Jun 11 2019
Jun 11

Virtual. Remote. Distributed. Pick your label. This style of organization is becoming wildly more in demand and popular among many agencies and organizations. It saves the cost of office space, allows for hiring the best talent possible regardless of location, can be a huge bonus to employees who require flexibility in their schedules, and saves everyone time in commuting assuming they don’t go to a shared work space. You can even wear what you want (being mindful of video chats, of course).

The flipside? While many folks have gone remote, some people find the experience quite isolating and disconnected. Does remote work make people happier? Does it make them more productive? From my experience running a remote-only agency, the answer is not really. Going for days not seeing another human in person can be extremely isolating and demotivating. And while it seems as though you’d have more time at your computer, and therefore would be more productive, often the opposite is true: it can often be harder to have focused time to work on tasks if you are at home with multiple screens. And even worse if you are distracted by anything at home (deliveries at your door, that laundry in the corner, etc).

It can also be physically damaging: the human body is not designed to sit at a desk for long periods of time, and there’s less incentive to get up and move if you don’t have to move more than a few feet to your computer.

I know I’ve experienced all those issues. So I feel everyone’s pain. Literally.

The main reason Kanopi Studios exists is to support humans in every way.

We support our clients by giving them great work so they can be successful online, but additionally Kanopi serves to support its employees so they are successful in both their work and home lives. We want our people to always be happy, fulfilled, and constantly evolving in a positive way. So it’s critical that we create an environment and culture that fosters practices that provide meaning, collaboration, and happiness regardless of location. It’s also critical that employees feel empowered to speak up if they are feeling the negative repercussions of remote work.

As CEO, it’s my job to give my staff the right tools and systems so that they are as happy and healthy as possible, and to create connectivity in Kanopi’s culture. Building and sustaining strong relationships requires a unique approach that makes use of a variety of tools to create the right work culture to combat the isolation.

There’s a session I give on this very topic, and the DrupalCon video is linked below. I cover how to be the best remote employee, as well as how to support your team if you are a leader of a remote team. I give key tactics to keep you (and all other staff) inspired, creative, productive and most importantly, happy! I hope you find it helpful in making your own work environment as connected and collaborative as possible, no matter where you are.

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Jun 08 2018
Jun 08


I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Swati, Hetal, Priyasha, and Aliya expound on this—and in their own words.

 

Swati-Kharbanda-QA

 

It was while studying engineering that Swati found that she didn’t actually enjoy software development. She wanted to explore other options. This is what led her to quality assurance. Soon, she was placed at a leading multinational, where she trained in testing and developed an interest in it.

While she enjoyed the work, the new job took her to Bangalore, and after two years of working there, she wanted to come back to her family in Delhi. That was when she was referred to Axelerant and joined the team as a QA professional.

Initially, she and everyone around her had their misgivings about remote work. But she decided to try it out. Over time she found that remote work offered her a lot of liberty. “I can take care of my house as well as work towards my career,” she says.

The work can get hectic though, and family life is impacted occasionally. On projects that have challenging deadlines, team members sometimes have to work long hours, and it can be hard for her to find any time for herself. In her family, she does the cooking and really enjoys it, and loves sharing her daily creations with those she loves. “I may have to work late into the night, which means that when my husband gets home, I won’t have anything prepared.” So sometimes she says, “you do feel a certain amount of guilt.” But that’s the great thing about finding the right partner: balance and mutual support. Swati's husband is extremely supportive, but not everyone is as willing to understand that in a marriage, both people’s careers hold equal importance.

“People have this expectation that girls should do less work in the office, and boys should do more work. But ultimately, we both work in the same industry, so it should not matter… everyone on my team works just as hard. If I step back from my role, the project would fail. My team members know and appreciate that,” she says.

She advises young women to give their careers same the importance that they give to their responsibilities towards their families. "Being a girl doesn't mean that you can't focus on your career," she says.

 

Hetal-Mistry-Project-Manager


“I did my MBA in Finance—I don’t know why,” begins Hetal, with disarming frankness.

She joined a bank, quickly realized it wasn’t for her and began exploring project management instead. Then, her husband decided to move to Mumbai, and she changed jobs again, joining her first remote workplace. When her baby was born, she made the choice to dedicate a year to his care.

After a year, she wanted to go back to work and was supported by her husband to do so, unconditionally. Meanwhile, her employer had been acquired by a company that did not support remote work—but made an exception for Hetal. The next few months were a struggle. “When people don’t trust that the remote model works, you have to keep trying to prove yourself every day, and working from home soon becomes working 24/7,” she says.

Hetal decided to leave. And that’s when she found out about Axelerant.

“Now, it’s easy because I know my team members trust me. If I need to pick up my son, I can leave early without feeling guilty,” she says.

Hetal has also had her skills questioned occasionally in the workplace. “If you are asking too many questions and you are a woman, you will probably be told that you won’t get it,” says Hetal.

Her advice to women who might be facing similar criticism: “Don’t take it too seriously. If we pay too much attention to the noise, sometimes we stop paying enough attention to the job,” she says.

Hetal believes that workplaces like Axelerant that encourage flexible work will have a positive impact on women, particularly those who are re-entering the workforce. She observes a stark difference between full-time working moms and stay-at-home moms in terms of how fulfilled and enthusiastic they seem in general. She says: “Stay-at-home moms often tend to look bored or resigned. Working moms—even though we are always tired—exude a sense of satisfaction. And I don’t think the children of working moms are at any disadvantage. That is, if you do it the right way.”

 

Priyasha-A-Graphic-Designer


Ever since she was old enough to dream, Priyasha dreamt of being an architect. You can read her story here.

But once she’d completed her degree in architecture, she realized her interests lean more towards designing for users, and she wanted to explore that direction. Why? “Because good design makes things simpler for everyone,” she says.

By then, she had also begun making graphics, logos and illustrations. So when she found a job opening at a company that was engaged in “graphic, web and space design”, her heart leapt, and she applied.

What followed? Many years of learning and getting used to the new work environment and the challenges it presented. Priyasha found that architecture and graphic design were not very different after all. She had her doubts occasionally about changing directions. Ultimately though, she’s glad she made the move. If she hadn’t, she says, she might never have gotten out of her comfort zone.

Today, Priyasha is a graphic designer at Axelerant, helping to transform the company’s brand experience. She loves music, and in her time off, she attends as many concerts as possible. When she manages to find some free time, she sketches. And she loves travel, so whenever possible, she plans a trip. She’s still learning and growing, challenging herself everyday. “I believe in learning by making mistakes, so if there's something new that I'm not aware of, I try to learn about it and give it my best,” she says.

She’s quite comfortable with the idea that people need to explore different sides of themselves through their careers, and therefore she may not always stick to one predetermined path. “I do know that I'll always be a designer, but the directions will definitely change with time because I feel it's really important to grow on a daily basis,” she says.  

Her advice to young women: “Always take risks, get out of your comfort zone and move towards growth.”

 

Aliya-Khanam-Front-end-Engineer

 

“I wanted to be back home again. Staying away from my family was getting harder by the day.”

By 2012, Aliya had spent several years in Delhi working for a Drupal development company. She wanted to be closer to home in Srinagar but she wasn’t sure how this could work. She wasn’t aware and certainly not convinced that remote work was really possible.

But after floods affected our office in Srinagar, she started working for Axelerant from home. Aliya never came back to the office (and the office didn’t come back either).

Now it’s 2018, and she’s convinced that more remote opportunities in her home region of Kashmir would be good for many—and not just because being close to home is a nicety.

Aliya believes that this change could foster independence, particularly for women, who face cultural challenges which sadly keep so many subjugated, unequal, and unsafe.

“In 2012, I was the only female Drupaler in my region. I feel so proud to say that’s no longer the case,” she says. She’s a firm believer that women everywhere can do more than what they think is possible; that independence begins with learning, by opening up the mind to new opportunities. She hopes to teach this to others, and to learn more about what’s possible for her and her peers.

Besides being her title as Front-end Engineer, she’s also wife and new mother. When she’s away from her desk, she loves to cook for her husband and spend time with her 3-month-old baby girl, Baheej.

Aliya’s learning every day how challenging and rewarding being a mom can be. “This all seems very challenging,” she says, “and I’m sure there will be a lot to give and take.”

