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To be happy with…
Last year we wrote that we were going to open a new office in the Czech Republic. So, we did! The year has passed, the office is here and five of our engineers working with all their might. One of them is Vincent Hennebert.
Vincent is French; he’s lived in Prague for several years now. His first year in Xored Vincent worked remotely waiting patiently for our developers to get working visas.
We were wondering how his story began and what has changed since the arrival of the Russian team. We also wanted to know how he gets on with them. We asked Vincent to tell us what he likes about our Prague office, what people we need there and how to get a job in Xored.
Here is his story, interesting and diverse.
Where are you from?… When did you move to Prague (CZ)? How do you find this city?
I am from Lille, a town in the north of France. I moved to the Czech Republic 2 years ago with my Czech wife, whom I met in London :) We spent a year in Lille, and then decided to give Prague a try. I felt a bit alien the first three weeks, but now I’m loving it!
What do you like the most about it?
I like the fact that, being the capital, you can find everything you need, and yet the city remains relatively small… human-sized. Especially compared to London, which was a bit overwhelming at times.
What made you choose to become a software engineer?
It started when I was 15 and had to use a graphics calculator at school for Math. We learnt how to program it to solve a quadratic equation. I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that you could just enter some numbers and it would give you the answer automatically.
From then on I knew that I wanted to do programming, so I studied computer science at university. What I really like in IT is the idea that you can get a computer to do the hard job for you, like running complicated calculations or automating repetitive tasks.
Why did you choose Xored in the Czech Republic?
Ah… it’s a good one. I think what appealed to me the most was the absence of corporate nonsense. There are companies where at the beginning of the year you have a meeting with your manager who sets a lists of annual goals you have to achieve. That just doesn’t work in IT. It is very likely that in February the goals would no longer be relevant because the product evolved in a way that no one had foreseen.
As for career development, you usually have to wait till the end of a year to get a promotion. And then again, sometimes people get a raise not by working well, but by bootlicking the management.
There are no such things at Xored. During the interview with Andrey Platov (president of Xored Software, Inc) I learnt that if you do a good job you get a promotion whatever the time of the year is. Xored doesn’t have much management staff anyway, the company is really ruled by developers.
What about the goal setting? How are they set in Xored?
The goal is to do the job well. And that’s it! You deserve a promotion, full stop. And that’s how I believe it should be.
How was the job interview?
Before finding the Xored vacancy I applied to several positions in Prague (not knowing Czech was never a problem by the way), and I found that at Xored the recruitment process was tighter and tougher than in other places. In some companies all you have to do to be hired is to come and have a chat and answer a few technical questions. Well, I just don’t think it’s possible to properly assess developers’ skills that way.
On the contrary, at Xored the chat is only the first part of the interview. Then you have to write a programming exercise, that will get scrutinized by several company employees.
How many people are working in the Prague office now? Which specialists do you think Xored needs more?
There are four programmers and an office manager. We definitely need more people, I wouldn’t say we need any particular specialists, just good engineers. You know, the kind that can perform well no matter what task they receive, even if it’s completely new for them.
How do you tell a good developer from a bad one?
In a nutshell – bad developers think they are good and good developers believe they are bad :) Thinking that you are good is already a failure; you should keep in mind that there is always something new to learn, especially in IT that evolves so rapidly.
There is one thing though that I believe can help identify a talented developer, and it’s attention to details. Some details may seem insignificant at first, but then they will get in the way when further developing the project. It’s a bit like building a house, put sand and stones over and over again and you’ll get a wall and it’ll work. But Software is not just a house, it is a skyscraper that needs a sound structure. And there is no way one can make a skyscraper out of sand and rocks.
How do you find working in a Russian team?
Even though I am the only foreigner so far, I got on well immediately with the guys. I didn’t find that Russians and Europeans are that different after all. Perhaps the fact that we all work in IT creates some mutual understanding, such that cultural backgrounds matter less.
How do you find working with the rest of your team, which is literally thousands of kilometers away?
That’s not actually an issue. If we need to discuss something, we just call each other using Skype or Hangouts. With the webcam we can see each other as if we were face to face.
Currently our team is split in two, there are 3 people in the Czech Republic and another 4 in Russia. We organize tasks in a way that people from Prague tend to work together and the same goes for Novosibirsk. We still keep in touch daily though, to track each other’s progress.
What about your communication with colleagues beyond work questions?
I worked remotely for 3 years before the office opened and I was missing those informal chats that I can now have. You just start talking, mentioning some ideas or problems and that triggers a conversation about how your colleagues deal with them. Sometimes you learn new things just by sitting next to the guys, and seeing how they tackle a particular issue.
Also, we go to restaurants together for lunch. But we sure have to organize more activities together! Especially since in Prague you can do everything, golf, bowling, sightseeing, running, going to beer festivals, etc.
How is the atmosphere in your Prague office?
What I like is that we don’t work in a typical office building made of glass and concrete. Our work place is in an old building in the center of Prague. There are two floors and my team works on the top (4th) floor. It has a beautiful view over Prague and hills beyond. And there is a nice little kitchen too. It feels quite cozy here, even though the 3d floor is empty waiting for newcomers.
Those newcomers, where would they come from?
I think a few more people from Novosibirsk will join us, which is good because they’ll bring the company spirit with them. We will also try to grow locally, and hire Czech or internationals like me who decided to settle in Prague. The mix can be ideal – Novosibirsk developers will keep the company spirit and the international part of our team will bring diversity. And in IT diversity is crucial because people with different cultural backgrounds help boost creativity, which in turn help ideas to spark in the team.
How do you think working in Xored helps you in skill development?
Before Xored my career scope was a bit limited, because I was working in a niche field. Whereas at Xored, we use mainstream technology and also keep track of new trends, which helps secure a career path.
Do you have anything in particular that you’re proud of?
I wouldn’t use ‘proud of’, I prefer to say ‘to be happy with’. For instance, a few months ago I was involved in a project where two sets of components had organically grown to fulfill different purposes, yet were very similar to each other. I refactored them to extract the common part and avoid duplication. In the end we had the same functionality in less lines of code, and that’s something I really like: start with something imperfect and progressively refine it into an elegant architecture.
Xored for you is…
… a place full of incredibly talented people, which is great and scary at the same time. It’s scary because I have the impression that I’ll never be able to keep up with them, because they all think so fast. And it’s great because you learn a hell lot of things working with these people. Also, I haven’t met anyone arrogant so far. It’s a really nice place to work.