Deliberately Developmental: How I helped my company upgrade while also becoming a better person

Deliberately Developmental

The tech world evolves at a neck-breaking speed, which requires software companies to innovate and implement change at a rate unparalleled in any other industry. Sounds like a superhuman task? There is, in fact, a very human-oriented approach to tackling it. I discovered it through a journey of trial and error, which led me to overhaul my entire vision for Speed and Function and grow, both as a person and as CEO.


S&F European team socializing

Speed and Function European team members got together to enjoy each other’s company in a cozy beautiful place called Montenegro.

This time the guests from different countries have gathered together in hospitable Montenegro.

Fresh sea air, gentle rays of sunshine and stunningly gorgeous landscape filled them with energy and helped to restore their strength.

Breathtaking views and positive emotions inspired the team for further productive work.

Summer team-building event in Kherson

There are some days that can be kept in one’s memory forever.

That summer day in a small southern town was a vivid example of one of these special days.

A perfectly chosen location provided a range of activities for every taste.

Celebrating summer, and the opportunity to get together intensified by an adrenaline rush  – the atmosphere created unity of the team and enhanced the productivity and teamwork for the future.

Happy New Year 2020!

Our Europe-based team welcomed the New Year in style. 

Georgian style, to be precise.

Kyiv NE party
The team is looking forward to tasting some of the best Georgian wine (featured in casks in the background)

Following the good old traditions of the Caucasus, the party featured a curated succession of elaborate toasts – to a good year, to our team members’ and clients’ health and prosperity, to love, to world peace, and so on. The speeches got more poetic and personal as the night progressed, and Georgian wine flowed.

Kyiv NY party 2020
“To a successful and prosperous 2020!”

The other part of the team joined in on the toasting via Internet placing front and center the colleagues from abroad they were hosting at the time. For some in the team, this was the first (and truly exciting) opportunity to put faces to the names of those they had recently started working with. 

Navi Tolkun (left) visiting our Eastern European team to welcome 2020 together

Those toughest partied well into the night and got a charge of festive spirit that would last them at least till Easter. 

Kyiv NY party 2020

In the meantime, our Budva office made everyone jealous sending pictures of their mild Adriatic winter, Medieval castles, and hearty Montenegrin food which they enjoyed in a cozy, family-style atmosphere. 



As the clock struck midnight, the small Budvan team made a wish that everyone at S&F comes to visit at least once in the coming year, for business or pleasure, to appreciate the beautiful setting, energy, and hospitality of this newest of our offices that they’d spent the previous year building up.


January JavaScript Meetup in Philly

In January 2020, I attended my first JavaScript Meetup in Philadelphia at the office of Sidecar, a company specializing in e-commerce.

It was on the first day of my trip to the US, and I was quite tired, so I forgot to take photos of the event, which I now regret. The speakers were exciting, and the crowd young and engaged.

I was utterly surprised to discover that the first speaker at the Meetup was Jonathan Belcher (aka JB) from Automattic Inc. of WordPress fame. Having no idea the company was in any way connected to JavaScript, I initially thought that I was mixing things up. However, I soon recognized the WordPress logo on JB’s backpack and was relieved of all doubt, preparing to be blown away by his presentation. He spoke about writing optimized JavaScript code using examples, which I found simple enough despite my primary experience being in PHP, not JS. The real action though started during the break, when JB was surrounded by skilled JS developers, and a truly worthwhile discussion ensued.

The second presentation was by Will Vedder who spoke about the React Concurrent mode. His main conclusion was that it was better to show users old content while new content was being prepared than to have them see a “beautiful” preloader. The Concurrent mode was lauded as the best tool for that.

The last session by Petrell Vereen about AssemblyScript and TypeScript was the most technical of all, with lots of examples and practical detail. We were all exhausted and happy to recharge on some good pizza after it.

DrupalCampBaltics 2019

This month, I was invited to speak at the biggest Drupal event in the Baltic Region, the DrupalCampBaltics 2019, held in Latvia’s capital, Riga. My presentation on Solution Engineering: How it can help sell discovery and holistic estimating was my first experience discussing a non-tech topic in a public setting.

