From Tech Lead to CEO | Mahdi Fanidisfani | Beyond Coding Podcast #131
Hi, everyone. My name is Patrick Akil and I adore this conversation. It shows me that it's possible to go from software engineer all the way to CEO. Returning guest back from episode 20 is my friend Mahdi Fanidisfani who did exactly that. We cover his journey and everything that happened in between. Enjoy this episode.
Oh, beyond coding. So what is your main focus on a day to day nowadays? Well, compared to two years ago when it was basically joining IKEA as an engineer manager. These days I'm kind of the director of the company called Crusoe.
The branch of the Netherlands. Because Crusoe it's a bigger consultancy in the Nordics, and now they're expanding to the rest of Europe. Yeah, and the Netherlands is one of the new markets that I'm going to be the CEO of that. And if I'm going to now compare myself then to daily differences that they had compared to the past, it's it's very kind of also kind of problem solving oriented.
And on the business side, I would say because now as a consultancy, it's it's very now important that you target the right problems in the market and also you're in the places that you should be. Yeah. So that that kind of creative research around you that of course it's including networking is including you'll be the top of the trends what's happening in the market. What is the needs that maybe would raise in the coming months as and just be prepared for the. So for example, to give an example, I mean out of my daily work, like basically of course after dropping and picking up my my daughter between this time.
Yeah. And someone said very nicely that of course you can achieve a lot between drop off and pick up of course and I'm trying to of course still to keep that balance between family and work because when you come to this position, especially to the company that I'm now going to directly, which is in a startup here, it's it can easily get lost the life part. And you need to ensure that you get the energy from that. And of course you get the motivation mixture from the work. And together you can make a magic when it comes to the work. Yeah.
And so I keep that much as I can balance when it come to the work. It's usually starting, of course, with the meetings and with so many things happening that how are you going to approach perhaps some leads or clients we have or some projects we are going to go? Mm hmm. And at the same time, defining the directions in the first months is for me is very important. Yeah.
What is the vision of this company where we are heading to? What are the really the services sort of thing that you're going to provide to the, to the clients or to people? Because let's be honest about that. I always hated consultancies, so I never like consultancy because my whole life, career life was in the product side. I was working for product companies. Yeah, National. And they done an IKEA zoom for before that and Bytecode and all those companies I always hired basically consultants to work for me.
Mm hmm. And one of one of the thing that I always missed was consultants are not basically maybe behaving or acting as as to the expectation that I had is not something wrong for them. They were like amazing people, amazing engineers. They were joining. But there was a mismatch to deliver that outcome that they expected.
And what was handed over to me and he always felt like a piece of information is lost when a consultant is gone. Yeah, the knowledge that they gained. Exactly. And then you need to figure it out yourself because it was always in the scary day that the people say, okay, the consulting contract is over, and you're always thinking what's happened the day after? And of course you do your best to do all the documentation and handovers, but there's still some of the information kind of stick to the people brain and then be gone. Then they are gone. Yeah, and that was one of the main pains.
And sometimes working with some companies that but the two not named them. But I mean, I suffered working with them personally because the quality of work was so low. And sometimes you feel that I'm going to save money to work with lower kind of rates.
Consultancies. Yeah, but at the end you pay double. Yeah, you get what you pay for it. Yeah, exactly. So the quality of the work is very important when it comes to the market.
And I work with consultants is that the quality was really over between the price that we were paying and that was basically the deal always liked. That's the value. Exactly. Yeah. So when this opportunity came along the way round a couple of months back and of course I fought for it and got to this position because it was my dream, as we discussed last time, I wanted to have this thought up and I was looking to find maybe the right time in the coming two years or something to make it happen.
But then sometimes opportunity comes and you need to listen to them. MM. So I tried to chase it and now I'm here. But when it comes to down and I said, okay, this is consultancy, let's not be consultancy in the body of consultancy and I'm going to call ourself as a value delivery company or value delivery squad. Yeah.
What does it mean is we only be present and participating in the places and in the companies and projects that we are assured that we can deliver value and we deliver the value, which I'm sure that is going to have an impact on the client or on their customers and so on, because I think it's the what is full of the meaningless works. And personally I think these come this board needs more meaningful plus trendy things to happen and of course can kind of remove the fears from the technology which sometimes you feel it yourself when you on the product side and maybe you are limited by the by the structure. Yeah. So one of the thing that I am now iterating over, it's the thing that came over the past year. It's, it's a boom. Some people got it as benefits everyone is building things on top of that some people are still are afraid of it, some people are still ignoring it.
And and so there's a mixture of feeling about this. Yeah. And if you are really a tech company and you have expertise personally myself, I've work in several companies and have that technical background and I brought people from product and agile and those kind of aspects of families together to build this company.
And now as the as a foundation, when you have them together, perhaps it can overcome those fears and you can convert them to opportunities. And also sometimes you can go from, yes, you should be afraid. Yeah, that's going to not mean good for you and your business. So good driver sometimes. Exactly.
So those are the thing that I see as values to deliver. So some part of my day is focus on the values. Really, we are going to deliver. So I think the first months of the first two months is superPAC. Of course you have administration. I need to pay salaries.
I need to ensure that the money is running at the companies, running the office to have enough. And then as as always, I mean, this is a startup vibe that they love as well. At the same time, these are overheads doing your job that maybe you don't have in big companies. You know, everything was set up for me and I just hire people and then, yeah, you have the team and you do the job. Yeah, but now I need to ensure the environment is also set.
