The Dolittle Journey; year one

Einar Ingebrigtsen
Jan 1, 2019 · 7 min read
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven

Journey? It’s a job, you might proclaim. Well, sure; it is a job. But I would like to think that it differs from a lot of other jobs. Not just technically as in there is a difference between different professions, but even within the software industry — I like to think that working at Dolittle is different.

Let me get back to the journey part later, as I really want to make this post primarily about something else. We’re now a year into this journey and I want to share my perspective on that. If I were to sum up the first year in one word; it would by lucky.

I feel lucky to…

… work with the best team

I know everyone says this; but we genuinely have got the best team for starting our journey and take us to the next level. We have a team with great knowledge and expertise in all aspects of software development. A very balanced team enabling us to think holistically about the entire process of building software.

As you know; culture in any workplace is by far the most important thing you have. It is the reason people enjoy going to work. If you have a bad culture, it’s just not as motivating going to work. And the job becomes just that; a job. Being a startup, we’d have to discover our culture as we’ve moved along. It is something we’ve gradually grown into spending more and more clock cycles on. One thing we’ve had since the beginning is our own Teams Channel on culture — where we discuss the topic.

Recently we had an internal workshop with an external facilitator and at the end of the workshop, I got reminded how awesome our team is when the person said that he had been observing us throughout the day and he found one thing he had never witnessed anywhere; there were no egos in the room. To me, that’s a massive testament to how great our team is.

I’m so lucky to be part of this team.

… truly put that dent in the universe

The journey we’re on is all about creating the right toolbox to put developers in the pit of success. We use the following message to try to capture it:

“Empower developers to create great, sustainable, maintainable software so that they can make their users feel like heroes.”

This is all about democratization. Creating software that will live for years is hard to do, or at least if you want something that is evergreen in the sense that the software is easily maintainable over time and is considered great by the end users all the time. This is what Dolittle is all about, providing developers with a toolbox that is a combination of Dolittle technology and Dolittle providing the glue for other technology that makes it simpler to do end to end software and keep you focused on delivering business value to the end users.

Our goal is to enable every developer out there in making technology accessible to everyone.

This is what we refer to as

“Equalizing the playing field”.

… be able to be part of solving real-world problems

At the heart of everything we do is a principle of keeping ourself grounded and honest. We are not building tools for the sake of building tools; we are building the tools we build with a foundation in real-world needs. Sure, some of these needs are identified by ourselves. Both from past line-of-business application development experience we all have in the team, but also from needs we have today.

The way we keep the focus on building the right thing is to make sure what we have gets used in real-world applications as soon as possible. We thrive on feedback and work hard to keep the feedback loop as tight as possible.

We’re lucky as an organization to be doing both our own product development and be part of product development for customers, delivering real-world solutions through our Customer Success Unit. This is an excellent opportunity for us to understand the needs and challenges being faced in software development. Over the last year, we’ve gradually gotten better at understanding this opportunity and making it part of our process. Moving on, we’ve designed a daily routine that will make this even easier to capture — so that we deliver the right thing.

… have people that believe in us

Our journey started with someone believing in the message we have. This belief is what got us the funding. Dolittle is a joint venture with Wilhelmsen and the founders, without people believing in us we’d never get this funding. In addition to that, customers who took a chance and believed in us has kept us going. I feel very humble on behalf of Dolittle to have the trust of those believing in us.

It is crucial to have people around you that believes in what you’re doing, it is what makes you thrive and motivate you to take it to the next level. At the same time, it should never be a blind trust — we want to be constantly challenged. Keep us on our toes and honest.

We are grateful for the support and belief in us; we are not going to let you down.

Being a startup

The concept of a startup is not new to me; in fact I’ve mostly worked at startups since the beginning of my career in 1994. But they are all very different in all aspects except for one thing; hunger. If you want to succeed at a startup, or in fact at anything; you have to be hungry. You have to want more and not settle for the status quo! It is the belief of making a difference, making something different — something great that gets me going. And this is the thing that has been in all startups I’ve worked at.

To keep this hunger, one needs to stay curious and creative. That is where a balanced team of people comes into play; play on the difference between the team members. Embrace the strengths of one another. Be humble! Make your work environment a safe place for speaking one’s mind — everyone should park their egos. It’s the thing that will keep new ideas flowing.

Startups have a certain feel to them. Some of the aspects from the early days of a startup will go away as one mature. But the thing that should never go away is the creativity, the velocity, the sense of urgency. To keep innovation going, you have to enable your organization and create the space for everyone to thrive and have ideas that are not just ideas, but are considered and executed on when they are good ideas.

The Journey

What is this journey you speak of, you might be asking yourself. We call it a journey because it’s very much a journey of discovery. Our foundation of principles leads us away from building more of the same. The typical n-tier architecture approach and “forms over data” focused solutions that are often found in software development, especially line-of-business applications, is not something we believe is the best approach.

We find comfort in principles like CQRS, EventSourcing, SOLID, Separation of Concerns, Domain Driven Design,Microservices. We’ve chosen to make these our core principles.

Democratizing a new approach to software development that enables software to be built in a very different way means we have to understand the implications of making the principles mentioned approachable.

This means providing not only the programmatic APIs that makes it simple to do these things, but also discover a whole set of tools that there are no references to yet. This is where our journey begins.

On top of this, we’re doing a lot of effort in providing predictable workflows and hosting environments for this. And also discovering how it all fits together holistically with different interaction layers, such as web, mobile, desktop, APIs, bots and more.

An Important aspect for a lot of the customers we see is also to be able to create digital twins, to better monitor and operate physical equipment. Democratizing this involves understanding how to provide developers with the right toolset to be able to do this easily as well.

This is what we mean by the journey. Inventing the next generation toolchain that will empower developers to deliver more business value.

In closing

It’s now one year since our first Dolittler walked in the door. A year later the team consists of 10 awesome people.

It has truly been an awesome year. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs. Whats more important is that we’ve taken the downs and learned from, gaining more knowledge and improving how we work — improving our culture. We don’t consider things as failures, but rather as great ways to gain insight into how we can improve.

I’m super excited about the foundation we’ve built in the first year and can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for us.

Happy new year to all Dolittlers, partners, customers, our board — and everyone else!

Thanks to everyone that has been part of the journey and believing in what we’re doing. We’re really excited about the future and what it holds.

#MakingADent

Dolittle

We think that the most important thing we as developers do is to deliver value to our customers. It is important for us to focus on the value of the software, and spend less time on infrastructure and scaffolding.

Einar Ingebrigtsen

Written by

Co-founder and CTO @ Dolittle. https://www.dolittle.com

Dolittle

Dolittle

We think that the most important thing we as developers do is to deliver value to our customers. It is important for us to focus on the value of the software, and spend less time on infrastructure and scaffolding.

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