Naguel

I'm Nahuel, and these are my work experiences, ideas and thoughts as a web developer working on the eCommerce industry.

#Work experiences
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Building a positive company culture with a remote team

Building a positive company culture with a remote team

You should already know that having a remote team and moving away, at some capacity, from having an office and mandating everybody to attend it in favour of working from home, have plenty of advantages... but it also requires companies to re-think their culture and adapt it for including remote members.

This is something to be face for either companies having all of their employees remote (no office whatsoever) or for those companies with a mix.

Since we are in the middle of a pandemic (#covid19), this work from home thing stopped from being optional for some companies and everybody was forced into it.

Nevertheless, I personally think that work from home, or at least a flexible scheme that combines office time and home time, is the new way to go, so preparing for that reality can't be pushed forward.

Working for home has a lot of benefits for both the employees and the employers, but it's not about only having Wi-Fi at home.

No more bs against working from home thanks to a pandemic
Companies were forced to reorganize quickly to continue working with their employees from home: the bs around this was cut immediately, the scepticism towards having people working from their homes disappeared. It had too, there was no other option.

People not used to work from home will struggle with their new situation, specially because separating work from life is not easy when both happens in the same physical environment. Anyway, that's a different problem.

But what companies can do is to work on a culture to makes every remote team member welcome.

You want to have a great team culture because you want people to stay with you, and you want those who stay to like showing up to do the work, which will result in better stuff being done, in progress being made.

Do not think for a second that a classic culture, rules, or way to go for when you were on an office will accommodate everybody now working in pajamas. That process of yours needs to be dust off and made again.

Bake a culture that brings down the feeling of being away

This should be the main objective of your new culture: the idea of making everybody as welcome as possible, part of something, a team, removing the sensation of just having people logging time and solving tickets with an interaction boiled down to only asking questions after a technical brief.

That's not a team member, that's a contractor or freelance you got there. Which is fine, if that's what you are after, but the approach in this post is to adapt your previous "going to the office" to "walking from bed to desk".

The culture needs to integrate people by bringing down the barriers imposed by everything being digital and virtual now.

There are a lot of thing we are no even aware we are missing by not being in the same place, like, for example, there's no more "I'm making coffee, anybody wants some?". There's an element of... human touch?... we need to re-incorporate.

Videos are now part of your meetings

There's an incredible change on people's behaviour when having a call with and without the camera turned ON.

When you are talking to somebody and you can see them, and you also know you can be seen, you are both in presence of a more honest conversation taking place. Your call becomes more real because the camera forces everybody to have accountability on what's being said.

For example, it's not the same to provide an estimation or deadline for a task by saying it "face to face" than by only using the microphone. The camera is a constant reminder that you are talking to an human being, and that what you say and how you say it matter.

This is particularly important when the meeting is about something else than actual classic work tasks, like on performance reviews.

Fun is allowed and encouraged

Cameras turned ON during a call also relaxes the conversation, and helps to emulate what happens on a meeting taking place in real physical conference rooms.

Nobody walks into a meeting, on a physical room, and sits down straight to business. There's some water cooler moments before and after work actually happens, and that's okay, that should be somehow, at some level, encouraged.

The same should be allowed to happen on any other conversation tool you have, specially on the one you are using to chat, a.k.a. Slack.

Don't expect people to be robots, to talk either verbally or in writing as if their were always wearing a suit and saying something to the President of the United States.

On a real office there's music sometimes, chit-chat happening on a corner, or jokes appearing during shop talk, but on Slacks that's down to memes, gifs, and emojis, which bring something else for the entire team, easing the working day and removing pressure. A small venting crack perhaps, on complicated days.

Having fun is a way of team building, and there's plenty of activities that a company can promote to achieve this (besides just using emojis on Slack).

I know it was typical for assembled office teams to get pizza on a Friday, going for some after office time at a pub, and came up with team activities. Now, you just need to think of stuff that can be done remotely.