Vas leading a session on the discovery phase

I talked about our work on the discovery phase in Sprint 0 and offered some ideas on how it could be made valuable for our clients. It was great to see many in the audience who had already had a similarly successful experience.

Vas answering the many questions that came from the audience after the presentation

Outside of the conference, I found Riga to be a very comfortable and friendly city with excellent infrastructure, well situated just a stone throw away from other Central European and Nordic capitals. From the business perspective, the Baltic countries offer many advantages for digital agencies to set up their operations in the region. They are European Union member states, with highly-qualified and mostly English-speaking workforce, and have no presence of global out-staffing companies like EPAM. A great discovery for our future growth?

WordCamp Kyiv 2019

Earlier this month, our team took part in the biggest WordPress event in Ukraine, the WordCamp 2019, which was held at the DEPO Conference Hall in Kyiv.

The Camp attracted a number of leading Easter European agencies specialized in WordPress development and featured many prominent presentations.

We are grateful to the organizers for the chance to lead one of the sessions and talk about our approach to marketing sites setup.

“While Gutenberg UX has emerged as the most popular tool for marketing website construction, it does have some weaknesses, which can render alternative solutions more cost-efficient,” said our Solution Engineer and CMS Practice Manager Vas Jaremchuk at the opening of the session. In his subsequent presentation, he focused on comparing two such alternative approaches, Gutenberg + Lazy Blocks Plugin and Flynt WP Framework (based on ACF Pro).

Vas leading a session on marketing website development

Our participation in the Camp gave us a boost of enthusiasm and instilled in us a firm belief that with WordPress, we are not limited to blogs and simple marketing websites but can actually do anything. That, along with many new contacts among leading WordPress contributors, has provided us with a roadmap for further improvement of WordPress practice in our company.

Speed & Function 4th of July Celebrations

Speed and Function teams in different parts of the world celebrated Independence Day on July 4th.

The pleasure of these events pulls us together, even though some of us are far apart.

Everyone had a lot of fun relaxing: enjoying delicious food, outdoor activities, as well as each other’s company!    

Some of us attended a wake park where we enjoyed wakeboarding with ramps & rails available to try out a lot of tricks. Some enjoyed boating, and traveling.

At the end of the day we shared news, discussed each other’s hobbies, and got to know team members better over a delicious dinner.

We have returned to work full of energy and positive emotions, excited to help our clients in realizing their ideas.

Testimonial From an E-commerce Company

Encore Editions is women-owned, artist-run, online fine art company providing custom prints, framed and unframed, of classic and historic artwork on canvas, paper, poster and even note cards.

We have struggled for several years to find the right team for building and maintaining our website. With the other companies we’ve tried we either ran into skyrocketing prices, inefficient functionalities that inevitably damaged our Google ranking, terrible, even sometimes outright rude customer service, sub-par development that we then had to pay for again to fix or improve, and sometimes it was a combination of many of these at once. Any development company can promise up and down that they understand and can fulfill your needs when they’re sales team has you on the phone, but what happens when you’ve signed on the dotted line and you begin to suspect that they didn’t actually understand and weren’t listening from the get-go? At that point it’s too late, especially when you’re a small business with limited resources on a deadline.

The team at Speed and Function is the complete polar opposite of the above situation. Not only did they ask tons of questions to make sure they understood what we were after with our website, but they brought more ideas to the table than we ever could have anticipated and they were patient with us and our limited knowledge of how website development really “works.” They know exactly what they’re doing, and they take the time and make the effort to truly learn about each specific industry that they’re building a website for. How can a website development company build an efficient product if they don’t understand your business? Bottom line is they can’t. The S&F team learned about our product, which is custom, fine art prints on canvas, paper, poster, etc, and they expertly applied and built our vision on our theme on the BigCommerce platform. We have been nothing but stunned with the quality, timeliness and effectiveness of their work and we are already seeing the fruits of that labor in the form of larger sales.

We highly recommend Speed & Function for any and all development needs. Our BigCommerce store is already light-years ahead of where would be if we had remained with the “other guys” and we couldn’t be happier. We are clients for life.

Sara Elliott

Co-Owner, e-commerce, art at Encore Editions