Working with non-native developers without a project manager, really can that be true? In the past 11 years I have experienced, developed and improved many different structures to improve the output of both nearshore and offshore outsourcing teams, but memories just fail to recollect any case related to an outsourcing team that completely owns the scope and actually functions like a mature product team. Until now at Railsware, with its clear ambition to be take a leadership position as a premium IT consulting firm and comparing itself with leaders like Pivotal Labs and Thoughtbot. Railsware is on the right way I would say, as I have yet to find another IT consulting firm in Ukraine or any other typical near/offshore location that has clients to pay premium rates. This can only mean that the service of Railsware is top notch and cannot be compared to traditional near/offshore outsourcing concepts.
It starts with a vision
Life is interesting to allow you many ways to learn, as it did so to offer me this chance to work with a company that was co-founded by Andryi Dovgalyuk and Yaroslav Lazor, both ex-employees of Componence Ukraine. As Componence Ukraine was setup in Kiev, Yaroslav as Director of the company recruited Andryi Dovgalyuk. During the period of 2006 – 2007 Yaroslav struggled enough with IT management issues to know that one day he would have a company with great IT consultants who would be able to help clients in more ways than just coding. I remember that in those days Yaroslav and I had many talks about how to create a company that would allow its people to grow into any direction they want to, but the model just doesn’t work with people who just aren’t good enough. And now 6 years later Railsware is on the right path to become that company that Yaroslav envisioned in his early years as a director. When leaving Componence I thought I would not soon return back to a IT consulting firm, but somehow life has shown me this variance of nearshore IT outsourcing that I just cannot miss.
So what’s the secret of Railsware?
Honestly I have been at the company too short to discover all the key ingredients of their success. But let me try to sum up a few that I have discovered in the past 2 months:
- A tech geek as CEO with an extreme capacity to learn, adapt and execute lessons learned. Yaroslav Lazor is a CEO beyond comparison with any other IT CEO I have ever met. Why? Because of a unique combination of competences:
- He’s a tech geek and is probably still the best techie in the company, making him the best sales person you can wish for.
- His capacity to absorb and process new information is enormous, I bet his IQ easily exceeds 150. A CEO who is just a generalist lacking ideas and execution of improvements? For many readers it might be recognizable, but no Railswarian will ever experience this as long as Yaroslav is the CEO.
- His empathy level is higher than most, even compared with people oriented management types like HR, which is definitely unique for a techie.
- As his career path has given him many growth opportunities in the past 12 years, he believes that others can also take the same steps as long as they have the right environment to do so.
- He believes in the expert generalist concept, where all people who work in the team can execute their own specialism and at the same time have enough experience to be able to handle problem contexts from general points of view
- A team of experts who understand that they can make the difference in the success of the product of their clients. This means that Railswarians, as we call ourselves, do not just consider our mission to deliver great code, but to really own the scope of a product and to play a pro-active part in the product management process.
- A unique environment for team members to make their own choices and not to be managed / pushed by managers who often make decisions based on financial criteria. Practially this means that all team members can choose the clients and products they want to be a part of. Although many discussions arise when people seem to be ‘idle’, the culture still prevails and lets people make their own choices.
- Judged by peers. All Railswarians judge their colleagues and can directly influence the paycheck of someone else. In traditional organizations such processes are ‘managed by managers’ and people often feel the ‘pressure’ from above to do things, even if they don’t really want to. In Railsware the culture believes that peer pressure is enough to keep everyone motivated enough to continuously find new challenges. And what about the ones who don’t? Such cases seem to logically resolve themselves.
Old versus new
With my involvement into Railsware processes I can already observe some great differences between the new (Railsware) and the old (Componence):
- Anyone in the team has the potential and aspiration to develop a great value for their customer
- Direct interaction between customers engineers without process managers (like project managers)
- A CEO who can kick ass on any level of the work done by his people
- Owning the scope of the product and not just the process. This means that failure of a product is considered as partial failure by the team, IT project managers usually ward off this responsibility.
- There are no managers who just manage and do nothing themselves :)
- Karma sales instead of no sales. So even if there are no active cold sales actions, leads just come through mostly referrals and the premium Ruby on Rails image Railsware has on the web.
So everything is great?
Luckily not! Or else there would be no space for me ;) The vision is there with a CEO who is the embodiment of the vision and who is the greatest ambassador for anyone’s personal development, but it’s just a fact that not everyone can be as great as Yaroslav and just require more time, attention and guidance to get to their own level of greatness. I’m happy that I can be a part of this IT phenomenon and can further build my own greatness :)