Going from the only developer to the manager of a team of thirteen
Jeremy Marin was the first full time developer to join Crowd Cast. Five years later, the development team has grown to thirteen, with him becoming the engineering manager.
Jeremy was five years into his career as a software engineer when he decided he wanted a break from life in Paris, and to try living in Japan. He said, “At the time I was thirty, so I thought if I want to work in another country, this might be the right time. If I don’t make this move now, I might not have another chance later.”
Not wanting to make the move before he had a job lined up, he started looking for software developer positions in Tokyo, and found this very site. Through TokyoDev, he learned that Crowd Cast was looking to hire a Senior Ruby on Rails Developer.
The big responsibilities, and being able to decide how to implement things, that was exciting.
Not only did Jeremy match what Crowd Cast was looking for, but the position also appealed to him. He said, “What made me excited about this position was that it was the first inhouse developer position they were trying to fill. That meant I could have a big impact on the product and the company. The big responsibilities, and being able to decide how to implement things, that was exciting.”
He continued, “It was also a very early stage in the company, and that’s also what I’d been used to. Before moving to Japan, I had always worked for small companies or startups, so that was the environment I was looking for. I didn’t want to work for a big corporate company where you’re asked to do one precise task and you have no say in it.”
Crowd Cast hired Jeremy, and he made his way to Tokyo to join the team. He said, “When I joined, there were maybe five or six people in the company, with me being the only full time developer. After I joined, we pivoted one time, because originally the product was aimed at very small businesses, which wasn’t a good market. So we changed our focus to medium sized companies, and made a new version of the product. We also hired more developers. Then we stayed like that for a while, maybe two or three years, building the product, adding more features.”
He continued, “Then we got some important funding, and started hiring more aggressively. Now our team is thirteen developers in total. The business team has grown too, but not as much as the engineering team. The rest of the company is up to around ten people. This makes us the biggest team in the company, which is a good thing, as we have a bit more weight than before in company decisions.”
I didn’t plan to become a manager, it’s just because I was there, but it is very interesting because it’s a very flat organization.
As the company grew, Jeremy transitioned from being a senior developer to lead developer to finally becoming the engineering manager, a position he’s held for the last couple of years. He didn’t ever see himself being a manager though. He said, “I didn’t plan to become a manager, it’s just because I was there, but it is very interesting because it’s a very flat organization. I don’t know about other people, but my style of management is not strict at all. Everyone can give their opinion, even ‘Jeremy, you’re wrong, that’s not the way we should do it’. That’s fine because you shouldn’t have pride just because of a job title.”
In his role of engineering manager, he’s found himself further removed from the code. He said, “As a manager at Crowd Cast, I’m not coding much anymore. I wish I could do it more, but I also see that my role is to be between the business team and the engineering team. As part of this, I have to make the specs for the features. That’s what is the closest to coding, so I enjoy it. I like to think about things from the user’s point of view with the product manager and try to find a technical solution to the problem. But it’s getting more and more difficult, because I’m getting more disconnected from the actual platform. The further I get, the more I need the help from the tech leads.”
He’s also more involved with the human resources aspect. He said, “I do a lot of HR these days. So of course recruiting, but also taking care of people’s career paths. It’s the end of the year, so we’ll soon have a lot of one-on-one meetings to review the performance of each developer. We talk about what they would like to improve, both in the company, or in their own routine or skills. We also talk about things like a salary raise. This aspect is also interesting, and I like it too.”
His job has been made easier because of the people around him. He said, “Luckily, everyone we have hired behaves nicely. We never had any disciplinary issues, or real people problems. I guess because we hired the right people, and that makes the job easier.”
I have five years of experience before this company, but I’ve never worked in such a nice environment, where you feel like you’re working with friends basically.
These people are one of things he appreciates most about his job. He said, “It is really nice to log in in the morning and just talk with my coworkers. We do a little catch up every morning on what everyone is doing. I have five years of experience before this company, but I’ve never worked in such a nice environment, where you feel like you’re working with friends basically. It’s still a productive environment, it’s not like we’re hanging out, but it is also nice that we can joke in the office when we’re here, or post memes on a dedicated slack channel.”
Jeremy’s not the only one who appreciates the atmosphere of the team. He said, “We have one of our developers who recently moved to Nagano, so now he’s fully remote. He visits the office maybe once a month, just to catch up, not even to join in person meetings or stuff like that. Just because he wants to hang out with his team. Being part of this group of people is an important reason why people stay.”
This team atmosphere is conducive to collaboration. He said, “Because our team is so flat, everyone has a say on how to implement things. Everyone has a chance to say I think we should look into this, or maybe this library will save us some time. All this kind of R&D and spec discussion that happens within the engineering team is exciting.”
Besides the people, he also appreciates the flexibility Crowd Cast offers. He said, “We have flextime. You basically have to be online between 11am and 3pm, so we have some time when people can communicate directly on Slack. Otherwise, if there are no meetings, it’s up to each developer when they want to work. If you’re a morning person, and want to start at 5 or 6am, so be it. On the contrary, if you like to get up late, and get online at 11am, that’s okay too. We don’t really care if people work eight hours, as long as we don’t notice that there is obvious slacking, and as long as deadlines are met. Of course, sometimes a feature doesn’t get published at the end of the sprint. As long as there is a tangible reason, that’s okay, and it just goes in the next sprint. Basically we get a lot of freedom, that I like.”