Uhr.

Is the role of CTO broken?

Are the financial benefits of becoming a tech contractor upsetting the traditional career progression and creating a shortage at the top?
This challenging question has prompted numerous conversations within our Leaders in Tech communities.
When we ask this question of engineers  –  particularly those with more experience in smaller companies  – they imagine a sort of ‘super Tech Lead’: a very senior engineer who is going to lead the technical direction of an organisation.
So what exactly does a CTO do all day?
Answers to that question from current CTOs have included:

Working with commercial stakeholders (CEO, board, investors), to identify the commercial roadmap over ‘x’ months.
Working with product owners and business analysts to develop a realistic product roadmap that supports the commercial roadmap.
Identifying a tech roadmap aligned with product and commercial roadmaps.
Negotiating when you realise the commercial or product roadmaps are unrealistic because of technical constraints. Note: negotiate, not “tell others it can’t be done”. Negotiation skills are critical.
Figuring out how to structure teams, line reporting, process and cadence within the technical team.
Getting the balance between feature development, BAU and technical debt/bug quashing right for the commercial and product culture within the business.
Keeping up to date with changes in law that have impact on technical roadmaps.
Preparation and negotiation of budgets to be spent on tech staff – salary budgets often have to be treated differently to others.
Preparation and negotiation of budgets around technical operations such as hardware, service fees (data centre, cloud, etc.), software licensing, patent licensing where appropriate, etc.
Validating all of the above with senior management and board members, mostly using the language they are most fluent in: finance. You will spend a lot of time building spreadsheets and slide decks, and you’ll ideally need to do basic interpretation of a balance sheet to keep up.
Communicating the above with shareholders and future investors whilst giving yourself enough margin to not get fired if it doesn’t pan out.
Setting cultural tone for the technical team. All of the below contribute to that, but ultimately you are going to set the example. The kind of behaviour you choose to reward is what the team will eventually value.

Notice, there isn’t much engineering going on here. Depending on what’s going on within your company, it’s unlikely you’re going to be spending too much time working on product, and it’s worth expanding on that:
In very small companies, you are going to have to work on the product directly. In larger companies you won’t have time to work on the product directly.
Leaders in Tech | Berlin
Join us on Thursday 18th October for the next instalment of Leaders in Tech | Berlin, a community for CTOs, CIOs, VPs, Heads of IT and other senior technology leaders to get together and discuss current tech trends.

Jason Franklin-Stokes – interim CTO with 30 years of successfully creating, building and growing technology start-ups in Germany, France, UK and US – will be discussing why the CTO role is dead! (or at least dying out). Are businesses demanding faster time to markets and user centricity? Is this shifting a focus from Tech to Product. Why do companies need a CTO? Or even a head of IT? If the CPO is the role that everything rotates around then surely the CTO is dead?
If you are a senior level technology leader, this is an opportunity for you to meet with fellow technology leaders from established and/or innovative businesses. To share in best practises, discuss up and coming advances in technology/methodologies & generally connect with like minded individuals with similar interests/challenges.

Austin Fraser 2018 Berlin Tech Salary Benchmark

Austin Fraser 2018 Berlin Tech Salary Benchmark
Austin Fraser, Tech recruitment leader, release its salary benchmark for Tech sector jobs in Berlin, Germany.
Do you know how much you could be making?
We recognise that salary is an important factor when choosing a new role or considering how much your talent, skill and knowledge is worth. While the market is still quite guarded about openly sharing salary information, we’re pleased to release our benchmark salaries available on the market for Junior through to Lead positions, within DevOps, Frontend, PHP and Java/Node.
Use our Berlin salary information to benchmark yourself against your peers, help compare the job market, or even use as a tool to inform pay negotiations and discover your worth.

Technology is evolving quickly and there is a big demand for skilled Tech talent to help deliver the new digital landscape. Businesses need to act fast to stay competitive and companies need the right candidates to keep growing. Technology recruitment is our specialism. We understand the market inside out and can help support your job seeking journey from start to finish.

Austin Fraser secures top 20 ranking in Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200

Austin Fraser secures top 20 ranking in Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200
Celebrations are set to take place across all Austin Fraser offices, following our second consecutive placement in the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. 2018 sees us come in at 20th in the ninth annual Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 league table, which ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales.
 
Growing our international presence
How have we achieved this? In the qualifying two year period, we’ve seen exponential international growth, with revenue rocketing up over 115%. Global locations have doubled in the past 18 months, too, opening offices in Berlin, Denver and Dallas. And we have more ambitious plans for Europe and the US in place.
 
Strategic leadership
As many of you will have seen in the media, earlier this year, we announced a significantly expanded leadership team, with the aim to propel Austin Fraser’s organisation’s global growth. At the same time, the business has been developing deeper relationships across our specialist sectors across Technology, Automation, Aviation and Life Sciences industries
 
Strengthening our culture
International growth comes with its own set of challenges. So we were delighted to see other regional players like the Bullit Group and Westcoast in the league table.
We’re a people-led business to our core and have nurtured a culture that supports, fosters and rewards success. As a recruitment partner, our teams are genuinely motivated by a core desire to ensure both our clients’ and candidates’ success. We couldn’t be prouder of every team member for making this happen and look forward to celebrating and thanking everyone in person.

Understanding Developer Typology

Understanding Developer Typology
Ahead of the June Leaders in Tech: Baden-Württemberg held on 21st June 2018 we speak with 1&1’s Matthias Wittum, Head of the Source Center and Christian Rehn, Software Developer in 1&1’s Customer Selfcare Solutions about their highly developed frameworks and models which are specially designed to examine developer typology. Their frameworks and models are proven to support developer teams, strengthen communication and optimise design decisions.
 
Matthias Wittum explains that whilst working with Christian Rehn, they identified how different developers can be when it comes to reaching a design decision and how this has an impact on development teams. We know that developers are unique problem solvers who draw on different approaches, knowledge, cultures, experience and principles to produce software solutions. Developers naturally approach projects uniquely, and the outcome can play to a particular focus or strength. Of course within a development team this can lead to several solutions being found and so the challenge is often finding one team solution or design route.
 
There are enough personality tests out there, but no tests or frameworks based specifically on developers. We felt that some instruments were needed to enable better production efficiency and to help develop teams according to their orientation and typology, so we started filling the gap. That’s how the Design Types Model for instance, came to fruition. It sets out to define developers’ typology via a relatively straightforward base of questions for each developer to answer. The answers provided help classify their typology and then you can group them accordingly. Using this model makes it easier to gain an impression of whether the tasks, the way of working and the environment are a good fit.
 
Here are three Models which we have formulated to identify developer typology, aid better case arguments to reach design decisions more quickly and to help optimise development teams:

Design Types Model – sets out to identify why software design is individual and often leads to discussions with colleagues.
Design Cards – great interactive tool using a set of predefined cards used to aid technical discussions by using proven arguments.
Design Matrix – helps you to examine technical problems from all perspectives.

Read more about these interactive Models here.
 
Ever since the agile movement, technical decisions are increasingly discussed or reviewed within the team. Collective Code Ownership means that everyone is now jointly responsible for the software and as a result, it is important for developers to be able to argue precisely and comprehensively, to be able to put oneself into the motives of your colleagues. With our models, we want to support exactly this and strengthen communication in development teams.
 
Leaders in Tech
Thanks to those who joined us at our Leaders in Tech: Baden-Württemberg meetup held on 21st June 2018 when Matthias and Christian give a complete overview of the developer typology, as well as the Design Cards and the Design Matrix. As a start, to understand the concepts and the overall context.