Jumbo Tech Campus
Published in

Jumbo Tech Campus

What it means to be a Technical Pathfinder @ Jumbo

Let me start off with that I never, ever, considered the term ‘pathfinder’ to be found in my resumé. It wasn’t the title that I fell for. It was the job that got me.

How I got here

I’ve been programming the majority of my career. I’ve been an entrepreneur in the Enterprise Resource Planning space, developing (from the ground up) Customer Relation Management software, multilingual E-Commerce, Product Information Management, Invoicing systems, Order management tools logistical software and so much more. Sounds like a lot? It was!

I’ve also been working for a company where I was the lead software architect building primarily logistical, search related and E-commerce software for big retailers in the Netherlands. I invented new products and programmed the most critical parts of the applications. During that time I helped that company shift its focus from being service centric to becoming product centric, with unique software in that space.

After that I’ve worked as a software architect at a game publisher. There I’ve been very active in the advertisement space, but was also a key player in transitioning them from an on-premise infrastructure towards Google Cloud Platform (as an early adopter at that time). I was a member of the works council, was in a security board and helped team leads with making their teams perform better.

The reason why I give you a bit of my background, is because it relates so much to what, how and why I’m doing what I’m doing today at Jumbo.

Digital Transformation

Jumbo is currently maturing its digital journey. Where we started in ‘discovery mode’, we soon realised that a good IT development strategy is paramount in order to succeed as a true omni-channel retailer. We started small — as one does — when we discovered the potential, and grew whenever that seemed necessary. However, scaling IT operations isn’t an easy job to do. When you scale, and you scale fast, you’ll immediately run into all kinds of issues described by e.g. Conway’s law as well as Price’s law. For those who don’t know what those are:

Conway

Conway states that organisations produce software the way that they organise their internal structure.

In other words, you came from a relatively simple system, and scaled fast with people. Those people still work on that same system and that creates friction.

So one of my objectives is helping the organisation to understand and go towards a structure that supports the way we work with each other. Effectively going towards a Service Oriented Architecture, and doing that while applying Domain Driven Design in order for Business to see and understand value and take ownership as quick as possible.

Price

Price stated that roughly the square root of the people that work in a company are responsible for 50% of the ‘output’.

So basically when you grow the number of developers, the output of that group won’t equally increase. That means that 20 of the 400 people produce roughly 50% of the ‘output’. You can scale your organisation up or down, but the ratio will remain the same.

You might misinterpret this ‘law’, so let me quickly give some background. It’s not that you now have 380 inefficient people in your organisation! They are just occupied with enabling those 20 and less impactful changes. You can’t do without them! This is inherently packed into the equation as well, because if you would scale down to 20 people, you would be left with roughly 4 people in this group left according to this rule. Also, the total amount of ‘output’ dropped drastically.

This brings me to my second objective. A law is like… A law :-). So you can’t change what’s absolute within that wording. But what you can do is have a good look at the relative definitions, like the term ‘output’. Simply put, when we are able to increase the craftsmanship of the entire group, the baseline is shifted upwards. There will simply put be a small group of individuals with the ability to make innovative and high impact changes. Enabled by the rest of the group

In order to do that, I’m choosing my topics and ways of communicating carefully to optimise and influence developers, team leads, managers, business, product managers, product owners and so forth by inspiring them with clear targets, the right questions that brings them to better answers, insights, 1–1 talks, clearing paths up-front so the army can march better, and so forth.

What it takes.

Jumbo is quite a big company, and big things just don’t move easy. Pathfinders are tug-boats that talk with whomever needs to be talked to to help them see their path more clearly and steer the ship into the right direction.

I think that these traits are key when you look at the pathfinder profile:

Polyglot

It is paramount that we talk in many languages. We should understand the needs of the customer first and translate an enabling vision towards all stakeholders, a list not limited to:

  • Senior management
  • Product managers
  • Product owners
  • Team Leads
  • Developers
  • Business Stakeholders

You can imagine that everybody has different interests and areas to address. So it is up to the Pathfinder to speak in their language and inspire them with the value they serve, while making sure that the proposal you have is one that serves the greater good.

Know your stuff

You’ll be hard to believe if you talk about stuff you don’t have actual feeling with. When I talk to a Developer, my developer background shines through. When I talk with business my entrepreneurial background shines through. And so forth.

It’s never the case that you must know everything on the spot. That would be silly! But having a firm background enables you to ask the right questions or provide the right insights to progress together into a better direction.

When I say, “know your stuff”, I also mean: “know when you don’t know”. There’s nothing more transparent and aggravating than having somebody in front of you with a strong opinion that says that they know, but you know that they have no idea.

When you are clear when you don’t know something, people know they can also trust you when you claim you do know something. Trust is a key component in order to succeed, and trust can only be built upon a foundation of honesty.

“Being honest might feel like a moral obligation. But in reality, being honest is allowing yourself to be who you actually are” — Claudia de Breij

Push forward

I know I’ve talked about being an Entrepreneur, but at Jumbo we require everybody, and especially Pathfinders, to be Intrapreneurs as well.

An Intrapreneur is someone that believes in something and goes out to get it within an organisation.

There is no room for being passive in this fast paced industry. You determine your own agenda. Do what you think that’s needed to be done, but make sure you communicate what you are doing. Commit, but have the guts to pivot when your effort didn’t pay off the way it should. Be accountable.

Why Jumbo

I love it @ Jumbo. There are so many great people I call friends working there. Jumbo offers the chance to make meaningful impact on a large scale. Transitioning the digital course of such a big company is a massive undertaking, but one definitely worth the effort, touching the lives of the millions of customers we serve every day.

And it’s not only the product that grows. The people that create the product grow perhaps even more. We work with a lot of talented people and value an open feedback culture. We support each other, professionally as well as personally. We become better every day. That’s definitely one of the things that I value most, for myself but also to see in others. It makes me so extremely proud to see people enter a new role and rock it. And let me be clear, rocking it means performing beyond expectation, but also (and maybe more so) it means being vocal when you are insecure, vulnerable, feel demotivated or lacking knowledge.

Jumbo strives to get the optimal result for their customers, the environment and the entire food chain including suppliers. If there’s one supermarket with a heart, it’s Jumbo. And it’s a beating yellow one.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store