Developer culture at Drivemode
Javier Blanco talks about what it’s like being an Android developer at Drivemode, including the international culture, flexible environment, and the ability to shape the direction of the product.
Originally from Spain, Javier has lived in many places around the world: Australia, Scotland, Russia, Bulgaria, Canada, and Taiwan. For his next stop, he wanted to move to Japan, so that he could be with his girlfriend. However, he was apprehensive about his chances for finding a job, as not only did he not speak any Japanese, but he had frequently changed jobs over his career, something he’d heard would be looked on disapprovingly by Japanese companies. Nevertheless, he persisted, and got a job at Drivemode, which had everything he was looking for: English as the primary language, a startup atmosphere, and a team of technically strong developers.
If you’re a foreigner and you don’t speak Japanese, I think this is the perfect place to be. All the communication is in English.
As a globetrotter, he values how multicultural Drivemode is. He said, “We’re not really big. Here in Tokyo, there are maybe fifteen people. We already have people from the Philippines, Spain, France, Brazil, Thailand, China, and Japan. I really like that part. The fact that you can have so many different points of view. If you’re a foreigner and you don’t speak Japanese, I think this is the perfect place to be. All the communication is in English.”
Javier also appreciates the flexible working environment. He said, “Even before coronavirus, some people worked from home one or two days a week, and the company was totally fine with that. Here at Drivemode, you handle your time more or less as you want. We only care that you deliver what you are supposed to do at the end of the sprint.”
Typically though, Javier will follow the standard working hours of nine to six. He said, “We got the design team in the US so we only overlap a couple of hours with them so that’s why we all try to start at nine. It might look like not much overlapped time between both offices but it has its advantages as we all attempt to keep the meetings short”.
Long meetings are something they generally try to avoid at Drivemode, and the only regular meeting Javier participates in is the daily Android meeting, which is kept to fifteen minutes or so. Instead, the team favours having one on one Google meetings with each other to discuss technology or bugs, as this avoids the wasted time larger meetings tend to incur.
Developers and QA can give their thoughts too about possible new features or change requests as our familiarity with the product allows us to detect flaws and things that can be improved. I think having the chance to give inputs to the product you are developing is important and is something you can’t do in all companies.
Javier likes that he isn’t just relegated to implementing a spec, but that he can participate in shaping the future of the product. He said, “The thing that I like about Drivemode is that before a specification is written down for a new feature, we have a meeting with the product owner/manager so that we can give our input. A feature might be a good idea and might look simple to implement from the business point of view, but technically it might require a considerable effort making it not worth it. Developers and QA can give their thoughts too about possible new features or change requests as our familiarity with the product allows us to detect flaws and things that can be improved. I think having the chance to give inputs to the product you are developing is important and is something you can’t do in all companies.“
As an Android developer at Drivemode, Javier initially worked on their app of the same name, which simplifies how you use your phone while driving. But about a year and a half ago, he switched to working on Honda RoadSync, a new app that directly interfaces with Honda motorbikes.
Honda explained they didn’t want to absorb us because the whole point of the acquisition was having a startup inside of them to help modernize their software. So that’s why they decided to keep us independent. We still have the startup mentality.
Part way through the development of the RoadSync app, Honda acquired Drivemode. But despite being owned by a bigger, traditional Japanese company, Drivemode has retained it’s startup culture. Javier said, “Honda explained they didn’t want to absorb us because the whole point of the acquisition was having a startup inside of them to help modernize their software. So that’s why they decided to keep us independent. We still have the startup mentality.”
Being backed by Honda also gives additional security and a great distribution channel. Javier said, “Probably the main drawback of working in startups is that they might not be financially stable. When a startup passes through these ‘turbulences’ it is common to have payment delays that will add uncertainty to the employees and might even put the project in risk. This was never a problem at Drivemode, but now having Honda behind us it adds even more security that it will never happen.”
He continued, “Another positive thing about being acquired by Honda is the fact that, even though the Drivemode app has a considerable amount of users, the possibilities now are much bigger. Honda is well established all around the world so the potential number of users of our future products are much higher now. It’s especially rewarding for me when I see new Honda bikes announcements and our app supports them. When I see those models in the street I know there is a good chance that person is using our apps. That’s actually the main reason why I became a software developer, to have that reward of seeing that your hard work is being used (and enjoyed!) by people all around the world. ”