Madhura-Birdi-Marketing-Associate

 

I've thought about the questions I've been asking others, trying to answer these myself. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of support—from men and women—throughout my career. I have never experienced many of the challenges that a lot of women face in the workplace. So as the author of this piece, I've found there's a lot to learn from each of the women I've spoken to.

But the biggest lesson I will be taking away is probably that each individual is strikingly, beautifully different.

And perhaps this is fitting, because in my career as a writer and creative professional, the biggest challenge I have faced has been accepting how different I am from the people around me. Everyone is different and works differently, regardless of their gender. What has helped me the most is to not judge myself by anyone else’s standards, to turn inward instead and try to find my process, trust it, stay with it, and adapt it to meet each new challenge.

So that is what I would offer: Whoever you are, whatever your gender, don't let anyone else tell you that your difference is a flaw. Own your process, your challenges, your solutions, and their outcomes.

And when you start to do that, you might find that you have strengths that are special and powerful, and that you can use them to achieve things you'd never thought possible.

Also check out Chapter One and Chapter Two of the Women at Axelerant series.

May 29 2018
May 29


Culture
is your agency’s environment and its identity. And it’s shaped by your agency values.

If, as Simon Sinek says: “...people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”—then culture is what tells them why they should buy from you.

It’s the compass that guides decision-making at every level within the agency—from how to write an email to how to deal with clients. It allows team members to understand what’s expected of them and operate powerfully in alignment with the agency’s goals.

And when it works, culture is a fuel.

It’s what makes the organization’s vision and purpose clear to people, allowing them to connect with it, get behind it—and push. A productive agency culture fosters commitment among team members to the agency’s mission and the willingness to go above and beyond. Culture is what helps fire people up to get to work every morning, makes them want to stick around for years, and has them advocate passionately for the brand to customers. In short, it gets compelling results.

We didn’t start out knowing this.

I wish I could say that we always knew what we wanted Axelerant’s culture to be like. But that wasn’t the case.

The Axelerant we see today wasn’t conceived the way it is now. When my co-founder and I started the agency as an idea back in 2005, we started small, and without a very well thought out organizational vision. We wanted to do good work, team up with the right kind of people, be part of more projects, and be profitable. We didn’t have the experience of growing an agency’s culture.

Over time, we saw what happens when culture isn’t paid attention to—around us, and by making mistakes of our own. The question of culture is one that arose out of the need for positive sustainability. We realized that if we wanted our agency to be a lasting entity, independent of us, it had to be a place that people felt connected to.

That’s the journey we’ve been on ever since.

People come first.

The Axelerant that we speak of now began to take shape in 2012, when we started building a team, and trying to make a name for ourselves in the Drupal space. It was then that we really focused on our vision to create a structured organization, but without location constraints. We started with distributed offices in cities like Hyderabad and Srinagar, and gradually became completely location independent.

Over time, we drew closer and closer to the less traveled path that we’re on today: choosing to put our people first, always. We wanted to be successful, but also to achieve that success sustainably. We wanted our team members to be thriving, fulfilled, and committed to driving our mission forward—we believe that’s what gets the best results. This talent-first approach is now woven into all strategic decision-making at Axelerant.

Also, as we work with Open Source technologies, we wanted to ensure that we cultivate that same ethos within the organization. This strengthened our desire to be open and generous with each other and our tech communities like Drupal.

Remote teams need a deliberate focus on culture.

Culture is especially important for remote teams, which don’t have the advantages of spontaneous conversation and face-to-face meetings. Remote workers miss out on a lot of information and opportunities that people have instant access to in physical offices. This can mean that it takes longer to build trust. And trust is critical for team members to work together and rely on each other.

How could we build trust when our team members were located far away from each other? We had to show them that they could trust the system. The only way for us to do that was by being transparent in all our dealings.

The first version of our agency values was documented on an Axelerant retreat back in 2014. These have evolved since, but they remain true to the same central idea: a desire to infuse everything we do at Axelerant with meaning and inspiration, and create happiness and fulfilment for our team members.

These are our agency values, and how we live by them.

We have three agency values at Axelerant: Enthusiasm, Kindness, and Openness. And these are woven into all our activities. It was important to us to narrow down and focus on the things that really define us. And as more people who are driven by these core values join our agency, this has helped us build a team of people that really play well together, and are able to pull together in times of need.

Our feedback and recognition system (7geese) is integrated with Slack, and every day, we recognize people who exhibit our agency values directly in meetings, in conversations, and on partner engagements.

Enthusiasm

This is the value that’s recognized most often among our team members.

Enthusiasm speaks of our excitement at being part of Axelerant, and working with each other on projects and through challenges. We’ve found that if people are not excited about their work, their effort will be hard to sustain over time, naturally. Enthusiasm is part of the way we work, and therefore, essential to who we are organically.

It’s one of the fundamental things we look for when we hire. We seek out people who are excited by what they’re doing, and want to be part of something bigger. We look for those with the desire to learn and iterate by themselves, and persist until they get results.

One of the ways we nurture enthusiasm in the people who join our team is by sponsoring learning and events. We send them out to meet other passionate people, connect with top contributors in the industry, forge new connections and learn new skills. We find dynamic, creative, and fun ways to help people keep growing in their field, and feeling inspired and uplifted by the work they’re doing.  

When people bring that vitality into their work, you get a team that’s driven to overcome challenges, push boundaries, and succeed. This is visible in our team members’ sustained focus on improving organizational systems and processes, their continuous participation in and active contribution to the Drupal community, and their willingness to go beyond what’s expected to deliver greater value to our partners.

Kindness

Some people think of success as requiring a certain degree of ruthlessness. Kindness may not, at face value, seem like an essential component of success, but it is deeply important to our identity, and contributes to our success.

We want to nurture a positive, encouraging environment for our team members, and we do not tolerate behavior that is hurtful, disrespectful, or negligent towards others—against our code of conduct. In every way possible, we try to keep our interactions positive; we praise publicly and share constructive feedback and criticisms with our team members in private.

This approach also carries over into conversations with our partners. We lean towards positivity and generosity in all interactions, particularly when important but difficult conversations must be had. We give others the benefit of the doubt, choosing tact and good judgment over imprudence.

We also hired a life coach full-time to help our team members work through any challenges they might be facing. They work with our team by lending an ear whenever someone needs to air their frustration, mediating between team members through any difficulties, and keeping the team happy and engaged, facilitating kindness through mutual respect.

And we’ve found the best way to nurture kindness is by example. If one person in the team is kind, it inspires others to act the same way. Kindness, in other words, is contagious.

So when one of us is struggling or going through a personal challenge which they share, everyone reaches out with messages and offers of support. That is, individual notes of encouragement, publicly—not compelled, but naturally And when one of us succeeds, we join in to celebrate them as an organization. Kindness invites more kindness, creating an environment that’s positive, productive, and healthy.

This culture of kindness means that our people are highly engaged and uncommonly motivated to help each other as well as our partners in meeting their objectives. Axelerant team members spontaneously go out of their way to offer support through challenging projects, share learning and insights freely, and seek ways to give back to the community. All of this contributes to the success of our engagements, and the accomplishment of our partners’ end goals. This is what empowers us as an organization to be authentically and holistically focused on success.

Openness

Radical transparency is something that we've practiced at Axelerant from the beginning. We wanted to build a culture where team members felt like their voices would be heard. We wanted them to be able to be more vocal about things that affect them—their career paths, projects, and organizational decisions, like process and policy changes. And this was only possible if we were willing to openly discuss problems.

We started out with most of our team in India, where sometimes due to cultural and personal factors, it took a long time for people to open up, to start talking openly about things that matter. We had to be patient, try to get to the root of all issues that were brought to us, and consistently demonstrate that what people shared with us wouldn’t be received in a negative way. Setting examples around openness has been an enduring focus of ours.

To that end, we’re transparent with our team members and partners about our efforts, our challenges, as well as any mistakes we’ve made. As far as possible, our chats and threads are kept public. Disclosing certain information internally comes with its own challenges, but in our team, our people have been highly professional, understanding the responsibility that comes with this level of trust. With our partners, our openness helps build confidence. We’re able to have difficult conversations with candor, realizing fair outcomes for all parties involved.

