“real.digital is the perfect balance”

João Ferreira D'Araújo e Oliveira about the first weeks at our tech hub in Darmstadt

In June, we opened our new tech hub in Darmstadt, where a team of IT-experts develops new concepts around topics such as cloud and microservices for our webshop, mainly using the programming language Go. One of them is João Ferreira D’Araújo e Oliveira from Brazil, who received his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Universidade Federal of Minas Gerais. After working for a start-up in Sweden, he now holds a team lead position at real.digital and got together with our online editor Imke Ohlendorf to have a chat about the first weeks in Darmstadt.

João, you started pretty much from scratch in Darmstadt, how were your first weeks?

I had been at the main office for a month before starting in Darmstadt. My colleague Benny and I arrived here with Joschka, who normally works in Cologne. Our very first day was all about getting to know the office and continuing with the tasks we were working on in Cologne. But we came here with goals for our team in Darmstadt, so already on our second day, we were discussing what we should push forward and what our plans would be. That’s how we built a plan for the next couple of months.

What were your greatest challenges in the last months?

You know, it is always hard in a situation like this to think about what should come first. We had to figure out our own goals instead of building up from things coming from Cologne all the time. Honestly, that was the biggest challenge.

When leaving Cologne, we had some ideas of what they wanted us to do and so we started discussing those ideas and how we could make them work.

We had to find an identity for ourselves bringing value and contributions to the company.

So, you got the main ideas for your work from Cologne, but you were free to find out how to reach these goals and how to set up a daily routine?

Definitely! Benny, Joschka and I, we came from a team in Cologne where the idea was to rethink the architecture of the real platform. We came here with a bunch of issues from Cologne but also with the liberty to envision the goals for the team in Darmstadt. So, we started mixing these worlds. We knew we had the OKR to work on seller tools, which means tools supporting the sellers of the real platform.

Yet, in the following weeks, we received another abstract topic which is internal tools. So now we push forward the internal tools as well, like the central authorization system. We also have been developing something like our own product here, which helps the sellers to analyze their orders and sales. It already exists, but we are revamping it and making it more user-friendly. We want to make it more interesting for the sellers to log in, manage their store and receive insights. I, as a team leader, am coordinating our work and trying to keep the most important issues in focus, so we can have more results faster.

Looking for a new challenge? Wishing to push your career further? Come join our team:

https://www.real-digital.de/karriere/unsere-stellenangebote/

Your team in Darmstadt works with colleagues in Cologne. As the Rhineland city and Darmstadt are not exactly right around the corner, how do you make it work?

Well, as techies we are in love with our communication tools! We keep in touch almost daily, talking via Slack, calling each other, or having video meetings. We don’t do daily meetings, but I have a weekly meeting with my colleagues from Cologne to keep track of reaching the goals we are aiming for. As you said, Cologne and Darmstadt are not exactly around the corner, so I can’t just stand up from my table and discuss things. Therefore, our discussions are less about technical details and more about abstractions, our OKRs, and priorities.

I also started going to Cologne every three weeks to join the big tech meeting, where I can discuss requests from members from other departments. That way I can bring back what we need to know for our tasks, and I also have the opportunity to work with my colleagues in Cologne personally.

How does a typical day at your office in Darmstadt look like?

Here at the tech hub, we work very, very focused.

Everybody who came here from the office in Cologne to work with us for a short period of time, they noticed that here, there are no distractions.

So, when someone new wants to understand our day to day work, what is happening at the office is that we are sitting here, very focused, pushing forward new technologies all the time with a bunch of challenges every day.

 

But you also get to take advantage of the rooftop?

Working on the rooftop is always an option at tech Hub in Darmstadt.

Yes, definitely! It’s not that we are just focused all day, but when we sit at the computer, we are very focused and don’t get interrupted. One thing we inherited from Cologne is a very interesting work-pleasure balance. Just like in Cologne, we have a kicker table here, but we have other options too. We can go outside on the rooftop to have a meeting or just a chat. Some days I study by watching tech talks on YouTube. I can go outside with my laptop and focus on receiving that knowledge – instead of being at my desk. It almost feels like I am sitting on a sofa at home or on my balcony.

That certainly breaks the idea of companies always having a rough working environment, here it is nothing like that.

It’s very much a start-up feeling you have.

You already worked for a start-up in Sweden and you did your Ph.D. What do you appreciate about the work at the tech hub specifically and at real.digital in general?

In my previous work experience at the start-up, it was very much work, work, work and not much time to actually explore new technologies. My Ph.D. was basically just research, I had a lot of freedom concerning my time, trying to generate some new knowledge for the world. But it’s very difficult in a Ph.D. because you’re trying to find a needle in a dark room among a bunch of things. You are trying to find problems instead of solving them. That’s what makes it sometimes very stressful because you don’t really have goals.

But here when I compare all this to my work experience so far, real.digital is like a good balance.

Here we have goals, I know what the sellers want, we know what we can bring as an improvement and we can bring in our own ideas. We do solve the problems and we have time to research and find the best solution.

What can you tell us about the team atmosphere at the tech hub?

Currently, we are six members, four full-time working members and two students. By the end of the year, we will be six. But what is very interesting is that, because we have such a focused office atmosphere here, we invite co-workers from Cologne every now and then to come for a week, a day only even, to work here with us, and the results are amazing. One time, I invited a guy to come to Darmstadt to share his knowledge and the day he was here we were able to solve around twenty problems. It was very productive. So, it’s a very exciting atmosphere, surrounded by much development.

What lies ahead in the future for the tech hub, what can new members expect?

There is lots of development to be done here! And that’s one of the characteristics that makes it also very challenging with such a small team that we have right now. We are dealing with supporting the sellers, we have this beautiful big product that we can expand a lot and people will be working on that very much. But we also support our own internal tools, for example, the central authorization system and we are probably going to take on other internal tools, like mailing. Interesting tasks just keep coming up and we keep having ideas like maybe selling one of our products to other companies.

So, we have some interesting products to work on and we want to hire new people with great ideas that can bring these products forward together with us.

 

Thank you for the interview!

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