For the record: I started writing this blog post laying next to a nice blue pool. The pool and the rest of the quite amazing resort is situated in Kos, Greece. Together with the rest of the company, I was enjoying the retreat that madewithlove organises each year for its employees. The retreat is a mixture of work-related activities (individual presentations, workshops, group discussions, etc) and some fun stuff as well. Not bad, right?

How did I end up here? Well, I thought I was already working for the company of my dreams actually. When that dream started to fade, you can imagine I was starting to ask myself that very annoying question: “And now? What is next?” It’s often at those moments you have to keep your eyes open for opportunities. They tend to show up unexpectedly. One e-mail and a few coffee shop visits later, I became the newest member of the madewithlove crew.

For those who don’t know us well, madewithlove is a tech company that helps people and other companies build quality digital products like apps, for example and the teams around it. Fifteen software engineers and four product managers guide the clients and their development teams towards products the end user needs. The rest of the company myself included look after the company itself and take care of administration and management in general. I never thought I would be in this kind of company. But if I look at it from a distance, madewithlove is another company that is different from its competitors and providing a unique service to its clients. In that way, it all makes sense that this is the kind of company I like working for.

When was the last time you felt unsmart?

I’ve worked here almost a year now, and I have to say it has been fascinating from day one. When was the last time that you felt ‘not that smart’? For me, my first weeks (even months in fact) were not particularly good for my self-confidence. A few examples:

  • Madewithlove starts by giving you a laptop with a qwerty keyboard “because it is better for coding”. I did qnother reqding of my job description, but coding wqsn’t in it.
  • Then you install some tools well, quite a lot of tools actually because a company that builds apps has to use (good) apps to run its business; right? You already knew this probably, but there is an app for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
  • My colleagues also have a problem communicating without using their IT jargon. Words like ‘full stack’, ‘refactoring’, ‘API’, ‘pull request’, repository’, and more keep showing up in random conversations, even when you’re talking about how they cooked their spaghetti dinner during the weekend.
  • The jokes are the worst part. How would you feel if you don’t understand the jokes they are making on the chat due to the fact your parents didn’t guide you to the right diploma?

One thing that didn’t help either is my age. For the last 10 months, I was officially the oldest person in the company (not anymore now; thank you Luc). All these juniors coming almost straight from school, seemed way smarter than me. And they are, to be honest. Madewithlove happens to have gathered a kind of software development A-team. A group of intelligent and passionate people that knows how to write some fairly high-quality code. But besides that, it is very striking that they also excel in other domains like playing chess, being a Magic judge, playing guitar, outdoor hiking, and so on. It seems that my colleagues are used to learning something and becoming very good at it.

Finally, how do I fit in all of this?

Well, I assume I also have some skills for which they hired me. I added some specific HR knowledge to the company and I like a good internal process review every once and a while. My background and experience in HR in other companies is also valuable since madewithlove is not only providing development, product services and technical support to clients.

A lot of the technical or product problems clients are facing, have an underlying management/organisation/human resources issue in fact. Dealing with those issues first is sometimes crucial before our developers can start implementing the technical solutions. From my experience, I’m actively contributing to building a product out of this team management support and in the future I could even be involved in implementing this product with clients as well.

On top of all this, I ask a lot of questions, and I mean a lot! I also ask questions from a non-technical customer perspective which helps developers think about their answers. Because I often don’t have a real clue what they are talking about so they need to carefully explain. Additionally, they need to think twice about the ‘why’ of doing things this or that way. My lack of expertise in the domain is, in fact, a strength here.

The most important thing is I like it here. I like being called ‘old man’. I like asking questions. I like being the slowest in a fast pace environment. So, as long as they are happy with me, I keep playing the devil’s advocate role. I also could get used to writing blog posts next to nice pools by the way.