Team building becomes now more important than ever, as "having a team" doesn't happen as easy as maybe before.

Again, in these particular times were people are in a lockdown due to the Coronavirus, a meeting to just laugh is more than welcome, specially on companies suddenly forced to be remote with no employee ready for it.

For example, the company I work for promoted a few Fridays for games over Zoom where we separated into two teams and played charades... while wearing costumes, fancy dresses, and props.

Meet to improve the remote work

Of course, having a remote team doesn't mean nobody meets each other in person ever again. On the contrary, if you have the possibility to assemble the entire team on a physical space every now and then, great, take it.

For remote employees, meeting each other in person, or meeting the "team from the office", has a real impact on how they perceive the company and what they think of it.

You will witness a change on how people communicate online after a meet up takes place, because people will have had a chance to know other people voices, tone, and expressions.

Sending people stuff will also do the work, and I'm talking delivery packages with beer or whatever gift you can think of. Employees must be rewarded, specially those hard workers that were key on a specific date or task.

Ask what people need

Finally, at the end, and as usual, everything is down to just asking what people need or want. But as obvious as this seems to be, it happens to be the thing we do the lesser.

Take time to ask and listen. Sit down and have a conversation with your remote employees to understand what they need and what their feelings are towards working remote.

Again, specially for those companies that hadn't other option but to make everybody work from home.

If budget is not a problem, help employees to set up their working environment at home, where the priority is the chair.

Buy them a comfy chair... that's what I was trying to say all this time.

Prepare for a job interview

Prepare for a job interview

If you are my boss and you are reading this... no, I'm not looking for another job!

About two years ago I decided to quit the job I had back then after around 6 years on the same company, and I had to prepare for the incoming interviews I was planning to have (fun fact, I only had one) because for that period of time I had none (yep, I'm that loyal) so I considered myself a little bit rusty on that area.

Looking for a new job is a job itself. It's not just about scheduling interviews and going to them, you need to prepare, otherwise your chances are pretty low (trust me, I conduct interviews, so I'm on the other side of the table).

No politician in America will tell you this, but every boss will: You can’t just show up. You need a plan to succeed.

"Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas L. Friedman

Once I wrote a post about how being average at work is over and how it won't take you anywhere, and that concept applies now again for your job hunting.

Average is officially over, so don’t be that at work
Average is officially over because it won’t take you, your company, your team, anywhere. There was a time when you would learn a skill and that would be enough to succeed at work, but nowadays what you learn has an expire date as much as the milk in your refrigerator.

Update your resume and experience information

Sounds basic but you will be surprised if I tell you how many candidates don't do it and how they end up saying things such as "Oh, no, after that job I have another position for a few years but I sent you the outdated resume".

The resume is your opening, it speaks for you before you even utter a word, and it's what gives you your interview (or the reason why you don't get one).

It doesn't need to be long, nor fancy. It just needs to be up to date, including your current and past experiences (all of them relevant to the job you are looking for, at least), with not only the job titles and dates, but with a short list of the actual tasks you performed.

Don't tell me you were a "Front end developer", but tell me what you actually did on that role, with what technologies did you work, of what other "soft" tasks you were part of (did you interview people? did you conduct workshops?).

Say "Hi" with a cover letter

You can't just attach a PDF of your resume and send it to a thousand emails... well, yes, you can, won't be ideal... or do it, that's fine, but include a cover letter.

The cover letter is how you say "Hi". In the real world you don't walk into a company's office and throw a printed resume at the HR employee working at that moment: you say "Hi" before.

In a few lines, in a short text, you can introduce yourself by telling a little bit about who you are, what's your current situation and what are you looking for.

You can have a template, but I would suggest you to personalize it for each application. Remember to talk like an human.

