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It’s fun to work at SML

In mid-2013 Ola Puchta and Paweł Wrzeszcz wrote a few words about the work culture at SoftwareMill. Three years is a long time in the digital world, and so we have decided to post a brief update.

Still flat

SoftwareMill was established in 2010. Since then, it has been creating a space for outstanding people to work in, and the numbers are growing rapidly. At the moment we are 40, located in 14 different cities. We don’t want to make things more complicated than they need to be, so if something can be done simply, that is how it is done. We have no hierarchy, no managers, no vacation policy and no secrets. Full transparency (including financial) is second nature to us. If you need to rest and you determine the project will run fine without you, just take few days off; if you need to move to another country, you can take your laptop and your work with you. The company belongs to us all, so we feel responsible for how it functions. Problems are solved in individual work groups, but the final decision depends on all the company members. Everyone can say what they think - even if it is controversial.

Company Scrum

We work in small teams with traditional project meetings, but all of us meet once a day for Chrum. Chrum is a kind of free-for-all. It consists of one question relating to morale and a random second one which is not work-related. Everyone can give his/her own opinion. I have to admit that these sessions are very funny. Some examples of Chrum’s questions are: What type of music did you listen to when you were younger? What type of music do you listen to now? What is the oldest thing you have in your home? If you were a part of a pirate crew, what kind of shipboard activity would you choose to do? From time to time we also have FridayMarketPlace - in-house meetings on various topics. These are organised to share experiences and knowledge between different areas. There is time allocated for brief presentations followed by a discussion.

Tools

To be honest, we don’t write a lot of in-house emails. For everyday communication the team uses Slack. It is also used for contacting clients or partners. Slack is developable and it can be integrated with many different tools, including Calendar; Trello; Google Drive. We have created a number of channels, emoticons/icons and a few bots to make our work more effective. One of those is HRobot, which is used for recruitment. (If you are interested in HRobot, please contact us). With so many people on board we have to cope with a vast amount of information and documentation. We use Confluence to keep everything in one place - it's really cool. For video meetings the company uses Skype, and optionally join.me or Zoom; Chrum is facilitated by BigBlueButton and TeamSpeak.

Good parts

This year at Confitura we held a special competition for the attendees: “In your opinion, what are the disadvantages of remote work?” Well, we received a lot of answers, but none of them were serious ;). Someone wrote that when you don’t work in an office you cannot steal food from the company fridge; you have no dress code or fancy access cards to restricted areas; you don’t smell fish on Friday at lunchtime.

Is it really so great to work at home? You certainly miss seeing your co-workers whenever you sit at your desk. It’s impossible to change completely, but we do have a solution. As Tomek Dziurko has written before, we use TeamSpeak which allow us to feel more connected within teams. Every team has got its own channel, where developers can discuss their project at any time. What’s more, once a month we have a company meeting when teams spend a whole day together. This is a great opportunity for F2F discussions, lunch and a party. Another way of spending time together is going to conferences - which is something that we really love to do - as speakers, organizers and participants! Maybe we have already met at an event (we took part in more than 50 initiatives in 2015), maybe you wanted to speak to us then - if you do, just click here and here for more info :).

Nowadays there are too many software houses to count. Each one has its own management strategy. How about you and your company? Please share your experiences and/or comments.