Come with an open mind, and the rest will follow
At the start of 2019, I made a huge change: transitioning from a role in the manufacturing industry to a dynamic and rapidly growing company with a dedicated and talented team in the world of technology.
The challenge that came with this transition was huge: The R&D team does not stop growing, and leaders are always looking for five-star candidates (and nothing less) with very specific competencies and in very specific fields. My future director left me with some very wise words at the end of my final interview: “Come with an open mind, and the rest will follow”. Fast-forward by one year, this was probably the best advice I could have received to evolve at Coveo.
The result of an open mind and spirit? A massive amount of learning.
You can always find someone better than you (and that’s great)!
At first, I didn’t know my colleagues that well. I quickly learned that there are passions for every taste and level at the office. I thought I was great at grilling meat, but then I met “Chef Karl” and other BBQ pros – my 3 years as a griller in a restaurant? Still ranked me as an amateur! I thought I was a music geek, but then I met many people (even the lunchtime gym coach) that showed me even more! I definitely got a great piece of humble pie to digest… even in my comfort zones! In my defence, my colleagues thought that I was sweet and calm…but then we played Laser Tag…Vengeance!
My humility was tested on the technical side as well. I thought I was alright – I knew enough about C++, and few deep learning systems to find my bearings quickly and get by. Big mistake.
Each function has its own language, its own framework and its own challenges. There are “only” 26 micro-service teams, each with their own needs and values to understand…not to mention their cross-functional relationships among one another.
I was not alright. Yes, there was a bit of proactivity in adapting to my new reality: I made use of my commutes to listen to podcasts and audiobooks on the world of technology that helped me understand. However, this alone time had its limits and luckily, each R&D team enthusiastically took the time to explain their part of the “Coveo puzzle”.
And now there are at least 200 people that I speak to on a regular basis who can teach me (kindly and passionately) about tools or applications that I rub shoulders with on a daily basis (and about any other technical subjects, like why most remote controlled or Bluetooth children’s toys are unsafe)!
Each topic has its allegory!
A complex product divided into several micro-services is difficult to explain, both to developers or specialized people and to poor novices like me alike. So, I received many metaphors to explain what we do!
- “A Push-API is like someone being sent inside a house to receive and send back data that we want to process, without asking for permissions each time”.
- “A Docker container is like a “Good Food” box, but with the oven, the pans, the counters and the utensils to make the meal with too”.
- “Software Developers are like Darwin’s finches: they all have the same name, but they are all very different and have specific characteristics”.
- “Artificial intelligence is like ketchup: it’s not good on everything”.
The beauty of this is when we start to deepen our knowledge, we realize little details that we never noticed before. And this is how we can explain these concepts in more depth…until you need the next allegory!
Everything can be improved, even if it’s still working!
One of the biggest challenges that comes with Coveo is the constant growth. The tools that are useful today may not be in tomorrow’s arsenal. In one year, in HR alone, we have implemented four new tools or improvements to tools already used. The next year will bring even more changes.
The same is true for the technical teams: If a project can be improved and will attain better performance in the long term by using Golang instead of Java, we will do it! If a data warehouse can do a better job than our “data lake” for a streaming project, we will implement it!
In the end, a good idea can come from anyone: we encourage all of our employees to contribute to the success of the business.
Failure is a right, not a privilege!
A lot of companies do not provide the means to achieve their ambitions. My previous employers had huge ambitions, but only tried something if the risks and costs were almost zero (the famous red tape).
Needless to say that I quickly experienced a culture-clash when I went from “only try it if it’s certain” to “we prefer that you fail quickly, as long as you try something that we will all learn from” (and to this day, I have to remind myself that I’m not only allowed, but expected to fail at some points to show that I’m actually learning or trying new things).
From my first day, I have had the opportunity to try different things from the management of my work schedule, my responsibilities, the processes in which I collaborate with my colleagues, or even the implementation of new platforms and ways to approach candidates.
One of the best parts for me is still when I sit down with colleagues to review what went well and what did not go so well: we understand more from our errors with a humble perception, and by setting up a plan to avoid repeating the same mistakes later.
Dare to set the bar high!
Two hours. That is the amount of time I spend each day to commute to and from work (pre-Covid). Why would I subject myself to one of the worst traffic points in Quebec City for a job over the last year? Because it’s worth it. We have all had the kind of job that is an endless repetitive loop:you’re a cog in a static machine that does the same thing over and over again. Or jobs where we operate, but do not decide anything (in Software Development, we call it being a “coding monkey”).
Not at Coveo. I have had as much say about the processes in which I am implicated as I do in the ergonomics of my workstation. Some may think that not understanding something is an excuse for leaving the problem to someone else. On the contrary, I know that if I don’t understand something, I need to roll up my sleeves and find what I need in order to make sense out of it. And no one is twisting my arm to do it – I know that I’m surrounded by people just as driven as I am who voluntarily undertake big problems in order to set the bar high and push themselves further.
This is why I love working in this universe that favors achievement, and where receptionists become Directors, where recruiters become Product Managers, where two guys with a small Hackathon project bring the company to a whole other level. Not because they’ve been on autopilot for years, but because they have set the bar high for themselves.
So yes, after just over a year, I consider myself well equipped, well minded and, above all, well surrounded to succeed. And, it is kind of my job to make sure that this continues to be the case of all new members of the R&D team. My advice for anyone who wants to join us? “Come with an open mind, and the rest will follow”.
We are still hiring, join the Coveolife!