How 5 Colorado tech teams work together to take on their toughest challenges

by April Bohnert
November 14, 2018

Culture is a driving force in every company — whether intentional or not. But within the broader scope of company culture are smaller subsets of team culture that shape the processes, passions and personal relationships of everyone on the team. When it comes to successful tech teams, collaboration is key, and this often manifests itself in some pretty unique ways.

We talked to five local developers to learn more about what drives their teams and get a glimpse into the cultures that keep them connected.

 

Backbone PLM tech team culture Colorado
Photo via Backbone.

Backbone’s product lifecycle management platform automates the design and production process for consumer goods companies, helping them reduce lead times throughout the supply chain and get to market faster. Head of Technology Blake Parkinson shed some light on the culture of the dev team behind its products and shared how they work together — and across departments — to build a stronger platform for Backbone’s customers.

 

How would you describe the culture of your dev team?

It’s a very collaborative effort. It’s an extremely bright and innovative group. The daily collaboration and open lines of communication allow us to solve complex problems efficiently and intelligently. Further, it’s a diverse team where each team member brings both unique life and professional experiences. We have a very flat structure — little micromanaging. Each team member is empowered and entrusted to get their work done, manage their projects and ask for help when needed.

Each team member is empowered and entrusted to get their work done, manage their projects and ask for help when needed.”

How has your team culture been reflected in the way you solve problems as a group?

We recently hit a technical challenge that left us with two options. Option A: The technically superior option. Perform widespread database schema changes, which would temporarily break our application and force collaboration across the entire team to “fix” the app. Option B: The easier route. Hack together a backwards-compatible solution that would not scale and provide limited flexibility. We chose option A, knowing that our ability to collaborate and work together smartly would allow us to solve the problem. We didn’t take shortcuts; we took the road less traveled with the knowledge that doing this would set us on a much better path down the road.

 

How does your dev team bond, both in and out of the office?

We have team lunches and engineering meetings to discuss interesting technology and concepts. Out of the office, we go on hikes, have happy hours and have even gone on ski trips together.

 

CSG tech team culture Colorado
Photo via CSG.

CSG develops strategies and solutions that help businesses around the globe market, monetize and manage all of their digital content and customers. Their solutions span everything from e-commerce infrastructure and revenue management to CRM — which means its development team has its hands in a wide variety of projects. David Childers, the senior manager of software development for CSG’s Ascendon, gave us a glimpse into the culture of his global team.

 

How would you describe the culture of your dev team?

Not only our teams, but our overall culture at CSG is collaborative, supportive and diverse. My team includes people from all over the world with a range of different skills and backgrounds they bring to the table, which allows us to share our varied expertise and opinions.

We’ve encouraged our teams to ‘self-form,’ which I think has made them tight-knit and strong.”

How has your team culture been reflected in the way you solve problems as a group?

Our team has collectively been together for just over a year. In addition to establishing ourselves as a team, we’ve also had quite a bit of ramping up to do around our new products and processes. Over the last year, we’ve had a number of normal, but frustrating, acclimation issues that have bogged down our ability to deliver. To solve for that, we reached out to more experienced CSG teams around the world and, with their support and that of leadership, have identified ways we can improve our daily work and ways of working. Tapping into our diverse experience helped us knock down those initial roadblocks and even dramatically improve our team culture and morale.

 

How does your dev team bond, both in and out of the office?

We’ve encouraged our teams to “self-form,” which I think has made them tight-knit and strong. Whether we’re inside or outside the office, we’ve found a lot of fun ways to bond, like team lunches and office potlucks (with some fantastic global food). We’ve also created our own Office Olympics, which has included some office-themed games and driven friendly competition. We also enjoy our very own Colorado backyard by doing group hikes, including local 13ers.

 

GoSpotCheck tech team culture Colorado
Photo via goSpotCheck.

GoSpotCheck empowers teams working in the field to “Do Great Work” by streamlining processes like data collection, CRM, team management and analytics within one platform. Software Engineer Ashley Clarke explained how her team builds culture — both in and out of the office.

 

How would you describe the culture of your dev team?

