That was my title at my previous job, one that I would join almost exactly a year ago. It was, I must admit, an exciting time for me as I had recently returned from studying in the UK to my native Quito and would be working in the IT field for the first time. I was hired by a small firm after interviewing with its general director and financial director, all in one sitting, and after completing a timed one-hour programming exercise. Hearing the general director say “see you on Monday, then” was satisfying to say the least.
Over the next three months, however, my excitement wore out progressively. I was the only person from the IT department (out of two, the other being my supervisor) on site. Any technical trouble was quickly handed to my supervisor who would quietly fix it. I had little time with the firm’s codebase and my days as a Systems Analyst would be filled with doing basic data entry. Towards the end, even waking up to go to work was a struggle. The camel’s back broke when I had to justify why we had to incorporate basic security measures into the code. My supervisor did not bother at first, only to talk with our clients about a paid security upgrade, some days later. I left the company soon after.
I was disheartened. Even though my degree said 'Systems Administration', were these the kind of experiences I was going to encounter in my chosen field? For a few weeks, I considered moving back to the United States where I had lived for thirteen years. As a last ditch effort, I decided to update my LinkedIn profile. It was then that I saw the advertisement for Thoughtworks. I had heard of Thoughtworks during high school in the US and paid no attention then, thinking it was an opening in the United States. This time, I realized this ad was in Spanish and it was for a position in Thoughtworks Quito. I applied immediately.
The first time I stepped into the Thoughtworks Quito offices was on invitation for a ComparTI stage on Enigmail. The talk was very technical and, honestly, I was lost at times. I had barely started the application process and I was feeling technically inadequate, but I knew I wanted to work there. The open work spaces alone were worth it. There’s a vitality in the walls that is very contagious, as is the Thoughtworkers’ passion for what they do.
“We really believe we can make the world a better place through technology”. At first I thought this was a marketing strategy; but to be able to see it incorporated into the hiring process is such a refreshing change. The various interviews help to see if a candidate clicks. Starting from understanding what keeps them informed in the field of technology, to what drives them in their life and what social justice issues they think could be bettered through their work as consultants, it analyzes them completely. Hearing the phrase “See you on Monday” this time around was so much more satisfying.
I was incredibly lucky to be selected to attend Thoughtworks University as part of the 45th batch of graduates. On my first day as a Thoughtworker, I was informed that I had a little over a month to complete the necessary curriculum to attend Thoughtworks University. Being new to TDD and Agile practices as a whole, the experience was a tough, but rewarding one.
It all still seems like a dream. Getting on that plane and arriving countless hours later at Pune, I was very much back in school. Suddenly surrounded by many people I did not know, in a place I had never been to before and learning things I was barely aware of. The work load was demanding, work days seemed endless, and there were many non-technical matters that we were to learn to become the consultants we wanted and needed to be. All within six weeks time.
And it was an absolute blast.
I found that your team, named Elemento in my case, quickly becomes a second family. With every new concept you’re taught, you grow and help others grow. You find skills you didn’t know you had, and are reminded of the skills that you need to improve on. The trials you’re put through build character and traits that will, I now know, become necessary to make you an efficient consultant. It was a truly wonderful experience that gave me a taste of what was to come.
If there is one takeaway from Thoughtworks University, it is the constant opportunity you get for personal and professional growth. The amount of talent I’ve been exposed to over these past six months has proven as much. While in the first few months I struggled to understand the finer points of test-driven development, I’m now able to carry technical conversations within projects and during everyday talk in the office.
There is a catch. You must be willing to better yourself. You will have all the help you need, but the end result is up to you. The reason I mention this is because of my current situation. During those weeks at Thoughtworks University, I wore the hat of a QA for close to a week. It was enough time to pique my interest. I mentioned this to my coach as part of our weekly catch-up sessions and was offered the chance, once back in Quito, to develop these new skills, while still acting as a developer. It’s challenging for sure, but I’ve had a great time learning new practical skills that I can use on our projects.
As the only Spanish-speaking office, Quito has both opportunities and challenges when it comes to spoken languages. There are many opportunities in the local market, yet the challenge remains offshore where a good grasp in English is needed. The title of StrangerHablante, which roughly translates to ForeignSpeaker, was given to me due to my skills in this language.
It is because of this that I’ve also been facilitating speaking sessions at our office. I’ve found that everyone you meet through your journey at Thoughtworks has some value to add to your life. It could be a shoulder to cry on, someone to help you realize your skills, or even someone who has knowledge of long and short vowel sounds.
But truly, what is in a title? Personally, I give little weight to one’s title, to the point where my education degrees are tucked away in a dark corner of my home. Thoughtworks itself is heading in a direction where titles and grades are of little relevance, but rather one where your skills speak for you.
Thoughtworks Quito’s Vivi Perez has a trademarked saying in our office: “We’re all recruiting". Even if there are only two people who are officially responsible to recruit, we all participate in the process of hiring. Similarly, this saying can be extrapolated to other responsibilities as well: "we’re all demand, security, QA, CapDev ...". The list truly does go on. With the importance that Thoughtworks places on building their employees’ skills, I have realized that there is truly nothing in a title, within Thoughtworks at least.
Here, a title describes a place that you belong to and an ideology that you stand for. The way we sign off on emails gives you an indication of this. Mine has two titles: Dev Green Belt, QA White Belt. Neither of these are official titles, but they represent who I am at this current stage and where I hope to be. Similarly, titles such as 'Software Fungineer', 'Super Coding Girl', 'Amateur Code Chef', 'Paranoia Principal', 'Head of Amazing' (all real email signatures) embody those particular people. But again, borrowing Vivi’s phrase, We’re all Thoughtworks!
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.