Take a look at what I sent when applying for my current job, in 2018:

Hello,

I’m a front end developer focused on eCommerce, specifically in Magento and VTEX, and I have been working with these two platforms since 2013 starting with Magento 1 even before the RWD theme and now dealing with Magento 2 while getting to know what’s coming in PWA related to this platform.

Right now I work at Current Company (https://www.linkedin.com/company/current-company) but I’m looking for a change. I guess by the “Career openings” section in your website that you probably aren’t looking to fill any position with a person working remote, but a friend that went through your recruiting process told me about you and I thought it wouldn't be much of an inconvenience to apply.

If by any chance you’re looking for a remote developer I also completed the developer test available at GitHub, and here’s the link with the requested functionalities: https://github.com/link-to-tes

You can check my experience in my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nahuelsanchez, let me know if you want a PDF version of my CV or something else.

Thank you very much.

Nahuel

The subject of that email was "I'm a Magento front-end developer".

Prepare to be Googled

The very least thing that will happen on the process of reviewing your application is that your LinkedIn profile will be checked, your GitHub account will be tracked down... you will be searched on Google.

If you are going to have a LinkedIn profile, then have it up to date, otherwise is counterproductive. If you have this polished then you will be already covering the previous section about having a good resume (check mine).

Something really good to have in order to highlight yourself among other candidates is to own a blog, related, even if vaguely, to the job you are looking for.

Clearly, owning a blog is not easy at all as it requires time to build an archive of data worth showing, but it is also a good example of how looking for a new job is not something that should (must? will?) happen quickly.

You need to build an online presence, specially on the IT sector: participate in forums, Twitter, engage in LinkedIn conversations, attend conferences, be a "member of the community" at some capacity.

Have a reason for changing jobs

Money is a reason, and it's a valid one, just have that clear before the interview and be able to explain it.

When I changed jobs years ago I remember the reason was that I was feeling always on a run on my previous position, not enjoying it, and I mainly though that the way we were doing things could be different.

I didn't know exactly how different, but I knew the processes could be better in a way, and me looking for a job change was mostly focused on looking for a different way to work on web development related projects.

Whatever is driving you into looking for a new job is personal, and only you know it.

My two cents here is that don't let any anger to your current job or current company be the main reason why you are thinking of quitting and moving on.

Decide how much money you are after

Be serious. We all want a million dollars, and maybe you think you are worth that much, that's fine, just as long as you are being realistic.

Deciding how much money we would like to be pay on our next job starts with knowing how much we are doing right now in our current position, and how that is translated into the different payment forms existing out there.

For example, maybe you are getting a monthly salary right now, but that's not exactly how all companies pay its employees. Some pays every 15 days, some talks salary while expressing it on a year-time period, a lot of companies on the IT sector have a price per hour scheme, and not all companies use the same currency.

Take your current salary on its current form, and understand how to express it in all its variations, so you know how much you are currently worth when asked.

Having this all clear makes it easy to not only decide how much to ask for then, but it will come at handy when reviewing a counter proposal or comparing different offers in case you are lucky enough to find yourself on that position.

Know the company you are applying at

I can understand that you will be applying for multiple positions at the same time looking to win one, but that's no excuse to come unprepared for those interview opportunities you nailed.

Between the moment the interview is scheduled and when it actually happens there's plenty of time to investigate the company that is giving you a shot.

Looking at the company's website is the very least you must do, but there's clearly more. For example, since I applied to an eCommerce agency, I reviewed the sites they have launched to check the designs they were doing and how their code looked like.

If you have ever been on a first date with somebody you didn't really know much, you might as well have stalked him/her on plenty of social media sites... well, this is kind of the same situation.

It is possible that you will be asked, by the company itself, why you have chosen them, and even if you are not you still need to know the company you are applying at to actually discover if you think you'll fit or not.

Have a script at hand

Everything you had prepared before, and more, needs to be with you during the interview, which is extremely easy if the interview happens online.

