The development of a company and its working student(s)

Hello everyone! Today I would like to give you a little insight of what it means to be a working student in a start-up.

To start, I will tell you something about myself and my early days at acrontum. Afterwards I will describe how the company has changed with the increasing number of employees and what challenges this has brought for myself and my colleagues. To conclude, I will summarize the impressions and experiences I have collected over the past 2 years.

About me

My name is Anton, I am 26 years old and have been working for acrontum for almost 2 years now. I started as working student and have been working part-time for half a year. At the same time, I began my distance study at the Wilhelm Büchner university in the direction of informatics, focusing on app development. The reason I started with acrontum was to apply my study learnings in practice.

The start of a little journey

When I started our team consisted of 2 developers, a designer, a consultant and myself – the working student. My job was to set up the IT-environment for new employees, plan a future-proof infrastructure and to manage the servers for it.  Since I already had professional training as an IT-Administrator, I knew how to tackle these tasks.

I also participated in some pretty cool development projects back then. One of them was to create a Christmas browser game together with our designer Per which was presented to our customers afterwards. Of course, this project had to be planned and organized from the beginning which gave me a good first impression of our companies’ processes.  Supported by an engine called “Construct 2” (that already provided most of the important functionalities such as object and collision handling)  we were able to develop the game within only 3 weeks. The finished game was a simple 2D-platformer in which a Santa Claus had to silence employees with gifts – a very good company policy in my eyes. Another project was to setup a vHost generator, that creates a backend environment for our devs in just one command. This allowed me to work with Laravel for the first time. In short, I had a lot of varied and challenging activities right from the start.

Changes incoming!

After my first projects slowly leveled off, the starting signal for the big change came a few months later. We managed to acquire a really huge project, which lead to more tasks, more employees and new challenges. While there were only five of us, every employee could simply send the tasks directly to me: there was no defined process. However, while the company grew, these processes became more and more necessary in order not to lose track of the tasks and to be able to manage them efficiently.

The server structures I implemented were also put to a test and had to be adjusted here and there - mainly because some things turned out to be not as optimal as planned.

Due to the fact that we were managing several parallel projects, we had difficulties in the beginning, because us developers were always jumping back and forth between them, which made it really hard to focus on a specific topic. The internal restructuring of our company into project teams helped us to solve this challenge. In this process, fixed resources (employees) were allocated to the individual projects and, if necessary, a jumper was designated to a shared resource. A clear distribution of roles means that everyone now has a contact person and challenges can be solved quickly as a team.

Working in these teams allowed me to learn a lot about the entire web development process. With this knowledge I was ready to take on more responsibility and was even allowed to develop a large part of the backend on my own for an important customer project.

Freedom to create smart processes, flat hierarchies and fantastic colleagues are the factors that make acrontum a great company.

Our steady but organic growth turned out to be a great blessing for me as I could build up my knowledge continuously. This knowledge built-up came hand in hand with increasing trust from my colleagues in my abilities, so that I developed into a respected member of my project teams. If I were faced with the choice to start my career in a start-up again, I would certainly make the same decision due to my time here.

24 Oct 2018

Insights English

by Toni

Acrontum Team Spotlight #6: Zeba

We are pleased to introduce to you a strong and enthusiastic personality. She is a responsible decision-maker and an adept analytical team player. Zeba!

  • First Name: Zeba.
  • Country of Origin: India.
  • What I do: I am a problem solver, researching and providing solutions for challenging new issues for Business Support Systems.
  • What I like about acrontum: The awesome team that I get to work with and the lively atmosphere here.
  • Hobbies: Travelling, Badminton, skiing, Hiking, Shopping, Dancing.

20 Sep 2018

Team English

by Katty

Tips on providing constructive feedback

Feedback has become a versatile and often used word in the work culture. It covers many situations, be it casual discussions among colleagues or yearly performance reviews with the boss. While some people have had good experiences with it, others dread it. But do we actually know how to give proper feedback? How much thought do we put into it?

Business rationale

It is no longer an industry secret that feedback can largely contribute to companies‘ performance, growth and culture. Proper feedback not only engages people but it also plays a vital role in improving processes, communication within teams and overall productivity. While there are many tips and tricks out there, we’ll look at a few pointers that often get overlooked. Hopefully, these will inspire better feedback sessions in the future.

Make it a regular affair

Feedback should be given freely and regularly instead of letting it pile up until the yearly review or saving it for the first chance at lashing out against a colleague. There is no benefit in keeping things that need to be said quiet, positives and negatives. All that improvement and learning potential goes to waste. Frequent feedback will also ease the tension in the formal feedback rounds as many things were discussed before and there is a lower surprise factor.

Be as specific as possible

Specific feedback leaves little room for ambiguity and interpretation. Feedback should contain facts, concrete examples and first hand knowledge as opposed to generlized statements based on knowledge from other people’s views. A positive comment like „your team did a good job“ is nice to hear, but lacks content. It doesn’t tell the person receiving it what exactly went well and can be continued in future projects or what should be changed. Instead, statements like „Person A did task X well“ or „Person B showed great problem solving skills when doing X“ give more insights. Feedback should not be about getting personal, pointing fingers or exaggerating, as this will only lead to the person receiving it getting defensive or fearful. This, in turn, creates a toxic environment to discuss any performance, and deceives the entire purpose of feedback.

Focus on just a couple of topics

Limiting a feedback session to just a few points and sticking to one point at a time is more likely to drive home the intended message without the risk to overwhelm the person. A long list of, albeit constructure, criticism, or jumping constantly between topics, no matter how good the arguments brought forward are, could make the person receiving the feedback feel attacked and become closed off.

Provide suggestions/ideas/solutions

What good does positive criticism do to a person who is not aware of said behavior or of ways to change it? Following the above steps when giving feedback is a great start. What makes it better is looking at solutions with the person and discussing together concrete suggestions going forward. There are many models to go by that can help the person stay on track and achieve his/her goal and lower the chances oft he same recurring feedback. The SMART model is a classic one and stands for setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This mnemonic serves as a guideline to the person giving the feedback to stay specific in his/her topics and the person receiving it to set goals that are achievable and clear. It is a win-win situation.

It’s a two way street

To empower someone to change any small or large behavior it is important to listen to him/her, establish honest and open communication that relies on mutual respect and trust. Perhaps there is a good reason why the person reacted in a certain way in that particular situation. One-way topdown feedback could make the person become closed off and even hostile, which will have a negative impact on future feedback sessions and hinder communication.

In the agile world the motto „build, measure, learn“ dictates the pace and progress of development. This concept relies on feedback and is what leads to better products and applications. Why not take inspiration from it, and engage in constructive and effective interpersonal feedback? The worst that can happen is that we experience more harmoniousrelationships in the workplace, higher productivity, and continuous learning. There is definitely worse than that.

13 Aug 2018

Insights English

by Ingrid