Working at Retro Rabbit means living in chaos. It is a completely different experience compared to any other company. I was chosen to be “the mother” of 36 graduates. Fresh, new, straight out of university.
We assigned these graduates to a proof of concept project for a client where they had to create a mobile app in Kotlin. The aim of this project was to teach them how the industry works and how Retro does things. We had to stand up every day, working in two-week sprints with a retrospective at the end of each sprint (“The agile approach”). We wanted to teach them how Git works as well as how to communicate with the team.
Problems with the technology
We had our ups and downs and a lot of merge conflicts!!! Cillie taught them GIT for 5 hours long, but still, they had problems using GIT. The biggest problem was that they did not want to merge because they were scared they will mess up the repository. The other problem was that they did not trust source control so they had a lot of backup repositories on their computers. This meant old code kept popping up in master, the code got lost and the app kept breaking.
This was a good learning experience for these new graduates especially when they had to work extra hours to fix their mistakes. As the project progressed, the juniors became more comfortable with the code until I gave them a deadline, suddenly the entire repo broke completely, a day before the deadline. They became demotivated and very angry with each other. We had to revert back and a lot of code needed to be rewritten!!!
Friction between teams
The API team had it the hardest. They had to write an API that integrated with WordPress and Woocommerce. This was a big frustration and they had to work extreme hours to just get some data out of the database. After successfully integrating with WordPress, they had to handle a bunch of frontend developers that couldn’t decide what data they needed so the endpoint constantly changed as well as the data being send through. The API team learned how to be patient. The designers also had many frustrations from the front-end team. They made beautiful designs, but they were not viable for a mobile app. They had to redesign the app a couple of times to cater for Android as well as changing the styles to suit the client.
After long hours of fixing, some screaming and sending out disappointment memes, we finally fixed the code. We then decided the MVP app was ready to be released on fabric for testing. I had to leave for Durban on Thursday so I asked for the app to be completed by Wednesday. Wednesday evening I sat in the upper office with Werner to deploy the app on fabric, after a while, I realized it was getting late so I thought my developers must be starving so I wanted to buy them food, but when I got to the main office, there was only 1 developer left. I was so angry sending out more disappointment memes and dividing the hard working developers from the slackers and went off to Durban. Sunday evening Wayne (I placed in charge while I was away) made an effort to make sure the app got done by Sunday night, and he excelled! Monday morning everything was ready and the client came on Tuesday. I was so proud and didn’t even care that the app took so long because everyone worked really hard to make sure the app was ready and the client was pleased.
What I learned
Being a senior for these developers is a hard job, but also a rewarding one. You learn about each individual person, their strong points and the things they struggle with so they can be placed on specific projects best suited to their skills. One of the most important things I learned is that neither screaming nor pleading results in developers working harder. Instead, we implemented a new strategy – a reward system. Each time a developer did well we would give them a token of appreciation. This made the developers push harder to make sure they get a token. We used this point system to determine which developer should join an existing Retro Rabbit project first. This motivated them to perform.
Some graduates were sent to corporate clients and as their senior, I am sad to see them go. Even when things were difficult, they were still always there early, with a smile, making me coffee when I was stressed and giving me breakfast when I was hungry. We built trust and in the future, I hope that they can know they can always rely on their “mother-bear” when they feel sad or stressed or if they need airtime to be able to call retro’s gate :).