Yeah. Which is fun. At the same time, it's an external work that you need to do. But when it comes to the really focused on my productivity, really my time with my team is, is spent on, on basically vision plan, how we can be useful for clients and how we can ensure that we are the right people for them. So that's basically also covering a lot of my time during the day that we think. And also I do research and we do conversation with the team at the same time.
We of course do networking and looking for basically finding the right spots for us to be present. And that makes a little sense to me. I'm listening to that and I'm thinking the skills that you laid out and what your day to day is is vastly different from kind of starting out in software engineering. And I just want to make a small bridge because you and I are very different kind of the career paths. You started out very much in product and have been with CBA.
Like I think back, it's almost been five years, so I've done five years in consultancy and my career history is not that long. So it's vastly like the majority part of what I've done. And the funny thing is, I'd like to think it's different than other consultancy companies. I was always taught that when you start an assignment, you you start with the exit in mind.
Yeah, because at some point you have to leave off and the company needs to go and and do the thing by itself. Right? And even when I start assignments, I challenge if they actually need consultants because I think for a company to help them, it's better if they have the people internal and if they can't, then we can help them out. But if we if they can, then I shouldn't be there and not necessary there.
So maybe that's a bit maybe that's a bit controversial. But to kind of lead up to the point where you are, where you are now. Last time we spoke, we talked about kind of tech leadership and that was the focus and the focal point. A few weeks after that, you moved to kind of an engineering management position and even then you moved to head of engineering management position kind of briefly. Yeah. And now you're CEO.
Like I feel like the position and is fully in line with what you said back then, which is why I think this is beautiful. You step by step are getting new responsibilities, right? They're more people based and now they're even more business based. And I think the tech part is still there, but I think those responsibilities are more so delegated and less on your plate as a main focus point, like that's not even on the plate that you mentioned. Now that is on your day to day.
Can you talk about the transition? And let's start about from the position of being a tech lead to the engineering management position, Kind of the difference is there and then we can lead up to what you do now. Absolutely. And of course, I want to first iterate over what you said. Of course, we had this conversation about Xavier and some companies. I didn't have the chance or maybe the luck to work with some of them.
Yeah. And the whole thing about a consultancy also business, I'm just going to say, guys, we need to change this perception. Yeah. Because as a client that I was for years, I didn't have a good understanding of what really the final benefit of having those people and at the same time not the people per se.
I mean, the companies getting, getting as kind of a teammates and at the same time don't just see them as money seekers. They are there for delivering value. And I think we aligned on that, that our vision is to make us absolute on the client side. And that's the plan. Absolutely.
We don't want to stay there the moment that we get in. We want to get out as soon as possible. Then we are happy that the client is fully on board and they are self sufficient to do stuff. And that's that's very lovely that to be on us. We are basically online and that. Yeah.
And I think also I need to iterate over the fact that to be honest we need friendships or partnerships over competition. I mean, competition can be healthy, but I mean the competition can come not really to, to stealing clients or doing, but it comes to making better or maybe, maybe different quality of works when it comes to different. Yeah. Name. So I think the partnership and the friendship would be my aim when it comes to this business.
Now moving on to your question, basically what happened last time I was basically a tech lead and then I moved to engineer manager role at IPO. Yeah. Which was basically a bigger sized company, a global company compared to national data now, which is mainly present in Europe. Then one of the first projects that I have done apart from the big project that I was working on, was basically also delivering our soul, our service in, in the US.
It was very interesting because I was working at another continent and totally new market, totally new customers and, and that was very nicely actually been done as well and thanks to my team and, and then that comes also to having a wider view of basically a customer experience, because then you've got to that level apart from the technical qualities that you try to bring the best of the breed to the market and so on and so forth, then you need to ensure that really the value is delivered for the right problem. I mean, the same when it comes to products and not only in one market, you can just say I've done a great job, then it's going to roll out everywhere. No, Then you need to learn that there a difference between customer segment segmentation. So you have different job locations and you have different experiences and expectations.
Yeah, and I learned that during the transition as well. And I also played a lot. And then you also got to learn, of course, getting closer to business when it comes to the junior manager roles or those leaderships.
It's it's a very important aspects which is maybe sometimes coming first before the technical part because if the bridge between these two words, the I.T and the stakeholders and business are not properly settled, then you cannot really achieve a much. I mean, I felt it myself. I was kind of balancing.
Did you still have technical responsibilities even in the projects you did there? Yeah, absolutely. And IKEA, it's a I always say that engineer imagine that IKEA because every company has its own definition. A is basically and solution architect team lead tech lead people manager and and basically you can say yeah and hands on coder in some ways yeah so this is combination of everything that's. All the hats. Yeah. And also one of the thing is you have a lot of meetings to attend to be honest, because you need to sink a lot of parties, especially the team that I was in as you services, you know, IKEA, you, you had several products and you have different stakeholders around it.
As I said, IKEA is present in 33 countries. So if you multiply them, it's by itself becomes too many people involved in projects. I need to find a rhythm to have the meetings at the same time over oversighting the technical part to ensure that the delivery of the quality of the technical part is to the to the setting quality and you are accountable for delivery of the technical part so that should be your main role.
