In this series of blogs, we’re introducing you to the people who work on the development of 4Industry behind the scenes. This premiere edition is about Michiel, our Engineering Manager.
An Organization Studies graduate and self-described parttime nerd, Michiel drives a group of 20+ developers in creating 4Industry’s newest features and innovations.
In this interview, he talks about his responsibilities as engineering manager, the skills anyone with his position should master, and the things he loves most about working at 4Industry.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’m the head of 4Industry’s Engineering department, which consists of two teams of developers. On the one hand, I’m responsible for managing these two teams and removing any obstacles that may hamper the flow of their work. On the other hand, I’m responsible for setting up projects that improve our organization and the quality of what we produce.
It’s crucial that the features we create are in accordance with the requirements of the end-user. To accomplish that, I work in close collaboration with Luc, our CEO and product manager, our UI designer Louise, our technical lead Jesse, and our development teams.
Essentially, I work as a mediator between the people who come up with new ideas and the people who translate those ideas into fully-functioning features.
What are the biggest challenges you run into?
The nature of working with different customers, different operating systems, and a high frequency of releases presents us a tough challenge. To clarify, 4Industry exists on iOS, Android, and ServiceNow. Furthermore, we constantly have to maintain multiple versions of the app. Right now, we’re nearing our 10th release. When we reach that point, we’ll also be maintaining our 8th and 9th release, while we’ll already be working toward release 11.
How we deal with that? Well, we luckily have a very motivated team that’s more than capable of dealing with a tough challenge. We’re always trying to automate and simplify things as much as possible, which makes it easier to handle the overall complexity.
How do you balance your teams’ capacity with new ideas and customer requests?
Like in any creative organization, there are invariably more new ideas than there is capacity to develop them. That will always be a fact, even if we had 200 developers.
I deal with that by always looking at the proportionality between the effort it takes to develop a new feature or module and the value it adds for our customers. I’m continuously analyzing if it’s worth developing a feature at this point in time, if we can simplify a complex idea or divide up a bigger project into smaller chunks.
What about your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I love seeing abstract ideas progress into concrete reality. I’ve been at 4Industry for 3 years and have seen it develop from a small-scale solution into a multi-facetted app that’s used in factories all over the world.
Seeing that it’s become a qualitative product that’s constantly improving and expanding is great. And it’s of course always a good day when we get positive feedback from our customers and the operators on the shop floor!
What are the skills anyone in your position should be proficient in?
There are three, really. First, you have to be a good people manager. It’s important that everybody feels happy at work and is able to do their work in a satisfactory manner.
Secondly, it’s important to be a good project manager. We run quite complex and large-scale projects, so it’s crucial that everyone has oversight into what’s happening.
Lastly, I would say that you need good analytical skills. 4Industry is a complicated product and the people who work on it need to be able to analyze problems quickly and come up with creative solutions.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the fact we’ve managed to scale up from 10 to 20 developers and from one to two development teams. It was quite a challenge to set these teams up, decide which people go into what team, and so on—but it’s been working fantastically well and we’ve been producing things with the same quality as before.
What do you love most about working at 4Industry?
The great thing about 4Industry is that it’s a company with a lot of young, ambitious people who have an interest in tech and IT that extends beyond the workplace.
There’s a lot of people who love to get together outside of work—in their unpaid, spare time—to discuss technical subjects or come up with new ideas. The team, for example, regularly rents a cabin for a few days where we organize a hackathon and do nothing but program and develop possible new features for 4Industry. Again, this is spare time. You don’t see that kind of passion at every organization!
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