When you think of the best teams you’ve worked on as a developer, it’s more than likely that those teams were small. This is one of the core philosophies that Sean Doran, Senior Vice President of Delivery at Guestlogix espouses. Rather than scaling smaller teams into behemoth teams, he believes that to be more effective, smaller teams need to be empowered and have greater ownership over their project. In today’s tech industry, being agile is assumed. But how this is done can make a huge difference.
Sean Doran has spent his career as a business-focused startup and technology executive with a track record of successfully growing startups and mid-sized technology companies. He brings to Guestlogix an enormous wealth of experience and acclaim from companies like Wave and EventMobi. At Wave Financial, in particular, Sean was instrumental in building and leading high-performing, cross-functional teams that enabled Wave to achieve its full growth potential. At Guestlogix, Sean has developed an innovative approach to delivery that is helping to guide our teams through accelerated timelines using a continuous release, iterative process. Ultimately, enabling Guestlogix to produce a higher quality of shipped product and providing our team with a scalable blueprint for delivery moving forward.
Q: What are the advantages to the team structure here at Guestlogix?
Sean: I’m a big believer that the most effective software delivery teams are small, poly-skilled teams. The ideal way to organize a team is where the product manager, the dev manager, and the product designer are kind of tied at the hip. These three disciplines need to come together and have each other’s back. A dev manager can go to the product manager and say, “this was much harder to build than we thought. We’re not going to deliver what we thought we were going to deliver.” And the product manager’s response is, “no worries. We can slim out the functionality, make it a little bit more iterative and do this as a first release and we’ll catch up on the other stuff later.” Conversely from a product manager’s perspective, they can say, “oh I totally forgot about this use case, and now the thing is much larger. The dev manager says, “no problem. We can take on a little technical debt here, we can slim out that feature, and we can get something out on time for that iteration.” At Guestlogix, the product manager, dev manager, and product designer are all equals, with a great sense of collaboration and ownership over the product. In the end we have a perfect balance between technology, product, and design and this goes from the top of the business all the way down. Not everyone does it this way.
Q: What makes Guestlogix a unique environment for developers?
Sean: We have a strong commitment to agile and continuous delivery throughout the whole company, which works really well for small, poly-skilled teams. One of the big things here is that you don’t have to work with legacy code. We’re focusing on all new stuff, which allowed us to do continuous delivery, cloud native, automated testing from the start. All the practices that modern software delivery organizations need to do are baked in from the beginning here at the company as a whole. I think many of our developers want to come here because they get to work alongside of other really smart devs. Developers have agency and the ability to have their voice be heard. Technology isn’t just something people do off in the corner, it’s something that’s embedded within the whole organization. Sometimes, developers can feel like they’re simply order takers, do whatever the business demands of them without input or say. But that’s not how we work here.
Q: What does a developer need to do to be successful here?
Sean: One of the key strengths I think that our team members possess is that they are polyglot developers capable of working in a quick moving, agile environment, one that emphasizes testing, continuous delivery, small teams, etc. Also that they have a proven ability to adopt new, and learn new technologies. When it comes to .NET or Java, for example, there might be a tendency to kind of go ‘all in’ on those stacks, and it’s great if you have that expertise, but we don’t exclusively work in any one language here. We do things that are fit for purpose and use the right tool for the job. So a developer that is keen to learn new things is extremely valuable, and frankly, they’re essential for keeping our projects moving forward, regardless of what changes may come along.
Q: How does our delivery approach impact on our product?
Sean: Release to production is a non-event. It’s an easy, simple thing. All of the code has been tested. All of the code has been written. Whenever we feel like as a whole we’re ready, we just flip a switch and it’s on. That’s what we’re aiming for from a delivery perspective. We don’t even think about releases because we’re constantly building things that are production ready. Because of our collaborative approach between development and operations, we work together to identify and fix bugs extremely quickly. We reduce the chances of bugs in the software. And we enable iterative delivery to test what we’re doing and make sure it meets users’ needs and we speed delivery along the way. We try to automate processes as much as possible, too. Automation helps to reduce errors, speed delivery, and makes things generally move better.
Q: What are the most exciting things coming down the pipeline
Sean: I think it’s the ability to achieve “true personalization.” Everyone says “right product, right customer, right time.” And people have been saying it for 20 years and have no concept of how to do it. As airlines have unbundled the thing they sell into constituent pieces, they are just randomly throwing products at people. They don’t have any sense of who wants what or why. If you’re not a tall person, having more legroom might not be that important to you. For others, it might be the most important thing of all. What each passenger is passionate about can vary from trip to trip. True personalization that is honest, above the board, respectful of people’s privacy and the rights that they have - not just spamming them with offers - will give passengers more options and more control over their travel experience.
From a data perspective, it’s really exciting to develop a database with more breadth, which will provide more insight into the unique interests and preferences of each traveler. From the kind of meal they prefer on the plane, to the type of accommodation or transportation service that they prefer. There will be some really interesting correlations of data across the breadth of what we need to do that will allow our platform to be able to personalize more effectively.
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