We value feedback from our team members, as this is what helps us get better. We use Officevibe to encourage people to speak freely to us about their struggles, or any unhappiness over decisions made. When we receive negative feedback from team members, we address it publicly, letting everyone know what positive changes we plan to make to solve their problems.

We also use AskNicely to gather feedback from our partners periodically. Insights gleaned from their comments and follow-up conversations help us quickly correct course if there are any challenges, adapt to our partners’ needs, and keep improving the way we do work.

We value dissent when it is productive, because it leads us to making better decisions. Our ability to take new input and rapidly maneuver to adapt to it creates a team that’s fast-moving, nimble, and dynamic. And these are the qualities that allow us to respond to our partners’ evolving needs with speed and precision.

Well-chosen values create positive synergies.

In some ways, our agency values also temper and modulate each other, evening out the dangers of the antonyms or the damaging effects of the disintegration of each. I’ll explain.

Openness without kindness could easily become harsh and discouraging, and we’ve seen this at play. Enthusiasm without openness would mean energies being spent recklessly, unchecked and ineffective. Kindness that’s not buffered by enthusiasm or openness would mean we’d be unable to make meaningful progress, that is we’d be ineffective.

We’re enthusiastic enough to keep propelling each other forward, open enough to share freely and keep each other on target, but kind enough to be gentle and constructive while doing so. That’s what creates a highly energized, positive, and purposeful working environment for us all. And it’s how we win.

And the work is never over.

People ask us how we got our culture right at Axelerant. I don’t think we got it right—it’s just that we’ve stayed highly focused on it, and conscious of the fact that we have to strive get it right. What moves us forward is our constant wrestling with this question of whether we have it right or not. It’s a question we have to continuously ask each other, today and certainly tomorrow.

So yes, we’re in a far, far better place than we were when we started. But the continuous evolution is ongoing, and this is the most important thing for any agency to recognize, particularly a services organization. Recognizing that is why we continue to improve.

We’ve seen what happens when culture is treated as an afterthought. And I strongly believe that if you lose sight of people, that’s the end of the story. Culture is something that always needs to be tended to with care and attention. And we have a lot more work, and our best days ahead.

Agency Success

May 23 2018
May 23


I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Mridulla, Akanksha, Sabreena, and Nikita expound on this—and in their own words.

 

Mridulla-H-Life-Coach

 


Mridulla’s role in the company is unique: she’s a full-time Life Coach.

What motivated her to take this path? “When there’s no guidance or support available to you, you miss out on a lot of years and experiences of your life,” she says. Once she began coaching people, she started to see an immediate positive impact on her work relationships. So she knew she was onto something.

Today, she helps maintain the engagement and culture at Axelerant, empowering team members to create the lives and careers they want. She’s also a passionate advocate for women, and this passion comes from her having seen a lot of bias against girls while growing up in India.

She believes that: “Women in India don’t have much of a voice, and are taught that they don’t have any rights,” she says. It’s her opinion that although they may not express it, they (girls) grow up imbibing a belief that they are inferior. The oldest generation of the family might grieve when a girl is born. If a girl is abused, her family is unlikely to stand by her. “There’s a story being told to women that teaches them that they are second-class citizens,” says Mridulla.

As she became a Life Coach, her conversations with different people gave Mridulla a much wider perspective. “I learned that men also go through the same kinds of abuse. Now, I think I am equally passionate about all issues.”

She advises women to find ways to preserve their independence. “Start saving as soon as you begin earning. Even a small amount each month will give help you whenever you need it in life, to study, travel, or just have fun.” And also, to have courage: “Lack of courage makes you compromise on your self-esteem. Do what you think is right and stand up for yourself.”

She believes good workplaces have the capacity to empower people: “Axelerant is an equal-opportunity-for-all workplace. It’s a safe place to work at, free of any kind of harassment. Such an environment helps bring our courage to the surface and helps us work to our full potential.”

 

Akanksha-Singh-Drupal-Engineer

 


If you ask Akanksha what she thinks about women in the workplace, you’ll find she has a lot to say. For her, it all began in college... with a Counter-Strike club.

“In my first year of college, we used to have video game events for computer science students. All the boys would play Counter-Strike, and for girls? Angry Birds.”

She was really into video games back then, and the situation frustrated her to no end. She asked the college society for computer science why she couldn’t play Counter-Strike, and was told she was the only girl who was interested.

“All of that gets to you, no matter how hard you try not to let it,” she says. But it didn’t stop her.

By her fourth year of college, Akanksha was the president of the community and had created a separate section for girls. “And it wasn’t just Angry Birds—it was Counter-Strike too!” she laughs.

Since college, Akanksha has had good experiences personally, but has also seen women in management being treated with disdain. “I've always wanted to prove all those naysayers wrong, especially people who say women aren't good with technology—each day is a step in that direction,” she says.

Now, as a Drupal developer at Axelerant, she says she would like to make a difference industry wide. “I would like to be in a position where I can help other women to achieve something,” she says. “I want there to be a presence for women in tech, and especially here in India. We’ve a long way to go.”

Her advice to young women: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can do. You can do anything that you set your mind to. And let the haters encourage you. There’s no use in letting all this affect you in a negative way.”

In truth, for Akanksha, it was never really about the video games—it was about equality. “It’s my choice if I want to play a video game or not,” she says. “But no one should be able to tell me that I can’t.”

 

Sabreena-Khursheed-Front-end-Developer

 


Originally trained in medicine and wanting to become a researcher, Sabreena switched over to Computer Applications during her post graduation. She believes this move was best, as she found it was much better to be in a field where she could implement her skills and support her family rather than just doing research.

Today, she is a front-end developer with Axelerant. Does she find it challenging? “It has always been tough for women to work in the software industry. But at Axelerant, remote work, flexible work hours, openness and transparency help overcome a lot of these challenges,” she says.

Women often need to be able to handle a lot of responsibilities across different domains, and may find that they’re not always able to accomplish everything they’d like.

“That’s okay,” says Sabreena. “We can’t do everything 100 percent.” But it’s important to keep trying.

Ultimately, though, it’s also important to recognize that working full-time while raising kids is just plain hard. “I don’t really know what to say when people ask: How do you do it all? Maybe the best answer is “I don’t.” So maybe rather than asking that, the question should be: “How do you make it work?” I give myself permission to have a sink full of dirty dishes and keep my baby at daycare,” says Sabreena. “The best advice I can come up with is: be flexible, lower your expectations, laugh at yourself and try to enjoy the little moments.”

A lot of women give up on their careers altogether because they can’t see how they will manage their careers after marriage and motherhood. Sabreena believes that it’s important to seize opportunities when they present themselves, and to stay adaptable. “You can always find solutions to these challenges in the future,” she says. “But if you have the opportunity and you have the skills, you should use them.”

All this is not easy, for sure. “But if you have reached here and you have the skills, sitting idle doesn’t make any sense. With time, things do become easier,” she says.

 

Nikita-Jain-QA

 


When Nikita is not at work, she’s generally out with her family or spending time with her 11-month-old baby, Mishti. Now that she’s a mom, work-life balance is more of a challenge to maintain on regular basis. “With greater responsibilities at work and at home, it can get harder finding me time as well as time for family and friends,” says Nikita.

How does she manage? Nikita is flexible, doesn’t believe in planning much, and handles challenges as they arise—all while making sure work-life balance is maintained.

She finds that her career as a QA professional affects her personal life in positive ways. “Being a QA professional is all about learning fast and implementing new ideas. It’s interesting because it throws new challenges at you every day,” she says. “You have to stretch your mind to understand new things, to find out how they should work and how they shouldn’t, in order to manage them effectively.”

Nikita’s work has taught her how to manage and prioritize tasks on a daily basis. She finds this helpful when facing challenges in her personal life, as it enables her to overcome them by prioritizing things and working on them accordingly.

When asked what it’s like to be a woman in her career field, Nikita replies: “Solving real-world problems, personally or professionally. And making sure quality is achievable in every aspect of life.”

What message would Nikita like to share with her daughter about being a working professional, or with other young women? “Work is important for everyone. It helps develop self-awareness and confidence in individual lives. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. It also teaches time management and teamwork, which are two skills that are always helpful,” she says.