At the same time, you've a counterpart in our personal counterpart with the product manager, uh, with my manager as part of it that you actually there to ensure that this could be recalling them. Joe Families are very sync together. They can be united by the business and together we deliver a value for the customers. Because when it comes to stakeholders, there's always this kind of debate with them that they have the feeling something is good for the business and good for the customers. Yeah, but then we know that for years to be if you want to be successful in the business or product, you need to be data driven.
So to translate in that data driven in the right way and message you to business is very important. So if you miss out properly, explain that. You miss out the opportunity to deliver something together.
And of course, the great things that I love about IKEA, there is two things that was very nicely said and also the two values. One of them is togetherness, like you need. We are together anyway, so that's very nice. And the moment that you enter to the IKEA office, you feel it that you are together. Everyone is supportive and everyone is there to help.
Nice. And the other thing is about basically lead by example. I think these two are very critical, especially when it comes to the role of engineer manager or the leaders above. Yeah, and togetherness, you have to really define it when it comes to a stakeholder management as well. And duty manager has a role there. So at the beginning I was very focused in the first months, especially because I needed to do some migration and do some foundational work.
I was very focused mainly on the technical solution drafting with my center engineers and also good to mention when I joined IKEA, I had zero engineers internally and I was working only I guess it was five consultants. Okay. That team over the two years that's mentioned that over two years I hired around 20 people, Okay, among which seven was internal. So my team grow from 0 to 7 over a year plus. And it was amazing because that was one of the targets I needed to hit.
And we discussed the internally. Yeah. And so that big team has, has been established along the, the first months is and at the same time I was building the foundation and drafting it basically on the high level and then detailing it out with the senior engineers. Yeah. And then slowly I was more focused on the business side because I needed now to sell that solution and say, okay, we have this migration and I need to draft the values out of it to buy time to at the same time not disappoint them. So okay, we have this feature queue and now you need to deliver it in a specific time with this set. Can we push it three months and then why you need to have a good why explanation about.
Yeah. And and that becomes basically I'm more more to my place of having meetings and thinking the kind of the overarching roads and and at the same time that was the moment also I think after I think six seven months of us also doing acting head of engineering for several months. And that adds up to my meetings because I was playing two roles of a head of engineering and engineer manager. So together was a bit like a bit of stretch for me. However, I loved it because it was a challenging and actually experience, which I needed to learn a lot of things. What is the the main difference there? Do you oversee multiple teams from that head of engineering perspective? Yeah.
When it comes to the head of engineering, basically some companies, I mean IKEA called it product Engineer Manager, Okay, which is translated as head of engineering in some companies they call it send your engineer manager. It's the moment. Exactly. You're handling a couple of engineer managers under you and kind of product teams and products. And and it comes also to more strategical decisions.
It's also you get the budget on top and you need to divide it based on the focus and initiatives coming over the year. Yeah you're responsible a lot on the budgeting, especially at IKEA. You need to be very cautious about costs because we believe there that any cost coming onto I.T, even if it's not included directly on the product making like of course IKEA make the furniture right. So if I don't know the cost of would go up, it means that we need perhaps to increase our cost to our price when it comes to the product selling. But there is no direct connection.
If you wait 2 hours of an engineering time in a meeting, how that impacts the customer. Yeah, because it's not the main thing. Exactly. That's why, you know, IKEA is very important. You always be cautious about the spendings and you always be cautious on how you spend things and also forecasting. So that's a very critical things you need to do always cost conscious and that is of value. We need to always be accepting that when we're spending things is not going to negatively impact the business, which basically implicitly impacts the customer.
Yeah, and that was very interesting because it was the moment that all the var and things happened. I think everything was happening at the same time. Yeah, I got the acting that never happened. And because of all the companies that start laying off, it was a really a crazy hit to the market.
Right. And financial crisis sort of started back then and, and then I'm now in the role and all this limitation comes and I stole the rhythm of other key. Of course we are proud of that. We didn't lay off any people during that hard time. Yeah. But it still puts the pressure on the head of engineering to have a new budget plan.
How to react when those limitation that was coming unexpected to the plate. Yeah. And that's a one of the thing.
And another thing is now in that role, I was responsible to ensure that we are seeing in the domain level with other head of engineering to ensure that, for example, we have a unified engineering basis that okay, David, we defined it kind of the, the baselines and everyone adhered to that and we are still reusing components from each other. So we kind of prevent redundant works to save time and at the same time to save money because that's the way go forward, right? The modular implementation. So you become a bit more responsible on the strategic decision also to the technical solution and also involve other parties, maybe from other teams to come and maybe knowledge or the other way around. And now you found this kind of spotlights for your team and go and present your work to others that you've maybe found it interesting for them and you want to share the knowledge on that. Yeah. So that becomes a bit kind of overarching role.
And at the same time you also define basically sort of in the business, you define the coming initiatives priorities and maybe yeah, maybe the impact of them because you know, IKEA, you always plan like three years, two years ahead, at least, and you are now responsible to city to business in the very, very primary steps to define the initiatives coming here and also to define priorities and budgeted for the it was very interesting of us forecasting for two years ahead. Well, and it was the first time I was doing that. And yeah, these are the thing that I got to learn when I was kind of bumped to the role for a temporary time. And that's that's really cool. I can imagine that at that level.
