Building a team from scratch is a hard task, especially if you can’t employ experienced people right away for different reasons. In this case, you need to start small and make sure that the required training is provided on a regular basis. And never stop growing. 😉 The key to the process are dedicated people who will make it possible.
When I joined Chop-Chop more than 6 years ago, Magently was just an idea of the brand that the company wanted to create. We started with a small team of 2 managers/sales people and 1 developer that wasn’t even working on Magento full time – in 2013 the CMS wasn’t that widely popular and known yet. However, the board members decided to focus on building a dedicated team. And it was a great choice! Risk is inevitable when you’re making investments, but it often pays off.
The tough truth is, unless you start with a huge budget and can afford hiring experienced employees, your team will lack specific knowledge and technical expertise. In our case, the managers were actually working more as translators and first point of contact than actual Project Managers. Mainly, because there was no need for it at that time, but also because that was the way we worked on smaller projects. I was one of the managers and I remember that our main job was to talk to clients as a middle-man between them and the development team. Therefore, our developers had more responsibilities than only writing the code – they also had to do some management.
Once we started acquiring new clients, the company began investing in training Magently developers. We organized tutoring for the team and started doing code reviews which helped with learning the best practices. There was a lot of motivation, self-learning and commitment involved. It was very important that the people chosen for the team were energetic and willing to learn.
With time, I realized that I have possessed quite a good knowledge about the field and Magento development. I’ve never learnt specifically for the job, but I was able to answer most of our clients’ questions without consulting the development team. It just came with experience, testing various projects and time. My advantage was that I was interested in programming, I had some IT background and, therefore, better understanding of the trade and our projects.
If Project Managers have at least basic knowledge of the software used in their projects and of general development, the communication is at a higher level and it’s simply easier to understand your needs and explain the technical bits.
Sharing knowledge and experience within the team became one of the rules in Magently that we follow to this day. It’s not that easy to stick to this rule, since there’s always a lot of work and we have to remember that the company needs to make profit. In this situation people don’t always think about broadening their skills – they have to be allowed and additionally encouraged to do so. It’s a good idea to schedule regular workshops, even if only on a quarterly basis. If you don’t have a budget for hiring external training resources, consider asking people that are already in the company. You might not be aware of the skills and knowledge they have that could help others – there’s always someone within your team that could give a talk about a given process, tool or provide development tips.
Also, there are various certifications and conferences for people to attend. For example, our senior Project Managers and developers attend Meet Magento on a regular basis. There, they can not only listen to various talks, but also discuss development problems with others. And hey! – what stops you from helping the community and creating your own meetup? People want to learn and share their knowledge, and it’s likely that others will join you sooner or later.
Going back to internal training, you also need a proper teaching process for new people, especially if they don’t have much experience when they join your team. It should help them understand your business, tools you use and, most of all, the attitude you have towards your clients. Every company has its own philosophy based on their key values that has to be transferred further down to all employees. These are likely to make the training period longer, but it is much more beneficial long-term.
Why it matters
Having proper training for the team means you can trust each one of its members to do a good job and solve problems when they occur. It’s important if you want to be your client’s business partner, not only their service provider. A good development company should care about the shop they work on as if it was their own. If the people have enough experience and skills they will be able to deliver a product of a good quality, but also exceed the expectations by consulting the required integrations and suggesting the best solutions. It’s key not to be afraid to question decisions if anyone believes that the idea is not good for the business or it is not future-proof. In the end, both sides want the project to be a success. It will make everyone happy – the merchant will have a product that will bring him money, if everything is good he might recommend the development company to some of his business friends. The Project Managers and developers in turn will be simply satisfied with a job well done.