Nikita’s three-year journey with Axelerant has been very exciting and interesting. “Axelerant is very supportive in each phase of my life. I am totally satisfied and motivated with the work I am doing here, which makes me feel proud,” says Nikita.

Also check out Chapter One and Chapter Three of the Women at Axelerant series.

May 09 2018
May 09

I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Shweta, Avni, Trupti, and Karuna expound on this—and in their own words.

Shweta-Sharma-QA


The first thing you notice about Shweta is her unbridled enthusiasm. It’s catching.

“I love my career and I’m really passionate about it,” she says. “I can’t be happy if my kids aren’t happy. But I could never be happy without a professional life.”

She recalls the time she traveled 90 km for work each day, spending three and a half hours in the middle of Pune’s pollution and traffic. After she got married, she switched to an organization that was closer to home, but soon after, the first of her two children was born, and she decided to take a break from work in order to take care of her baby.

While she was very happy to be a new mom, there was something missing: “I like to challenge myself, and to keep learning and growing. If I’m not learning, I’m not happy.”

Shweta’s husband encouraged her to put her daughter into daycare and begin working again, and that’s when she joined Axelerant.

Now, she is able to pursue everything that excites her, without having to choose. Apart from her full-time job as a QA professional at Axelerant, she attends regular fitness classes, goes swimming, travels whenever she has the chance, looks after her daughter and takes her along to extracurriculars, and occasionally cooks exciting new meals. “And the best part? I’ve been able to resume my favorite hobby, Kathak (a form of Indian classical dance), after more than a decade.”

In her opinion, all of this is possible only because remote work helped her cut down on travel time, and she now has the time and energy to pursue other interests. “It makes me so happy and content that I can take care of my family and have a professional life of my own.”

Her advice to young women? “Chase excellence, and not success… seek excellence in whichever profession you choose, and success will follow.”

 

Avni-QA

 


“Kya karna hai padhke? Shaadi ho jani hai.” (“What will you do with an education? Eventually, you’re just going to have to get married.”)

This is what a lot of daughters hear from their fathers in India, including Avni’s own friends growing up. “Now, when those fathers see me…” she laughs.

Meet Avni: a high performer in college, who now works as a QA professional at Axelerant while also pursuing a postgraduate degree in Big Data and Machine Learning.

Avni is unquestionably proving people wrong about what’s possible. And she’d like her own daughter to take away different lessons than her friends did in the past. “Gender equality starts with how you bring up a child,” she says. “Educate your daughter; help her stand on her own feet. There’s no harm in being ambitious.”

Avni has another dream. In about 10 years, she’d like to be running an NGO to empower women from weaker sections in the society. For her, this dream took shape as she worked her way through some challenging questions about three years ago.

“When you see certain woman, you can see that they’re being held down,” she says. Avni found it disturbing that while more women in urban spaces are independent today, in rural India, the difference in social status is steep.

“Nobody should have to live in a miserable state, whether man or a woman. And women in rural areas really need help,” she says. She plans to help them learn new skills so that they can look after their own needs.

Meanwhile, she’s taking it all in stride, delivering great work during the week and spending the weekends painting with her daughter and pursuing her schooling. She finds being a professional while having a rich family life extremely fulfilling. “You do have to juggle, and you do have to set your priorities,” she says. “Sometimes, the problem is we just keep quiet and try to be flexible all the time. But once you set your boundaries and expectations right and communicate them well to others, it works.”

 

Trupti-Sawant-QA

 


Trupti recalls beginning her career with some hesitation about her role in the male-dominated tech industry. “Most of the time, I’ve worked with only male counterparts. There were no other women on my team. It was a group of 8-9 devs and a single QA professional—a girl.”

Her male counterparts were very sound technically and she worried about the fact that her role required her to challenge them, and how that would play out. “Some people have this attitude that QAs aren’t necessary. QAs are a headache to them, because we point out their mistakes.”

Today, she doesn’t have these concerns: “now I work closely with all my technically experienced male counterparts and feel more confident as a woman,” she says.

How did this happen? “My communication skills, patience and resilience as a woman have helped me to improve my knowledge and to develop more competency among my peers.”

As a QA professional, communication is particularly important for Trupti’s place on the team. She explains how all the different roles she plays in her life—daughter, wife, sister—bring out particular qualities which help her develop her professional outlook and improve her skills.

“Between personal and professional, there’s a bridge that helps. If someone in my family is in a bad mood, I have to understand that and be patient with them.” And it’s this same understanding that informs her work with the team, allowing her to be patient and gentle with teammates, and to keep the peace (even in difficult situations).

When Trupti is not at work, she slips into the role of a typical housewife. “When I am free and have no other plans, I’m happy dedicating myself to household work,” she says.

Is it hard to manage the needs of work and family? Her response: “It’s not very easy, but we have to manage our time and our work accordingly, per our schedules. Since we work remotely, we don’t have strict timings. We are flexible, so we are able to manage it effectively.”

 

Karuna-Batra-COO

 


“A career choice should be as close to 100 percent in alignment to one’s passions… to not drain someone. Something that can motivate a person to get up and go to work every day.”

Karuna continues: “...knowing what we want to do, its alignment to our divine purpose and architecting it as a career is the best route to try and hit that 100 percent resonance.”

As COO at Axelerant, Karuna’s role spans across people engagement, projects, process and operations management through direct involvement or consultation as needed by the ecosystem collaboratively. Outside of work, Karuna spends time learning about spirituality and evolved consciousness, trying to become the best version of herself, either through books or social media. Her ambition is to learn, grow, and evolve every day to help herself and the world around her.

Because she is single, managing work and life have not been difficult for her. When things get challenging, she manages through re-prioritization and re-arranging her task list. “One needs to be good at multitasking in a position like mine, where you’re heavily involved across the organization,” she says. 

Since Axelerant is a remote company, it all works. “For me, this framework—which I have closely co-architected—has really worked well not just to take care of my health but also to provide timely support to my family members as and when needed.”

In contrast, she recalls the time when she used to travel 40 kilometers one way on Delhi's busy roads to the office, and was totally disconnected from her family; working more than 10 hours and spending four hours (sometimes more) on the road each day. 

“At Axelerant, we try our best to strike a work-life balance for all, even if it demands continuous re-invention—and that’s not easy.” 

Check out Chapter Two and Chapter Three of the Women at Axelerant series. 

Jun 30 2016
Jun 30

We’ve found that the best Drupal agency is the one with a highly functioning, happy team. To be fair, remote or distributed agencies are happier and more productive anyways and that’s based on remote work surveys. But we’re going a step further with the goal of becoming the best Drupal agency, specifically by ensuring our team is a happy one.

Our Goal: Be Best Drupal Agency

There are a few important factors, features of wellness, which help make the best Drupal agency. For us, these are our fantastic Life Coach (working full-time for our team members), peer-determined semi-annual raises, results-based productivity that’s not measured in hours, and much more. How we approach work-life balance, organizational culture, time, and money have changed the way we do everything. Most importantly, it works.

We take employee satisfaction to an extreme

We hired a Life Coach full-time for our team members. This unique move has helped forward our holistic approach to instill job satisfaction, side step burnout, and enable healthy professional growth. Team members can contact our life coach to work on career path objectives, stress management, personal goal setting, life changes, social challenges, and much more.

This internal resource may seem bizarre to some, but it’s an option with benefits that go beyond productive workdays. A life coach fosters satisfaction and helps banish workplace indifference.

We’ve got an excellent kudos system. Our HR system integrates with Slack, which lets us give publically and receive pats on the back throughout the day. We encourage many notes of appreciation, recognizing monthly those who give and receive the most. This enablement creates a healthy and congratulatory environment within our organization.

In a professional environment like this, concealed positive feedback doesn’t always do the job. We’re building a positive culture for our team, with an emphasis on goals, personal development, and satisfaction.

Often when logging into our Slack system, we find personalized messages from the CEO and COO encouraging us to reach out to our leaders and peers if there’s something on our minds. It’s a great way to promote openness and remind everyone, daily, what we value here.

Need to Grow Your Team? Learn How

We make it a point to survey team engagement and belonging. Quarterly surveys give our team members opportunities to bring forward their sentiments. While our open door policy is always in effect, these questionnaires allow us to ensure organizationally Axelerant is feeling good.

