5 years and I’m still in the same company. Why?
Since I was a small kid, every time that my grandfather saw me, he greeted me not with an “Olá João! How is my favourite grandson doing?”, but instead we would make a genuinely happy but toothless smile, and he would tell me a riddle. To be honest, his “riddle mental database” wasn’t very dense, so it wasn’t hard to know them all by heart, and I mean, every single letter, in every single word, in every single sentence and of course the corresponding answer.
So I was wondering, what if instead of some beautiful, meaningful and inspiring introduction to the subject I am writing about in this article, I would start with a riddle? You are probably thinking that this is a weird idea, but well, I am doing it anyway… Here it goes:
“I am free yet priceless, you can’t own me, but you can use me, you can’t keep me, but you can spend me. Once you lost me you can never have me back. What am I?”
You are free to stop for some time and try to guess.
If you thought the answer is “a none HBO version of Game of Thrones’s last season” you are wrong because the right answer is: Time. (Just assume you didn’t notice that the answer was just 2 sentences above.)
By being something so priceless, time is a critical subject in our lives, the way we spend it, with the right people, doing something we like. One thing is for sure, it also flies, even more after your twenties my friends — trust me.
Talking about Time and the way it “flies”, it’s been 5 years for me working in the same company — Xpand IT and it feels that was yesterday that this experience started. For people of the same age as our parents, this would be some meaningless and not exciting information, for others, it might raise some eyebrows. Those are the same others that come out from universities knowing that jobs are not for life, that precarious work is right around the corner, and opportunities come and go as fast as a quick boomerang.
All this is even truer, especially in tech companies. Not just in start-ups or mid-sized ones, but also, so it seems, in the “big kids playground”, where, for example, in Google, Netflix, Tesla, Facebook or Salesforce, a company employee stays on average between 2 to 3 years, according to 2017 available data.
But the topic here today is not to talk about the reasons why this happens and why especially tech companies struggle to retain talent, but instead to do quite an egocentric exercise and talk about why after 5 years, I am still working at Xpand IT.
And since we are talking about 5 years, I will give you 5 reasons.
But let’s just make here a huge disclaimer: These are all reasons which are quite personal and with zero scientific back-up. What is really cool and awesome to me, might be quite lame to you. Also, I confirm that, since I most likely will say good things about my company, this is not part of my strategy to ask for a raise at the end of the year. 🙂
With this said and if you are still with me, let’s move on.
1 – People
It is not something extraordinary to say that companies are entities made by people. And whether you like it or not, you are most likely representing your company on a daily basis, especially if you are interacting with customers, partners, candidates, suppliers, or just having a chat with a random person on your commute to or from work, using our Xpand IT backpack for example.
That is exactly my point. One of my reasons to stay is precisely the PEOPLE.
Since the first interview that I felt really comfortable and welcome by everybody. One good example is that never in my life, I was authorized to address my boss or company’s upper management as mates, this happens here. Yeah, I am old school.
I believe that when you are looking for a new job, especially for technical profiles (where opportunities multiply like blisters on a teenager’s face), with the money part solved and among other decision factors, choose the opportunity where you have the feeling that you most likely will learn something from. Try also to understand if your future boss will be the guy that will have what it takes to inspire you.
Back to my first interview, I have no problem admitting that I didn’t have that much to offer different from thousands of other candidates. I tried really hard to get this opportunity, even more, when I understood with what kind of people and for what type of company I would be working with.
My bosses at that time believed in me and gave me the space to grow, my colleagues the motivation and positive mood we all need on a daily. We were and are a great team.
After several years it was my turn to be on the other side and give others the opportunity to grow with me, I was able to build our own team from scratch and see their progression, and man… I am terrible at several things, but I am good, or was just lucky, in choosing the right people at the right time.
More than the service it provides or the excellent products it sells, my company is the amazing people working there, and not just in my team. 🙂
2 – Work conditions
Well, I must say that I am not an “office spoiled brat” and during my life, I have had many different work conditions, some of them I cannot call it bad, I call them “special”.
When I was young, I saw myself more like a social worker, then working for 9 to 6 in an office for some random company. Quite a change, I must say.
As an example, I have lived and worked in a remote African village for some time and, at work, every time I needed to use the bathroom, I had to punch the toilet flush (if you can call it that), and run away quickly so that the half a dozen hornets, that decided to do their nest there, could fly somewhere else and let me do “number two” with my bottom part safe and sound.
