10 Ways in Which We’re Building a Tech & Design First Culture at!

Because the smartest engineers and designers need the right aura to solve the hardest problems. And they can’t wait!

January 23, 2020

Photogragh of Rishabh Jain, co-founder of Locale

A Culture Focused on Tech and Design

At Locale, we’re creating a world where every company with moving supply or demand, regardless of their size can have location intelligence like Uber. As geospatial data scientists, we’ve lived through the pain of dealing with geospatial data at scale first hand and hence, aim to make this data accessible to everyone in an organization.

It goes without saying that solving some of these problems is difficult — All our users bring with themselves the scale of 50 million location pings and events right from the first day in production!

With that kind of scale at work, problems can be wide-ranging: the technical architecture needed for ingestion of streaming data, the data science that gives meaningful insights and recommendations or the front end that makes the experience of the end-user quite delightful.

In order to successfully solve the pain points for our users and build an amazing product that people love, we believe we will need the smartest engineers and designers spending countless hours researching and whiteboarding and building something great! We also believe if the product is quite spectacular at what it does, selling it becomes much easier as well!

This means ensuring that we give the best culture to the team to learn, falter, and grow exponentially. This also means creating an infectious aura when they look forward to coming to work everyday.

At the risk of sounding a little too crazy,

At, we aim to build one of the best engineering and design teams in the world.

And here’s a couple of practices that we try to follow every day to be able to accomplish that goal.

1. The 10:2 Ratio

We believe learning happens in three ways:

Researching -> (Brainstorming) -> Implementing

The idea behind the 10:2 ratio rule (inspired by other companies) is if you are reading or implementing for about 10 hours in a day, 2 out of them should be spent on discussions about your approach, your obstacles, ideas. And when that’s not required, then discussions on technically relevant topics about the product, the architecture, the users.

We believe when ideas reflect from one head to another, one-to-many times, incorporating different contexts and unique points of view, that is when they more concrete and robust than ever.

Photograph of Locale team brainstroming

2. Autonomy

We believe in the right amount of autonomy and the end-to-end outcome of whatever you build. When given a technical or business problem statement, we don’t believe in assigning “micro-tasks” or giving instructions. Jump into the pool, get your hands dirty, research on what has already been done about it in the world.

If stuck, seek help. Talk about where you are facing difficulty. Jot down ideas and get your thoughts together (works for me) or sometimes just get a bouncing head. Once you have something substantial, demo it and solicit feedback. Iterate and improve.

This also means you can take up something outside of what you do, problems floating in the backlog. No one’s gonna come between you and something you want to dabble with. You can just get up and fix it!

3. Wait. But, Why?

Always be clear of the Why. Sometimes when you get obsessed with how you lose sight of why we are doing it. Once you figure out the “why”, the “how” is much simpler to get answers to.

Stay Curious. Get Intrigued. Ask. Question. Challenge. We believe the only way you can change the status quo for the better, especially for the long haul is by understanding what are you trying to build and solve at a fundamental level.

One of the ways we at Locale know if someone truly understands what they are working on is if they can break the problem into smaller chunks and explain it to someone with the least context! And we measure that by the number of questions he gets asked on that.

Locale team member presenting weekly demo
Shaishav presenting in one of our weekly demos

4. Quality Over Quantity

We are very particular about who becomes a part of the team. There are countless benefits in staying small and lean — being nimble, agile, closely knitted — all the ingredients that are ideal for moving fast.

Our past experiences have taught us that comprising on the quality of hire will only come and bite you sooner or later.

Hence, we ask ourselves the following when we are deciding whether to hire someone: Do we absolutely need a helping hand? What value and skillset does the person bring to the table? Can they challenge my world view? Do I get excited every single day to work with them?

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”― Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

5. Collective Accountability

When you are moving fast, constantly iterating and juggling between 100s of things, you are bound to make mistakes. It’s part of the process. They needn’t be looked down upon.

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” — Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

For all the honest mistakes and failures that anyone makes, we are all accountable for it as a team. But, one thing that has no room for at Locale is the blaming attitude if things go wrong or amiss. It’s best to introspect and ask ourselves: “What could each one of us have done better?” and move on!

It’s a marathon and we are all in this together!

Meme on accountability

6. Incentives

Hard work and great work should be rewarded. The reward need not always be monetary. It can just be about small gestures sometimes. But, we believe hard work, great initiatives, and the right attitude deserve some recognition.

After all, they convey what you care about as a company and what you promote and appreciate! Keeps everyone on the same page.

7. Staying Close to Users

DevOps Engineer? Back End Developer? Data Scientist? Doesn’t matter. You would have to regularly interact with customers — attend meetings, answer support queries, shadow phone calls. It’s extremely important.

It doesn’t make sense to work so hard building something without knowing how the people you are building for feel about it, and moreover, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Listening to your users talk about how they want to make an impact in their business using your product is one of those small wins. Observing the challenges that they are facing while accessing certain features even makes you work hard on a weekend — You know it would be worth it!

8. Community

We are very passionate about giving back to the community. After all, it has given us more than we could ever ask for!

The engineering community (via meetups, blogs, open-source projects) helped us get here & build our product. The geospatial community always was ready to give us insights on the problems and feedback on the solution. The startup community never shied away from connecting us to the right people at the right time.

  • Geospatial: We have taken several initiatives here right from inviting GIS professionals and content writers to write on our publication to writing a series called “Ask An Expert” where we engage with geospatial experts 1:1 on interesting ideas, discuss geospatial techniques and tools and talk about the industry!
  • We have been also been very active on LinkedIn to promote awareness about the use cases of geospatial data in different industries.

Screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Locale's co-founder Aditi Sinha
  • Talks and Meetups: We regularly go for conferences and meetups to share our learnings working on geospatial tech.

Picture of a Locale team member in VueJS meetup in Bangalore
Musthaq at VueJS Meetup in Bangalore
  • Engineering & Design: We keep writing about our engineering and design best practices. We also plan to open source a bunch of cool things next year! Stay tuned for more.
It is an amazing experience using @Mapbox extensively at @Localeai For building application with beautiful maps and geo spatial visualisations. We curated a list of some of the beautiful map styles that might help you in your next project ✨
Send PRs ❤️✨ — Musthaq Ahamad (@haxzie_) September 15, 2019

9. Idea Hacks

Idea hacks are essentially what we call internal PoCs. They are the best ways to resolve disagreements or get feedback. Let’s say if there is a debate on whether we should use GraphQL or not, go with Hive or Presto, and other such decisions, we go forward with someone doing a small PoC, talking about the pros and cons and showing to the team why they should invest their effort on it!

Idea Hacks work amazingly in the sense that without putting in a lot of effort (sometimes not even writing code), you get the room to experiment, fail and try out new technologies. They also work well in case you are working on a more abstract problem and you want to reach the outcome milestone by milestone.

10. Metrics and Numbers

While everything should not be done with keeping numbers in mind, it’s always a good practice to know the numbers. It helps to quantify the impact or the result of the action. And sometimes, it’s just useful for yourself to know whether your approach and strategies have been working on or not.

To emphasize again, while numbers can’t be the ultimate goal, tracking them gives you a sense of direction and helps you stay on track.

Picture of Locale team members playing board games together

And lastly, we spend one day in a week (usually Saturdays) having fun together. Board Games. Movies. Standup Comedy. And lastly, good food. Bring On!

These core philosophies drive the culture and keep all of us aligned to solve exciting problems in the field of geospatial analytics at Locale. If you are reading this and relate to quite a few of our values, join us as we make location data more accessible to anyone and everyone. Get in touch on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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