Monthly 1-on-1’s are about career growth. Making improvements and milestones are imperative, but you could say that career growth is paramount. Team members discuss with leaders their future so they can visualize the stepping stones.

Being a best Drupal agency is one which enables career growth and skill refinement, and having these every month—for everyone—applies a strategy.

In these meetings, we discuss training opportunities, the possibilities of educational reimbursement and career path changes. If a team member is interested in another vertical or department, we can nurture a transition or part-time involvement.

Our progressive policies are benefits. Team members are encouraged to take advantage of leave, travel, and tech policies whenever applicable. Inside Axelerant, you’ll find travel and technology budgets (Wi-fi reimbursement and device replacement); group health insurance; and a generous 35-days leave plus maternity, sabbatical, and paternity leave options.

Days off are shareable with other team members. And these are paid, of course.

We do work differently

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about burnout in the Drupal community. Work-life balance has been at the heart of this conversation, and at the crux of work-life balance you’ll find company policy. Let’s face it. Overworking, a culture of perpetual overtime, and burnout have a lot—if not everything—to do with an agency’s approach to productivity. The best Drupal agency or firm will put this into perspective and do the right thing.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

We don’t clock in or out. We deliver quality work on time and budget, without timesheets. Productivity is about results via Key Performance Indicators, not punch cards. When you work hard, efficiently, and you’re connected with the team, you achieve these quality results.

Of course, our approach is detailed; we’ve adopted and refined agile frameworks which support our self-organized, self-managed teams.

Agile powers how we get things done. Our performance tracking and collaborative efforts align with this approach. There are much more reasons for our Drupal success in delivery, including our competence with automation.

We set our work schedules. This scheduling is expressive of deep trust and responsibility, and it’s a serious testament. If top Drupal agencies want to keep top performing team members happy, allowing time for daily activities (whether these involve family, social, or spiritual norms) is a great start.

Axelerant’s work-life balance is in the hands of each team member.

This doesn’t mean that our employees aren’t up early in the morning or late at night. What this means is while some may choose to be up before the sun (or long after it’s gone), it’s up to them. We encourage them to do what’s best for themselves.

These agile and scheduling characteristics help foster our team’s wellness, as both are focused on the needs of the individual. We’ve found that this doesn’t hinder project success, in fact, it helps to ensure it.

Rigidity doesn’t work, and our teams have proven that they can be trusted with accountability and independence.

We handle finances differently

We’re transparent. In Axelerant, employees can view salaries, raises, and other details about company spending. These aren’t coveted secrets; figures are talked about openly. In this way, every employee is kept in the loop and encouraged to ask questions about our internal affairs. We keep ourselves honest, and we don’t mind talking about money.

We’re passionate about our work and our livelihood. Some firms and agencies don’t like to speak about money. We’re not like this. Let’s be frank, financial conversations centered on our employee’s needs aren’t signs of a lack of passion or selfishness. At Axelerant, we encourage openness.

Download: Continuous Discovery White Paper (PDF)

Semi-annual raises are peer-determined. Each team receives a raised budget based on profits. Next, the allocation of this amount is by honest team-level discussions. We’ve found that this system in conjunction with 1-on-1s, metrics, and engagement survey enables team recognition and promotes project feats. While this isn’t wholly competitive, it does encourage personal growth.

We’re paid on-time, in monthly lump sums. This consistency works perfectly for our employees when it comes to putting away savings and meeting monthly budgeting needs. Whereas some agency employees need to wait for several weeks or a couple of months for addressing their school loans, rent, food, and other financial concerns, Axelerant employees are already done during the first week of every month.

Being remote sure helps

Remote teams have the opportunity to put their best face forward. This doesn’t mean telecommuters are fake or disingenuous. Digital practitioners, despite contrary opinions, have the ability to interact in ways face-to-face team members can’t. They can compose themselves and avoid reactive, knee-jerk responses.

We’re talking about the unproductive kinds of office culture, the kinds that can weigh heavy in the workplace. These things can produce, over time, an unhappy (and by extension an unproductive) team. Remote work avoids this and other unpleasantness that can come with the brick and mortar.

But what’s more important is our people are free to be around their friends and family without hesitation. Working from a home office or a cafe liberates the team—gives them freedom

Being global changes everything

Axelerant is a globally distributed team (France, Taiwan, India, Israel, Japan, Australia, United States, and more to come). Some of us are from the major cities; others live in small towns—why does this matter? Because we’ve built a close-knit international team and have attained a diversity some can only dream of.

We’re a melting pot. Our cultural differences create a unique environment that enriches us all. The unique perspectives and insights every team member brings to Axelerant make our team dynamic. Diversity is the workplace gives organizations of all kinds a real advantage.

The importance of having this universal, a global mindset in today’s market can’t be undervalued. We’re world travelers, with a deep appreciation for the new. This connectedness is positive energy that charges Axelerant’s brand: we’re multicultural movers and boundary pushers.

There are global events and retreats happening back-to-back. Our annual retreat officially brings us all together for epicness, but we often see one another at international cons, camps, and other local meetups. This sponsored travel takes many of us to places we wouldn’t be visiting otherwise, broadening our horizons, and exposing us to the world even more.

We’re an international, 24-hour powerhouse. We use time zones to our advantage. This provides a tremendous advantage to our clients and enables us to get ahead of other agencies. At any time, somebody from Axelerant, somewhere in the world, is working hard at getting the right thing done.

It’s simple, happy people work hard

Happy employees are more productive. and happy, skilled production is what makes up the best Drupal agency.  We’ve found that satisfied employees with proper work-life balance are the best, bottom line. If you don’t have happy people, you’ve got a revolving door, an impassionate workforce, and indifference.

Unhappy people are indifferent. Unhappiness can breed indifference, and indifference is what will sink any agency. The day your people become unhappy is another day closer to them becoming unconcerned and eventually inactive.

If you want the best Drupal agency, find wellness

Beyond an extensive portfolio, and efficient Drupal services, a top Drupal agency will display healthy indications of a flourishing culture. The culture comes from people. If you’re looking for the best talent, which is what every organization in need of a Drupal vendor is looking for, then look for happy talent. Empowered teams produce powerful work. When more decision makers start to get this, we’ll all be in a better place.

These are just a few oddities that make us great. If you’re looking to hire or work for the best Drupal agency, these are some of the details you should be considering.

This article was originally published in November, 2015. It has since been updated.

Mar 24 2016
Mar 24

Success in a top Drupal agency is achieved by its people. And with something like Drupal staff augmentation, it’s important to hone in on traits. When growing our team, choosing augmentees with indicators like these can mean the difference between competitive advantage and failure.

So what ideal, non-techie team member traits make a top Drupal agency?

1. Integrity

Open source integrity is what builds a top Drupal agency. When they’ve contributed code, do they support it? Are they responding to posts in the issue queue? These indicators are important. But it goes beyond just coding integrity. More of a movement than practice, less of a process than a culture; open source involves a different kind of ethic. After all, that’s what builds and evangelizes entire communities.

An employee can have all the talent in the world, but without honesty and authenticity, nothing significant can be accomplished. Integrity is the stable force behind many role models. Great leaders model integrity by being honest and doing what is right no matter the circumstances.

Integrity requires us to make the right choice, even when we may not receive personal gain from the outcome. Open Source Integrity is something that should be mutually understood by contributors.

Much like the foundation of a building, this should be the basis for every good hire or Drupal augmentee. Integrity is essential for lasting success.

2. Openness

Drupal didn’t make it this far by closing itself off from criticism, suggestion, or ideas. Openness is how open source technology will take over the world of software. So it is with individuals.

Satisfied employees comfortably voice concerns and ask questions. They know where to go for answers. In current economic times, openness is crucial—anxiety is high, doors seem closed. It’s impossible to build an atmosphere of trust if new augmentees or hirees are padlocked. A closed environment encourages a damaging, looming distrust within organizations big and small. To create that transparent, open workplace, more value must be placed on this trait.

3. Giving

Here’s one of the most undervalued traits of all. It usually means going above and beyond comfort zones—sharing time, talent, and more without a reward expectation. Giving back to a community like the Drupal Community goes beyond a typical gift exchange.

