Professional development and growth have become a must in the technology industry a long time ago. Constant discovery, testing and mastery of new tools are the golden standard of doing business in IT. It is not news for Waverley Software, a US-based software engineering firm with over 25 years of industry experience.
The company’s management team keeps the finger on the pulse of technological progress in the heart of Silicon Valley. Their engineers in Ukraine and Vietnam regularly leverage learning opportunities and participate in R&D projects to keep up with the industry pace. But is that all one can do to keep up?
The company decided to challenge the usual practice and asked themselves: “Why appoint only one Chief Technology Officer if you can have the whole Chief Technology Office team in the company?”. Here’s what came out of it.
CTO Office: One Waverley, One Team
The idea had been brewing in the minds of Waverley’s managers for quite some time. American founders raised the company in an open, democratic and startup-like atmosphere, incorporating best Silicon Valley practices of people management. One could always step up with fresh ideas. Openly admitting if something was wrong – couldn’t be more encouraged. The question was how to unite this democratic way with rock-solid procedures, leading to real steps and tangible improvements.
In summer 2018 Serhii Rossoha was appointed Chief Technology Office Representative in Ukraine. A seasoned Full-Stack Engineer with more than 16 years experience, Serhii has been among the first to join Waverley when the company opened its development center in Ukraine in 2012. Proven experience across a variety of projects, profound knowledge of the best software development and project management practices and methodologies made Serhii ready to face the challenge ahead. The challenging but crucial tasks included strengthening the company’s technological expertise, encouraging the adoption of new tools and directions of growth.
To support and streamline these activities, Serhii Rossoha decided to join forces with other professionals at Waverley. Together with Waverley’s CTO in California Nikita Tretyakov, Senior Engineering Manager Tania Ivanova, and other team members they formed the Waverley CTO Office. The newly created structure has since been open to anyone at Waverley, who is willing to contribute to the company’s growth, and has ideas on how to help Waverley faster and more effectively adapt to the technological progress.
Tania Ivanova, Senior Engineering Manager, shares: “The idea was right on the intersection of our three corporate values: Responsible Freedom, One Waverley One Team and Craftsmanship. We had to only think out of the box and grab it. Luckily, our C-Suite couldn’t be more supportive.”
Step 1: Driving Engineering Excellence
The CTO Office structure works with engineers to establish engineering maturity. The team ensures opportunities for career development, as well as personal and professional growth. CTO Office keeps track of the relevant industry events engineers might find useful to attend and manages the reimbursement. Having not just one person, but the whole team provides an individual approach to each person’s career development steps. A technical and experienced team is of great help to the HR department, who used to solely be in charge of professional growth. They devise necessary certifications and provide crucial technical guidance.
The CTO office has created a Competency Matrix – a set of skills that characterize every tier of an engineering career. Together with technology-specific metrics for each of the programming languages the company works with – it has become an invaluable assessment tool. Compiled with top engineers, these documents have become a template used both during interviews to assess candidates’ level of technical expertise and also for the internal assessments to simplify the process of regular Performance Reviews.
Step 2: Setting the Right Project Baseline
The CTO team also provides support to the Sales and Marketing teams to enable new directions and unlock new domains. Their joint expertise can help faster and more accurately estimate new projects and detect prospective areas the project might grow into.
The team has also selected subject-matter experts for various technologies and domains, and their expertise can be called upon in case of need on any of the projects or during Sales negotiations. Their responsibilities include:
- Mentor newcomers, teach them company standards and processes, pass on the tech requirements, share the company knowledge base and informative resources.
- Introduce and integrate CTO-defined standards in the competency and projects
- Provide on-demand consulting about their areas of professional responsibility
- Supervise regular Performance Reviews, help find the optimal competency goals
- Assist with Pre-Sales and estimation work
- Conduct tech interviews or assign alternative specialists to interview candidates
- Expertise Health Evaluation – make sure the company has enough means and resources for this particular expertise to thrive
Together with the Vice President of Engineering and Managing Director of Waverley Ukraine, Eugene Bogatyriov, CTO office drives continuous improvement in the engineering quality. It means the implementation of the latest findings in technology, operation and problem-solving approaches. With Chief Architect in the heart of Silicon Valley and the team of enthusiasts in Ukraine and Vietnam, it works like a powerful net, which stays on top of industry trends and rapidly assigns the testing of new tools.
The newly created structure investigates the emerging technologies, evaluates their feasibility for the existing projects, points out their possible benefits and shortcomings. In addition, the CTO office representatives conduct regular meetings with project team leaders to discuss current technological needs and trends.
Having more than one person on the job brings a whole new touch to the R&D initiatives. More ideas, more objectivity, more attention to the research part of software engineering business. Quality above quantity.
Step 4: Handling Risks Before They Appear
The CTO Office team provides on-demand consulting services. They already conduct project audits, review the architecture and assess compliance with standards and best practices according to the Waverley Project Health Checklist. This helps to predict and prevent many issues and, as a result, avoid additional expenses.
To make sure that the quality of the code we produce is top-notch, projects at Waverley are subject to the community’s scrutiny. It means that besides the usual constant analysis (CI, static analysis, unit tests), regular peer reviews are conducted.
For a company that’s spread out both geographically and culturally, like Waverley is, keeping common standards is vital. That is why the team is working on establishing the right level of communication between different offices, to be able to leverage the experience and learn from your colleagues from another part of the globe.
Step 5: Enriching the Knowledge Base
The newly created structure has demonstrated the powerful support of knowledge sharing and innovation, having initiated a system of regular internal tech talks and knowledge sharing opportunities (speaking at relevant conferences, writing white papers), sometimes also open to the public. The CTO Office under the guidance of Serhii Rossoha is creating and keeping up-to-date a “system design patterns” knowledge base, actively involving in-house technology experts into activities and discussions.
From now on, Waverley will have a solid knowledge base and a powerful structure that will coordinate estimation efforts and assign responsibilities for new projects. A structure that will be able to more efficiently and promptly consult the clients on high-level technology matters, guide the product architecture and be a go-to team when it comes to engineering excellence at Waverley.
There are still many challenges the company’s facing. “We often feel like we’re inventing this thing as we go. There are many unsolved questions, like how do we measure efficiency? How do we find a balance between the many areas CTO Office is in charge of? But the good thing is – we already started seeing the improvements. The main being – people feel more engaged in the company’s future. They know they have their say, and the power to make a difference. And with power comes responsibility”, says Serhii Rossoha.