Thursday, December 26, 2013

My best decision of 2013

I started working at 3CInteractive (3Ci) as of March 29th, this is perhaps the best place that I’ve ever worked at.  This is a brief post of why this was my best decision of the year.  I didn’t want to write this post until the honeymoon period was over (usually after 4 months).  There were three factors that helped me make the decision (and why I continue loving) to work at 3Ci: 
  • Culture: I wanted to work for a company who looked at IT as an innovation engine rather than a cost center.
  • Team: I wanted to work with awesome engineers (very motivated, smart, and with a lot of experience).  Also, I wanted to be the dumbestperson in the room.
  • Tackle big harry audacious goals: To be part of a company whose products revolve around big problems that would (without a doubt) have an impact to the bottom line.

I was introduced to 3Ci in 2007 when I was trying to sell a startup that I was working for by the name of Up-Mobile.  The startup wasn’t doing well in the US market, so I was handed the task of selling our customer based to another company.  During that time, I met with 3Ci’s senior management and some of their architects.  Their company was doing some similar things as our startup, unlike us though, they were able to evolve quick and found a potential market with top tier companies and a compelling product.  Many of 3Ci programmers were very involved in open source projects.  For good or bad, I was attached to Up-Mobile and I wasn’t ready to make a move.  Nevertheless, 3Ci left a great impression.  Later down the line, I became the organizer of the Miami Java User Group (MJUG) and Miami JVM Meetup.  3Ci was more than helpful to provide a venue, food, and beverage with no strings attached.  There was a big turnaround of 3Ci employees when I did presentations.  It turned out that they also do a lot of presentations on things that they are doing.  Also, they are committed to open source projects while keeping away from the golden hammer anti pattern - if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  They had the motto of using the best tool for the problem.


When a lot of people think about the culture of a company, they think about the things that they can see and touch.  When you enter 3Ci, you’ll see the graffiti on the walls, the cool paintings, the guitars, motorcycles, and the free food.  But this is a byproduct of culture.  At 3Ci we have three rules that are unbendable:
  • Build a sustainable company in the emerging market for enterprise mobile services
  • Create a great culture that focuses on the personal and professional development of our team
  • Do important work for quality clients

I came from a couple of small companies or startups (with less than 20 people).  When you work for a small company, you not only know everyone’s name, but you know what everyone is doing and why.  Although 3Ci has more than 100 people, and many of them are distributed, everyone on the team understands what the goals are because of these three rules.  The culture is what promotes the exceptional people working there, the proactive and ownership of tasks, breed result-focused, and the team.  3Ci's culture have created a set of values based on this culture:

We are not in the business for the business alone but for a higher purpose - to make lives better, to solve important problems, and to enjoy what we do. Our Data Scientist, Oliver, once said, “Don’t live a life to do a great work.  Live a great life, and then the great work will follow”.

3Ci strives to be one of the best places you will ever work.
Time and time again, you see that we become either the best place in South Florida to work or America’s most promising company.

We’re in it together
There is a sense of, “let me know if I can help” within 3Ci.  It’s also okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes.  The head of our data team, Gabe, once said to me, “Do not do things when you are frustrated or under pressure.  Rather do them when you're calm.  You don’t want to make things worse by doing yet another mistake”.  He is also the first one that holds my feet to the fire when something goes wrong.  The same goes with Alex, my boss and head of the Software Engineering.  It’s not a “don’t let it happen again”.  It’s more like, “We really messed up.  Why did it happen? What’s the root-cause of the problem.  Can we make sure that this doesn’t happen again through some process? Can we automate this issue?"

We’re champions of change
We need to change quickly and adapt.  Anyone with some experience knows this, but the one that are constantly thinking are those entrepreneurs that work at startups.  I learned early on my career that the life a technology company is composed of three: you either go big, stay small, or be eaten.  This was mentioned by Mike FitzGibbon (Fitz), president and cofounder, at the company's "All Hands Call", we need to be customer-centric and be able to quickly and effectively execute goals.