A top Drupal agency will make its mark this way. It’s how the marketplace is ordered, and it’s the practicing of this virtue by our industry leaders, mentors, top contributors that distinguish them—set them at the top. Drupal event attendance is a great indicator here. To teach and to learn open source at these events is a sign of due diligence. 

4. Passion

Enthusiasm and passion: the fuel for open source success. Fervent OS evangelism is a motivator, and a top Drupal agency will have its team members feeding off of it.

Employees who are passionate about their job can make the heaviest workload a light one. Passion (drive, motivation, zeal) is the prevalent, self-driven attitude that will help lead to success. Team members who are ready for work on Monday because they love what they do, regardless of what they do, are organizational engines.

Looking for Drupal solutions?  Download our Ebook: Learn to select your best Drupal Partner

5. Discipline

Isn’t self-discipline really about perseverance? In the workplace, it’s really about not giving up, despite setbacks. When control is tied to passion, mountains are moved.

Contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being harsh toward yourself or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle. Self-discipline is about self-control, a sign of inner strength. This control becomes perseverance; it holds us to our decisions, enables us to follow them through.

6. Leadership

The workplace is an environment where effective leadership is incredibly important. Growth is impossible without it, and every member of a top Drupal agency should have the qualities of a leader.

Real leadership is an ability to foster affirmative action, the kind that can achieve results for an organization. The most effective leaders have a strong sense of self; they understand the qualities that spur others into action.

Effective leaders know their strengths and limitations, they create and effectively communicate a positive, realistic vision. They’re motivators and inspire followers to reach their potential. Team members with this trait look beyond self-interest and encourage others to do the same. This leading is what Drupalers have to do today—it’s a contributive attribute.

7. Motivation

Like discipline, self-motivation is a power that drives us to keep moving ahead. It nurtures continuous learning and success. Self-motivation is a primary means of realizing goals and progressing. We could say that it’s linked to inventiveness. These team members need a lot less managing than less determined individuals.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These are the individuals who tend to learn new skills and take up regular training courses, take ownership of issues, become team leaders; they go above and beyond their job description.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

8. Empathy

Being sensitive and empathetic towards others goes a long way in establishing productive relationships with peers. If there’s sensitivity at play in the workplace, teams will experience a reduction in office politics, misunderstandings, and the divides that fragment what needs to be a productive work environment.

What empathy does is bring about comfort. While some firms invest in the amenities of an office space or the trappings of a creative work environment, others invest more in team members who do this by their virtue.

9. Aptness

We need people who are ready, willing, and able. Infused together, this creates aptness—apt team members. That is: team members prepared to take on challenging Drupal projects and win.

  • Ready: This sub-trait means being “made” in a professional sense. A top Drupaler working at a top Drupal agency has to have a constant readiness, usually in the form of technical knowledge and experience.  This preparation includes technical expertise, operational experience, and process knowledge.
  • Willing:  Willingness in this sense is a desire to accomplish.  We must be prepared to do the job, or all the preparation in the world won’t help. Having this desire is a serious factor of professional and personal success.
  • Able:  If we’re not ready, we won’t be able to do the job (regardless of our enthusiasm).  If we’re not willing, all the education and experience in the world won’t help.  However, if we’re ready and willing, then we’re able.

Together these sub-traits manifest in a super trait, one no Drupaler can be without.

10. Modesty

This characteristic may seem odd to many, but it shouldn’t. Let’s face it, the most sought after employees shout their values, not through their words but their work. They’re humble. Team members like this don’t feel the need to pump themselves up in front of others.

We can bring you a top team.

This post was originally published on 11/9/2015. It has since been updated.

Jun 29 2015
Jun 29

Time flies – it’s already summer, and I hope yours is going well! Seems like just yesterday I was at DrupalCon in Los Angeles, the famous city of movie-making – to make it sound more like a dream… at least my own dream, one that was made true. Because part of our team was invited to LA by an extraordinary company – X-Team.

(Side note: I must say that combining work with travel is a greatly recommended experience, as it brings a breath of fresh air to your usual working process.)

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DrupalCon brings together thousands of people from across the globe who use, develop, design, and support Drupal.

Such an IT event sounds loud. Combined with California and Silicon Valley – sounds even louder. Like a promise that can be hard to deliver on. But it totally was, and with an impressive style. There were a lot of attendees, talks, trainings, huge conference halls and a lot of social events. There was a little something for everyone.

Although it can be pricey to get to one of these, I would definitely attend another, as the value you get from one is incredible. Here’s why:

DrupalCon is inspiring

For me, it’s more about getting inspired, and you certainly get that from the core team’s keynotes (by Dries, Whitney Hess, Matt Assay). Those serve as an example that show how influential people involved in Open Source can be. During such keynotes (but not only!), you can hear a crucial word or two that will have a direct impact on your Drupal research, and will push you forward. And, of course, the future plans for the technology you use will be revealed before you! Learning from strong, inspiring leaders gives you yet another advantage as a Drupal developer.

But getting inspired isn’t limited to just the keynotes – all community collaboration that happens also counts, as it gives you a strong motivation to write high-quality code, work on interesting projects and, of course, share knowledge and contribute to the Open Source movement. And it’s great to see so many people around you who want work with, use and improve technology for the common good.

Drupal already has a really huge and awesome community – one that continuously keeps growing! And conferences certainly play one of the key roles here: every attendee that happens to be putting their very first steps in Drupal’s world can always find support during trainings and even social events like the First time Attendee social. And that works just great, thanks to such a positive atmosphere where people feel very comfortable. So basically, no one should ever be afraid to attend their very first conference!

DrupalCon helps you meet colleagues

Personally, this conference will be remembered also as an opportunity to meet with my teammates (Ardi, Kuba, Sven) in-person. Since we all work remotely, conferences, meetups, camps etc. create a unique occasion to hang out together, get to know each other better, and strengthen bonds.

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And the very same applies to business partners – many of them often attend such events as well, and it’s always great to do a real handshake with them. Not to mention participating in a daily scrum meeting with people from five different countries, sitting at one table…

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If you’re going to DrupalCon, be ready to meet people from all over the world, have a lot of fun, discuss advantages and disadvantages of Drupal and any other web novelty, find people for collaboration/research, work partners, and sometimes even a job. And last but not least – you’re bound to make new friends.

Unleash at your next DrupalCon and become part of the community. See you in Barcelona!

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Jan 28 2015
Jan 28

Yesterday, Phase2’s own Chris Bloom was featured on the Drupal Association’s podcast on how to hire great Drupal talent. It’s a pertinent conversation to have at the moment, when 92% of hiring managers surveyed by the Drupal Association reported that there is insufficient Drupal talent in the market to meet their needs.

Over the course of an hour, Chris, Randi King, and Mike Lamb shared many insights on not only attracting talent, but keeping it around. I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen once the recording is available on the Association’s website. In the meantime, as Phase2’s Talent Manager, I wanted to elaborate on some of our company’s methods for finding, hiring, and retaining the best of the best in Drupal and beyond.

Finding Talent: Emphasizing Relationships

Because we operate in an industry of web professionals, it may be a little surprising that the majority of Phase2’s recruiting happens organically, not digitally. True, online advertising plays a role, and we share open positions on our website, LinkedIn page, and Twitter. However, many of our new hires are discovered by employee referrals and face-to-face introductions at community events and job fairs. This is no coincidence: we respect our team members’ judgements and encourage them to bring new people into the fold – and we really like talking to new people!

The emphasis is really on building relationships, as opposed to checking off a list of desired skills. Organic connection is, therefore, an enormous help in determining whether a candidate will be a good fit at Phase2, whether the connection derives from an awesome conversation, internal introduction, or past collaboration with contractors. We initially look to have an open dialogue in order to gage attitude, passion, and motivations – it is these intangibles that really get us interested in a candidate. A recommendation from one of our employees speaks volumes in this respect.

The Interview Process: exploring skill & creativity

An interview is obviously an evaluation of a candidate, but it should be less a trial than an open discussion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pay attention to the undefinable character traits that will help the candidate succeed at your company. At Phase2, this means being aligned with our six values: dedicated, collaborative, smart, adaptive, authentic, and fun. Even the best developer in the country might not be the right choice if he or she is not a cultural match.

