Last week, the Fave Engineering team held our 4th Annual Team Retreat. As part of our yearly campfire ritual, hosted by CTO Arzumy, we were asked to share 2 points: 1) How did we join Fave? 2) What kept us here?
As we sat under the stars, with a team of more than 50 gathered around the roaring campfire (Berdi and Mohannad periodically topping up our bamboo firewood), the stories and reflections shared by individuals were truly thought provoking. I took the time to write a few notes as a token of gratefulness for the team I work with and thought it meaningful to share before the year closes.
The sharing kicked-off with stories from a few of the early pioneers. Zumy, for those who know him– serial CTO, prolific tech figure, selective in ventures and highly effective in war and chaos – was part of the first wave of people that formed the founding team. A few others, Alan (one of our Android Leads) and myself, were early joiners and joked about our unbelievable cowboy days. How did we start?
- The first version of our app was hacked and built overnight.
- Got admitted to the hospital? Never stopped a feature launch.
- Everyone had access to (and could edit/ update) the database. Gasp.
- Designer? Engineer? Product manager? QA? They were one and the same person.
- The whole engineering/ product/ design team would do daily standups together.
- We launched a major feature the eve before Chinese New Year… after 2 consecutive-almost-all-nighters spent building and migrating to our internally infamous EagleActivity (followed by EagleLiberator, yes we love codenames). Obviously, it did not go well and there was no such thing as rollback. What were we thinking?!
Fast forward to who we are today, and our teams have grown and matured:
- 8 squads comprising of a cross-functional team of engineers, product, design and QA — each self governing and autonomous but growing in line with shared company goals.
- Clear delineation, clarity and focus on the key roles across engineering, product, design and QA. But all still cohesively collaborating as #oneteam
- Thoughtful processes in place from the beginning (design sprints, product discovery, business priors), to development (documentation, data tracking, delivery flows) to launch (deployment processes, QA processes, product marketing) and then repeat, just to name a few. Whilst moving at speed and pace because, fast fish.
- Retrospectives and forums for open and non-judgemental feedback.
Often, as a young team of highly ambitious millennials, we tend to set a high bar for what we believe to be the ideal tech company and to seek out the ideal tech company (instead of being part of a journey to create one). We often feel the weight of imperfection when we hit snags in our work or stresses due to a transient and singular problem in our own figurative workspace, perhaps finding fault at the circumstances of a team or company. We forget to look at our time in a company as a journey of growth, or how we each play a part in contributing to a stacked growth journey.
A company is a vehicle for [personal] growth — Syakir, iOS Engineer (campfire sharing participant #13)
In a growth focused scale-up, it’s important to remember that growth begets growth. Company growth is driven by the sum of growth minded individuals, focused on personally and professionally growing in our respective domain areas. And as the company grows, we are all pulled in an upward growth trajectory — the individual employee grows, the business grows, our users grow — and then we all grow again. The multiplier effect of growth can be infectious. But it all begins with a growth (vs grumble) type of individual who is passionate about growing the company, and thens contributes towards forming the sum of the parts towards an accelerated growth powerhouse.
It was a clear start, we were all in it for the growth.
As the night turns darker, the shisha smoke thickens and our stories grew in depth and honesty. We moved on to stories from our newer members — some who were experiencing their first month at Fave (honeymooners); and some were closing on their first year (shit getting real). Why did they join or stay?
- I joined because my best friend (Mohannad) told me about all the exciting projects they do at Fave.
- In my past life, I’ve been a Team Lead, a QA, a Board Member… but I’m here to truly learn about doing Product.
- I joined because I went to a talk where Engineer X from Fave spoke about Exciting New Stack Y, and I’m like — I want to do that!
- I’m grateful that my Team Lead truly cares about the people of the team, and protects them.
- I joined because Fave believed in me enough to give me a chance to join the tech team when I have little or no experience.
- Yup I’ve heard of Z, he’s famous in the scene so I joined.
People are our biggest asset — Khuan Yew, Head of Product, Merchant (campfire sharing participant #24)
As many companies close the year with performance reviews, a big part of measuring performance is often centered around how well we achieved business goals and targets. How did our MAC grow? How much money did we make? How well did our new product line fare?
More than ever during this retreat were we reminded how important the people element plays in attracting talent, retaining talent, and influencing how we feel about the way we work. It’s the seemingly little actions that we take that’s meaningful and memorable — whether it’s gathering up the courage to speak at an event, standing up for our team members in a difficult situation, going out to network even when our personality scoring starts with a big fat “I”, building friendships over shared passions, taking the time to provide constructive feedback because you care, participating in a team building retreat even though your bed at home is more comfortable (*ahem*) etc. etc.
People = business as one of our key values shone brighter than the fire we encircled. No sentence articulated the sentiment better:
The product can change, the business can shift, but the people is what makes us grow — Achyar, Payments Engineer (campfire sharing participant #26)
As the fire burns out and our eyes water from the wisps of smoke (and emotion), we had some thoughts from those from our graduating party.
Something to always think about is what is our mission/ vision? – Haziq, Payments Engineer (campfire sharing participant #30 something)
Again, as millennials, we tend to be very mission-oriented, purposeful, always questioning the raison d’être. This portion of the sharing, reminded us of the importance of over-communicating the vision and direction of a company to every growth player in the organisation.
Years ago as we huddled in a one team standup, we were able to give immediate updates or fluidly change (our minds and codebase) as we shifted directionally. As we grow from a 5 to 500 people team in our next chapter, so must we learn to evolve and strengthen all facets of the organisation— our values, our people, our processes, the way we communicate — in our feat to help local businesses grow.