Behind the scenes: A look into the roles of our Backend, Frontend and Apps and Tools development teams
For some time, we’ve been wanting to give our readers, clients and the industry as a whole an insight into the background processes that represent the fundamental core of VSN; the people who work day-in, day-out to deliver innovation, refinement and constant improvement to the full VSN suite of solutions. There was only one problem: it would mean we’d have to try and get our engineers to talk.
This seemed like it might be a problem not only because our engineers are incredibly busy people, but also because – if stereotypes are to be believed –engineers in general are notoriously hard to crack open; people of few words who, when they can be encouraged to speak, will quickly disappear down a rabbit hole of techno-babble and geek speak.
Our fear was – of course – misguided. Not only is this stereotype outdated in general, but at VSN particularly the type of person attracted to the role tends to be outgoing, dynamic and sociable (which is remarkable when you consider their ability to stare at screens in dark rooms for hours writing thousands of lines of code). Sure, we were sometimes baffled by their excitement over the most intricate and subtle of coding details, and deciphering programmer ‘humour’ was, well… an education. But the truth was that it was a pleasure to talk with them about their perspectives on their position within the firm, their day-to-day duties, and the things that make them tick.
What we learnt
Ultimately what we found was – rather unsurprisingly – a genuine passion and pride for what they do and an incredibly team-orientated dynamic, focused as much on soft-skills and business processes as it was on raw coding time. What results from our investigation into the ‘guts’ of the VSN operation is an interesting balance between client-based problem solving and a culture, mindset and set of processes all designed to encourage spontaneous, internally-driven innovation.
Above all, during our conversations we have noticed how teamwork is the basis of everything that happens at the core of VSN. The sum of the constant exchange of ideas, opinions and proposals provoque that all of them individually can apply the best solution, which has always been contrasted by the whole team. The union is their strength.
This should come as no shock to us of course – we developed the structures, processes and environment that all of this takes place in. But there can be no doubt that in gathering the information needed to present you – our readers – with an insight into the core of VSN, we also gained something ourselves; in essence, a sense of validation that we’ve taken the right approach and met the goals we were hoping to achieve for our employees, our teams, our product and ultimately, our clients.
So, without further ado, here is a brief snapshot of three of our core teams within the VSN family; the MAM gang, the Apps and Tools team, and the Frontend squad.
Our Backend team
All of our development teams are based in Sant Joan d’Alacant (not that anybody’s physical location has mattered much over the past two years), whilst our other support offices are based in other parts of Spain. The San Juan offices are a vibrant, dynamic place – enriched even further by a constantly revolving set of driven and enthusiastic interns.
Our backend team works – fundamentally – with VSNExplorer; our Media Asset Management (MAM) offering, and the heart and soul of our suite of products.
We had expected – when we asked them about their day-to-day activities – that they would say: ‘in the morning: we code, in the afternoon: we code, and in the evening, just for a little extra fun: we code’.
The reality was quite different. The days they described were tightly but dynamically structured; the opening moments devoted to planning and structuring the day and the next part, crucially, devoted to assessing – through a team meeting – the challenges faced the day before and the solutions available. The mid-part of the day was the conventional implementation part (see, we knew the coding had to come in somewhere), with the mid-part of the day devoted to both ‘reset’ and ‘tune-up’ (that’s lunch and admin to us mere mortals), followed by a bit more task execution.
Crucially, the Backend team were very vocal in communicating how those tasks sprung from a collective goal, rather than being individual in nature. They phrased it thus: ‘we decide and design as a team, and then we usually execute the tasks individually, and then we check again as a team that what has been decided has been carried out as expected, thus closing the team cycle’.
When it came to questions of innovation, what was interesting was that when we asked the Backend whether their day-to-day activities tended to be internally driven or client/project driven, they weren’t keen on making a distinction. ‘Clients come to us – generally – with needs, rather than specifications. So whether the process of innovation comes from assuming/interpreting/predicting a need or being told a need, it doesn’t really matter; what matters is the way that we are able to apply our knowledge and creativity to solve problems or address needs – existing or anticipated – in a way that is elegant, efficient, intuitive and effective’.
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