To some, the tech sector may seem inaccessible. Data modeling, selectors, meta elements — the jargon is plenty, business problems are usually solved through bootstrap methods, work cultures informal. But there is an undeniable energy in tech, the energetic pull of the possible.
As an industry outsider, I often wonder what skills, traits and values tech companies hire for, beyond the obvious technical skills, and what lessons can be learned from their approach to creating dynamic teams supporting business growth.
This past week I sat down (via Google Hangouts) with Joanna Woo, Director of People and Culture at Waterloo-based information management scale-up Shinydocs, to talk about what qualities she looks for in new hires, and how these qualities aid the company during times of uncertainty.
The number one skill Joanna looks for in a new hire is their ability to communicate, and communicate well. At Shinydocs, they assess verbal and written communication skills at the beginning of the hiring process, moving forward with candidates who can effectively articulate concepts and information. Hiring for this skill has paid dividends over the last few months.
“Because people are able to communicate — Hey! This isn’t working anymore. It maybe was two weeks ago, but something has changed and we need to fix this. — The ability for our teams to do this has allowed us to make changes quickly, and has supported the company’s ability to pivot and adjust during the uncertainty of COVID-19.”
As it turns out, this desired skill is much more of a company value. Shinydocs’ CEO, Jason Cassidy, communicates constantly, providing company updates, transparently sharing information about cash flow, sales and other business related considerations.
Joanna emphasizes that trust is built and sustained by the flow of information, from teams to leaders and from leaders to teams — all made possible through effective and timely communication and empowering their people to share what they learn and observe, quickly.
Adaptation and willingness to learn
Beyond communication, adaptability and a willingness to learn are other traits Joanna looks for in potential candidates. With staff who can easily adapt, learn and take on new challenges, Shinydocs has been able to face the current uncertain economic times head-on.
Crucially, Shinydocs supports staff looking to learn new skills and grow professionally. In doing so, the company is able to leverage the institutional knowledge and experience within their organization to support both personnel and organizational growth. This goes a long way to help develop loyalty and trust, where employees can see themselves staying at the scale-up longer term.
Joanna also highlights that it’s people’s willingness and desire to learn, not other superficial characteristics such as age, that determines their career growth at Shinydocs.
“Several people have transitioned into an entirely new career, within the organization, and they’re not super super young. Age is not a factor at all with regards to transitioning your career, it’s more of a willingness to do it. We want to support people who want to grow their skills.”
Being ok with change and imperfection
At the end of the day, change is a constant in tech. Business strategies, products and financing can change at the drop of a hat. And, if you are looking to join a scaling company like Shinydocs, you have to be ok with that.
“One of the biggest things [people] may not realize is how quickly things can change and how much uncertainty there is, and you have to be OK with uncertainty… With smaller companies there is no process, and you’re going to have to be the one to write the process. And you have to be ok to make it up on the fly.”
In such fast paced and changing environments, perfection is nonexistent. Projects, applications and programs are often released incomplete or imperfect. For teams working on these deliverables, not all information can be known, and team members need to be ok with that.
“You have to be ok with creating something with only 50% of the information, you have to be willing to launch knowing there will be bugs, and that you will fix it, and fix it very quickly… You can’t wait for perfection”
Perfection is the enemy of the good, and a lot of good can come from iteration and evolution, personally and professionally. Shinydocs is emblematic of how the tech sector leverages their workforce to adjust, pivot and embrace opportunities during uncertain times. Though this may seem counter to how legacy sectors function, many lessons can be learned from how tech companies build and develop teams by supporting their people.
From the outside, the tech sector may appear unconventional, but for those looking for a challenge, comfortable with change and drawn to the energetic pull of creation and possibility, the tech sector and Shinydocs may be the right fit for you.