1 Year Developing at an SME

by Irwin Garry on 20/06/18

There is a lot of responsibility for each member in a small team. Each person has a direct impact and designated role in the success of an SME. Since graduating University a year ago, I’ve wanted to work on products that I could see make a difference to clients, but also to help and understand the work of others within the company. The broad scope of work at an SME creates a great opportunity to challenge and learn.

Owning it

The obvious and biggest aspect of development at an SME/Startup is the broad range of ownership you quickly acquire. It’s common to own a whole product or two within the first year. Feedback comes quickly. Whether it’s from the team around you or clients getting in touch, you have a very large say in the direction of a products development. It’s fantastic to push through a product, iron out issues and see customers enjoy using it.

Great power comes with great responsibility and, ultimately, the chain ends with the developer who wrote the code. You’re going to have to iron out the bugs that you created sooner rather than later. Behind the scenes things may be manic, but the customer should always feel like they have something worthwhile in front of them.

It’s very important to manage the expectations of the team around you.
Is the project delayed a few days? Is there something that just isn’t quite right that you haven’t spotted?
The first public showing of our Social Wall went right to the wire as I hadn’t previously seen how someone else would expect the project to operate and we had configuration issues. I had invested all my time in development and tests, which left little time to introduce the project properly with the team. This led us tracing issues just before guests started entering for the event.
Being straightforward with everyone else and talking through the projects current state not only removes pressure on you, but allows others to act accordingly and manage customer expectations or even give an extra hand!
Ownership doesn’t mean working alone.

 

The Dog Social Wall is a favourite in our office

 

Walking into deep waters

The larger amount of responsibility is a major draw for many developers, both experienced and graduating. There’s a general view at an SME that you should hit the ground running as joining a small team means you get less on-boarding time. Coming from a background of professional experience not far beyond a Summer internship, I saw it as an enticing yet, daunting task.

Before joining Olytico full-time, I was able to work part-time throughout college. This time was used to get a grasp on the ins and outs of the current system. Once I had started, I was comfortable to start looking into the development and planning of new projects.

Joining on a part-time basis is beneficial for meeting the team around you and getting up to speed with how things operate. Gradually introducing yourself to your new job this way is fantastic if you’re coming from University or freelance work, but even a cup of coffee with each individual team member makes a huge difference if you don’t have the time in your week for part-time work.

Communication Driven Products

Working at an SME will mean that you’re a part of a small team where everyone has their own expertise in their defined roles. The team as to be greater than the sum of its parts and communication is a major factor in achieving that.

Often, a problem will be discussed around the room, where a simple technical solution, solve it. Chirping in to an on-going conversation and giving another viewpoint can take hours off weekly tasks.

Similarly, a problem could be assigned to you and it’s up to you to design a possible solution, agree on an expected deadline and implement it. In that scenario, being in arms reach of the people with knowledge of the problem and product expertise saves a lot of time and prioritises clarity.

Knowing exactly how clients and other team members operate the tools you create is great for designing product and solutions, although there is no hiding from bad design or poor functionality when the user is sitting across from you!

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