Did you do any hands on coding at that point? Because you already said it was challenging finding space to do technical hands on work. You were still responsible in that engineering management position. Yeah, but more and markets more aligning with people different responsibilities and different disciplines requires meetings and time to align on board.
And then you move over one step higher and you oversee multiple teams. You're now budget holder. So you were first advocating for your team and your priorities and now you own the budget. So you have to give that away. And the line with other people what the budget can be and what the priority should be. Was there any space for any technical work there? Of course no, of course.
Yes. I was like, man, no. And I was still maybe very, very much loving coding. That's why maybe some needs and some things I was doing. Is there some line of code or maybe practice and something with the, with air stuff too? Just because I'm a kind of a nerd of you know, I mean, I'm just looking for opportunities also for my personal life to see how we can.
I did and we also do a stuff around it. Yeah. And, and but at the same time really in my work weeks increased to 60 hours. I mean, either in 8 hours I was doing 10 hours work or I was a bit overstretching my day because it was too much of things and it was really critical period. They needed to deliver a lot of stuff. Yeah. And for me, to be honest, I always try to be a servant leader and then say I am one. But I tried to learn from the good leaders in the market and also I tried to be one of them.
Yeah, for me it was very important that my team is healthy, everyone is happy and a nutter not to forget that I'm there for them, first of all, and then for the for the company and then for the client. Yeah. So. So that's why people call me maybe people oriented manager or something. But I like also the manager name, by the way. And the main thing for me in that time was I ensure that every week I have some time. I still I keep up my, my one of ones with my team and also ensure that the overall team is happy, which is not only engineering but also the you the mixture of this team that working together.
There's a good momentum because I think that's the fun part of life, of work life. And yeah, and that's the thing that take people to work in the morning and I don't want to steal that because I'm super busy. I'm taking two roles and then they are getting back fired by then. So that was my focus. At the same time, I still did, to be honest, some pull request reviews per week, so I still sometimes my engineers do than expected and I was opening GitHub and then going, Oh, this is I start commenting and there was and what do you do with it? Yeah. You're expecting to not do that.
But yeah, they're like it anyway because I also missed it. At least I said I can do some reviews and also with pull request reviews is amazing, to be honest. Apart from coding you learn and you also you still get close by not coding, but you still get close to what's happening in the team. Yeah. And then also you can sometimes maybe find some rabbit holes but and also that also give the feeling that gave the feeling to my engineers, even if I'm not a hands on hands on coding, which I was doing much more. And then an IKEA, I did IKEA, I did nothing compared to and then still the fact that I am very close to them. Yeah.
And that was real because I really read the documentation. I asked them to write these documents when there was a decision. I always ensure that there is a proper layer of the delegations.
I mean, that delegation is a really is a strong word and delegation becomes much, much more critical and important. If you go up of up, you should just have the time to think about things forward and delegate things as much as possible to to other people and just keep only some few decisions to make by you. Did you have any issues with important that I'm delegating. When it comes to the delegation? At the same time, one of the thing that I always triggered me, which was critical and always double think about it, is also how much you need to delegate to a single person because sometimes you just feel I am over stretched and now I'm going not delegates who kind of a bit getting scoped.
But then you also I'm afraid that I'm too much delegating maybe to people that I'm overstretching them because engineers, when it comes to sending in engineers, they are also there is this. Yes. Personality, because challenges are nice and people would like to get more. But at the same time, that's my responsibility to ensure that I give the right amount of work to ensure that they still have a good life work balance. Because some of my engineers, they were crazy and I always had this conversation with them. Guys, I don't want you to work after 6 p.m. or 5 p.m..
I don't care if the business is going down, fall, no care, go sit, watch Netflix. I don't care. Don't sit at a I mean, some of them were like sleeping at 4 a.m. because they were so connected to the topic.
Yeah, there wasn't a really urgency of a deadline, but there was so connected they wanted to really get out of it something and then they have to present it. And I said akin to the after they were like half asleep and said, What's happening for you? I've done it. Finally. And I said, Yes, score. But I don't like that. I mean. But it's you talked about lead by example, right? And it's some of the challenges I've seen also in practice that leadership sometimes stretches themselves because you were wearing multiple hats, so you were like, I have to these are my responsibilities.
You go the extra mile, but then to your people you're like, No, no, no. But you don't do that. Like you're supposed to, like, work within the hours there. That's a that's. Hard. That's, that's it.
Yeah. That's a very, very nice one. You spotted, To be honest, I also always tell them I'm not good luck to do ambition because I always make them more ambitious. Yeah, I mean, that's. I'm ambitious. And by nature I just push them in spite. If you talk to them, I just push them.
Yeah, I hope that is inspirational, but sometimes they don't feel that I'm annoying. But I'm pushing them to get out of the comfort zone because the beauty sitting out of the comfort zones, I mean, if you're if you're doing the same as you're doing over the years. Yeah. Or over the last months is what is the difference between you and I and something that does only task and check the boxes. Mm.
I didn't see any those and it is repetitive. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And it's going to get and you're going to get annoyed anyway even if you feel very good with the current payment and your current job.
But as a manager or leader that's your responsibility to ensure that you stay put this step that way ahead, that they are always going to get some sparks in their careers, that they are always surprised. But oh, there's nice challenge and and so that that ambitious I always inject it to their mind. At the same time I say there is a balance if I work, for example, 10 hours, but I do my gym, I do take care of my family, I have fun. Maybe I do two extra hours before my sleep or something, but they ensure that I have enough sleep. So those are critical things you need to take. And then of course, if your loved ones are asleep and then you have alone and then you are awake and maybe you can spend some more time and then on your private time.