To judge technical abilities, we take code contributions and technology tests into consideration, but another big portion is evaluating thought process and decision-making skills. We ask candidates to talk us through how they would go about tackling certain challenges, getting to the heart of their understanding of the technology and proper processes. This method also offers the advantage of revealing people’s true creativity. Most technologists have an inner flair for creating, and it is always exciting to figure out where their passion comes from, and the unique ways it plays out when solving technical problems.

offering flexibility

According to a Drupal Association survey, 44% of job seekers emphasize location as an important factor in accepting a new job, specifically not having to relocate. Accommodating these candidates means walking the fine line between attracting top talent and maintaining a healthy, engaged team. Requiring all employees to work from a physical office encourages bonding but may scare off truly talented people that consider working from home to be a deal-breaker. At the same time, managing a remote team presents a myriad of logistical challenges in day-to-day communications, in addition to the difficulties of fostering a close-knit team.

At Phase2, our strategy is to offer ultimate flexibility for our employees. Our four offices in DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Portland give our social butterflies the chance to bask in our rich office culture. At the same time, about 30% of our team work remotely across the country. Day-to-day collaboration is achieved through diligent digital communication, video meetings on Google Hangout, and a water-cooler-like chat system which allows us all to bond at a distance. Maintaining an inclusive organization requires a concerted effort (such as our annual all-company gathering at headquarters) but it is well worth it to offer our employees the flexibility to live and work where they prefer to.

Retaining Talent: Letting your People Blossom

Phase2 has been very successful in retaining talent, and a large part of that is offering employees the chance to work on interesting and important projects. In a poll conducted with the podcast’s attendees, 70% believed that the most important factor in keeping staff happy and engaged was interesting work – much higher than compensation (10%), or even culture (20%).

Beyond interesting work, we at Phase2 believe career development is crucial to letting our people blossom. Encouraging long-term growth is key to ensuring your team feels appreciated and valued – it is basically an indication that your company is invested in their future. We manage this by instituting weekly check-ins with managers to discuss progress and goals. In addition, we’ve established well-mapped career trajectories. We feel that it is important to provide concrete steps for individuals to move forward in their own careers, pursuing specialties they themselves have shown an interest in.

How does your team find, hire, and retain top talent? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Jan 28 2015
Jan 28

Yesterday, Phase2’s own Chris Bloom was featured on the Drupal Association’s podcast on how to hire great Drupal talent. It’s a pertinent conversation to have at the moment, when 92% of hiring managers surveyed by the Drupal Association reported that there is insufficient Drupal talent in the market to meet their needs.

Over the course of an hour, Chris, Randi King, and Mike Lamb shared many insights on not only attracting talent, but keeping it around. I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen once the recording is available on the Association’s website. In the meantime, as Phase2’s Talent Manager, I wanted to elaborate on some of our company’s methods for finding, hiring, and retaining the best of the best in Drupal and beyond.

Finding Talent: Emphasizing Relationships

Because we operate in an industry of web professionals, it may be a little surprising that the majority of Phase2’s recruiting happens organically, not digitally. True, online advertising plays a role, and we share open positions on our website, LinkedIn page, and Twitter. However, many of our new hires are discovered by employee referrals and face-to-face introductions at community events and job fairs. This is no coincidence: we respect our team members’ judgements and encourage them to bring new people into the fold – and we really like talking to new people!

The emphasis is really on building relationships, as opposed to checking off a list of desired skills. Organic connection is, therefore, an enormous help in determining whether a candidate will be a good fit at Phase2, whether the connection derives from an awesome conversation, internal introduction, or past collaboration with contractors. We initially look to have an open dialogue in order to gage attitude, passion, and motivations – it is these intangibles that really get us interested in a candidate. A recommendation from one of our employees speaks volumes in this respect.

The Interview Process: exploring skill & creativity

An interview is obviously an evaluation of a candidate, but it should be less a trial than an open discussion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pay attention to the undefinable character traits that will help the candidate succeed at your company. At Phase2, this means being aligned with our six values: dedicated, collaborative, smart, adaptive, authentic, and fun. Even the best developer in the country might not be the right choice if he or she is not a cultural match.

To judge technical abilities, we take code contributions and technology tests into consideration, but another big portion is evaluating thought process and decision-making skills. We ask candidates to talk us through how they would go about tackling certain challenges, getting to the heart of their understanding of the technology and proper processes. This method also offers the advantage of revealing people’s true creativity. Most technologists have an inner flair for creating, and it is always exciting to figure out where their passion comes from, and the unique ways it plays out when solving technical problems.

Offering flexibility

According to a Drupal Association survey, 44% of job seekers emphasize location as an important factor in accepting a new job, specifically not having to relocate. Accommodating these candidates means walking the fine line between attracting top talent and maintaining a healthy, engaged team. Requiring all employees to work from a physical office encourages bonding but may scare off truly talented people that consider working from home to be a deal-breaker. At the same time, managing a remote team presents a myriad of logistical challenges in day-to-day communications, in addition to the difficulties of fostering a close-knit team.

At Phase2, our strategy is to offer ultimate flexibility for our employees. Our four offices in DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Portland give our social butterflies the chance to bask in our rich office culture. At the same time, about 30% of our team work remotely across the country. Day-to-day collaboration is achieved through diligent digital communication, video meetings on Google Hangout, and a water-cooler-like chat system which allows us all to bond at a distance. Maintaining an inclusive organization requires a concerted effort (such as our annual all-company gathering at headquarters) but it is well worth it to offer our employees the flexibility to live and work where they prefer to.

Retaining Talent: Letting your People Blossom

Phase2 has been very successful in retaining talent, and a large part of that is offering employees the chance to work on interesting and important projects. In a poll conducted with the podcast’s attendees, 70% believed that the most important factor in keeping staff happy and engaged was interesting work – much higher than compensation (10%), or even culture (20%).

Beyond interesting work, we at Phase2 believe career development is crucial to letting our people blossom. Encouraging long-term growth is key to ensuring your team feels appreciated and valued – it is basically an indication that your company is invested in their future. We manage this by instituting weekly check-ins with managers to discuss progress and goals. In addition, we’ve established well-mapped career trajectories. We feel that it is important to provide concrete steps for individuals to move forward in their own careers, pursuing specialties they themselves have shown an interest in.

How does your team find, hire, and retain top talent? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Jan 28 2015
Jan 28

Yesterday, Phase2’s own Chris Bloom was featured on the Drupal Association’s podcast on how to hire great Drupal talent. It’s a pertinent conversation to have at the moment, when 92% of hiring managers surveyed by the Drupal Association reported that there is insufficient Drupal talent in the market to meet their needs.

Over the course of an hour, Chris, Randi King, and Mike Lamb shared many insights on not only attracting talent, but keeping it around. I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen once the recording is available on the Association’s website. In the meantime, as Phase2’s Talent Manager, I wanted to elaborate on some of our company’s methods for finding, hiring, and retaining the best of the best in Drupal and beyond.

Finding Talent: Emphasizing Relationships

Because we operate in an industry of web professionals, it may be a little surprising that the majority of Phase2’s recruiting happens organically, not digitally. True, online advertising plays a role, and we share open positions on our website, LinkedIn page, and Twitter. However, many of our new hires are discovered by employee referrals and face-to-face introductions at community events and job fairs. This is no coincidence: we respect our team members’ judgements and encourage them to bring new people into the fold – and we really like talking to new people!

The emphasis is really on building relationships, as opposed to checking off a list of desired skills. Organic connection is, therefore, an enormous help in determining whether a candidate will be a good fit at Phase2, whether the connection derives from an awesome conversation, internal introduction, or past collaboration with contractors. We initially look to have an open dialogue in order to gage attitude, passion, and motivations – it is these intangibles that really get us interested in a candidate. A recommendation from one of our employees speaks volumes in this respect.

The Interview Process: exploring skill & creativity

An interview is obviously an evaluation of a candidate, but it should be less a trial than an open discussion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pay attention to the undefinable character traits that will help the candidate succeed at your company. At Phase2, this means being aligned with our six values: dedicated, collaborative, smart, adaptive, authentic, and fun. Even the best developer in the country might not be the right choice if he or she is not a cultural match.