Another good example was when I was working again in a remote village (I have a “thing” for remote places I know) in Estonia I had to walk 2 kilometers from work to home sometimes with -20ºC outside. Oh, I have so many stories… maybe for another time.
I admit that I don’t miss particularly these examples (even though some of these experiences are part of what I am today), I am delighted that at the office it feels like home and that I have all the conditions I need to do in peace what I was hired for.
It is really great to see the improvements over the years in working conditions. Offices and working materials should not be your “prison”, but instead, they should give you the possibility to improve your skills, creativity, and work. I must say that have that at Xpand IT, well except the creativity part and… the skills. To have some quiet colleagues helps too, this or some Noise Canceling headphones.
3 – Work metrics and results
Almost as important as doing your work, you need to have clear objectives and the ability to measure and evaluate them. In our company, and especially at our team, we don’t assess our work by the number of hours you are at the office sitting quietly in front of your computer. Still, instead, the number of tasks you can successfully finish and that will ultimately lead to conclude your overall goals.
The interesting thing is that even if we are a business team, we try hard to be as agile as possible.
Every two weeks we have a sprint meeting, where we review the past sprint and the team leaders decide what tasks to conclude in the upcoming spring and try really hard to measure and predict the effort in each task.
Even though some of those tasks can sometimes be quite “subjective” and dependent on a third party, this way we have a clear understanding over the days how the kanban board looks like, we all have clear visibility on work progression. Since we are the business team of Xpand IT apps for Jira, of course, we use Jira for our sprint planning.
Besides this, we have clear metrics in results such as sales, product trials, competitive analysis, digital marketing campaigns and website performance, and many others…
Why do I consider this so important and a reason to stay? Because I am able to track my work clearly, see on a daily basis our evolution and freedom to improve. It’s like receiving feedback timely and without anyone screaming at your ears in which areas you need to improve.
4 – Professional Personal Growth
Well, it’s really cool to see my evolution in the last 5 years. It’s safe to say that I am a better professional and person now than I was 5 years ago, that I have learned a lot and try hard every day to learn with others.
5 years ago I never dreamed that one day I would be in the same meeting with engineers and test teams from Lufthansa, BMW or Adidas. That I would have monthly meetings with guys from Tesla and visit their office in Palo Alto twice!
That I would be able to have talks in front of 200 people about our products and feel in control every single moment. That I would travel and fly in 3 years more than I did in my entire life and learned the good and the bad of being away from home so many days in a month.
It’s by having the feeling that these experiences and this professional and personal growth will still happen, that I still have the feeling that I am in the right place for that.
5 – Future
We all sometimes in our lives come across the question “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”.
Having the feeling that your workplace is stable enough and that you are progressing professionally and financially, it’s quite helpful to make predictions that might answer that question. The feeling of stability enables you to plan ahead. Something that in my early twenties was definitely not one of my highest priorities.
It’s a fact that being part of a successful company with constant growth year by year, working directly with very successful products, with excellent results every month, are in fact, some motivating factors. It’s highly motivating when you see results in what you do. When you see the technical team working very hard in order for us to match customers’ expectations and achieve our product goals, you feel grateful to be part of this team.
If you are working where you feel fulfilled in all aspects:
- You love what you do and feel the support of your peers;
- At the same time, it is obvious to you that there are still a lot of areas where you can grow and evolve
- Then seeing yourself in the same company (not necessarily in the same job) for the next 5 years it’s not for sure a complete mirage.
Every year in my company, I have the feeling that there is a future for me here, and as I mentioned before, that I can plan my personal life according to this, counting on personal and financial stability to achieve other objectives or even other dreams in my life.
With this being said, it’s already very obvious for me that I wouldn’t be very comfortable in changing work every one or two years. But it is okay and entirely understandable that you don’t feel the same way.
With this all said, please don’t get me wrong in an aspect. Addressing the elephant in the room, the answer is: Yes, money is indeed important. If I didn’t feel that I was getting the right compensation at the end of the month for the work that I was doing, then most likely I wouldn’t be writing this.
But the way I see is that an awesome salary should always be a reason to make you move and never the only reason to make you stay in a company. Just do the math and calculate the number of hours you spend working. If you are there just because of the money you bring home, then my friend, your life will be very incomplete, to say the least.
Of course, in over 5 years, not everything was sunshine and margaritas under the palm tree, there have been some bad moments. Moments that I felt that I should move forward somewhere else. There will be more of these moments in the next five years, but if these five reasons are still there to support me, then I might be still an Xpander for a while. Well, at least in what depends exclusively on me.