However, I just mentioned, if the work is properly is good, if you have proper focus during the working days, the 40 days you can achieve, some people achieve 100 hours. So in 40 hours you can achieve what people achieve in 100 hours. And that two factors are the responsibility of the leaders, of course, the engineering or the engineers or the other, the coworkers. They have also their own agenda.
They need to check their calendar and so on. But just consider one fact that it's our responsibility to ensure that they are secure about the context changes they have to do in the week or during the day. And that's my responsibility if I'm going to let their agenda to be open and let everyone to fill in my agenda of my team, I cannot expect they can focus something out of it.
I mean, some people always mentioned in a lot of post that no engineers can achieve anything 30 minutes between two meetings. Yeah. So my, my basically base base kind of rules was we need to ensure that there is two 3 hours gap between meetings.
So in 3 hours, at least 2 hours can be focused on and people can be productive if it comes to delivery. Mm So these things are basically the main thing that I mentioned and don't work overnight. Yeah.
And, and at the same time if you feel the pressure of the deadline that you and your committed person and you own things and you feel that you need to work more, that's again my bad as your leader I shouldn't put a deadline away that is not comfortable or I should do it the way that either I scope the work down and I still ensure that you can secure it in 40 hours. Yeah. So that comes to my jobs to ensure that what I'm feeling you is 40 hours fitting.
But if you want to do magic things or crazy things or want to experience things and you want to spend another 10 hours per week or 20 hours per week, that's your call. You want to wake up in the morning, 5 a.m., 2 hours coding on something new in the market for yourself or in reading articles that you call. Yeah, for me is important and I'm not causing that extra work outside the working hours. Yeah, I love I love the ownership that you take in there.
Right. Because it is what you do has impact on the people that work with you. Right. And from a leadership position that just multiplies by the amount of people that you're leading in that way. So having that example role and making sure they're focused 40 hours is as effective as possible just by virtue of allowing their agenda for breathing room and focus time and not being managed by other people. I love that.
And then also, when they do go the extra mile, obviously it's allowed everyone has their own kind of free time and how they spend it. But the emphasis on recovery is how it how they are resilient, right? How it's sustainable, how they can do it for a longer period. Exactly. And you're not the driver there they are. And I think that's the best aspect, right? It comes from within itself. And I think that is that goes hand in hand with kind of ambitious people, people that are driven. They want to go the extra mile.
Yeah. So they should also be allowed to do so. And you can't control that anyway, as long as it's healthy. That's the important part. Exactly.
And also I always mentioned them. I said, you have what I'm I have to basically ensure that you have proper 40 hours planned. Yeah. Of your week. But if you're an amazing performer and you finish it in three days I ever I don't ever feel more for the extra two days that you did you did better. Yeah. You have the freedom No use that two days as your benefit.
That's your bonus. So you overachieved what was expected in the 24 hours. You see the 40 hours. Then you get that reward to spend that on your personal growth.
Perfect. Maybe try something new. So I always, always say, which is also one of my ideas when it comes to to the budgeting. Yeah, all the companies are complaining about budgets, but I was asking when I'm in the companies and I see people complaining, I already can see medium leakages.
Yeah. So did you ever optimize and kind of cover kind of maybe cover those leakages to see really you don't have money and they call it the empty pocket metaphor that you always complain about empty pockets. But did you check what you have bought over the past two days? Yeah.
You bought candy there, You're about to waffle there. And maybe if you save that money, you can already buy a mobile phone. I don't know. Something. Not so when it comes also to people. Did we. The first question I asked myself, did I optimize their working hours? Do they take the most out of it all the time? The answer is no. You can still make things better.
Give them more focus on that. They deliver more. So that's the my main issue. If it really you can say anyone dare to say that. Yes, if you optimize for the hours over employees, if you get that, then maybe you can ask for some extra miles.
Yeah, but I don't ever think anyone can get to 100%. So this is basically the first aspect of optimizing what you're doing rather putting more in their plate. Because some people have this mindset, the more they put that's got a mental pressure on them.
But I said no, the urgency, feeling that you want to give to your team to deliver something, it doesn't come from there. No. As as long as you're more close to them. That's my approach when it comes to critical moments, I'm closer than ever to my engineers. I see. I'm sitting next to you. Deliver this one. You can deliver this noise. Maybe I will start coding together at two.
One is that sentence is a magic. Because the day after actually they are done, they just felt they are not alone, they are supported and nothing's going to fall to their plate. I always say we've been together. We learn together. Yeah, it's no individual, so don't worry. How do you make sure that they don't see that as pressure? Right.
Because there's something unique about you that when you say that, let's do this together. Yeah. They don't see it as, Oh my God, my manager sitting next to me. They're they're looking over my shoulder and blah, blah, blah. No, they see it as a benefit, like we're in this together. But something you do makes them feel that.
Yeah. Because the only thing is I'm not close to them. Only in that times. I'm always close to them. Yeah.
So when I'm doing that, I'm not being a stranger to the. That's why there's nothing new sitting close. No, I'm always close to them. Yeah.