  • Have in detail what a normal work day looks like for you.
  • Have your experienced detailed, with the actual tasks you performed, in case you need to go deep into them while talking.
  • Have a list of projects you worked on, with a short explanation for them and the technologies you used.
  • Have the reasons you are having that interview in writing, in case you were asked for.
  • Have your current salary, and what you will be requesting now, at hand in case the discussion reaches that point.

The interview itself should be human friendly, and it's a bidirectional conversation, which means that you can (and certainly must) ask questions too, specifically focused in knowing the company beyond what you discovered while stalking it.

Be prepare to share something personal too, as again this is a conversation between humans. Do you have any hobby you would like to share? Any activities besides working that will be worth mention? Something about your family?

Finally, learn from past interviews. If you don't land the first one, try to understand what could you have done different, what you missed, and be even more prepare in the next one.

Good luck!

How to become a web developer in a lot of not easy steps

How to become a web developer in a lot of not easy steps

I'm being ask that a lot! No, for real, I'm not saying that for the sake of a cliche moment in the post, but the problem is that the answer is not that short nor that simple, hence this article.

Decide what's your thing

While the idea behind this how-to question is kind of the same, the answer depends exactly on what kind of developer you would like to be, because the offer is extensive out there.

I'm a web developer, a Full Stack developer that works with eCommerce platforms, so there lays my expertise, but maybe you are looking to become an iOS developer, Java developer, a videogames creator, or something else.

Clearly, the first thing you need to do is to decide that.

Take into consideration that if you are planning on making a living out of this job you will need to like it, and second you will need to investigate the job prospects of that choice you are now making (I don't think COBOL is really wanted these days, considering it's a language from 1959, for example).

Not all developers are the same, and not all guys and gals you see with code on theirs computers are creating a program for a PC (which I tend to think it's the general assumption when I say I'm a "programmer").

Start with some courses

I have to be honest here and say that I'm not impress by courses when I see them on resumes, because them alone tell me nothing. But I will assume here that you have no experience as a developer whatsoever, and that you are starting from scratch, therefore is safe to say that while a lot of courses won't land you on a job position, it's for sure the way to start.

It's the starting line not the finish line.

Based on what you decided on the last section related to what kind of developer you would like to become, now you can filter out some of the courses available all over the world.

My suggestion here is to go local, meaning pick a course provider from your city or country because they tend to have partnerships in place with IT companies in a way you can ended up as a trainee there after completing a course.

Investigate that. Not only find a course you would like to follow and suits you, but try to do it on a place (school?) that IT companies then use to recruit from.

Play around, play a lot

Courses usually end up with a real project you would be uploading into GitHub or similar.

That's not enough. From my point of view, practice beats theory.

After the course you will be on your own. Yeah, I mean, you can start a new one, but as I said before I'm not impress by courses as I expect "real" practice.

This is when you need to start building up your portfolio, meaning a GitHub with small projects, practice code, snippets, something to show, something not just only to tell others you are more than theory but also for applying that theory into real stuff, for actually keep on learning.

Do not forget courses will provide you with the basics, and you won't become a Senior developer following courses. It will be up to you, and that's with practice.

The way it happened to me is that I had a WordPress blog (not this one, another one, ages ago), with a basic theme that I wanted to customize. So I started doing small changes, then wanted more complex ones, and one thing led to another. That's how I started.

Land a job no matter the salary

With courses on your resume and a portfolio to show is time to become real. Bye bye training wheels!

Unfortunately, this is not easy, not because of the opportunities out there that I think are plenty on the IT sector, but because you will need to escape your comfort zone.

If you are reading this you might as well have a stable job already and this idea of becoming a developer is a plan for the short term future, so at some point, with courses already finished and code already uploaded into GitHub, you will need to decide how much salary you will be willing to let go in order to start on the business.

A trainee position won't pay much. Actually, if it pays at all that's a win already, but you need to start somewhere. For example, you can be a lawyer now and there's no chance your first job as a developer will match your current income. Accept that.