To judge technical abilities, we take code contributions and technology tests into consideration, but another big portion is evaluating thought process and decision-making skills. We ask candidates to talk us through how they would go about tackling certain challenges, getting to the heart of their understanding of the technology and proper processes. This method also offers the advantage of revealing people’s true creativity. Most technologists have an inner flair for creating, and it is always exciting to figure out where their passion comes from, and the unique ways it plays out when solving technical problems.

Offering flexibility

According to a Drupal Association survey, 44% of job seekers emphasize location as an important factor in accepting a new job, specifically not having to relocate. Accommodating these candidates means walking the fine line between attracting top talent and maintaining a healthy, engaged team. Requiring all employees to work from a physical office encourages bonding but may scare off truly talented people that consider working from home to be a deal-breaker. At the same time, managing a remote team presents a myriad of logistical challenges in day-to-day communications, in addition to the difficulties of fostering a close-knit team.

At Phase2, our strategy is to offer ultimate flexibility for our employees. Our four offices in DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Portland give our social butterflies the chance to bask in our rich office culture. At the same time, about 30% of our team work remotely across the country. Day-to-day collaboration is achieved through diligent digital communication, video meetings on Google Hangout, and a water-cooler-like chat system which allows us all to bond at a distance. Maintaining an inclusive organization requires a concerted effort (such as our annual all-company gathering at headquarters) but it is well worth it to offer our employees the flexibility to live and work where they prefer to.

Retaining Talent: Letting your People Blossom

Phase2 has been very successful in retaining talent, and a large part of that is offering employees the chance to work on interesting and important projects. In a poll conducted with the podcast’s attendees, 70% believed that the most important factor in keeping staff happy and engaged was interesting work – much higher than compensation (10%), or even culture (20%).

Beyond interesting work, we at Phase2 believe career development is crucial to letting our people blossom. Encouraging long-term growth is key to ensuring your team feels appreciated and valued – it is basically an indication that your company is invested in their future. We manage this by instituting weekly check-ins with managers to discuss progress and goals. In addition, we’ve established well-mapped career trajectories. We feel that it is important to provide concrete steps for individuals to move forward in their own careers, pursuing specialties they themselves have shown an interest in.

How does your team find, hire, and retain top talent? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Dec 31 2011
Dec 31

I`m parsing the responses of the Deploying Drupal survey I started a couple of months ago (more on that later)

One of the questions in the survey is "What is devops" , apparently when you ask a zillion people (ok ok, just a large bunch of Tweeps..), you get a large amount of different answers ranging from totally wrong to spot on.

So let's go over them and see what we can learn from them ..

The most Wrong definition one can give is probably :

  • A buzzword

I think we've long passed the buzzword phase, definitely since it's not new, it's a new term we put to an existing practice. A new term that gives a lot of people that were already doing devops , a common word to dicuss about it. Also lots of people still seem to think that devops is a specific role, a job description , that it points to a specific group of people doing a certain job, it's not . Yes you'll see a lot of organisations looing for devops people, and giving them a devops job title. But it's kinda hard to be the only one doing devops in an organisation.

I described one of my current roles as Devops Kickstarter, it pretty much describes what I`m doing and it does contain devops :)

But devops also isn't

  • The connection between operations and development.
  • people that keep it running
  • crazy little fellows who find beauty in black/white letters( aka code) rather than a view like that of Taj in a full moon light.
  • the combination of developer and operations into one overall functionality
  • The perfect mixture between a developer and a system engineer. Someone who can optimize and simplify certain flows that are required by developers and system engineers, but sometimes are just outside of the scope for both of them.
  • Proxy between developer and management
  • The people in charge of the build/release cycle and planning.
  • A creature, made from 8-bit cells, with the knowledge of a seasoned developer, the skillset of a trained systems engineer and the perseverence of a true hacker.
  • The people filling the gap between the developer world and the sysadmin world. They understand dev. issues and system issues as well. They use tools from both world to solve them.

Or

  • Developers looking at the operations of the company and how we can save the company time and money

And it's definitely not

  • Someone who mixes both a sysop and dev duties
  • developers who know how to deploy and manage sites, including content and configuration.
  • I believe there's a thin line line between Ops and Devs where we need to do parts of each others jobs (or at least try) to reach our common goal..
  • A developer that creates and maintains environments tools to help other developers be more successful in building and releasing new products
  • Developers who also do IT operations, or visa versa.
  • Software developers that support development teams and assist with infrastructure systems

So no, developers that take on systems roles next to their own role and want to go for NoOps isn't feasable at all ..you really want collaboration, you want people with different skillsets that (try to) understand eachoter and (try to) work together towards a common goal.

Devops is also not just infrastructure as code

  • Writing software to manage operations
  • system administrators with a development culture.
  • Bring code management to operations, automating system admin tasks.
  • The melding of the art of Systems Administration and the skill of development with a focus on automation. A side effect of devops is the tearing down of the virtual wall that has existed between SA's and developers.
  • Infrastructure as code.
  • Applying some of the development worlds techniques (eg source control, builds, testing etc) to the operations world.
  • Code for infrastructure

Sure infastructure as code is a big part of the Automation part listed in CAMS, but just because you are doing puppet/chef doesn't mean you are doing devops.
Devops is also not just continous delivery

  • A way to let operations deploy sites in regular intervals to enable developers to interact on the systems earlier and make deployments easier.
  • Devops is the process of how you go from development to release.

Obviously lots of people doing devops also often try to achieve Continuous delivery, but just like Infrastructure as Code it devops is not limited to that :)

But I guess the truth is somewhere in the definitions below ...

  • That sweet spot between "operating system" or platform stack and the application layer. It is wanting sys admins who are willing to go beyond the normal package installers, and developers who know how to make their platform hum with their application.
  • Breaking the wall between dev and ops in the same way agile breaks the wall between business and dev e.g. coming to terms with changing requirements, iterative cycles
  • Not being an arsehole!
  • Sysadmin best-practise, using configuration as code, and facilitating communication between sysadmins and developers, with each understanding and participating in the activities of the other.
  • Devops is both the process of developers and system operators working closer together, as well as people who know (or who have worked in) both development and system operations.
  • Culture collaboration, tool-chains
  • Removing barriers to communication and efficiency through shared vocabulary, ideals, and business objectives to to deliver value.
  • A set of principles and good practices to improve the interactions between Operations and Development.
  • Collaboration between developers and sysadmins to work towards more reliable platforms
  • Building a bridge between development and operations
  • The systematic process of building, deploying, managing, and using an application or group of applications such as a drupal site.
  • Devops is collaboration and Integration between Software Development and System Administration.
  • Devops is an emerging set of principles, methods and practices for communication, collaboration and integration between software development (application/software engineering) and IT operations (systems administration/infrastructure) professionals.[1] It has developed in response to the emerging understanding of the interdependence and importance of both the development and operations disciplines in meeting an organization's goal of rapidly producing software products and services.
  • bringing together technology (development) & content (management) closer together
  • Making developers and admins understand each other.
  • Communication between developers and systems folk.
  • a cultural movement to improve agility between dev and ops
  • The cultural extension of agile to bring operations into development teams.
  • Tight collaboration of developers, operations team (sys admins) and QA-team.

But I can only conclude that there is a huge amount of evangelisation that still needs to be done, Lots of people still don't understand what devops is , or have a totally different view on it.

A number of technology conferences are and have taken up devops as a part of their conference program, inviting experienced people from outside of their focus field to talk about how they improve the quality of life !

There is still a large number of devops related problems to solve, so that's what I`ll be doing in 2012

Oct 11 2009
Oct 11
Diwan website English frontpage

Egypt’s leading bookstore, Diwan, launched its long awaited site featuring all of its products from books, music, DVDs, children’s section, and stationery through a searchable catalogue with online ordering and buying options.

The site has been developed by OpenCraft based on Drupal and included many custom-developed modules to integrate with Diwan’s retail management system backend, to fine-tune its mailing list of 10,000+ subscribers, and to allow for cross-language searching via transliteration. Additional site features include product reviews and ratings, online book clubs, and discussion forums for a more interactive experience. Diwan’s site is designed to become the leading bi-lingual portal for literary and artistic resources in Egypt and the region.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web