Either I'm close to them to see what's happening with them or I'm close to them to see what what they want to do next. I'm close to them to to deliver something together as a team. So the problem, when it comes to some leaders, I think you spotted an amazing problem in the in this industry is the leader sometimes feels yes we need to be just present there on the sad moments or the critical moment and in the happy moments and when everything is going well, no one is really looking for engineers. Where are those people? Yeah, somewhere in the in the office. They are coding.
But that's the mistake. Because if you are not, they don't feel they are close to them or your in their team. Your votes means nothing to them. You're an outsider. Exactly. Yeah. That's how they feel. So I try not to fake it, but really play the role because I'm really concerned.
It's not really because of my my payments or my roles. No. As a friend or I, I got to learn this new term as a professional footballer job. We need to be together to win. Yeah, and and I need to be in frontline with them. Maybe I don't do the code, but I can provide them the environment mine.
And providing the environment is as you call as they are doing, because the main thing in genuine ones is focus a couple safe environment to deliver things and to make mistakes. Yeah, so the first thing I let them do mistakes and I also do mistakes to say, you see nothing happens. Of course, mistakes and, and I think that's the maybe the trait that when I'm talking to my teams when it comes to critical moment I said, guys this is really serious. We need to cut it down and then we need to finish it. Tell me what should be out. If you need to do that, tell me what is the risk that we need to mitigate now or tell me how confident I should be that we can deliver? And then really, those answers, all the best answers I always get.
And with that, I create I translate them to the conversations with stakeholders or to my peers in the product. And together we create a message and talk to the stakeholders. And it amazingly well colloquial which lead to deliver amazing projects. And and I'm super proud of the team and I'm super proud of my team and what we have achieved and all the kudos to Dome a thing we as the leaders there just watched and celebrate with them. And that was a very happy moment. I love that. I love that.
I think you're when I look back to our previous conversation, one of the things that stuck with me is just the ambition and drive that you have. I think it's electrifying and probably within that team, people look at you and that's also what drives it kind of fuels their own ambition yet still, I think, and maybe hiring has as a component there, there will be people that just want to cost more. So maybe cost is a long term, but they just want to be fed with the work.
They want to do the work. They don't want to put emphasis on those relationships, maybe not want to build on the team aspect as much or understand the business problems that much. They just want to do the technical problems and get really good at that. How do you kind of fuel that ambition from that side or do you take the stance of that's the right and we handle it differently. Let's convert it to a context of a football club.
Consider you have a team that everyone would like to do pass and and wanted to score together. Yeah. And one of them comes and said, No. Not me. I'm completely with you to win the game.
However, I'm doing the on my own way and I'm going to, I'm more into dribbling. MM So you have 11 people in the field, one is dribbling, ten is watching. Yeah. How that feels the sucks. Yeah. Exactly how you as a coach you're leading the team then you can say Patrick okay you did it but they got to score.
Maybe you're scored, just won't give you a score. But how many people kind of come really celebrate the score with you after the your scored. A goal the zero. It's not a team effort. There will come a big club and say okay amazing and then we win the game and then but after or two games yeah if you do that then people said such a Yeah yeah right so they I think that's exactly coming to the context of work as well. Maybe you achieve and you deliver one project together to two together, but as when you are not a team player, this system kind of see you as I think you call it outside the or maybe kind of in silo. I mean, and especially when a silo is a single person, it's very to manage that.
I mean, I don't want to be that person I mean that silo on. And I think as a manager, as you mentioned, hiring for sure has an aspect to this. So one of the aspects that I'm checking out, we were checking all the time is about hiring people that matches the culture of the team and matches the value of the team and the company. So that could translate to being a team player. MM Because as long as you feel that you are belonged, you belong to the team and you belong to this kind of club, you will really contribute and you will do it in any way to make it successful. Yeah, but as long as you feel no, I'm just there because my value means something.
I'm a best coder in the world for sure. There's no doubt, but I think there's a mismatch for for my teams and comes to those players. And you put more emphasis on that team feeling because I've also been in situations where the people that dribble by themselves are, they're really good at that and they score over and over and over again.
They might be the best scorer that I've worked with yet. The team aspect is lacking probably because they're really good at delivering. Yeah, they don't feel like they have to put that emphasis on their.
Yeah. I've been in environments where people say that behavior is not okay or this guy's an exception and that behavior is okay. To be honest, of course I don't think there is a good or bad answer to it.
You cannot say this is a good person and this is a good way of accepting it or this is a bad way if you accepted it. I think it's a really a compromise based on what you're going to get out of that. Maybe sometimes there is a, I don't know, million dollar project and you need someone to just deliver. Who cares? They're going to he's going to talk. No, I just need someone to deliver in a month because I'm going to get a million out of it. Yeah. Yes, maybe I would say yes.
I will find in my network the best one and say, put it there. Delivery. Okay. Thanks. Handshake. Bye. Yeah, but if you want to go long and you want to repeat the same success that was the that's the moment that you will get to problems having those players in the team. Yeah. I mean that's a very interesting thing to mention again and I would have wanted to the football.
It's always hard. It's always interesting to how one is starting a football club. You can have Cristiano Ronaldo like now in Saudi Arabia. He's he's a superstar the league right. And now, of course, more people coming but he can be a superstar. But at the end your loan I mean you can score and people can celebrate and people will be happy that you own the owner.
