We put people first. What does it actually mean?

Interview with Peter, CTO

S&F says, "We put people first", but many companies declare exactly the same thing. What does this phrase actually mean for you?

If not people, then who? We can try to replace humans with processes, like AI, yet it won’t work in the realities of S&F’s projects. AI will have a place in the future of everything — software development, art, content, but it takes people to oversee that AI and to use human intuition and human intelligence to make the hard calls.
It takes people to manage complex tasks and there are different approaches to managing people. One is a hands-on management style where strong managers find solutions and the team implements them. But this approach is confined to the manager’s top-down decisions. It takes a good team that works well together to complete successful projects. But creating a team like this isn’t easy, and it can significantly increase the complexity and the cost of projects, which is why so many companies do it so badly.
I don’t mean learning a new skill that will help them to find the right solution. I am speaking about how they approach an issue with a high level of uncertainty – something that requires more than skills. Clients come to us with projects that require more than out-of-the-box solutions, mostly those businesses that cannot be satisfied with conventional business practices. Simple solutions work for a simple problem, but our clients tend to have complex needs that require that the complexity itself be managed. It is more important to understand the root of the problem a client wants to solve than to have a tidy solution ready to go. That’s why we don’t tell our team how to do their jobs. Instead we have a culture where the team starts to gradually analyze the environment and receive the opportunity to choose the most workable approach for achieving clients’ business goals. In other words, we cultivate the creativity and flexibility of our team to dynamically solve the problem from the bottom up, rather than forcing a top-down solution onto our client.

So you are talking about team development because it fosters the business itself. How does this team development occur? 

A person develops by gaining experience. Experience is not about solving standard tasks by offering standard solutions. Think of your own life — hard-won experience, wisdom even, comes from solving challenging problems not easy ones. There are two important components of development — gaining knowledge and running experiments. Experiments help to bolster an employee's courage when they can find non-standard solutions to a new problem. And they then get to practice new methods and approaches. This creates a kind of knowledge for them that can be used to create new experiments to solve new problems, and so what we teach is more than just new skills. It’s a new way to approach complexity itself.
The work we do with our clients provides the ideal conditions to run these kinds of experiments, day in and day out. In this way, our employees are always adapting to new circumstances, new forms of complexity, and new technological solutions. They evolve — develop — how they think and how they face new challenges that arise, both from existing work and from new clients.

Tell me about your own developmental experience and motivation for the S&F’s team?

From the beginning of a person’s career in the company, I encourage them to embrace uncertainty. For instance, I don’t conduct detailed onboarding with new hires. When a new hire joins our team, they receive a defined zone of responsibility and start working from their first day of work. It is important for me to see whether a new hire is able to figure out how everything works and what they must do in their field of responsibility. I always teach that making mistakes is not a problem — in fact, it’s the most important part of learning. Detecting errors and learning to fix them is the most important part of the job.
This takes longer than just explaining what to do and how to complete a certain task, or guiding the new hire through a check-list. We work to make sure a person has the time to dive into the process so they can comprehend how we work, not just what we do. We want a new hire to collaborate with their team, negotiate, ask questions and find answers, and ask for help. The ability to connect the dots, see the bigger picture and realize the goal of work is essential to the right person joining our team. This is what we mean when we say that we put people first.

S&F is always in search of people to whom self-development as well as professional development are important. We value courage and welcome experiments. If everything mentioned above is about you text me directly or send your CV at .moc.noitcnufdnadeeps%40tahcstel