One of the main engineers at 3Ci during 2007 was Alejandro (Alex), and I met him on an open source project (Kannel).  I checked some of his code, and I really like what he was doing.  But the best things about him was his curiosity.  He was a system administrator at 3Ci, yet he was learning Java at that time and committing to Kannel.  I was also a good friend with the one of the main committers and founder of Kannel, Stipe Tolj.  Stipe was also working for 3Ci as a consultant and knew Alex personally.  He told me about some of the things that the company was doing, and I was intrigued to say the least.  After a couple of e-mails, Alex and I pretty much hit it off.  At that time he was working in Europe, then he was promoted and moved to 3Ci (Boca Raton, FL).  The moment that I found out, I immediately sent him my resume.  During my interview, I met a couple of guys: Mauricio and Carlos (Carlitos).  Two of their best architects.  This is another way of knowing how good the company, they had a good technical interview process.  The interview was hard but I did well, so I was hired.  I’ve never looked back.  I highly enjoy it, and it’s the reason of why I make the 1.5 hour commute on Tuesday and Thursday from Kendall to Boca Raton.

One of my favorite quotes is "Hire the most amazing people you can. Communicate goals.  Turn them loose.  Profit."  - Sam Schillance, Box.  One of my rules of working at a job is to be surrounded by great engineers, then see how much they complain about my code.  This is by far why I love this company.  Again, It’s not the graffiti, nor the free food (which is delicious), nor the fact that I work remotely from Miami.  It’s the engineers that I work with.  When I started, I met a few great engineers.  People from my team are former Googlers, people who worked at Bloomberg, current Apache committers, and entrepreneurs.  Just a great set of interesting people who love to code and yet find a way to find a life after work - teachers, band players, great parents, rock climbers, etc.  For the past nine months, I’ve learn more than any other company in my professional career, both personally and technically.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very competitive company!  The bar is raised high the moment you are hired, and the expectations are tremendous, but the safety net of the team is why I have a smile on my face every time I come to work.  For example, there are five people that I always turn to in case I have any questions: Gabe, Alex, Tyler, Oliver, and Rob.  In my view, these guys composed the core of the technology of 3Ci.  They have a tons of experience, are highly innovated, smart, charismatic, and a great set of guys.  Together, I call them my G.A.T.O.R team and it’s such a pleasure working with them.

My final interview was with one of the founders and COO, Mark Smith.  One of his questions was, “What do you want to do in the future?”.  I told him that I wanted to eventually start my own company, learn Machine Learning,  and keep running MJUG and Miami JVM Meetup.  He said, “Awesome, we’ll help you”.  Done!  After that, I was asking “Where do I sign?"  Mark and Alex are by far the best leaders that I ever had.  They know when to help the team, and when to get out of their way.  If you worked for more than 10 years, then you’ll know that it’s hard to find a good company, even harder to find a good leader that could be a mentor.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Another huge incentive for me was to be able to tackle what James Collins calls, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”.  Although I can’t say anything about the goals for the company, trust me, they are as big as they are interesting.  This is what motivates me.  The fact that I work with an awesome team tackling some really big problems, help set the path of pushing the envelop as much as we can.  Because of this, we look at other technologies and think outside the norm.  I believe that there is a challenge-to-great-developers matrix
.  In my experience, great engineers gravitate to hard challenges.  This is where I want to be.  I don’t want to work on another CRUD application (been there, done that, got the t-shirt!)  I believe that the best combination of retention of great engineers is to have great challenges for them to solve, have a great culture, and provide the best atmosphere for them.

I’ve always want to work for a company like 3Ci and I’m glad to be part of it.  It’s hard to find companies such as these in South Florida.  3Ci is committed to hire the best.  They are also very much focused on the culture.  The best way that I can describe its culture is using this quote, “When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance" - Jim Collins, Good to Great.  I once read that you should choose a profession that you enjoy and that serves as many people as possible.  Focusing on serving others - not on building wealth.  Serve well and money will follow.  I’m glad that this year I was able to scratch that one from my “to-do” list.