Last month you had the chance to better get to know our Co-Founder and CTO Markus and today he will tell us more about his department, the amazing tech side of InstaFreight! Enjoy this brief interview with him and also get excited for a third blog article of this series coming soon, which will include a deep dive into LogTech.
1. Markus, tell us a few facts and figures about the tech department at InstaFreight.
We are around 35 people from all around the world in the product and engineering teams. Having people with more than 19 different nationalities, English has become our company language. Whoever joins our department will find it easy to fit in, since we are such a multicultural group of people. Our main task is to take care of the product, technology and data side of InstaFreight. This includes finding innovative and digital solutions for overland logistics and further developing the InstaFreight platform.
2. And what would you say makes LogTech and working in LogTech so special and exciting?
There are several things that come to my mind:
- The logistics industry is still barely disrupted by modern technology which makes it a great opportunity overall. Although logistics was one of the very early adopters of computing, that happened a long time ago and the industry has not progressed much since then, especially not in terms of modern standards and digitization. LogTech offers a great chance to solve puzzles that no-one has solved before! And as mentioned in the previous interview, that is what I personally and I believe many other tech people love to do.
- In monetary terms, the industry is extremely large. In Europe alone, the road freight sector is a €350 billion market. The logistics industry is forming the backbone of the European economy. So, working in LogTech means solving real-world problems that have an impact.
- What I really like about LogTech is that it includes many different problem domains (such as route optimization, information flow, automation of business processes, etc.) and that there are a variety of ways to tackle them, so it really never gets boring. Multiple solutions are currently being built but there exists no complete final offering that consolidates it all effectively. That is something we are striving towards.
3. How is the tech team at InstaFreight structured?
Our product and engineering organization consists of several cross-functional teams, each composed of a tech lead, product manager, developers and Quality Assurance (QA). The teams are organized by business domain: we have one team for shippers, one for carriers and a more general one that takes care of our platform’s architecture, infrastructure and tooling. A new team, with a focus on our fulfillment services will be formed this year, 2021. We like to get creative when it comes to naming them; the teams call themselves “HotWheels”, “Hitchhikers” and “Drink & Deploy”.
But regardless of the name, each of these decentralized teams is and needs to be ownership driven. They build complete solutions independently, work closely with the respective business units and have a direct and measurable impact on our business goals. We strongly believe in this structure as a gate to innovation, because it allows teams to be agile and close to the customer needs as well as business requirements. We build, test and iterate on MVPs very fast and as a result create true value for the user.
Additionally, we do not see ownership solely on a team level: To encourage learning, every employee takes over responsibilities and has an impact. There is no micromanagement!
4. Given the current Covid-19 outbreak, how does your tech team cope with the challenge of working remotely?
It is definitely a special situation for all of us and a time full of uncertainties. Almost the entire company is working from home since last March to ensure everyone’s safety. To our surprise this is easier than we expected – in many ways we are doing even better than before. I am convinced that by being digital, we have a huge advantage in this situation – the transition to a fully remote company was almost too easy.
But of course there were also some challenges that we needed to solve. In situations where you don’t see your teammates face-to-face and cannot have coffee chats in the kitchen, frequent and transparent digital communication is key. Already prior to Covid, we used different Slack channels to exchange ideas. And to keep things enjoyable and fun, we also have a “non-work” channel where we share entertaining content and our favourite memes of the day…Besides our daily standups as well as other meetings that are performed via video conferencing, our people & culture team sets up several fun meetings: fireside chats with the founders, coffee chats, after-work hangouts, language coffee breaks and so on. Everything digital of course.
The onboarding process needed to be shifted to the digital world as well. Although this was not that easy, as we did not want to have a quick fix but rather put great emphasis on the inclusion of newstarters in our team, I think we did quite well here. New members who joined during the remote time are already an integral part of the team.
5. Lastly, what would you say makes the InstaFreight tech team so special?
We are an extremely fun-loving and dedicated group of people. Our team combines the spirit of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Diversity is an integral part of our success. I continue to nurture this kind of environment because it helps to establish a creative space in which team members can thrive in. People with diverse backgrounds bring together different ideas and viewpoints and in the end are more likely to innovate.
Just like in any other team, there are some challenges and issues to overcome, but we always work on solving these problems together and helping each other in every way possible – be it pair programming or doing a workshop to discover solutions.
InstaFreight has a failure-friendly culture! We truly understand that growth requires taking risks, and those can fail; but the key is to always learn from them and move forward.
Since we spend a large amount of time together during as well as outside of work, great friendships have formed. Everyone has an open ear for others and we can have open and honest conversations among ourselves. As our solution and service itself grows and evolves continuously, we are always searching for driven members who are keen to “hop on the truck” with us.
Not only does working in LogTech sound amazing, but joining the tech team at InstaFreight is a great opportunity to have real impact! Work in this industry is promised to stay interesting and exciting and you will never stop to learn new things and to broaden your horizon.
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