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Meet the Department: Our Development Team

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 -- Paul Johansen

"...we have an annual turnover rate of fewer than three percent!"

When we are recruiting team members to join the Edmentum Development team, we often reference Joel Spolsky and his two tenets for hiring great developers – they need to be “smart and get things done”. While being smart and getting things done are incredibly important to us, we also add in a third component – their fit. This includes how they fit within the culture of our Development team itself and how they will fit into the overall Edmentum culture. As we look at evaluating new team members for their smarts, ability to get things done, and their fit, we look at it in the context of the key elements below.

Collaboration

I frequently say that we are the perfect size company. Large enough that we can make investments in the right (and let’s face it- really cool) technology and tools but small enough that we aren’t held back by politics and games that can plague larger companies. While we rarely refer to it directly, we truly follow the values of the Agile Manifesto especially the focus on interactions and collaboration. In many technology organizations you will often find silos and tension between groups. This tension is most often between the developers and their counterparts in infrastructure, QA and UX. Those sorts of battles don’t exist at Edmentum. We focus our time on delivering value and keeping the team going. You are far more likely to find QA Leadership, a Scrum Master, and a Data Center Project Manager teaming up to make the team breakfast to thank them for working together, than you are to find them arguing over a bug or how to deploy something.

 

Excellence

We are a software company that has well over one million kids a day who depend on our products to be accurate and always available. There isn’t much room for error. The team expects everyone around them to be at the top of their game. That expectation exists whether you are writing a user story, writing code, performing a regression test, following up on an internal helpdesk ticket or doing user research. Every role is critical, equally important, and held to the same standards – not by management, but by the team. At the core of this excellence is understanding our products incredibly well and focusing on our users. This ensures that what we are delivering meets the needs of our business partners and most important, our customers. Many of our team members have school age kids who use our products at home or at school, and the team enjoys the fulfilling nature of working on products their families can then use to learn and grow.

 

Hard Work

In pretty much any organization there are times when you want to make the extra push to get in one more feature or hit a deadline. We will have that on occasion, but it is rare. Our focus is on being productive day in and day out. The team prides itself in constantly pushing to do better. When that productivity is combined with the transparency of a truly agile team, it also becomes very predictable. Planning appropriately and shifting priorities as quickly as needed is very important in our work. To accomplish this, we utilize Scrum based activities for our software development and Kanban based processes for infrastructure and operations. The most important outcome of this is that it allows for flexibility in schedules and is the foundation of a great work-life balance. This balance contributes to the fact that our average tenure on the team is just over four years, and since switching to agile processes, we have an annual turnover rate of fewer than three percent! (Yes, that is an 8 foot tall palm tree made of Red Bull cans)

 

Fun

Development team members have the flexibility to work from home or work remote when needed, but it is an exception, not the rule. Why? People genuinely like coming into the office and hanging out with their co-workers. By being in the office you run the risk of having to avoid a high velocity Nerf dart or being challenged to see how many pieces of Double Bubble gum you can chew at one time, but you also get the reward of being around some great people. We often will take time out of work to burn off some steam at the local go-kart track or volunteer our time packing meals at a local charity.

 

 

That is the Edmentum Development team in a nutshell. We are a group that is very proud of what we accomplish and how we do it. We have a pragmatic approach to software and enjoy building amazing products that our customers love.