Expert interview with Jonathan Morrice, CTO of Perdoo.
Founded in 2014 in Berlin by Jonathan and Henrik-Jan van der Pol, Perdoo is the most popular OKR tool on the market. With offices in Europe and USA, they help hundreds of companies in aligning strategy and execution.
The most important skills for a developer are the technical skills: the ability to write clear and maintainable code. How important are soft skills for you? What soft skills are you looking for in developers?
Jonathan: above all I think we look for people who are good communicators. That means having clear, structured thoughts and being able to listen to people. For developers, that could mean the ability to explain why you’ve made certain design decisions in your code to the team. But it’s also a key driver for creating clear and maintainable code, which ultimately comes down to making the explanation of your code implicit. The latter “listening” part is probably the most forgotten and hardest to interview for, but it’s a key skill I think anyone needs to have that works in a team with other people.
“we look for people who are good communicators. That means having clear, structured thoughts and being able to listen to people.”
Regarding the importance of soft skills, I’d even put this above hard skills such as experience with a specific framework perhaps. If someone can talk about how they’re going to write something and why, it’s much easier to guide people in the right direction and give them feedback that they understand.
Remote work is a growing trend especially for tech companies. How important is it for you to have your team in the same building, city or timezone? ref. “Remote work is “the new normal” on @FastCompany
J: I think the opportunities that working remotely can create are huge, both for employers and employees. With technology still improving and a rising number of companies adopting it, it’s becoming easier to do so every year and that’s not going to change anytime soon. However, a remote working culture is very different from an office one and I think it’s very hard for a company to pivot from one to the other. I’m sure it’s been done, but it’ll be a huge change at times when you should really be concentrating on what you’re actually trying to achieve as a business.
“a remote working culture is very different from an office one and I think it’s very hard for a company to pivot from one to the other.”
When we started Perdoo, none of us had any experience working in remote teams and so we started out working from an office. As we grew, so did that culture and we started benefiting from having everyone on the team in one place. It generates a lot of great discussions that otherwise wouldn’t take place, whether it’s in the hallway, over lunch or an after work beer. It also means people can socialize outside of work, which is great especially for those people that are new to Berlin. We have a small second office in San Francisco now and setting that up has shown us how “non-remote” we actually are. We’re working on improving that, but our culture will never be remote-first and the team likes it that way.
Nevertheless, working in a remote team has its own perks of course. At the end of the day it comes down to how the people you hire like to work, so as an Entrepreneur you need to make your mind up early on what kind of work culture you’re trying to create.
With an increasing number of technologies, languages and frameworks, keeping up-to-date and having a learning attitude is essential for any developer. What are your favorite sources for knowledge? What technology/language are you planning to study and test?
J: I personally find Twitter the most helpful tool to stay up-to-date. You can follow some really interesting people there and also find great discussions on almost any topic. You’ll instantly understand the pros and cons of whatever technology is being discussed because everybody chimes in. Right now I’m really curious about GraphQL, that’s more on a personal level though and less for us as a business just yet.
Every day we read news about Artificial Intelligence and how it is disrupting almost every business field. What opportunities and threats do you see for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in your business?
J: There are a few great example implementations of these technologies today, such as Spotify suggesting new songs to you and I’m also finding the email response suggestions increasingly useful in Google Inbox. But for the most part, if you ask people for AI/ML-based features that are genuinely useful in tools that they use today, it’s usually a soberingly small number. There’s no doubt that both AI and ML will have a huge impact on everything we do at some point, but I think it’s going to be a few more years before it really becomes a game-changer in SaaS and our market in particular.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will have a huge impact on everything we do at some point, but I think it’s going to be a few more years before it really becomes a game-changer in SaaS”
Nevertheless, we’re constantly thinking of more opportunities that this could create for us and we think that ML in particular could have a big impact. For instance, we think that being able to suggest what goals a company should be working would be really valuable for instance. Another idea is to learn from popular Key Results and support users in quantifying their goals, which everyone always struggles with. But currently we’re more focused on getting the core of our product right and solving the problems our customers hire us for.
What is your relationship with computer games? Are you a hard core gamer, a casual gamer or you don’t play at all?
J: I played a lot until my early teens and a lot of FIFA at university, but that’s all. I don’t play at all these days, except for the occasional iOS game that I’ll binge for a few days and then drop (most recently Crossy Road) :)
As Chief Product Manager for Talent Rider I’m always looking at better ways to serve developers and tech start-ups keeping our core vision of a minimalist marketplace. I decided to publish this and the following interviews on Medium because I strongly believe in open innovation. I hope our insights will be helpful for others exploring the same domain and I’m sure an open discussion will enrich our own process. Comments on the method or the insights shared by Jonathan are highly appreciated.