November 5, 2006
Working in a Highly-Productive Organization
Back in March I joined OpenAir as a principal software engineer. It's been a little more than 6-months now and as I was thinking about it my experience thus far is highlighted by a great appreciation for real, prolonged productivity. Allow me to quote myself:
I have come to really love having complete control over how much I get done in a day. It's a lot when as an engineer I don't have a lot of meetings, conference calls, instant message conversations, and drop-in visitors. Besides checking in on email periodically during the day and a daily review of my FogBugz queue, I'm free to do what I really love best...solve problems with my experience and software engineering skills.
To add a little background I'll throw out a few bullet points:
- OpenAir falls into the breed of companies that breaks through many traditional boundaries (like geographic location of employees) when conducting business.
- Engineering decisions are based on their direct impact on the customer (mostly short-term, but sometimes long-term). Lots of examples, none that I can share here. The bottom-line focus fosters getting things done and released quickly - without a lot of bureaucracy.
- OpenAir made it through the dot-com crash by converting a percentage of the users of their free service to paying customers (back when everything was based on advertising revenue). They've been profitable for many years now. While they are conservative in how they spend, they value good employees.
- The Director of Engineering and CTO at OpenAir hire well-seasoned engineers who are self-motivated and have expertise backed with years of experience. Engineers are expected to use their experience to make most decisions on how to solve a problem (under some general guidelines). While it can be scary to make big implementation decisions without a committee or team to fall back on, it provides a great deal of freedom, reward, and pride for doing things well.
- I (as well as many other engineers) work from home except for an engineering meeting every few weeks.
- I have a home office that is on the third floor, has a nice view of the yard and street (and Boston in the distance when the trees are bare). I have my entire collection of CDs and vinyl in my office and it's rarely quiet up there. One of our cats spends most of the day on the back of my chair or on the window sill next to my desk. When I go to the water cooler, I get to chat with my kids and wife.
- The primary means of communication on the engineering team is email (non-interrupt driven). There is no expectation to be on instant messenger.
- There are no dot-com gimmicks to attract employees like free beer on Friday or a fully stocked snack room.
Posted by mike at November 5, 2006 10:24 PM