How much one year can change things. This time last year I was seriously contemplating leaving Nona. I was quite unhappy and in particular felt quite unfulfilled. Why, you may ask?
- I was alone on a project and as such felt quite isolated and lonely.
- Being a junior and alone, I didn’t feel as though I was learning anything.
- Furthermore, I felt that my growth had been stunted because of it.
- It seemed that all the opportunities for new projects were being given to other people.
I had actually been interviewing quite seriously with another company and in all honesty if they hadn’t been trying to take me for a ride I would have signed with them. However, as it happens they didn’t and here’s why I decided not to continue looking elsewhere and stayed at Nona.
Since Nona had given me an opportunity as an intern and provided me a place in which I could become a serious developer, I figured I would reach out and air how I felt.
Considering that I had been burned quite harshly in a an earlier job, I was hesitant — I guess I was still suffering from some PTSD. Taking that leap of faith has been one of the best things I’ve done.
I set up a meeting with the CTO and explained my situation and the grievances I had — in pretty plain English. Seriously, I didn’t need to beat around the bush or preserve any egos. A completely open discussion with my employer — definitely not something I’ve heard many people be able to have.
Furthermore nothing I said was manipulated and used as ammunition against me. Something I’ve experienced previously. In fact it was the opposite, many of the points I raised were agreed with and even apologised for. I was astounded to be honest. Trusting my employer was not something I had become used to and being heard on top of that was a very new feeling.
We ended the meeting and action points were discussed from his end with the goal of improving my experience at Nona. Yeah, if you’re like me you must be thinking this is the usual smoke up the ass employers give to get you to stay — false promises abundant.
To my surprise things rapidly changed:
- PRs (pull requests) I made were now reviewed and critiqued by an excellent senior developer (shoutout to Roy, he’s epic)
- The project I was on had an end date and I was moved to a more exciting project a month or so later.
- I was finally learning and growing at a rapid rate again!
- Most importantly, the trust I had showed was not in vain.
But there’s more to this story…
I can honestly say I have never worked at a place with such a fantastic group of individuals:
- Politics are non-existent. There really is nothing I hate more than this in the workplace.
- People actually want to help you improve and actively go out of their way to make time for you. I actually had a call with a colleague on the weekend where he took time out of his Saturday to explain ORMs, table joins and why they are useful to me. (Shout out to Jon a.k.a The Picasso of Coding!)
- Every single day I feel super supported.
- I can actually be myself, no bullshit — obviously work appropriate but I’m never worried that someone will take me to HR for some insane reason. Trust me this has happened in my previous company and I was totally gob smacked when it did. Classic corporate BS.
A recent hire asked us what we thought was the most important thing a business needed to have.
I responded with a single word:
I truly believe that most businesses come from a point of view that employees are trying to screw the business wherever and whenever possible. You, as an unsuspecting employee, are then treated accordingly.
As I previously explained trust is something Nona has earned from me but there’s more:
- Your hours aren’t checked — obviously you need to be reasonably available but no one is big brothering you throughout the day.
- If you run into hiccups, as you always will in the development game, you aren’t chastised or belittled but assistance is provided where needed.
- Management are actually available to talk about literally anything. I can slack our CEO, COO, CTO or whoever and I will receive a prompt response.
- We do something called “start, stop, continue” every quarter. Here we explain what we think Nona should start, stop or continue doing. Every single thing on that list is either implemented or discussed in managements quarterly offsite meeting. Furthermore, why something was not implemented is explained directly to you in your retrospective. I have never been treated negatively for anything that I mentioned, and some of the stuff I have mentioned isn’t necessarily nice to hear from an employer’s perspective.
After my less than desirable project a year ago I have been on three different projects. Each in completely different areas, using different technologies applied in different ways.
I mean, this can be overwhelming sometimes but as I have learned through this year, really great developers can thrive anywhere. The reason being that the really great developers don’t worry about implementation details (i.e. frameworks or what piece of technology the program will be used on etc…) — they worry about the process.
Are there tests? If not add them.
What is the best architecture to apply? If it’s not optimal how can it be improved.
How can I make this code base cleaner and more readable.
What is actually important to the business and how can I add the most business impact?
What trade offs can I live with to get the job done?
These are the real questions that matter. I mean, of course we have a preferred stack and have a standard we wish all projects stand up to. However for better or worse this is the real world and sometimes you inherit rather then starting afresh or you have an insane deadline and certain trade offs need to be made. It ain’t always perfect but somehow the great developers seem to make it work.
I think this is actually what separates the great developers from the good ones — how to make the correct trade offs at a generally good time.
A big reason for my still being at Nona is potential. It seems like we’re getting better week by week.
- Client projects in the pipeline are even more exciting than before!
- Systems are improved to make the developer experience even more epic.
- New teams are assembled for new projects — I’ve learned from so many different senior developers in one year it’s actually mind boggling.
- The business gets more and more financially secure.
- We have better and better team buildings, or staff events.
- I’m more excited about each new hire and simply can’t wait to work with them.
BUT the biggest reason I’m still at Nona is the communication – as I mentioned earlier.
We have weekly company wide stand ups where we discuss everything from our financial position to what’s new in the lives of people at Nona. I truly enjoy and look forward to this meeting, one of the my highlights week. (We unfortunately didn’t have one last week. Obviously, I was a wreck and simply devastated — yeah I’m dramatic deal with it :P).
We also have quarterly OKR’s (Google’s famous version of KPI’s) that are open to everyone at the company. And no these are not chains placed on my neck so that I can be bashed in my quarterly retro. They are actually used by me for me. I decide on mine (obviously they need to in some way line up with the companies goals — but there is quite a lot of wiggle room) and I come up with the results I think are appropriate. A win-win in my opinion.
Mixed with these businessy things there’s a wonderful and exciting slack environment. Developers, designers and everyone in between can talk about the mundane to the controversial as well as share ideas, thoughts or questions. Opening up my slack when I have a break in between devving is usually a very exciting time :)!
And to finish it off
A question I ask myself constantly: “If I were to die tomorrow would I want to work at Nona today?” ~ I adapted this from the Steve Jobs Stanford speech (WATCH IT IF YOU HAVEN’T – its AMA-zing :D)
And my answer this year has consistently been: