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Category Archives: Culture

How to be a better developer without coding?

Entering a new company is always a challenge, a challenge that not only entails testing your technical knowledge but also how you interact with your co-workers.

Talking with friends and fellow programmers about their experiences when entering a new company, I gave myself the task of delving a little more into a specific topic “What qualities do you consider positive in a co-worker?” And considering his answers, I made my best effort to take the qualities that they mostly emphasized on as positive aspects of a co-worker. These capabilities are named “Soft Skills” according to Sophia Bernazzani.

What qualities do you look for in a co-worker?

It seems like an easy question to answer and I know that many will agree that some of the most important qualities of a developer are:

  • Creativity
  • Logic
  • Discipline
  • Knowledge

In my opinion, these qualities must be intrinsic in a developer, so the additional skills to these four are the answer to this question.

Proactivity

As developers, every day we face difficult situations or beyond our control, knowing how to anticipate these situations and having an action plan before them is the best feature of proactivity.

Pavneet Singh Saund says that “Proactive: create or control a situation instead of simply responding to it after it has happened“. Keeping this in mind, having a proactive teammate is so positive since that ensures that even if there is always a storm, there will be a person who brings calm and an efficient action plan against the problem or problems that arise and in turn will always try to be one step ahead of the problems.

Empathy

As Zachary Paruch says in his article, “Empathy is typically associated with being able to put yourself in the place of someone else”. Taking this into account, we can understand how a newbie feels, because we were all newbies once, that’s why we often feel the need to help them in the way we would have liked experienced teammates to help us.

This desire to help simply by having experienced similar situations is the exact definition of what Zachary Paruch means in his article, and it is why I propose putting it as a quality that a teammate should have for the benefit of the entire team, this, because supporting teammates help them grow as developers and makes workflow more fluid and less stressful among their members.

Curiosity

Albert Einstein said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. This curiosity led him to be a legend among physicists and was a quality with which he stood out in his field. Curiosity is a quality that we should awake as developers as it helps us to always try to ask ourselves why the code works, and not simply know that a certain method is useful for this or that, and also, if I write something, then another thing may result.

Another advantage that curiosity gives us is the fact that when we see that new technologies are born, a hunger grows in us for learning and knowing about them, as well as mastering the technologies we already knew before.

Curious teammates generally have good learning habits, and good habits are contagious.

Seeing someone with that hunger to learn, that hunger to master new technologies and that desire to grow as a programmer is not only motivating but also extremely useful because generally, this kind of teammates have something useful to comment and they are usually people who like to share what they learn, which is always beneficial in a team since all the members learn only by listening and taking as an example the curious teammate.


Teamwork

Teamwork makes the dream work” is what Liz Chatterton says in her article

Working as a team seems to be an easy task, but knowing how to deal with people with different ideologies, ages, and skills, becomes a challenge that we all have to go through. Mastering teamwork and knowing how to interact with people who are part of the team makes you a person with whom you can gain trust faster, and in a team, trust is one of the most important things since it not only makes working with you more comfortable, but it also helps your colleagues dare to comment or ask something about the job without fearing to be told something negative about it.

Remember that “A comfortable job is a dream work”.

Motivation

Doing what we like should always be our main objective. Motivation denotes passion for your work. When you like what you do, it is shown from the first moment. Having a motivated partner is something contagious, a good attitude and desire to do your job makes the whole team reach a unique tuning. If you are motivated, developing the other skills described in this article will be easy for you. Remember how James Clear defines motivation “Motivation is a powerful, yet tricky beast” but with enough effort, discipline, and above all motivation, you will improve yourself bit by bit. 


Conclusion

In conclusion, to be a better programmer, your Soft Skills will also be of the utmost importance. How you handle yourself in a team is going to say a lot of your value as a teammate. Knowledge and natural talent are not everything; how you treat your teammates and how you behave in different situations says a lot about you.

The points presented in this article are just some of the points that I could rescue from my experience and different conversations with fellow programmers. If you have any point that you want to extend or add, do not hesitate to leave it in the comments and I will see how to add it to the article.

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Being a leader as an engineer

Have you heard the story about the two engineers and the manager who found a Genie lamp? This manager and his team were looking for a laptop with crucial information for delivering an app. While searching their storage room, they stumbled into an old oil lamp that would look cool in the office, so they decided to clean it. After a couple of rubs, a Genie comes out.

The Genie told the three he will grant one wish to each one of them, so the first engineer is quick to say: “I want to be in the Bahamas, living in my dream home and owning a yacht” Puff! He is gone. The second engineer screams: “I’m next! I want to be in Hawaii with my husband and a bottomless margarita.” Puff! Gone.

The Genie then turns to the manager and say “Your turn.” so the manager, without skipping a beat replies “I want them back after lunch for the deployment.”

Have you ever encountered a leader like that in your career? Or perhaps you are already a leader, and while reading the story, you were already worrying about what was going to happen to the delivery.

The approach of leadership the manager of the story took is not popular or conventional, but it’s aligned with one definition of “lead” from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, that is: “to guide on a way especially by going in advance” (Merriam-Webster)(1). Leading can be a controversial topic with different approaches and various outcomes.

 

In November, Tango, through Develop.us, led a panel at Yelp’s offices in San Francisco, with the intention of talking about this topic of leadership specifically as engineers and different approaches from 3 different perspectives.

You can watch the panel in this video:

 

Virginia Tan (Engineering Manager) and Steve Workman (Customer Growth and Engineering Manager) represented Yelp, Jason Monberg (CEO) was there for Presence, and Eric Siegfried (CEO) moderated the talk and gave shared his experience with Tango.

 

Leadership in engineering

First, we need to establish what leadership looks like as an engineer, and during her participation, Virginia described it like this:

“Leadership isn’t necessarily having a fancy title or having people who report to you and call you boss. To me, leadership is taking on a set of responsibilities that go beyond what you are able to do yourself. Be responsible for the work of other people, even being responsible for another person’s growth.”

Usually, leadership can be recognized by a professional title, maybe manager, or technical lead, but engineers have opportunities to be leaders even without them. When you step ahead and take some responsibility outside of your core responsibilities, that is showing leadership.

After being asked his point of view, Jason added to the definition: “Your leadership is independent of your technical skills”. This is encouraging for developers who don’t have the most seniority in the group. You can actually showcase leadership even without being the most technically-skilled in the room.

 

What does a leader look like?

Rather than having a strict list of dos and don’ts, leadership comes in different shapes. What a leader looks like is more inherent to your organization than to a checklist, and even that is capable of changing depending on the situation. Still, there’s one thing that will help you identify your leadership or leaders within your team. A leader has a following.

You might have seen Derek Sivers’ (Founder and former president of CD Baby) Ted Talk about “How to start a movement”.If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do it, it is one of my personal favorites.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg

In his short and hilarious talk, he describes how a leader is made by the people who follow her/him and the capacity to embrace followers.

Now, I don’t want to get in the uncle Ben’s cliche of “With great power comes great responsibility” but having a position of leadership does come with a number of responsibilities. Steve described it as “It’s like piloting an oil tanker so if you are the pilot and you realize you are going in the wrong direction, you need to figure out where you are right now, and what speed are you going, and how fast you can turn the whole ship and you start going in the right direction. You have to make those changes in the right way. When leading people, you need to have a vision of where to go to figure out the strategy to get there, leading your people towards that.”

 

Leadership can be showcased thru these three sets of skills:

• Judgment – To be able to recognize something (intuition).
• Action – How to act to influence others.
• Communication – Verbally and written (working and communicating to the clients).

 

Born a leader and trained leader

It’s common to find these people in our lives. In school, there’s the person who runs for class president.. In your first job, you encountered the peer that volunteers for difficult tasks. Now you might find the engineer who is always willing to help people with their challenges.

These people are known as “natural leaders”. Due to personality traits, they radiate leadership wherever they go. It is just a natural reaction to situations. If you are not a natural leader, don’t worry, there’s still a second group you can fit into. Trained leader.

A trained leader might not have the same social skills as a natural leader, but that doesn’t mean she/he can’t learn how to deal with a situation with an equally successful approach.

Eric talks about leadership as “Anything that isn’t taking a requirement and turning it into code. That’s potential leadership.” This should be encouraging to all those who are not natural leaders or don’t see themselves as leaders. When you do something like saying “this requirement is wrong”, that’s an act of leadership.

Both natural leaders and trained leaders can expand their abilities through experience and mentorship. If you are a leader or are aspiring to be one, look for your company’s training programs. You can practice and improve your skills through a guided process. Also, find a mentor. Part of the job of your current leaders is to help you grow, so use that and ask them or a leader you know to mentor you during your learning process.

 

(1) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lead

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Is your organizational culture hurting your recruitment efforts?

“Why has it become so difficult to hire people in startups? Do you think you could send us more options? When would I have the first list?”

As a Technical Recruitment Leader, these are just some of the questions that I hear practically every day,  throughout the years of experience in several companies (Enterprise, Mid Sized Companies, and Startups).

I have realized that one of the most relevant factors, when it comes to attracting talent, is the organizational culture of the company. This, in turn, is part of its “Employer Brand.” Let’s accept it, saying, “I’ll talk to you about X or Y transnational company (that everyone knows about)” is not the same as saying, “I’ll talk to you about Startup Name.”

 

Organizational culture and employer branding

 

Why does organizational culture influence the employer’s brand? And how does the culture of organizations affect attracting talent?

Let’s start by defining the concept. Schein (1985) states: “Organizational culture is the way in which the company has learned to manage its environment, a complex mixture of assumptions, behaviors, stories, myths, metaphors and other ideas that define what it means to work in an organization.”

While Stephen Robbins (2014) tells us: “Organizational culture is a system of meanings shared by members, which distinguishes an organization from others.”

I would like to point out a couple of important points from the previous 2 assertions:

1) In the first paragraph, Schein tells us about how the company has learned to manage its environment. That is, how it has responded to the pressure and challenges of its environment.

Remember that a company should be treated as a person: it is a living entity that is constantly changing. It has its own character, its own form or methodology to solve problems. Also, its members “share” behaviors, assumptions, ideas, etc., that, in general, affect the way the organization works.

2) Robbins tells us about “shared meanings”, that is, beliefs, values, visions, behaviors, etc, which the majority of those who make up this group agree to follow and/or allow all of these “shared elements” to create an environment that in turn is part of the culture that is lived within the company.

 

Making your company stand from others

Organizational culture is intrinsically linked to the brand of the company since it is the way in which both the members of the company and the external environment perceive it. The challenge here is to maintain congruence between the external image (Brand) and its internal image (Organizational Culture). This drives the importance of working together with the talent acquisition department, which is the first point of contact with the candidates, so to speak: “the face of the company in the labor market.”

But how are we, as a company, different from others? This, I personally consider, is one of the most important points to be able to go out to the market looking for talent and attract it successfully.

The new generation of workers doesn’t demand only a good benefits package and flexible schedules with free coffee and snacks. In the IT industry where software developers, QAs, and support engineers have an “N” amount of options of employers, they seek, in addition to the aforementioned, to belong to a group of people who form a true work team. Where together they do something significant that generates real value to their environment, and if possible, something that allows them to leave a legacy.

Maybe it’s time to start asking yourself:

  • Can your employees explain where your company comes from? What does it do? Where it’s going?
  • Does your team have the clarity on what’s expected from them?
  • Do they know what makes your company different from others?
  • Have you identified why employees prefer to work at your company?

 

I invite you to answer these questions in your organization as a good start, and we will make sure that, in fact, ALL the members of our company understand and share these concepts in their daily lives. Believe me, and I say this from experience, having clarity on what distinguishes us, and why we are here, makes talent acquisition work a stimulating activity, where it contributes not only to “offering work”, but also being the major factor, or the vehicle to generate a true impact. And thus change life in a positive way for so many professionals who seek to work for companies where they can develop their skills, share their knowledge, and contribute to making this a better country.


For you, dear reader, how has the organizational culture of your company influenced your employer brand?

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Why “Geek Out” is a key part of the TangoSource company culture

“Geek out” might seem like a strange and vague company value, so why write an entire blog post about that value alone? I recently met with a consultant who came down to our main development office in Colima a few months ago, and we were discussing her experience with us.  By comparison to different service firms in Mexico, some who have their employees drink the Kool-Aid, she felt that a key advantage for us is one particular cultural element: Geek Out.

When I wrote our company culture document a few years ago, I put a lot of myself into it, based on my reality at the time and my aspirations for what a nearshore product development shop could be. After mulling it over for a few days, I had my list, and I realized it didn’t paint the complete picture of who we are and how we work.  I added Geek Out as the last value on the list (at the time) after thinking about how much our team likes gaming, how we’ve all got different personal interests, and how we support each other’s personal expression.

 

 

Geeking out means to celebrate all of our respective individuality. In my experience, gaming helps people learn how to communicate and strategize flexibly and effectively. As you learn the rules of new games, you have to adapt. Each game has a variety of hard and soft skills, and tabletop games require that you play both the rules, and the other players. The same is true for music, dance, cooking, sports, and pretty much anything that people are passionate about.

Product and software development could be considered one of the most challenging and rewarding games in the world.  It takes years to develop the hard skills which can be more easily observed: Is your code clear, maintainable, scalable, precise, and well architected? It also takes a lot of soft skills to be more than just an efficient code monkey: empathy, proactive communication, knowing what’s going on in tech, and personal ownership of the product and customer success. To be a high-level product person means putting your entire self and experiences into your work.

So if you work with us, or want to, please understand the intent of Geek Out. The best people bring their all into what they do. Rather than stifle individuality, I feel we should help it grow and mature, for all of us to enjoy and learn from.

 

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Conference presentation: Senior software developer recruiting and community management

Curious about senior recruiting and communities? Here’s a talk I did at Hirepalooza 2015. Here are the Hirepalooza 2015 slides, which might help, given a couple jumps in the video. This is the description from the talk:

Even if you have a limited budget you still need to recruit tech talent. Join Eric Siegfried, CEO of TangoSource as he talks about how to find and hire the most critical technical talent on your team– even when you have close to no budget. From this session you’ll learn how to build and leverage an ecosystem, relate more to senior talent, and raise the level of your team.

 

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Get to know our team: César Gomez, web developer.

 

As a part of our series of interviews with members of the TangoSource team, today I’d like to introduce you to one a growing talent on our development team. Introducing César, he’s been part of the team for two years now, and we are proud to have him on board.

team-cesar

Q. Could you please introduce yourself briefly?

A. My name is Cesar Gomez, and I was born and raised in Colima. I am 26 years old, and I’ve been into web dev professionally for the past two years. I started as a trainee at TangoSource in January 2013. I remember that when I was 16 I couldn’t even turn a computer on, but I was attracted to computers and software. That’s why I decided to do a specialization in informatics when I was in high school. That was my first contact with computers, in high school. Because of my interest in technology, I started developing my skills and increasing my knowledge. I eventually became good at it, to the point that I won local contests with my programming skills.

Q. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned while working at TangoSource?

A. Something important that I learned at TangoSource was the Ruby language itself. Previously, as a student, I worked with other languages that turned out to be very complicated and difficult to use with large projects. During my first day at work using Ruby I was amazed because of its flexibility and readability. The code seemed to “speak for itself”.

Q. What is your most memorable TangoSource moment?

A. One of the best memories that I have is when I graduated from being a trainee. At the time, I and another co-worker had been working very hard, in an effort to become better developers and convince the company that we were developer material. When we got word that we were accepted we were very happy, it was a highly gratifying experience. The team organized an initiation activity that consisted of throwing us into the office pool (yes, we had a pool!). We had a few beers and then came back to work all wet, it was fun. Federico, our CTO, ended with a sprained ankle, so you know it was a good party.

Q. On what kind of projects are you currently working?

A. Right now, I am working on a couple of projects. One of them is a Customer Relationship Management tool for a luxury travel agency. The other one is an internal project: we are building an app to help startups like us manage their projects better, using Scrum. Lately, I’ve also been getting into training people who have recently joined the company.

Q. How are the relationships among coworkers inside and outside of the office?

A. We have always been very friendly with each other since I can remember. We have lunch together every day, which is a perk provided by the company. Every once in a while we go out for lunch or drinks together. We also have a Nintendo 64 in the office, which is great for quick Smash Bros tournaments.

Q. What do you do when you are not working?

A. On weekdays, I usually pick up my girlfriend and go out with her to the movies, have dinner or a drink. Some other days we stay at home and watch something there. On weekends, I go out with friends. We like swimming in any of the rivers that can be reached within a 20-min drive from Colima.

Q. A final word?

A. For young people who want to become developers, I can tell you that the dream is real! Keep learning and stay focused. Work hard, and you’ll eventually become what you want to be. For people interested in working with us, I’d tell them that we always want to hear about projects to which we can contribute with our talents. Don’t hesitate and shoot us an email!

We thank César for taking the time to answer these questions, and leave you with a video excerpt from the day when he and other developers were officially welcomed into the TangoSource family. We were playing a Mexican version of “Musical Chairs” at our old office in Mexico. César was the odd man out and, as the Mexican tradition goes, he was going to be thrown into the pool, clothes and all. In the end, he chose to dive in himself.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for other interviews with team members.

Y.

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Get to know our team: Iván Velazquez, web developer.

I interviewed Ivan Velazquez

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