This Is What Innovation Feels Like
Innovation is like the wind. You can’t see it directly but you can sense it blowing against your skin, you can see it swaying the trees back and forth. In modern day tech, building an organization that is capable of innovating is critical to success and longevity. How do you know if you are on the right track? What does it feel like when your organization has this intangible? Here are some thoughts.
Empowering developers to be innovative is most effective when it comes directly from the top. Hearing first-hand from leadership that a firm is committed to innovation is not only encouraging, but critical in empowering teams to be bold. If your senior staff is unsure of who is responsible for making the call on a new idea, then your ship is already sinking. The conversation at the leadership level can’t be, “Hey, this is a great idea, I wonder who can approve this?” Instead, a healthy environment starts with leaders setting the correct tone that individuals are responsible for cultivating great ideas into transformative technology. At Eze, scrum teams are empowered to challenge the establishment with well thought-out alternatives and incubate ideas that push the product towards value.
Culture of Openness to New Technology
Getting stuck in a technology stack is no way to innovate. The irony is, any stack we get stuck in was once just a fledgling idea that we iterated on and shaped into something great. It’s easy for teams to slip into a negative mindset about change and focus on cost of something new rather than the reward. If the tone around the office is, “There is no room to innovate on this project,” then your organization is reinforcing negativity to new ideas. If developers feel like every time they take a risk with a new technology pattern there is someone waiting there to tell them, “I told you so,” then your culture is wrong. At Eze, innovation is a mantra. We believe culture is upstream of success, leads to winning, and should adhere to our core value that work is a big part of life and should be fun.
Innovation Always in All Ways
My children like this show called PJ Masks, where three kids shed their daytime personas to become nighttime superheroes with extraordinary powers. Throughout my career in fintech, I’ve repeatedly heard from talented developers about exciting “after-school” projects. If your developers feel like they can only innovate in their afterhours alter ego, then your culture is broken. At Eze, we make work the “after-school” because this is a good bet on securing our future. Scrum teams are free to devote story points to incubator projects because these pay off.
The examples are too numerous to enumerate, but here are a few notables. One team came up with a new application for testing FIX transaction flows. They targeted their effort to a specific team need and after a year of iteration on their solution, it has been adopted by half a dozen scrum teams throughout the organization supplanting expensive and cumbersome test software. In another instance, one team’s devotion to Python test scripts evolved into a complete integration test suite for Eze’ web-based APIs.
Deep Human Connections
It's hard for me to imagine real innovation without deep human connections. It’s the back-and-forth of ideas amongst friends and teammates in a trusted environment that refines inspiration to actionable plans. The Socratic process of cooperative, yet challenging dialog not only vets an idea, but also builds knowledge within the team and strengthens the organization.
When human connections run deep, seeds are planted all the time. You never know when the next great idea will emerge. It could be a casual conversation walking to a food truck lunch or a particularly enlightening comment during retrospective at the end of a sprint. There is nothing better than being excited when your friend at work turns to you and says, “Do you have a minute? I have an idea.” At Eze, the people are the culture, and relationships of trust fuel collaboration and innovation.
Eze is always on the lookout for bright minds to join our development team. We are hiring! If you are excited about technology and innovation, come work with us. For an example on just some of the things we’re doing, tune in next week for Joe Krauze’s blog on the use of Stunnel for FIX encryption.
Rob Baxter, Associate Director, Development, joined Eze Software in September 2013. He now oversees the team responsible for electronic trading (FIX) and quantitative API workflows and compliance. His notable projects include smart order routing technology, a Python-based integration testing framework and a high-performance FIX simulator. Prior to joining Eze, Rob was a chief technologist at RJB Capital, and has worked in portfolio management at State Street Global Advisors and Fidelity. He teaches Machine Learning for Trading at the Georgia Institute of Technology.