Equal Footing

Best ideas and efforts come from the most unexpected of places. Having a company culture where everyone feels like they can solve and contribute to any problem or opportunity is very important. I’m happy to be working at a company aware of that.

On software development side of things, we don’t have strong rules or policies at Vinted. Or gods of Asgard forbid, an enforced process. We have things that we value, like simplicity and consistency in our code. But even those aren’t really written down in stone. Anyone can (and should) question everything.

We don’t do things one or another way, because someone dictated “from now on, proceed like that”. That’s neither true on the company level or code level. We also try to reduce perceived differences between people, including not having seniority in job titles. People can feel discouraged to speak sincerely to those perceived to be in higher positions. Getting rid of “senior/junior” is a small sacrifice for the potential benefits. While I’m sure it can never reach “everyone feels exactly equal”, the smaller the perceived difference, the better we’re off.

A lot of perceived and real disparity comes from difference in knowledge. The most obvious example is the expertise in your field. But even dozens years of experience don’t make you all-knowing, mistake-dodging deity. Approaching every situation humbly is expected. At at the same time, if you work longer at the company, you are perceived to have more freedem to do whatever, however you want. I think that it mostly falls under the same umbrella - difference in knowledge.

There’s a lot of institutional knowledge at any company. When you join, you don’t immediately magically receive all of it. But neither does the company and the people working there wondrously acquire all the knowledge a new employee brings with him. Pull requests, which we use not only for code, help a lot with that. Primarily as a great knowledge transfer mechanism and as bug-stopper second. It’s most obvious with the in-depth comment from a colleague about how a feature will impact another feature. But even the simplest automated ‘Space inside square brackets detected’ gives information. Might not feel like much, but small things add up after thousands of commits. That said, pull requests shouldn’t be the only or the most important knowledge transfer mechanism.

At Vinted, GitHub and Slack are our primary communication tools. And unlike with email, both of them are open and accessible to everyone by default. Want to read our discussion on seniority titles? It’s there, named “The Great Earl of Kildare”. Want to join #dalvik and talk Android, even if you haven’t written a line of Java in your life? Go ahead. Being open by default helps a lot with knowledge sharing.

Hire smart people. In our industry, it’s oft-repeaded. But those smart people you’ve just hired - what’s the point if they’re not empowered? Don’t forget to give them the tools, freedom and knowledge to contribute, ask questions, challenge ideas.