Sharing experiences from our newbies. To broaden our service delivery, we are expanding our team, in size, and in the range of skills we have. In 2016, Schuberg Philis grew from 195 to 224 colleagues. They include many developers from abroad. Here are some of their first experiences with us.
“From day one, I really felt like part of a big family, everyone is part of the team, and I feel like I can joke around and play pranks on anyone.”
Michael Russell, Systems Engineer from Brisbane, Australia, is one of our new recruits. In 2010, he graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology, majoring in Network Systems from the Queensland University of Technology.
His final year project was based on the then upcoming trend of configuration management software, and this passion for automating infrastructure and anything else he can get his hands on has continued since. He says the things that make him happy are “automating things, optimising things, scaling things, measuring things and monitoring things”. Today, Michael has a strong focus on future technology and is currently obsessed with virtual reality, believing it could change the world.
My Australian souvenir
In 2010, his now girlfriend took the decision to take a year off and go travelling. While planning her trip, she reached out to an Australian friend she knew from an online forum for video game music to organise meeting up, and a few days before her flight she was surprised to discover her Australian friend had a younger (and single) brother who would be coming to pick her up from the airport: Michael. After travelling and exploring Australia, New Zealand and Fiji together for six months together, Michael made the big decision to follow her back to the Netherlands, deciding that “even if we break up on the flight to the Netherlands, I can always just travel around Europe and head home again. I can’t think of a good reason not to go for it.” Today, Michael is lovingly referred to as “my Australian souvenir”.
Hire people with less experience
Michael first heard about Schuberg Philis in 2012, when one of his then colleagues announced he would be leaving for the company. While the colleague believed Michael would love it at Schuberg Philis, he thought another ten years of experience would be needed before it would be a good fit. Therefore, it came as a surprise when at the end of 2015, just 3 years later, Schuberg Philis reached out to ask if he would be interested. It wasn’t a mistake, as the company was going through a transformation and had made the decision to also try and hire people with less experience. “From day one, I really felt like part of a big family, everyone is part of the team and I feel like I can joke around and play pranks on anyone.”
The SAAS Team
Currently, Michael works in the SaaS team, focusing mainly on building Kubernetes-as-a-Service. “We provide reusable services for our customer teams, so we see our colleagues as our customers. Here I am forced to automate myself out of a job. If I don’t there is no time left to focus on the next challenge.”
“There are enormous advantages in being close to the customer with the complete team. This way you keep the lines of communication short and stay in touch with the customer. Bringing people from different organizations together within the same team also offers its challenges. It takes quite some effort to bridge the gap between the work culture of Jumbo, Eperium and Schuberg Philis, but in general the teams are working well and produce results that Jumbo is really happy with.”
When Auke van Leeuwen joined us, he probably did not expect to be spending his time mainly at the Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo.
He had heard of Schuberg Philis through his brother, who already worked here and was impressed by how we combine high quality development and operations in scrum teams. For Auke, who had 15 years of experience in software development, this was an attractive new challenge in his career path.
Scrum means that all the disciplines involved work in teams consisting of about eight experts to develop and implement applications together in short sprints. Ideally all the relevant disciplines are represented in the team, starting with the functional requirements based on the customer’s needs and including the management and maintenance needs. In recent years, Schuberg Philis has reworked the Jumbo application landscape to make it suitable for continous integration and continous deployment. We also serve as integrators, and we are among the companies who provide developers.
We work in two teams: one works on jumbo.com, which is powered by Intershop, the other team is primarily concerned with the back-end: the order management system, with interfaces to financial systems, distribution, data warehousing, and so forth. After an extensive introduction to our working methods, Auke joined the back-end team. The two teams meet every other Monday to demo the completed work of the past two weeks and plan the work for the next two weeks. They then set to work developing, testing, and deploying. For Auke, this means that for three days every week he is on the Jumbo campus in Veghel, rather than in our office in Schiphol-Rijk.
“I’m surrounded by people with similar or higher knowledge levels that’s one of the reasons I came here. Before colleagues couldn’t understand me when I anticipated problems; here it’s just a quick chat.”
Like most of the engineers at Schuberg Philis, David Amorim Faria has been interested in computers and how things work from a very early age. After 19 years working in IT companies he’d encountered some serious limitations: “In Portugal it’s almost impossible to change jobs, as everybody just hangs on to their position. And, if you want to evolve in your career, you need to become a manager but I never wanted that; I am an engineer. What I want is to keep growing as one.”
According to David, Portuguese companies perceive a 9.00 - 21.00 workday as normal and employees are often penalised for leaving on time. Thus, overtime is expected but not actually paid for. David’s wife is a veterinarian and she was very unhappy about the impossible working hours and extremely low salaries. She had previously done an internship in the Netherlands and had been very glad to see pet insurance that actually worked and a good life-work balance. They considered other European countries too: “Ireland is very rural and the UK is too expensive, in Germany you have to speak German and France is even worse. In Holland they speak funny but I can get by with English.” He sent out his CV and recruiters came pouring in.
