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Agile - The Xtreme Labs Way
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Agile - The Xtreme Labs Way

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At Xtreme Labs, Agile is not an engineering process, it's a way of life. Not only do they practice agile engineering - an iterative process that uses pair programming - they also have a flat......

At Xtreme Labs, Agile is not an engineering process, it's a way of life. Not only do they practice agile engineering - an iterative process that uses pair programming - they also have a flat management hierarchy and employ a 'Do-ocracy' mantra. Beginning as a start-up and growing to a 200+ employee company in under five years, Xtreme Labs owes its success in part to their ability to move quickly and deliver products in an efficient manner. In his talk, Farhan will address how Xtreme's development processes, company structure and policies have enabled them to grow rapidly and produce quality products in tandem.

Farhan has been named one of “Toronto’s Top 25 Most Powerful People In 2010”, and is a well-known and respected figure in Toronto’s tech community. Before joining the Xtreme team, Farhan held the positions of Chief Software Architect at I Love Rewards, Head of Search & MSN Platform for Microsoft Canada and Technical Lead at Trilogy Software. In addition to being a programming and engineering guru, Farhan also uses his wealth of industry and mobile expertise to mentor aspiring mobile and tech startups.

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  • 1. AchieversFarhan Thawar, VP EngineeringJanuary 23rd, 2013@fnthawar @xtremelabs
  • 2. 300 -> 436 Membersmeetup.com/achieverstechachievers.com/tech
  • 3. The world’s top brandspartner with us toprototype and developoutstanding mobile, tabletand smart TVexperiences@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 4. @fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 5. @fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 6. @fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 7. @fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 8. Background• Waterloo Comp Sci/Elec Eng• U of T MBA – Financial Engineering• Trilogy• Celestica• Microsoft• Achievers (!)@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 9. Agenda• Freedom vs. Frameworks• How to work• Career advice@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 10. DisclaimerSource: The Black Swan@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 11. Freedom vs. Frameworks• But first, a story…..@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 12. • ROWE@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 13. Multitasking is a fail@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 14. Parkinson’s Law rules@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 15. • Daily standups (company, platform, team)• Pivotal tracker• DLAgile@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 16. Ship every week@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 17. Map• Mastery–pairing• Autonomy–No micro managing• Purpose–Working on stuff being used by millions of people@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 18. Physical Space• In-office vs. WFH–Breakfast hacks• Sit close together vs. offices (Joel and37Signals)• Great machines + fast internet• Location@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 19. 4a) Means as:Formulation vs. ImplementationRank & File•Implement decisions•Arms and legs•Work in hierarchy•Get “bought-in”•Get controlledLeaders•Formulate decisions•Brain•Head up hierarchy•Sell to get “buy-in”•Create control proceduresLower-orderChoicesHigher-orderChoices@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 20. Freedom vs. Frameworks• Flat hierarchy–Well not that flat now…..but, few approvals• Responsibility not accountability–“Accountability is what’s left once responsibility hasbeen subtracted” – Pasi Sahlberg–“Tight controls cause blowups” – Nasim Taleb@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 21. Freedom vs. Frameworks• Approvals– “You should feel the dangers and stressors” –Nasim Taleb@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 22. How to work@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 23. At a high level• “Managers create work for each other” – TimBurns• No Policies (rework)• 1:1’s• Faster to talk to someone thanemail/phone/IM@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 24. Socials• Wed social• 3:3 lunches• Friday social• Team events–Batman!• Interns@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 25. Pairing (2:1 Ratio)• Agile everything• Pairing all the time@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 26. • “Being busy is a form of laziness”@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 27. 1. Consider options and make decision, informingother party subsequently2. Provide options to other party along with ownrecommendation on choice3. Generate options for other party and ask otherparty to make choice4. Describe a problem to other party and ask forspecific help in structuring it5. Ask other party to solve problem, but make itclear you will watch and learn for next time6. Drop problem on other party’s desk and signalhelplessness@fnthawar@xtremelabsResponsibility Ladder
  • 28. • Democracy vs. dooacracy or decisions overdeliberation@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 29. How to Work• Remove processes–“Let process be implemented by those whopractice it” – Yishan Wong, first Facebook EngManager• The great decider!• Fight fires/sales calls/unblock engineers (oranyone else)@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 30. Career Advice@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 31. Career Imprinting• “Where you work early in your career shapesthe kind of leader you become later on” -HBR@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 32. Deep over broad@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 33. Strengths over Weaknesses@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 34. Smart over dumb@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 35. Low-information diet• Stop reading temporal information (HBR stillrelevant)• Reading hierarchy@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 36. Air traffic control• I know less than you do@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 37. Does it work?@fnthawar@xtremelabs0204060801001201402007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012Full Time Employees
  • 38. Span of control• Average is 8• 150 engineers@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 39. Stats• Can hire 60+ coops from Waterloo in firstround (get more resumes than FB, MSFT,Twitter, Apple, Square, Yelp, Foursquare)• Low attrition• Always outrun other teams• Less hero syndrome• More female engineers (17%)• Happy people@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 40. Quotes• “You guys are doing something amazing” –Fred Wilson• “I’ve never seen this before in the valley” –Yogen Dalal• “Uh… wow?” – Brad Feld@fnthawar@xtremelabs
  • 41. Ask me anything:@fnthwar / farhan@xtremelabs.com@fnthawar@xtremelabsThank you and we’re hiring 
  • 42. Work at Achieversachievers.com/careerstech@achievers.com@achieverstech