But how far you can go with that? Yeah. You know, the team of superstars is what I'm looking for. What I'm building also of Incluso is I called it Best of the Breed or the Performance Team Performance Squad. That's what I want to do.
Like bring in the best of the breed together. It doesn't mean that it's the same person I didn't know these people that with my team, when we sit around a table a lot disagree and I love it and I say yes, challenge more challenge Well, but the moment we make a decision, we make a decision together. Maybe it's a compromise, maybe no, someone reasoning is much more stronger than the other. And we get that.
But when we leave the room, everyone is happy. And we said, Yeah, score. So that team team player feelings is basically giving me also as the leader or the owner of that business alongside of success because those people also can get bored easily. I mean if you are not as you mentioned, I'm a best coder and I want to just do work.
I don't care about anything else. Just leave me alone. Give me the work, give me the tickets. I burn the tickets like you're going to get bored in somewhere.
Yeah, right. Yeah. So I need to. And that's this basically the second aspect of that, what we are evaluating. So how are the skills, soft skills? If you miss one of those, you need to go to a different ladder in your career to fix it, basically. Yeah. Yeah, I can imagine. How do you put or what do you look for in those hiring conversations? Because you built up the team at IKEA and now you switch to cruise.
You're building up a team there as well, right? Hiring is is such a big aspect of that when it comes to who's sitting in front of me, who do or who do I want to have next to me within this team? Who do I want to pass the ball to? Who do I want to win this cup with? And it requires trust, and especially if it's people that you haven't worked with before in this deck environment, it's very hard to gauge that from an interview perspective. How do you do that or what you put emphasis on? I think I learned this question from an smart person, which was about asking this question to yourself after an interview. You sitting next to this person for 8 hours flight.
Yeah. I think it says a lot. And it's coming not only to the hardest job because one of the thing that as you mentioned, I hired a lot of people and I was in IKEA and also before and it's basically repeating the cycle again, maybe in different contexts when it comes to to hiring over this team that I'm super proud of them. They are now an amazing a strong club together.
Yeah, Without me, I was basically the aim for me also as a leader was always to be redundant, to get to the point that I'm feeling that I'm redundant and that's the best feeling that I can get because the team is autonomous enough that they don't need me. Yeah, I need IKEA. I'm happy. When I left, it was the moment that really I felt that I'm I get to reach to that point. It doesn't mean I mean don't like they're afraid of okay we are redundant so they're going to fire.
No when you are redundant that shows that you have a good quality to lead other initiatives and then you can spend your time on other things because this part is this microservice is running by itself, just focusing on other multiple microservice may be or the connection between microservices. Yeah, and that's basically that hiring was a critical question that I usually ask you about how to handle conflict. How do you see conflict in general and I always ask, of course, conflict doesn't mean that we are going to just get neck to neck and then have a conversation. No, Also conflict on a pull request. I see that you have a code and I start writing a comment which is totally against what you wrote. What is your reaction? And a lot of good insights coming from that question.
Okay. Sometimes people ask who supplies them. Well, I never had COVID in my life and it's a can this can be reviewed again. And then when you go, as I consider the pool request, consider a meeting that you are sitting around, you have an opinion two ways. You have an opinion that there was person or the rest is kind of against that or the others have something on your against that, how you behave in that. And of course when it comes also to person to person conflict, that's another level of conflict.
So I ask how they react and really I reject that some people easily with that question. Okay, Yeah. For example, one of them I remember said, Yeah, the moment I have conflict, I'm going to just to talk manager and tell it. Push the problem away to someone else. Yeah, that's you was very nice talking to you. Good luck with the carry.
I mean I'm that's maybe my kind of a deal breaker question. At the same time, a list of questions came together over that. But one of the things about also how they react when it comes to the new technologies, like okay, apart from what is I mean, sometimes maybe you cannot evaluate this case because I was doing the the hiring management part, right? So the technical assessment was after me.
So my senior engineers were doing assignments with a candidate. Yeah. So I was kind of high level focusing on tech, but mainly on the personalities. And I'm also asking when you have a new technology, how you will implement that new to what would be your criteria to evaluate that technology when you're going to bring it in, although the aspects you consider about it or if you have a month of which technologies are going to use to deliver something.
And this very interesting, simple question, I'll give you one month and I ask you to deliver it with any technology that you think it suits the case. What what technologies you are going to choose or what tools you're going to choose Some people directly. So answer the question. I will pick react our pick node for the back end. And then I said, But I just knew the static, the page.
Yeah. And then, Oh, okay. That tell me to comment. And that's a great deal breaker for us. Anything you do, then I would write some notes about it. Yeah. So this sort of question, when it comes to behaviors maybe sometimes connected to tech, sometimes to personal behavior in the inner conversation, those are, for me are memory detail things that I get from the answers.
And and I think the people that pass those processes, not only me after us, they're are amazing talents and people that we had to interview people together. We came up to a decision to hire someone. Yeah, but I think the filter was very nice because now that team is really binded together, different personalities, deferred qualities, but together they are just want a strong arm and they love that. I love that. I love hearing that. I think those are some great examples as well.
And it makes me even more curious because those are very much from a technical perspective, right. And you have the most experienced career wise in the technical domain. Now you've gone into a position where you're building kind of your own startup. You have to hire people with skills that are you might know some stuff about marketing or sales, but it's not your core, right? Your core is still the technical side, yet you have to hire these people and you have to trust them that they value the same values that you do as a company. And you have to trust that they then hire the same people as well down the line because you're not going to do their hiring process.
