On lazy engineers and automating business

During my career as a senior developer, and as the head of a team of engineers and product managers, I’ve had to make only a few new hires. Fewer than one may think, in fact. Since 2007, I’ve been in charge of hiring perhaps 6-8 new staff members, which is unheard of, given I’ve only ever worked with fast-growing young tech companies. This small hiring pool got me thinking about the core need for why one needs to hire new engineers and subsequently the cultural reason why my team at WooThemes grows differently to other non-engineering teams within the same ecosystem. Here’s why I reckon this is the case.Continue reading “On lazy engineers and automating business”

On slowing down to speed up

In the fast-paced, notification-driven, world we live in, it’s very easy to get whipped up in the “speed of the things”. We’re constantly after faster internet speeds, faster cars, hacks to improve our lives and save us a few moments here or there.

The same is true in business. We’re constantly seeking efficiency hacks and improvements to improve our time spend and allow more time for surfing and fun activities.

The past year has confirmed for me that slowing down is the best way to efficiently speed up. Here’s why.Continue reading “On slowing down to speed up”

What big business can learn from startups

In today’s fast-paced startup culture, there is an often unspoken ambition held by many startup companies to “join the big leagues” and become large corporations.

As businesses grown and evolve, certain magical qualities are often lost. Today, I’d like to touch on a few qualities which big businesses could learn from young startups.

I’m not a business owner, or a CEO. I’m not a venture capitalist or a startup evangelist or any other title like that. I’m an observer. Here’s what I see.Continue reading “What big business can learn from startups”

Learnings While Scaling WooCommerce

WooCommerce has, at the time of writing, passed over 6 million downloads (and several million active installations) on WordPress.org. What many aren’t aware of is, WooCommerce reached the 5 million download mark with only 3 engineers officially working full time on the project (while working on several other projects as well).

Throughout this process, we took away many learnings which we can apply to all future projects. I was fortunate enough to present these findings and learnings to the group at ScaleConf 2015, a popular tech conference here in Cape Town, South Africa.

The previous time I spoke on this stage at Kirstenbosch was at WordCamp Cape Town 2012, my fist large-scale public speaking endeavour. It felt great to be back on this stage!

Knowing Your Limits And Gaming Yourself

Since starting this blog several years ago, I’ve tried several techniques to keep up a regular blogging routine. From blogging daily for a week or two, to attempting to blog every day for an entire year, I’ve tried them all.

While this blog isn’t a business for me, it’s a great way to share knowledge, thoughts and interesting discoveries. At the same time, I simply cannot dedicate all day every day to blogging, researching and constructing articles. Ultimately, it’s also not how I most enjoy writing.

So here’s what I’ve done.Continue reading “Knowing Your Limits And Gaming Yourself”

You Are Who You Meet

Folks often say; “You are what you eat”. What does this even mean, anyways? While the underlying meaning is relatively clear (don’t eat junk food or you’ll become unhealthy), the saying itself makes little to no sense. I prefer to subscribe to the “you are who you meet” approach.

I’ve heard several folks say that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Over the past few weeks, I’ve observed myself quite carefully and can confirm that this is mostly true, save for one key element.Continue reading “You Are Who You Meet”

Fostering creative thinking

At Woo, we recently picked up on the next steps of a StrengthsFinder assessment we conducted within our leadership team towards the end of 2013. This assessment aims to identify your top 5 strengths and assist you in harnessing them, while creating a better understanding of the strengths others possess and how best to relate to those you work with daily. The follow up steps of this assessment included a call with a leadership coach, where in we discuss our strengths, answer a few questions and better understand how to create the next steps in our strengths finding journey.

During my call with Horace (our coach), he mentioned the following, which stuck with me; “If you can explain to someone how you perform a particular task, that task is a learned behaviour. If you can’t explain the exact steps, that task is an inherent strength”. For me, this task was product architecture and analysis.

As I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy listening to podcasts. I listen to a wide variety of different topics, and attempt to glean value from each, and apply that value in different contexts. One of those topics relates to creativity.Continue reading “Fostering creative thinking”

Crafting meaningful customer relationships

When setting up a service or product-based business, there is a concept referred to as “lock in”, where the customer buys in to your ecosystem and, as they add products to their purchase history, it becomes increasingly more difficult to switch away to a competitor.

While corresponding over an email chain with friends this morning, we started talking about software licenses and how to interface between clients and purchasing software licenses for use on client projects (in particular, referring to licenses for WordPress plugins and themes). The topic of multi-site licenses came up, with the idea that the license can be purchased once and re-sold to several clients who can each cover a portion of the maintenance code. On the surface, this looks like a great idea, as each customer gets to pay a bit less than the overall fee, and doesn’t have any responsibility to maintain the license and pay the renewal fee each year.

Here’s why I disagree with this approach.Continue reading “Crafting meaningful customer relationships”

Starve fear. Feed courage.

Every negative thought we have, or action we take, feeds our fear. When you trust in your heart and take enjoyment out of your day, this feeds your courage. I feel it’s important to include this short summary at the very beginning, rather than at the end, as it’s important to regularly emphasise this key principle.

I’m really enjoying listening to podcasts lately. While I switch from time to time, the most fun I have across all podcasts I listen to is extracting the “hidden meaning”. How to apply what is being said in an alternate context. In this case, the meaning was a bit less hidden, given the episode was about courage and listening to yourself.Continue reading “Starve fear. Feed courage.”

Maximizing the value of customer feedback

Since appointing Patrick as our dedicated WooCommerce Product Manager towards the end of 2014, I’ve been able to view some really insightful feedback from customers, without customers even realising they’re providing this feedback. One of the tasks I assigned to Patrick was to conduct regular in-person user testing of WooCommerce, in order to pinpoint common pitfalls and benefits customers experience with our product.

The process involved here is Patrick contacting a customer and, in many cases, sitting alongside the customer, recording their screen (with their consent) and quietly observing how they get their online store up and running using WooCommerce.Continue reading “Maximizing the value of customer feedback”