The C in CTO stands for Culture

Posted by Holger Reinhardt    on July 26, 2018 in Development tagged with CTO, Culture

This developer blog started from a challenge during a team dinner. When debating the merits of various proposals of mine my team told me flat out that talk is cheap and in the end I will be measured by my actions. And the one example mentioned was the developer blog which I (and my predecessors obviously) keept talking about as visible statement to our engineering culture in Adello.

Looking back I had been there once before - 3 years ago as CTO of Haufe Group - and again I am faced with the very same challenges. We are probably one of the few startups who run Machine Learning globally and at scale on top of Petabyte Data and who are having a real and thriving business powered by algorithms. Yet no one knows us. Other’s talk about Machine Learning and have the powerpoints and flashy websites, yet we finally managed to (re)launch our website two months ago.

Since the problems are so similar and my words from three years ago ring even more true now, I did what every good and honest developer would do - I copied my old article and only changed the company name. (Just some creative interpretion of the DRY principle - Don’t Repeat Yourself ;))

No, our problem is that we are actually doing quite some cool stuff (and planning even more in the future) and no one in the developer community knows about it. When I joined Adello as CTO back in May of this year the first thing I did was that I searched for Adello on my usual (developer) channels: Github (nope), Twitter (nope), SlideShare (nope). Well, you see - I think that is a problem. If a tree falls in the forest but no one sees it - did the tree fall in the forest? How are you ever going to find out about us and get so excited that you want to join us - right now!

During the ‘Meet the new guy’ meeting with my team I drew a triangle with the three areas I would like to focus on first: Architecture, Technology and Developer Culture. … I think that developer culture is the number one factor which will determine if we as a team and as company will succeed or fail. No matter what technology or architecture we use, it is the culture which permeates every decision we make at work day in and day out. It is culture which incluences if we go left or if we go right, if we speak up or if we remain silent. Without the right kind of culture, everything else is just band-aid.

You see, I am a pretty opiniated guy. I can probably talk for hours about Microservices, API’s, Docker and so on. But if you ask me today what I think my biggest lever to affect lasting change will be, then shaping and influencing the direction of our dev culture will be my answer. Technoloy and architecure are just manifestations of that culture. Sure they need to be aligned, but culture eats strategy for breakfast. And how we share our stories, how we talk about what we learned and what worked and what not, are important first steps of this cultural journey.

(For reference, you can find my original post here.)

And yes, once more I would like to invite you to listen to our stories and find those few nuggets helpful for your own journey. And once more we are hoping to return something to the larger community, from whom we have learned so much. We truely stand on the shoulder of giants. So here is the beginning of our (and my next) story …