2017: year in review
Our second year in business and so much has happened. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
Welcome to the inevitable year in review post. This is Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, a studio for design, development and strategy in Berlin. 2017 was our second year in business and what can we say … it’s been one hell of a ride. 🎢
Where we were end of 2016
A quick look back to the end of 2016: We didn’t have an office. We were only 5 regular employees (and 2–3 freelancers). We had just started our first large project. And we were stoked for all the things to come … and then they came. All at once. 😅
In February we moved into our own office … after weeks of preparation and stacking dozens of boxes at haebmau’s, we finally moved into our own space in Kreuzberg and it’s been fantastic. We slowly made it our own, furnishing it, building many parts ourselves and feeling very much at home now. Most people visiting us tend to agree.
Lots of hellos and also a good-bye
In 2017 we almost tripled the size of the team, namely:
Nicolás transitioned from a freelancer to a full-time employee.
Sophie joined us during the office move.
Roberto came aboard from N26, as a full-time designer.
Kai joined us a design intern for five months.
Martin came over from Paris for a five months-long dev internship.
Miriam became part of the team over summer as a design intern.
Sev joined us full-time as a developer, brexiting from the UK, moving to Berlin, while also becoming a dad. 👶
Robert, Jonathan and Dirk frequently worked with us as freelancers.
Sabrina joined us as our first project manager, but quickly assumed many more roles.
Max H. became our new tech lead.
And that’s just the core team, not to mention at least a dozen of other freelancers who worked on a per-project basis with us. 🙌
Oh, and Lorenz became a dad, too. The more the merrier. 🙃
And then there’s also Priyanka who deserves special mention, because the story is just too good. She first emailed us in December 2016 after stumbling upon one of our blog posts; despite being a developer from India, living in Bangalore at the time, she indicated that she wanted to join the team. Our first reaction was “What the …?”, which evolved to “What if?” and then to “Let’s do it!” … it took months, but in September we had finally cleared all the visa/blue-card hurdles and she joined us as a full-time employee, leaving India, moving to Berlin. We couldn’t be happier to have her aboard. 🤗
While many new people joined, our very first employee from back in 2016 unfortunately decided to leave Berlin (and us) to move back to Ireland. Sharon, all the best for your next adventures—we’ll miss you!
For 2018 we already have two new interns, a project manager and a freelance designer confirmed. Working with and learning from all of these fine people makes me truly happy, every single day.
diesdas as a platform
In 2017 we’ve done a lot to open up our office: We’ve started a book club, had semi-regular meet-ups/parties, hosted student groups and gave some interviews, e.g. to PAGE. A few other plans, mostly for more events, unfortunately fell through and we’ve also not been as active on social media as we would’ve liked … but oh well. We’re still in the early days, laying the foundation for things to come.
Challenges: Processes, roles and culture
With a growing team, structure and process gradually become more relevant topics … implementing an efficient, people-empowering process on projects has definitely been a challenge for us, still leaving room for improvement to this date. We used to follow Scrum fairly loosely this year, picking and choosing from its set of rituals, depending on the size of the project and how involved the client wanted to be. In 2018 we’ll have to examine what worked well so far and what needs improvement … it’s worth mentioning that we don’t expect to find the silver bullet here, as processes need to be inspected and adapted regularly.
In the second half of 2017 we already made several adjustments to how we approach daily work, mostly guided by our new tech lead Max Hoffmann: all developers commit new code exclusively via pull-requests now, reviewing one another’s code on a daily basis. Also we treat every design as a system: This decision led to a more informed use of tools like Sketch+InVision (or Figma) and also has an effect on development: For every new project we’ll commit to use a living pattern library such as Fractal, which has worked well on two projects already, leading to a self-documenting design system and also better code organization.
Furthermore we’re in a better position regarding our finances: Sabrina overhauled how we use Harvest for time tracking, invoicing and structuring proposals. In addition she does regular finance forecasting and more firm resource planning. With her insights we feel much more confident about staffing projects and making investments (in stuff, as well as people).
Another important task is defining clearer roles and responsibilities for everyone … in a company of just a few people each person can still effectively know everything that is going on, but when you grow to ~15 people you need to be able to rely on each other and delegate tasks. Managing expectations and responsibilities becomes key and therefore we need to develop a shared understanding of each person’s roles in the company, without constraining anyone. Nicolás, for example, majorly stepped up his game this year, going from writing code to managing two projects all by himself. Evolutions like his must of course still be possible.
Last, but definitely not least, every growing company needs to establish a sense of community and that’s easier said than done. In 2017 we’ve often been too busy to properly share knowledge among the team and too often it’s been hectic and very busy in the office. In the second half of the year we took steps in a good direction, doing more team events, listening to more music in the office, having more lunches together, caring more for each other and creating more opportunities to give feedback. So we’re on a good path now if we continue with these efforts next year.
What we’ve been working on
Glad you asked. What kept us busy across the whole year was Der Zukunftsfonds, a mass-market fintech product that we’re concepting, designing and building from scratch with a bunch of very interesting people. At almost all times a large part of our team was working on this and there’s still much more to come.
Three more branding+strategy projects kept us busy as well, in which we teamed up with Clark, Tola and Shoepassion, working closely on their respective business strategies, positioning and how their brands come to life visually. Not all of it is fully rolled out yet, so we’ll have more to say about those when the time is right.
Besides, we continued work with TypeMates, relaunched websites and apps for two radio stations in Switzerland, continuously evolved a set of Swiss online newspapers, worked with haebmau on digital tools for more efficient PR and also on relaunching leerdammer.de, rebuild axxum’s brand+website with kleinundpläcking, and started two exciting, new collaborations that we can’t talk about yet.
It’s been an eventful year, to say the least.
Bring it on, 2018!
As we’re getting some rest these days, reflecting on what happened this year, we want to thank everyone who supported us, by working with us directly, recommending us for projects or following us on social media. You make all of this worthwhile! Thank you! 🙏
If you want to keep us with everything happening next year, you basically have two options: Either follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook; or walk through our office door at Oranienstraße 6 in Berlin-Kreuzberg sometime.
But most importantly, have a great start of the New Year and see you on the other side! 🎆
diesdas.digital is a nimble studio for strategy, branding and digital product development in Berlin, featuring a multidisciplinary team of strategists, designers and developers. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces. Let’s work together on rad internet stuff! 🙌
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