Take your first opportunity on the real world as a way to learn how a company operates for real, how working on a real project looks like. This is your chance to learn the real stuff.

Your first job might be a sacrifice in terms of money, but after this, with one job experience in your resume, the opportunities will increase exponentially.

I know, it's scary, but come on, you first job won't be a Senior position. Get real, face it, it will be worth it.

No more bs against working from home thanks to a pandemic

No more bs against working from home thanks to a pandemic

It's still amaze me, you know, and hit me by time to time when going to sleep or taking a shower, a "...wow" moment, like a slap from reality: the world pressed pause a few months ago.

Not a bunch of countries, not a far far away continent. The whole world stopped because, well, you know what happened: Coronavirus.

Companies reorganized quickly to continue working with their employees from home... Well, they were forced to act quickly to be honest, not like they went through a deep analysis about the pros and cons of a remote scheme for their staff, no meeting between HR and the business management branch happened at all.

The bs was cut immediately, the scepticism towards having people working from their homes disappeared. It had too, because Plan B was to close until further notice, so the discussion about it became pointless, and frankly nobody has nothing to lose. Wasn't that beautiful?

Month ago this was considered only a benefit a company would offer, or a sometimes exception for particular circumstances. Internal company processes would decide how and when somebody could work from home like, for example, one day a week after three months in the company, and two days a week after a year.

It sounds crazy now but we all, at every level, agreed to that scheme.

Work from home forced itself and nothing bad happened, nothing catastrophic at all. Objectives are still being reached, and, most important, employees don't sleep the whole morning pretending to be online on Slack, which I believe was the biggest fear of them all.

I found it interesting that even on very objective-based companies, when thinking about offering the possibility to work from home, the mindset changes to a time-based one. In an office we thought about what to accomplish when (objectives), but then when talking about remote working we thought about how the time was going be consumed without direct supervision.

We trust developer with Live server side credentials, but oh no home will make them Facebook too much.

And even today, with a lockdown in place and a forced work from home scheme, even if an objective is not reached you know that's not because the employee is working to close to the bed. It's always something else.

You are quarantining yourself now, and everybody in your company is doing it too. Work from home is happening whatever you planned it or not, so it might be time to fully embrace it. Take the (forced) opportunity and make it a permanent thing.

It is a chance for us all to recognize that working from home is as possible as working from an office. And, sorry, my experience is always based on my role as a web developer so my focus is pointed in tech-related companies, but you can decide if this whole concept applies to you as well.

I worked, until now, as the only one remote developer of the company I'm part of, and the rest of the team was based in UK, working from a beautiful office in London. Now everybody is remote, everybody now works from their homes, and the office is entirely for a fridge they already planned to set on fire because God only knows what have been left inside months ago.

Again, nothing changed from the day to day operation of the company, there's no trough at all in the productivity graph. If anything, I think people is working more because nobody is used to work from home, yet, but that's a problem for a different post.

It was discussed internally, basically, the feelings towards this new forced normality, and while everybody misses the office and the social side of it, all of us are considering working from home a positive thing. Even one admitted that during lunch time takes a nap, which is fine because who cares if you are delivering at the end.

It was also raised that we might not seen us working from home, without going to an office, for ever, so I'm sure flexibility is what's coming after everything that's happening comes to an end.

Let me be clear that flexibility doesn't mean an extra work from home day to your now old internal company process. Flexibility means having an office, and go there if you want. Nothing less than that, which is perfect, which is good, fine, there's nothing wrong with that. We should have learn that already.

Imagine a hot seat scheme, with a few desks for those wanting to leave the house some day, or a more co-working spaces-based normality.

I don't know, I'm brainstorming, this is my first pandemic, but I'm sure that those, somehow still appearing, job offers from LinkedIn offering something like "2 work from home days a week" as a benefit are hilarious now and they should have gone already.

