ThoughtWorks Radar – November 2016

ThoughtWorks Radar November 2016

The latest edition of the ThoughtWorks Radar came out this week. For those working in technology who’ve never come across this, read it now! I thought I’d take a few minutes to summarise the items that stood out for me in this edition. They stood out mainly as they solve problems that we’ve had or scratch itches that have bothered me for a while.

The tools are:

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Dream a Little… Intelligent Virtual Assistants

I was recently asked to present a our yearly management conference in a segment called “Dream a Little…”. The segment saw 15, 2-5 minute segments where a number of us had to present a vision of the future and potentially how this would affect our company and the employee benefits sector in general.

I did two segments and for the first one I decided to show the future of Intelligent Virtual Assistants i.e Apple Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana or Facebook ‘M’. I thought I would share it and see what people think. The first section was performed with a Siri ‘voiceover’ followed by a speech to the delegates.

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Article on Lessons Learned from Growing a Team – FinTech Capital Fifth Edition

I was recently approached by one of our recruiters, Harrington Starr, to ask if I’d like to contribute to a regular publication that they have called FinTech Capital.  I decided to contribute an article titled “7 Lessons we learned growing a team”, for the latest (Fifth) edition.  If you’d like to read the article, you can download the publication here with my article on page 83.

Growing a team is a never ending task, but we’ve been doing this for the last 4 years now and I believe we’ve learned a lot along the way.  I wanted to share some of our insights and see if others agree or disagree with these.

Our team also manages to get a small mention in the article on page 86 about how we are working to change our culture and understand what is expected by employees now that the Google culture has become the ‘norm’.

As always, it would be great to hear any thoughts or questions you have.

Trust – Are People Generally Good or Bad?

Trust is an emotive word, but one that I find myself using more and more in discussions both inside and outside my team.  I think one of the reasons its so emotive is that trust is often viewed as black and white – either I trust someone or I don’t – there are very few discussions where we tell people we trust them 50%.

In a particular discussion I was starting to think why people may or may not trust others and started to consider how a persons experiences may lead them to deal with people in a certain way.  Which of the following two statements do you most identify with?

  • I believe that in general people can be trusted, they generally try to do the right thing and are not out to harm each other deliberately
  • I believe in general that people cannot be trusted to do the right thing. I would even go as far to say that people generally go out of their way to make things more difficult for others

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What makes a successful technology project?

Sorry, if you’ve started reading this post because you thought I’d be giving you a simple answer to what makes a successful technology project, then you can probably stop now!  I got onto this topic after a conversation between two senior people within our company, one within technology, the other outside.  The non-technologist made a comment about one of our recent projects not being successful (just in case anyone is in any doubt comments like this made incorrectly, can feel the explosion pictured above).  This led to a longer conversation about what makes a successful project.

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What makes a “Great place to work”?

I was recently approached by one of our recruitment agents, Harrington Starr, about taking part in a white paper they were creating, The Secrets of the Greatest Places to work in Financial Technology.

While I don’t necessarily always think of our company being heavily into the financial technology domain – we rarely hire from other FinTech companies.  I was interested to share what I’ve learned from hiring over the past 4 years and see how this compared to others.

It was a really interesting process talking with Nadia from Harrington Starr and hearing about some of the ideas other companies were putting into practice.  The things I think we do well that are further backed up by this paper are:

  • Create a vision with the team.  This vision has to be ‘real’ i.e. not the corporate ‘values’ we have been used to in the past, that bear no resemblance to reality!  Ensure that the team buy into the vision by creating it with them.  Understand that you can’t please everyone!
  • Focus on technical quality and “doing the right thing”.  My team will tell you that they are probably a little bored of my using this statement.  It isn’t meant to be quite as black and white as it sounds – but it underpins every decision I make and is something I have deliberately decided to focus on this year.
  • Pay people what they are worth – not what you can get away with.  I’ve always been passionate about paying a fair wage, and this is heavily backed up by this paper.  I am slightly sceptical that “a fair wage” can be deliberately misconstrued by some people who have a more pie in the sky view of their worth in the market though!

I would love to hear any comments you may have on my comments or this article in general.