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POV - You’re a Software Engineer at Ophelos

You know those posts you see from friends on LinkedIn gushing about/recruiting for their job even though you know they absolutely hate it?

This is not one of those posts.

This post is a personal reflection on what makes my job as a junior engineer at Ophelos truly wonderful - and how we might keep the magic alive in the future.

Rewind 1.5 years: my tech interview for Ophelos was my second ever tech interview. I think I might have blurted out “I’m so nervous” when asked how I was feeling, and proceeded to panic ramble about everything that was making me nervous. They didn’t know that 10 minutes prior to the interview I was crying to my mum in sheer panic. To my disbelief, Francis and Paul were kind and reassuring. I have come to see that the humanity of their response that day when I was feeling vulnerable is the foundation of this amazing company.

Fast forward 1.5 years: I love my job and actually look forward to work, something I'm particularly grateful for since that hasn't always been the case. My experience working in the Engineering team at Ophelos is drastically different to all my previous roles. Here are a few reasons why:

  • There's no blame culture at Ophelos - we are a team, and we are ride or die.

  • My view matters and my opinions are valid - regardless of how senior I am.

  • My personal development drive has increased without it feeling like a chore.

  • I’m learning how to be a good engineer from the best of the best.

  • I’ve found mentors to help me on my way - in engineering, life, business & friendship.

  • My work matters - what I do has a direct impact on improving someone's life. Be it a vulnerable customer whose experience with debt we make easier, or a customer success teammate whose admin can help automate to allow them to do what they do best - help people.

  • I’m able to be my best self. I have time, support and encouragement to do work that I am always proud of. Some of the time - since I am human - this isn’t possible, which is totally fine! I’ve had enough dips in self confidence to know that this too shall pass.

  • I trust people to take my feelings into account - it’s an easy trap to fall into to think that engineering teams and engineers are just ‘direct and to the point’. This is the attitude that can exclude non-white-straight-able-bodied-men from an amazing, fulfilling career in software.

All of this is possible because of the environment I work in and the people I work with. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling grateful for this but also reflecting on what it is that makes Ophelos special.

I’ve seen a lot of articles along the lines of “here’s what makes our company culture so great bla bla bla”- again, this is not one of those posts. Having worked in a company with an amazing culture I realise that you can’t just do x y z and expect people to feel valued, feel like they belong and work together harmoniously.

What I’ve realised is that what I used to think of as positive culture actions are really mostly symptoms of a good company culture - you can’t fake it till you make it.

For this reason, I want to highlight some manifestations of a great company culture and some direct actions which reinforce the magic that exists deep below the surface. Once we acknowledge what we have, we can work hard to nurture it and help it grow.

Manifestations of a great culture...

💙 Respect

When speaking about this topic with Mel, a member of the engineering team, we decided that what makes us feel so at home in the engineering team (and Ophelos) is respect.

I think it's important here to clarify again that I don’t mean a primary-school-like rule of “we respect each other” that is mostly overlooked. I mean a true feeling of respect and belonging that runs deep.

I really believe that at Ophelos, people respect me as a person and they respect my work. This means that when I make mistakes, or I don’t know something or just do a sub-par job because I’m still learning how to engineer, I trust that this isn’t a reflection on me as a person, or a mark against my intelligence. Likewise, no feature or bug fix is too trivial - it all matters.

When you think about it, this is incredibly powerful. It means that I’m able to take risks without fear of failing or disappointing. I get to experiment, research, play and build things that may not work out and it means that I am always doing my absolute best work. Work that I’m really proud of and work that keeps getting better.

Ways we encourage respect: Saying thank you, checking in without an agenda, encouraging people to spend time on something that might not work out, helping out when something goes wrong, polite PR comments & bug reports.

Example: I am always given a direct opportunity to speak in a meeting. It's such a simple action, but always makes me feel like my voice matters.

🥱 Time to rest

Another way this respect manifests itself is in allowing me time to rest. It’s a respect for my health and wellbeing. In my job I get to play, to learn, but I also get to rest - because I am a human and I don’t live to work.

I believe working and not working should exist in a harmony - not doing either for the other. I think this is what happens when you find your passion and don’t let it consume you - but also when the people you work with respect your work-life boundaries. This also happens when we acknowledge that we do our best work when we are well-rested, especially with creative work like coding.

Since joining Ophelos, I have found my balance. I work mindfully and am able to rest when I need it. This has made me realise that when I deviate from this baseline - my work gets sloppy! I write buggy code which I’m not proud of, and make more work for my teammates and my future self. This journey to balance has made me completely different (and much better) engineer.

Manifestation: A well rested and healthy engineering team.

Example: We don’t glamourise overworking. Thank you for pushing your PR at 1am last night, but please know you shouldn’t be working then. As our teammate Francis says - “When someone’s burnt out you’re already too late”.

🤝 Trust

Respect definitely breeds trust. When the foundation of a team is rooted in respect, trust follows. I think this is a fundamental manifestation of a great team culture.

I trust everyone in this company to not let me down. I trust them all to respect my feelings and respect my work.

I’ve also learnt to trust myself and the value I bring. Paul said that “I want everyone to trust in the value they bring to the company to be able to take an afternoon to anything that they want to do”. This resonated so much with me. I realised that for the first time in my life, I trust my judgement and trust that I’m doing a good job. Similarly, I trust every single person I work with to (kindly) tell me if this is not the case. With this, comes a huge amount of freedom - this means we can confidently assert our work-life boundaries (see time to rest ^) while personally improving and doing great collaborative work.

They say a true team is greater than the sum of its parts - and this is the case with Ophelos. We trust each other, learn from one another and keep getting better and better.

Manifestation: people take the company up on their flexible working policy - this means no dragging yourself out of bed for 8am on the dot and no waiting to 6pm to clock off for the sake of it.

Example: asserting truly flexible working. This means that people start when they want, work until their work is finished and do whatever they need to do in between.

I have worked at Ophelos for 1.5 years now. When I joined, I thought “surely this is too good to be true”. Let me tell you - it’s not. I count my blessings that I get to work here. Ophelos is truly an incredible company, and I will (and do) tell anyone who will listen.

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