Keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies and ensuring each product is developed ahead of upcoming trends is something that the Hatch team is passionate about, and no one more so than Chief Technology Officer, Edwin Stam. Before working at Hatch, Edwin was a CTO for leading payment provider, Ingenico ePayments.
When Edwin joined Hatch in October 2018, he began by restructuring the development department. The changes that he put in place have since led to the faster delivery time of product features and a happier, fuller team of experts.
We spoke to Edwin, along with Product Owner, Kalik Tang, to get an insight into the technological landscape of Hatch and the process of product development within the company.
Q: What is your vision on the technological landscape for Hatch?
Edwin: My vision on the technological landscape for Hatch is that it needs to be scalable, it needs to be real-time, and it needs to be one hundred per cent up. It also needs to be easy to maintain.
Q: How is Hatch going to achieve that?
Edwin: Currently, we’re using modern technology stacks for everything that we build. This means we use proven technologies like Java, Docker, Kubernetes and Elastic Search because they bring the most benefits in terms of automation, scalability and maintainability.
However, like most companies, we also have some legacy code built on older technologies. The technologies are good and proven but Hatch needs has evolved.
Updating these will allow us to automate (even more), horizontally auto-scale (all) our systems, and offer more functionality and features. We’ll be able to provide our clients with stand-alone services and even more in-depth data insights. With all these benefits, we can take leap steps in terms of product development. It’s a complex task, so that’s why we have one of our scrum teams fully dedicated to it.
Q: How is the process of updating old(er) technologies embedded in your daily delivery?
Edwin: For all serious changes to our tech landscape (e.g. if we need to build a set of new features), we have a rule where we always address any “technical debt“ related to this component. We reserve time in each sprint to account for the extra effort. It helps to have a business driver linked to technical improvement, but it is not a must-have. We stimulate our (technical) staff to proactively seek improvements and innovation. By doing this structurally, we keep our technology landscape fit and healthy.
Kalik: We focus on hiring innovative developers. We look for people who are curious and always up to date – people who can actually suggest and later implement the new technologies. We say that our developers have to be very talented, very smart and very lazy. The lazy part will drive them to use more modern technologies, because, usually, technology gets easier to use because it’s more modern. We either automate things or use out-of-the-box libraries, so it makes the developers’ lives a lot easier.
Q: How do your teams work?
Edwin: We are organised as an agile (mainly scrum) delivery organisation, inspired by the Spotify model. The organisation model is build around three themes: Autonomy, Craftsmanship & Purpose. Which is an essential combination for a person to have meaningful and be motivated.
We have product feature teams (multifunctional teams), and each includes all (technical) disciplines, so the teams can operate autonomously. Each team has their own product scope, so they can focus on their purpose to make their products and services the best in the market. Next to their product vision, the teams also have a focus on technical innovation & craftsmanship via their technology chapters. On average, 30% of their sprint capacity is allocated to technical improvements and technical debt.
However, we also use other agile methodologies like Kanban, for other types of work.
Hatch Development Team
Q: How do product owners and technical chapter leads fit into these teams?
Edwin: Each scrum team works via the scrum principles, and therefore has a dedicated product owner. A product owner is like a mini CEO, who will drive the product strategy, vision and roadmap by prioritising what brings the most value. Their key focus is on continuously improving our products and services. They’ll interact with stakeholders in and outside of the company to fully maximise the value from each product component.
The technical chapter leads are the technical conscience of our company. They have a more strategic approach to the technical part and decide things like how we can best develop our platform, which technologies we should use, and what the best way to build that specific micro-service is. They are the most technically experienced and respected people in our teams, and together they form the technical leadership of our organisation.
Q: How do you help employees grow personally?
Edwin: It depends on the person. Our employees follow all kinds of training, we encourage them to go to meet-ups and conferences to get in touch with their peers and the latest developments in their technical areas. We also encourage our developers to experiment with new technologies and bring us cases to the table for innovation.
The typical growth path is to start as a junior or medior developer, and then grow into a senior developer, and, at some point, become a technical chapter lead and/or an architect. That’s one of the paths that developers can grow into that allows them to get better in terms of technology. Or they can choose a different path and grow more into a leadership role, becoming a scrum master, product owner, team leader, and, at some point, the CTO or CEO. It all depends on their personal preference, skillset and ambition. Finding the ‘sweet-spot’ for each person is the secret behind a high-performing team.
Q: Why should developers join Hatch?
Edwin: First of all, we have a very modern and highly advanced technology landscape. We have a team of very talented, experienced international people. We work agile and are DevOps by design. The beauty of a smaller company is that we don’t have the big corporate bureaucracy and slow decision-making processes that bigger companies often have. We are lean and mean, sharp and focused. If we think that something adds value, we discuss together with a small technical leadership team, decide quickly and just do it. This allows everybody in our teams to come up with ideas, implement them and make a real impact on the company by doing so.
For people who are passionate about technology and want to make a difference daily, this is a must-have for their work happiness, and one of the benefits of working for a smaller technology-focused organisation like Hatch.
Together with the team we make it a priority that we have a fun and healthy place to work. Various things are organised to make this happen, e.g. Friday drinks, ping pong table in the middle of the office to blow of some steam during the day, awesome company events every quarter for teambuilding, free fruit, excellent coffee, a great location in Amsterdam-South, weekly sports boot camps, running clubs, breakfast clubs, themed parties, etc.
Kalik: Like Edwin said, in bigger companies, it’s mainly the management deciding, “We are going to do this, and you have to deal with it.” But, here, if you have a suggestion on how to do something, you can suggest it, and if it brings value, you are free to implement it. And that’s what’s also attractive for our developers – they have a lot of freedom to apply new technologies (if it brings value to the company).
Q: How do you decide what brings value to the company and what doesn’t?
Kalik: ‘Value’ is when a product or a feature is usable for everyone, and they want it. And the wanting of it, that’s more the marketing aspect of it, because sometimes they don’t even know they want it. I hear a lot of feedback from CSM (Customer Success Management) because they’re most in touch with existing clients, as well as Sales who are in touch with prospects. Each client or prospect has their needs and questions, and that can also determine the value of a product or feature that we are building. If a lot of brands are asking for it, then you can see there is some market for it. But, you have to develop it so it’s usable for everyone, not just one specific client. And that’s how we determine the value – if it’s usable for other brands, whether they’re willing to pay for it, and how it can make us win more prospects.
Q: What is the biggest value our product brings to a brand?
Edwin: Our core business is to make sure brands can sell their products (in-directly) from their own website via their entire retail network. On top of that, we give detailed insights into how well products and retailers are performing, which products are being sold, for what price, via which retailer, etc. So, our added value is to allow brands to sell their products and receive advanced data insights into the performance of their product pages and retailer network. By combining both our product lines Where to Buy Online and Where to Buy Local, we empower brands to provide a seamless, omni-channel customer experience both online and locally.
Kalik: Our main objective is to enable brands to sell their products online and offline, but with the data we provide in our dashboard, we can give brands insights into how their products are performing and product lifetime. Is the product still being offered? Where is it being sold? For what price is it being sold? Is there a decrease in the sales of this product? With all this information, we can provide insights into the lifecycle for each product – the first time it went on the market, when you can see a decrease in the price and sales etc. And that’s when brands have to make a decision: “This product is end-of-life, so we have to come up with something new.” It goes even further than where people are checking it, and where they are buying it.