Oh, absolutely. This is like make or break to find the right core team. I feel like, Yeah, how do you do that? Because that I feel like is different.
First of all, I don't think I'm the the most experienced in the carrier. I still learn a lot in that. But thank you for that compliment that the main thing about this, of course, moving on to.
Q So four years, to be honest, I had a golden squad. Then I said no, no, I'm opening a company. I'm going to just start with those people. Yes, yes, my A-Team and these three people now, two or four people now are kind of friends that we made over work. And of course one of them is Anouk, Tatyana, and more to come.
Anouk is a it's an amazing job. She's tried. She's our transformation director. She has done big projects in government and in also in commerce companies to do digital transformation at the same time to actually leading. And also, of course, all this. And she's very hands on even you say, okay, hostile retro she doesn't the best retro ever, I would say.
And then she has that quality, that pillar about basically governance people processes. And then we have from the product portfolio with years of experience in big like booking and she is fantastic. And so those people I had in mind and when it is proposition to came, the first thing is I just called them and said guys, such an opportunity to come it's not steal yes or no, we don't know.
But I'm going to do homeworks and I want to do assignments and I want to basically fight for it for getting a chance to get in the outside. Sure. Okay. We out tomorrow really And I approve This is is beyond.
Yeah. Yeah. They expect that and they love them. They know and so I'm super lucky to have that escort and we over the past the years we talked about it when we the moment we get together again and all of us. It was very interesting because all of us diverged and the now converging and we get also to a new harmony because now we have different experience, a different point of views, and now it's still being the same people. So the first is called the core team is built up like this, which I'm lucky that it's done and I trust them to, to my basically blood. And I if they said this person is right for it, without question, I accepted it.
That's why because we know each other quite well. Yeah. And we know the culture we are going to build that we are going to just do handpicking people, I mean, for crew. So I don't want to have massive hiring from all over the world because I want to compete with the price and know our people are going to be expensive.
I know quality is going to be top notch because I'm going to handpick people and just do the top things on a faster way and the envy will be perhaps cheaper because these people that I'm bringing in, they are really on the top ten, top three in their own business. And if something takes people like two years to deliver it, they can deliver in two months. They are that efficient. And and I've worked with them and we also already delivered some projects in course, even if you are alive for two months.
But we delivered project and that showed the quality. So that's my luck. At the same time, one of the thing is still you need to define the values and you need to define a vision. Yeah. And for me, the values for this company, I'll call it if she's inclusiveness, fairness, fun, transparency and trust.
So these are the five values that we are going to that which are basic in my personal values and at the same time, my team, initial team also, they believe in those five. They added one of them. And I think with those values, which I found them the foundation of, of a professional team, yeah, I think we would perhaps have a criteria of only hiring people.
And at the same time, this is, as I said, our aim is to do an effective, efficient, fun work for a problem connected to a company, to a human, to whatever, just doing positive for the for the planet and for for people. That's why one of the project also various India started is about sourcing, creating the most sustainable website in the Netherlands for Romneycare, which is an NGO they are doing. And your work for for Animals in Indonesia on the earth and you're doing fantastic job and you're doing fantastic thing even if that really from the budget perspective on money transparently, there is nothing there. But I think we feel it as a mission for us. We said we promise to deliver value and nothing can bring more value to the be to planet contributing to such projects, which for me are very heartwarming.
At the same time, I hope it can to just expand our kind of positive impact in this world. Yeah, that's amazing. I love that you say you had to look, that you found those relationships, but it's it's a testament to the relationships that you built up like over time.
Right. It and luck might be a factor, probably right time, right place was a component of that. But the fact that they said yes and they join you kind of kind of fairly immediately says a lot about you as a person.
I think you the trust that you've built up in this dream team that you put together, I feel like it is kind of a cheat code because you don't start with a blank slate. But yeah, like, that's that's the history that you've built up right? You take that with you. People always say, don't burn any bridges, and this is what happens when you don't burn a bridge.
It's about if you value those relationships, if you are the people person that I think you are, that's what happens. That's the result of that. Yeah, that's very nice of you. To be honest. Over the years that I learn and I, I learn about people, I got a lot of friends over work. This board.
Yeah. I think my contact lists, it's personal phone contact list is around 800 900 people that I know when I work. All that's crazy.
Yeah, I was in football club with them for years. I mean, every name I check ourselves, I couldn't remember memories about them. Yeah. So that network that I had, I have seen every person has a talent. Every person that can be delivering more than what you're doing today. And I think inclusive.
What I I'm looking for handpicking doesn't mean that I'm going to just pick maybe the top people know the people that can bring a specific values to the maybe to this world. Maybe we have a project that I know someone is enthusiastic about the topic and maybe doesn't have the quality of his own engineer, but he's that enthusiastic can get to that level to deliver the best value for the project or for that work. I think that's what I'm calling handpicking to put the right people for the right projects.
And of course those when you put people to things that they love to do, they go to the extreme productivity. And if they deliver, I didn't know, maybe I know burn tickets, burn ten points per week. They're going to burn 100 points per week because they love to see the end of it, because they love the subject. Yeah. So and at the same time, of course, I'm going to bring the top qualities because I want to remember names.
I don't want to go big like some big names in the co