My team at GoSpotCheck is small and extremely collaborative. Every problem is a team effort. We pair almost full time and have regular “three amigos” meetings with people from the dev, QA and product teams to make sure everyone stays on the same page. We take code — not ourselves — seriously, and having fun is as important to us as hard work.

We take code — not ourselves — seriously, and having fun is as important to us as hard work.”

How does your dev team bond, both in and out of the office?

We make sure to take the time to hang out with each other away from our computers, including having weekly team lunches (often featuring Rio margs) and regular team outings. Liberal use of Giphy and good-natured ribbing on Slack is encouraged.

 

When hiring new developers, what qualities do you look for — beyond the necessary technical skills?

When adding to our team, we look for someone with the same passion for good quality code that we have, as well as a willingness to work together closely with other team members. This isn’t a place for lone wolves, but it is a place for those who care about the craft of code, enjoy bouncing their ideas off others and don’t shy away from a good time.

 

Apto tech team culture Colorado
Photo via Apto.

Apto’s SaaS platform helps commercial real estate brokers nurture customer relationships and manage their properties, listings, deals and commissions — anywhere and from any device. Reflective of their collaborative culture, the entire Apto dev team came together to give us a glimpse into their day-to-day.

 

How would you describe the culture of your dev team?

Our dev team is really outgoing and close-knit! We spend time together at work and outside of work as well, which helps us collaborate better and problem-solve at a team level. It also helps that we’re all very motivated people and are committed to our work.

By finding a way to make our system resilient, they made our product healthier and more reliable for our users and for everyone at Apto.”

How has your team culture been reflected in the way you solve problems as a group?

Earlier this year, we ran into some performance issues with our product and had a number of outages. A few devs from different teams volunteered to help figure out what was going on. Even though they had to take time away from their regular work to address a wide-ranging, complex problem, they were able to diagnose why we had outages and fix the issues that caused them. These same fixes are now showing evidence that they will make our API quicker and more reliable in the long run. By finding a way to make our system resilient, they made our product healthier and more reliable for our users and for everyone at Apto.

 

How does your dev team bond, both in and out of the office?

We genuinely enjoy spending time together, so there’s quite a lot we do! At work, we’ll go to lunch often and help each other out on whatever project we’re working on. Outside of work, we’ll do anything from karaoke to concerts, comedy, marathons and skiing. We even had a team complete the Ragnar Race earlier this summer.

We’re also very involved in the local tech community, going to monthly meetups and hosting events in our office.

 

Documoto tech team culture Colorado
Photo via Documoto.

Documoto’s SaaS platform is digitizing the way manufacturers create and distribute parts information, sell parts online and support their customers’ technical needs. CTO Cuyler Jones explained how his team goes above and beyond to drive the company forward.

 

How would you describe the culture of your dev team?

Our engineering culture is based on three principles: personal agency, collaboration and owning problems, not solutions. Briefly, these mean we expect people to be responsible for their time and contributions; we work together to solve problems and aren't afraid to admit we don’t knowing something (“I don’t know” is a chance to learn something new!); and if our solution isn’t a good fit, we throw it away and build something better to solve the problem.  

Our engineering culture is based on three principles: personal agency, collaboration and owning problems, not solutions.”

How has your team culture been reflected in the way you solve problems as a group?

Recently, we had several customers give feedback that suggested a portion of our UI wasn’t working for their needs. The team did a quick pow-wow to come up with a solution that seemed to fix the problem. After implementation, product and the engineers realized that the solution was still not workable and that the underlying data structures were causing the problem. They scrapped the solution, fixed the data structures and then built a new UI piece with the new data structures to meet our customers needs. Not only did they satisfy our customers, but the team also fixed some technical debt in the process. No one asked the team to do these additional things.

 

How does your dev team bond, both in and out of the office?

We hold monthly happy hours in the office, where there are food and drink for several hours. Each happy hour is sponsored by a member of the team and is generally sourced from something culturally important to them. For example, last round we had Wisconsin foods, consisting of many different kinds of cheeses, dishes and beers from Wisconsin.

 

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