Attract and Keep Developers — This Luxembourg Firm May Surprise You!

7 min read
May 6, 2021 2:45:00 PM

Attract and Keep Developers — This Luxembourg Firm May Surprise You!

For the past few years, organizations have begun realizing how crucial it is to look after their employees and offer them a healthy workplace. No doubt, the concept of employer brand is on everyone’s lips! If taking care of your employer brand is essential for all structures, this is even truer in the development world. The sector is experiencing unprecedented growth, and recruiting and retaining the best are constant chores.

Far from the clichés of foozball and fruit baskets, some companies are GENUINELY daring and are transforming the world of work in depth. What’s on their agenda: trust and benevolence, but without chucking performance out the window.

We met with Vincent Eggen, Managing Director of Pictet Technologies, one of those UFO companies that has decided to focus on one of the values that are essential to human development: psychological security. Everyone has heard of Maslow’s pyramid, which lists individuals’ different needs in order to feel happy. The need for security is on the second tier, right above basic physiological needs. Today, Pictet Technologies has deployed numerous levers to offer its teams the psychological security to which we all aspire. Your dream is their reality! Hello, Vincent. Thank you very much for your time today! Let’s start with a quick recap of Pictet Technologies’ activities. Can you tell us more?

Vincent Eggen: My pleasure! I’m delighted to talk with you today and tell you about our corporate culture, which we strive to keep strong and engaging. Founded in 2016, Pictet Technologies is a branch of Pictet Group, a Swiss multinational private bank with a heritage of over 200 years. Pictet Technologies Luxembourg (PTL) was born from the ambition to create a technology startup that — by attracting promising young developers — would serve the IT needs of the primary entity, the banking group. If PTL is an integral part of the Group, the management deployed internally is not quite the same. In fact, we’re far from the “banking” culture that can sometimes be so structured. All right, let’s go right to the heart of the matter! Can you tell us more about the levers you have put in place internally for your employees?

Vincent: The idea of PTL is to free the codes. When I was recruited for the creation of the branch, the group gave me its full confidence and offered me a lot of freedom. It was an opportunity that I quickly seized upon! The methods and ideas we’re talking about today are not new, but in our company, they’re applied and taken very seriously.

To begin with, we want employees to feel at home: our offices are not really offices. Everyone is free to sit wherever they want in an open space, whether it’s sitting next to their colleagues or going off on one’s own for a bit. We have spaces with sofas, meditation rooms, game rooms, and more. Everyone can organize their time as they wish, since we promote the values of trust, freedom, and balance. Currently, a lot of companies also offer rest rooms, but how many of them look down on employees who practice meditation? I think you can see where I’m going with this: there is a huge gap between what a company can offer, and the way employees who want to take advantage of these levers are looked at and judged. And that’s not for the employees to change, but for the company to change. This is where the concept of psychological safety comes into its own. Can you tell us more about your managerial culture?

Vincent: There is no management in the classical sense of the term at PTL. We don’t operate as a hierarchy of individuals, but rather as a hierarchy of mutually co-dependent groups. This means that everyone is free to move forward as he or she wishes, at his or her own pace, as long as the commitments and ultimate deadlines are respected. The individual is empowered, with total freedom in his or her organization. That said, we also expect our employees to demonstrate discipline, efficiency, and performance! We want to instill this fulfillment in all our teams as we challenge them each day. The ultimate goal is to help them develop — professionally and personally — again and again.

For example, vacations are not requested from “higher ups,” but simply planned with the rest of the team. We don’t wait a year to review the past year with each employee, either. Why wait all that time? With us, feedback is ongoing. Everyone can send in their opinion, receive suggestions for improvement, and share their current mood with the rest of the team. This is the idea of the mentor — the exact opposite of the classic manager. Personally, I try to inspire my teams by offering them avenues for personal development and giving them direction. I pull upwards, and I never push!

The same applies to the promotion of employees: it is done in the form of co-optation. It is the peers who propose who will be promoted or increased within their teams, and not the manager. This is where the beauty of social recognition comes in, as it is a powerful lever for motivation and commitment. How do you apply this managerial culture — especially when onboarding senior developers who are just discovering this new way of working?

Vincent: Honestly, some employees just don’t believe in it at first, but then they quickly realize that the reality/ground talk is very consistent. Senior developers learn to work in a different way. But beware, not every developer is made to work at PTL! That’s why we make a point of selecting the right profiles during the hiring phase. Our strong and permanent feedback culture pushes us to question ourselves regularly. For some, this can be challenging.

For novice developers just starting their career, the work on themselves is slightly different. As an anecdote, one of our more experienced developers told a new hire right on his first day that he had made the wrong choice in starting out at PTL because it would be difficult later on to move anywhere else without missing the great environment we offer. It’s true that our most experienced developers are the best witnesses to the intrinsic differences between what they experience here and their past experience. What is the developer’s job for you?

Vincent: The heart of developers’ work lies in their ability to solve problems. That’s the beauty of the field: a developer never solves the same problem twice. They’re constantly challenged by different problems requiring an unprecedented capacity for adaptation and creativity. They must dare, take risks, and innovate. Can you go back in detail to your recruitment process, which you mentioned earlier?

Vincent: The candidates already start with a coding test, created by our teams, in order to check their level and test their “hard skills.” The test lasts two hours tops — relatively short compared to what is required — and allows us to better understand the choices made under pressure and the acquired reflexes. Because each coding project is unique, it’s very important for us to understand how candidates work — to see if they are able to operate independently and efficiently, even under stress, because afterwards, they’ll be leading projects and contributing fully to their team’s decision-making.

Then, we move on to the exchange-based part of the recruitment process. Candidates then meet with other developers from the team — our experts — to discuss the quality of the code. This is where the soft skills come to the forefront: the ability to question oneself, explain one’s choices, communicate one’s feelings effectively, list the challenges met, but also to highlight the work that was accomplished. Finally, I meet up with the candidate and HR director for a heart-to-heart discussion. Clearly, what we’re looking for is a passionate developer who can talk to us about technology for hours, starry-eyed, with overflowing motivation. Do you recruit junior developers?

Vincent: To be honest, at present, we lack high-potential juniors. Junior developers are essential for teams: their presence makes other partners question themselves. They’re more up to date on the latest technologies and trends of the moment. Their impact is extremely positive. Of course, the first three months can be tough, since there’s a training phase, but at PTL, we like our teams to be comprised of at least 20% junior profiles. So, to all the junior developers reading this article, don’t wait to apply! For those who are curious, we program mainly in Java. We have 109 employees, including 99 developers. What advice might you have for managers who work with developers?

Vincent: One book seems like essential reading: The Fearless Organization, by Amy C. Edmondson, offers a way to understand how an organization’s performance is intimately linked to its employees’ degree of psychological security. Keep in mind that management by example drives all else. The person at the reins of the structure must instill energy, offer daily insight, and show commitment. The rest will fall into place naturally.

Remember, we’re wading through an unparalleled market and employment crisis, and developers have a clear way out. However, the current systems — still in full construction — are also fragile and can evolve quickly. We’re playing the sorcerer’s apprentice, but the Internet, social networks, artificial intelligence, and so on can very quickly tip the scales and shift the foundations that we thought were so solid. I’m convinced that younger developers now entering the market will make a difference and change the employer/employee relationship. They represent the companies of tomorrow. We are on the verge of a profound paradigm shift.



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