It all went very fast
David had already decided to leave his last job when one recruiter approached him about Schuberg Philis. “It all went really fast, even though it was the holidays it only took them a week. Awesome talks. The first was a ‘get to know you talk,’ personal, the second was with the MoneYou customer team, which was an immediate fit, and the third talk was, I guess, to scare me off, a test. They told me Schuberg Philis can be a very difficult environment with hard core people.”
That test was not for nothing. “Normally, I just hack my way in but here I see many more safety measures. It took me four months before I fully understood where I had ended up and two more months before I became productive. Now I’m really creating things, improving upon the current situation. It’s not easy, it takes time, and it’s not just IT – it’s IT integration. Part of my work is making old applications work in the cloud. Sometimes I feel like I’m an archaeologist, diving deep into the history of our customers.” He now feels at home within the company. “Schuberg Philis is a family thing. Everyone wants to get things done. I’m surrounded by people with similar or higher knowledge levels; that’s one of the reasons I came here. Before colleagues couldn’t understand me when I anticipated problems; here all it takes is a quick chat.”
“I learned what it means to be part of a team and that sharing is caring.”
Rafal Pienazek is a DevOps Engineer with a passion for electronics and mixed martial arts. He is “eager to go the extra mile and learn at the leading edge of technology to make tomorrow possible today.”
When he graduated in Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications at the Wyższa Szkoła Zarządzania i Informatyki, there were few challenging job opportunities in Poland. Once he attended a summer school in the Netherlands and quite enjoyed it: “People here are open-minded; they seem to really enjoy life.”
Sick of company politics
Returning again to the Netherlands, he found plenty of job offers, especially at fast-growing software-driven companies. “It was great, being with young, creative people from more than 50 countries, doing all these interesting projects – and a lot of traveling and partying as well.”
But he also learned that, as soon as these companies grow to a certain size, they “start to become divided into compartments and everything is reduced to cost issues. I got sick of all the company politics.” He tried smaller companies, but there he felt bound to specific tasks: “I was using just a small subset of my skills; I wanted to do more.”
When he got his interview at Schuberg Philis in 2016, it wasn’t his first time. “I tried to get in five years ago, but they said I lacked experience. Then two years ago they asked me, but we couldn't see a fit. When I entered now, I noticed the company had really changed and I was treated as one of the team. They know your happiness translates into the happiness of your customers.” Rafal joined the retail team: “It fits because here you are freer to put new ideas into practice, and there are fewer controls and less discussion about changes. If you find something to speed things up, you can apply it: it’s fast moving.”
You are listened to
Still, he needed some time to blend in. “In the beginning I was spending useless hours doing things on my own. The boot camps really helped me to understand the way we work here. What I like most here is the team consent. You are really listened to and it’s also easy to help each other, as everything is very well documented. I learned what it means to be part of a team and that sharing is caring.”
“Everything here is of the highest technical standard. We do R&D that is beneficial for all the other teams. So I chose to start with small, feasible projects and gradually built up from there.”
A graduate in Computer Science, and trained as a scrum master, Romanian Simina Niculae preferred to keep a low profile, as she was already being bothered by too many recruiters.
When one recruiter approached her, she just politely provided a request she thought they could never match: “I would only switch jobs for a very cool company that works in a nice environment and will not put me in a box.” She also liked to stick to office hours, as she needs most of her non-working time for practicing classical and modern ballet.
Build tools for the whole of Schuberg Philis
The recruiter suggested talking to Schuberg Philis. At her first two meetings, there was no immediate match. “There was a social fit, but the first two teams referred me to another team where there might be a better fit on the technical level.” The third team she met was the Connect Team, perhaps the most core team in our organization, as they maintain the customer portal and are involved in many of our software development projects. Here her skills as both a computer scientist and an agile coach come together.
“Everything here is of the highest technical standard. We do R&D; that is beneficial for all the other teams. So I chose to start with small, feasible projects and gradually built up from there. Now I have learned that, within the team, everyone can in principle do anything.” For now, she would like to focus on the Connect team and help build great tools for the whole Schuberg Philis.”
I DON'T see much difference
How does she experience the fact that at 27 years old she is the one of the youngest team members and one of the few women around? “I don’t see much of a difference. The guys are more like the brothers I never had. I did expect them to make jokes about me coming from Transylvania so, when they asked why I came to Holland, I just said: because of the lack of sunlight. And that was it.”
“In other organizations, security is mostly imposed on projects afterwards, while here it’s an integral part of everything we do.”
Daan Stakenburg came to us with 15 years of experience as an IT Security expert. After his Master’s degree in Information Security at Royal Holloway University in London, he worked at a large corporation and at banks, as an employee and as an independent consultant. “In fact, here at Schuberg Philis, it still feels like I’m my own boss, but then with a permanent contract. No one tells you what to do, everyone just expects you to deliver top quality on time. Then again, I was given a really extensive introduction program in order to get acquainted with the way of working here.”
The Security Team is also one of the internal services teams, providing security for the other teams. His main points of contact are the Security Lead in each team, but also the other engineers. “In other organizations, security is mostly imposed on projects afterwards, while here it’s an integral part of everything we do. We take part in the scrum teams. We don’t have meaningless discussions, as disagreements on security policies are always based on facts. Security to me is a state of mind, while remaining well aware of the final goal – that the business benefits should outweigh potential risks and cost.”