Travelling at the Speed of Blur

Posted by Alexia Golez on June 4, 2013

Blur. When people ask what the transition from working in a massive behemoth like Microsoft to a lean, mean fighting machine like Trustev is, I'm not sure I can deftly describe the velocity other than say its like I'm on the back of motorcycle that Pat and Chris are driving like hell bells and I'm writing code. So blur is probably apt.

To really understand the difference, I think we need to travel deep. You see large software companies like Microsoft do complex things really well. There are lots and lots of cogs moving in different directions that need to be wrangled for wildly different reasons:

  • Commitments to legacy platforms and developers need to be carried forward
  • Large enterprise customers need to be reassured
  • Consumers need to be excited
  • New acquisitions need to be on-boarded and integrated into the DNA company
  • Recasting big bets of product groups to react to the hot new startups, while trying to integrate these with already well-understood and supported user scenarios.
  • Divisions and product groups need to collaborate across boundaries be they time-zone or ways of doing business
  • Company culture needs to be developed

Historically, big companies could take three to four years to build something. And that something was something significant. It had to be. It was the classic "Let's get all hands inside the windows and write vision documents, get GM approval and carve out some milestones and start writing specs" approach. It was "moving fast" for a massive software machine yet it was like sitting at the maw of black hole, the very anti-thesis of moving fast.

That's changing for large companies or at least it *feels* like it. Regular product releases. Adapting to an MVP service model. Agile. I'm sure I hear someone at the back of the room shouting out agile. In my experience, big companies can't really do agile effectively. Meet FrankenAgile. FrankenAgile is Agile but. Agile but we still need to make special commitments on messaging via marketing to get people excited. Agile but partners deal better with dates with full deliverables and very sequential actions. FrankenAgile.

Moving to a startup especially one like Trustev that's building a platform to prevent online fraud and iterating while trying to on-board customers means fast is oxygen; as is listening to customers. Acquiring customers means that we have to move fast and iterate. And as we scale and our data sets become bigger and more interesting, agile will be key for experimentation, adaptation and building out our infrastructure to be fast and reliant.

Company culture doesn't need a team of people to actively nurture it, it grows from the principles, personalities and foibles of our small yet perfectly-shaped team; a team I'm almost one hundred percent sure is half-filled with Terminators. Chris will be back.

I won't lie. It was hard to make the change at first. Documentation is different. There's less focus on triage and more on building. Even, the language of engineering is different. Somewhat. Even simple things like checking-in using the in-house depot is now committing via SVN. And let's not speak of acronyms FFS.

I've changed role as well as company. Moving from a Software Developer in Test to a Developer. My first instinct for the past seven years was to plan, develop and critique the work that developers did in the Office team. The best tagline I came across (God knows where), is that I was the customer advocate. The person at the table that spoke up for the customer in their absence. I said no a lot, as well as why. Now, that I'm writing code that we're serving, I'm learning to say yes more, albeit with a sharp eye to the task at hand. I find that it's easier to be agile at building the right set of features when you sit closer to end users. Why isn't as important as what right now.

The months ahead will be busy and I'm sure that blurry velocity we're moving at the moment will seem quaint and leisurely. I'm looking forward already.

Alexia Golez is a senior developer at Trustev and NO! Bad Recruiter, you can't have her! We're keeping her!

Topics: Technology