What does it take to become a successful developer at Hello Customer? And what makes working on the software-as-a-service customer feedback platform so exciting for a senior solution and senior software architect? We popped these questions to Frederick D’Hont and Karl Theeten.
A place to stay
Frederick and Karl were both quite experienced developers when they joined Hello Customer. What led them to choose Hello Customer?
Frederick: “I was outsourced to Hello Customer by my previous employer, but I liked it so much that I decided to make the switch permanently. The text analysis platform is such a strong product and there’s a very clear management vision behind it.”
Karl: “About the same story here. I've been on board since 2016, almost as if I’m part of the furniture (laughs). At my previous employer Capgemini, I was outsourced to various companies every couple of months. But in the long run, I just wanted to belong somewhere, to be part of a team. What also appealed to me was working with the latest technologies, fully cloud based. There’s always some legacy software you must deal with, but the largest (and most fun) part of my job is designing a new system that uses current cloud technologies.”
“When we recruit senior developers, we find it important that they have a good understanding of Devops and Infrastructure. Know how to setup and integrate continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD), help thinking about disaster recovery, basic understanding of automated infrastructure setup (Infrastructure as Code). It’s also important that they know how to setup performance testing and understand the measured results so that this translates into the necessary corrections in code and infrastructure configuration to improve performance and scalability.
Developers who only do software development without having any knowledge of all the technicalities of the platforms they are using; that’s a thing of the past. The product can only grow if the people behind the product grow with it. The same applies to junior profiles. They will get the necessary coaching to grow in their role as developer.”
Frederick adds: “I absolutely believe that any developer can become an architect; you just don’t have to be afraid to fail and take ownership. Failure is the best learning tool. Young purists often want to build the most generic solution, but that often takes too much time, and we all know that time is money. I have a slogan: ‘make it work (functionality), make it fast (performance) and make it pretty (code refactoring)’ and preferably in that order. It’s often forgotten that premature optimization is the father of all development anti-patterns.“
So, you learn a lot on the job. But don’t you need to prove you can reach the Olympic Minimum of hard code and framework knowledge before you can start as a developer at Hello Customer?
Frederick: "For back-end developers it is mainly C#, for front-end people it’s primarily Angular and Typescript. For text analysis, however, we also work with Python. You mainly need knowledge of the Microsoft stack and Microsoft Azure Cloud.”
Karl: "In addition to excellent code writers, we’d like to welcome people who dare to think critically themselves."
A marathon of Sprints
It will come as no surprise to you that Hello Customer also works with design sprints. This method imposes a tight format and a fast pace on innovation processes. It’s a five-phase process that reduces the risk when bringing a new product or feature to the market. Frederick: "We work agile and want to achieve the goal of our various sprints time after time, and that requires sufficient planning and consultation. In our case, one sprint takes two weeks. Once the sprint planning is finished, we all know what to do. We agree on who is going to take ownership of which task and depending on the complexity we work individually, while encouraging consultation, or in pair programming. Communication is key in this line of business which demands a lot of teamwork.
Karl: “And when we’re done, feedback is given. We also do a daily scrum. Furthermore, we try to alternate the tickets as much as possible, to make sure everyone learns a bit of everything. At the end of each sprint, there’s a review to check if the goals have been achieved. The stakeholders, the customer and the management get to see a demo and we look at what went well and what could be improved. Hello Customer has two development teams now: Data Insights and Data Capturing. This means we have two sprints running simultaneously.
A golden goose called ISAAC
Hello Customer is very proud of ISAAC, their unique, self-made AI-software that takes text analysis to a whole new level. ISAAC has already analysed more than 16 million incoming text messages with customer feedback. And the more data it analyses, the better the AI gets. ISAAC really provides accurate insights on customer feedback. Will Hello Customer sell ISAAC for an insane amount of money to, let’s say, Google in a few years’ time? Karl: "Who knows!?”