Suffering from the wannabe career plan syndrome

Suffering from the wannabe career plan syndrome

A career plan or career path (whatever you prefer to call it) is the way to have some motive to get up in the morning and go to the office. Without it we are just repeating each day in a loop without a long-term goal: get up, shower, go to the office, leave 8 hours later, eat, sleep, and redo.

Is it money what motivates you to get up each morning? That's fine, but that won't work as a stimulus for ever. If you're good at your job you might be able to get money in another company, so that's not the problem here.

When you put money aside and you don't have a career plan... why are you going to work? At some point you'll realize that even by redoing the same day for the next 3 years nothing for you will be different. Isn't that sad?

Have you ever gone to one of those places where you can play arcade video games like Daytona USA? Do you remember that game or any other racing video game? You might recall that countdown on top of the screen that you have to beat, by crossing a checkpoint, before it reaches zero.

That whole concept of going through checkpoints is the career plan, is the reason why you keep your feet on the gas and try to get better on each turn. So, it goes 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 aaannnd checkpoint, and now focus again to get to the next checkpoint having in mind that the following turns must be perfect to avoid losing those precious seconds.

By now you can expect that I'm going to say that not having a career plan is a bad idea for both the company and the employee (I'm not a best-selling author, my way of writing is pretty much straight forward), but you know what's worse than not having a career plan?

Having a wannabe career plan

Designing a career plan is always hard for a company, specially during this era of acceleration where things change too much too fast. So, when trying to accomplish one, companies end up half way with a sort of a career plan that meets nobody's expectations.

A good way to spot a failing career plan is when it's all about fancy titles for the employees but with no well-defined task or responsibilities. For example, in my line of work you can start as Junior, then Semi Senior, Senior... let's assume then Technical Leader, maybe Technical Manager later, following Architect, and finally Developer Ninja Evangelist (I don't know).

Sounds great, and usually each promotion deserves popping a bottle of champagne as it's really a great accomplish. The problem appears when you start getting new job titles but your actual day to day job remains the same.

Yes, that happens a lot. You get your paycheck saying that you are the Manager of All Employees in the company, but you're still doing exactly the same job you were doing for the last five positions (checkpoints). After three promotions you'll wake up one morning and go "Waaaaait a minute".

At some point employees realize that the company is failing at providing a real career plan so this whole concept becomes an internal joke.

The solution is quite simple for the people inside a company with the responsibility to came up with a career plan: sit the duck down, give this task the priority it deserves, take note of your long-term plans, listen to the employees, and create it.

Not having one, or having an incomplete one, is doing more damage than you imagine: employees without motivation, a high turnover rate, low productivity numbers, a lot of complains in the office... good people leaving the company without even submitting to a negotiation process because money doesn't even matter anymore!

Really, non-existence career paths or wannabe career plans will kill a company from inside, and I can't stress that enough.

If your company experiences some of the symptom above, then again people inside your workplace with the responsibility to came up with a career plan should start working on this.

Who? Well, you're part of this task too

The company you're working for won't be able to come up with a career plan by itself, and for sure they can't download a career plan from the Internet. So is essential that you take part of the making of.

No matter your current position, you can identify that there's no career plan in your company and instead of whining you can contribute with what you see is next for the company but missing a role to accomplish it, or what you want to do inside the company but there's no role right now you can aim at.

At the same time, when talking about a promotion or your next role, demand the exact task and responsibilities you will be taking on, and also demand specificity about the tasks you won't be doing anymore (that you would be leaving behind for other to take care of).

If none of that is clear, if so the company is suffering from the wannabe career plan syndrome, then it's up to you to come up with what you want to do next. Come on, don't expect everything on a silver platter.

Having a career plan is good for you as an employee not only for all the motivational purposes I mentioned but also because it will help you to build your professional profile, help you to improve your hard and soft skills. Even if you already thought of not having your current job for the rest of your life, for sure you'll need to show your resume in the next job interview.

And it will look much better if it evidences a career.