The aim of this article is to explain why I decided to apply for Toucan Toco
During the last few days, I’ve been asked a bunch of times by my workmates how I was feeling about my work @Toucan. I thought that it was time to take a few minutes to answer here and share some information with the outside world (or just with my last-year-self).
Why did I choose ToucanToco ?
I learned about Toucan Toco during some casual talks at OpenVis. A few weeks later, after having read the company’s blog posts and checked the product, I was impressed by the fact that the company grew that fast — 70 persons after 4 years — while being self-financed. The product seemed beautiful and easy to use, the technical stack (python / pandas / vuejs / d3js / ansible) was familiar yet motivating.
Besides the technical points, I also got the feeling that human factors, organisations and structural questions (agility, holacracy, core values, inclusion) were first-class citizens and this was a big motivator for me so I decided to apply.
I stayed more than 15 years — and it was a nice and rich experience! — in my previous company, so I was a bit skeptical about how long it would take me to get familiar with the code, product and internal processes. But no worries, Toucan has your back and you’ll be up and running very quickly!
Whether you are a developer, a sales person or a client success manager, chances are that you’ll have to get accustomed to your new Trello friend. We use it daily to organize and synchronize personal and team work. More specifically, Toucan Toco has crafted specific “onboarding boards” for each job. Each board defines a set of cards that should be completed during the first 2 months. These tasks range from very basic tasks such as “configure your slack profile” to specific development tasks such as “make a pull request on the product documentation” and more general ones such as “take part to a sales meeting”. These tasks are themselves organized week by week and provide a soft canvas that follows naturally your progression in the company. During all the process, another employee will mentor and will meet you at least once a week to provide feedback and help you finding your path in this welcoming, yet sometimes overwhelming environment.
From my point of view, it was a nice experience that helped me to quickly grasp the various tools, processes and cultural specificities of the company. I’ve heard a few of my colleagues say that it might be too heavy of a process. I concede that the number of trello cards is a bit frightening but I do think it’s a very efficient way to ramp up and incite you to communicate with other teams (developers and sales talk together!) in a very comfy frame. For instance, during the first week — which passes through very quickly considering all the administrative tasks to perform, your laptop and tools to configure, etc. — I think I had already submitted a pull request on the product and reviewed a few which means that some of my code was in production on week 2, not so bad, huh? And I definitely attribute this “performance” to the onboarding process rather than to my personal skills.
Another achievement is that even if I’m definitely not fluent technically on all topics, I do think I would now be able to mentor a newcomer after only 3 months here.
5 core values
The onboarding process was also definitely a way to test how the 5 core values are spread through the company. WTFM is clearly not an empty word: there is a lot of documentation (technical, organisational, logbooks…). Of course the downside is to keep this documentation up-to-date but it’s a continuous and common effort and the onboarding period is clearly a good one to check if documentation matches reality (spoiler: no… but everyone is encouraged to fix it!). One of the other core value Be well and take care would be my personal favorite: 75 individuals, a lot of small teams, sometimes very solid, different perspectives, affinity, but despite this variety, I have the feeling that everyone tries hard to be benevolent and keep an inclusive mindset towards others, especially newcomers.
The recruitment process was also in retrospect a nice expression of Toucan Toco’s values. I felt sincere benevolence and care during the (admittedly a bit long) list of interviews. A candidate recently even thanked Toucan Toco on twitter despite its application dismissal. My technical skill test was 2-folded. First, I had to talk about a piece of software I had written (design or technical choices). I then took part to a “Technical enhancement Proposal” meeting, (e.g. PEP-like meeting for internal technical subjects). All ideas were listened to, each participant in the discussion — hopefully including me — had the chance to bring up relevant inputs (Each one teach one, the 2nd core-value, Bingo!).
Core values are often emphasized on companies’ websites but they often sound shallow. After three months here, I’m happy to say that those core values are not a set of buzzwords. They’re regulary challenged and have even changed — the curious will dig the web — to better match the actual state of mind of the company.
Continuing along with Each one teach one at Toucan, the cultural fit is also spread through a few ceremonies. Besides the traditional weekly team retrospectives, there are 2 monthly events:
the “monthly news meeting”: each team in the company explains last month’s successes, failures and its updated roadmap. In my brief experience here, it’s a key event to share the global vision across all the company. This event is always a good place to keep everyone sync’ed and to deeply reinstate how each team’s objectives converge towards the same goal. It can be a very good motivator (often followed by a casual drink, which is always nice, just saying…),
the “product showcase”: the dev teams share with all other teams, during an hour, what was developed and shipped in the past month. We’re a “product-driven” company and this is where developers have a chance to shine. Each other team must leave that meeting confident that we’re making steady progress. We must share our vision, prove we’ve taken their feedback and keep on innovating.
Aligned autonomy and room for improvement
During my short time here, I was under the impression that our retrospectives did not capture enough some aspects of “human / organizational” topics. I thus proposed specific workshops in the back-end team. It seemed convincing enough for the “front-end” team to try it. Now, the “project delivery” team will itself try it in a few days. I even had someone at the sales team asking me for more information about the workshop.
This example illustrates one of the last key motivating point for me in Toucan. Everything is open, there’s room for everyone, every possible idea. Try, experiment, take feedback, adjust and your idea will spread over the company!
We’re waiting for you
Everything is not perfect and I did not expect something else. Besides the technical stack and the nice product, I mostly chose Tocan because of the nice human interactions I’ve had during the recruitment process and because I felt I would be given the opportunity to act on the organisation. 3 months later, I’m in, doing exactly that. The company moves fast, people are skilled and diverse but aligned on our core values. Our offices are great, it’s fun, why don’t you come and join us?