Life as a team lead at HENNGE
Lukas Reineke is a team lead at HENNGE, where he splits his time between engineering work and management tasks. He explains how the freedom he has at HENNGE makes it a great working environment.
Lukas was working as a software engineer in Germany when he decided to move to Japan, having previously visited it as a tourist, and spent a couple years studying the language. Looking for opportunities, he found a job at a startup through TokyoDev. Unfortunately though, after moving to Japan and working at the startup for a while, it went bust.
Searching for a new job, he turned to TokyoDev once more, applying to HENNGE, who’s interviewing process set them apart from the other places he interviewed at. He said, “It was really open in the interviews. Normally interviews can be a bit one-sided, just answer these questions. I felt like I had proper conversations with people in the interviews. They talked about the company as well, and what they liked, and what they wanted to do there. It was really nice.”
What convinced me with HENNGE is they’re still a relatively small company, but offer great job security, because they’ve already been in business for twenty years.
After receiving offers from several companies, he decided HENNGE was the right fit for him. He said, “What convinced me with HENNGE is they’re still a relatively small company, but offer great job security, because they’ve already been in business for twenty years. The culture also really impressed me, the company structure seemed very flat, and I liked the tech stack.”
Since joining, he’s been impressed by how inclusive HENNGE is. He said, “The company tries really hard to get opinions from everybody. It’s not that you have the opportunity to give an opinion, but you have to volunteer it yourself. Instead, the company is doing stuff to actively encourage this. For example, we have Inspire Matsuri, in which you can build a small team and create a new product basically from scratch using 20% of your time to work on it. You can have a startup within HENNGE for one year, and see how things work out.”
Lukas currently works as a team lead at HENNGE, and has four people on his team. He splits his time about 50/50 between more technical engineering work, and management related things such as performing reviews for team members, introducing new development processes, talking to the stakeholders across the company, and attending weekly meetings.
His team is responsible for HENNGE’s Secure Transfer product, a way to send files securely. The product has existed within HENNGE for quite some time now, and recently they decided to rewrite it to take advantage of a modern tech stack.
At first you would think it is a super easy problem, but it’s actually more complicated than it seems.
To work around this, they came up with a solution involving cookies. Lukas explained, “Our current proposal is you click on the file that you want to download, we make a http request to reserve this download, you get back a token and a new cookie, and then you can use this token to download the file. This is kind of guaranteed to work, so we don’t get browser error pages. At first you would think it is a super easy problem, but it’s actually more complicated than it seems.”
Each team within HENNGE picks their own development processes, allowing them to adapt to the needs of their projects. While his team was using a Kanban like process when he first joined, he switched it to Scrum. He said, “In HENNGE currently, Scrum makes more sense. We have a lot of different stakeholders who we have to get onboard. Things can kind of get a bit lost between the different teams. So I think having more concrete ceremonies or meetings where you have all the correct people together, and a stricter timeline will help. It’s still a work in progress, so I can’t say if it will be successful, but I think it will work out better than what we did before.”
We are free to choose what we want to use, even if it’s a new service.
This freedom also extends to the technologies that a team uses. Lukas said, “We are free to choose what we want to use, even if it’s a new service. For example we just adopted DataDog for our team, because I’ve used it in the past and really liked it. We went through the process of doing a trial, getting approval for it, and it went very smoothly. There was not much pushback if you want to use new stuff.”
HENNGE has instituted several ways for these independent development teams to share knowledge with each other. One is a weekly meeting between the tech leads and customer success, where they can share what they’re up to. Another is a monthly technical session where anyone who wants to can give a short presentation to all the other engineers. Lukas himself finds these sessions a great way to keep up on everything that’s happening with AWS, and plans to share the outcome of switching to Scrum through it.
To another developer considering HENNGE, Lukas recommends it because of the culture, job security, freedom, and compensation. He said, “The biggest point for me is the culture. It’s just really nice to work there. Job security is another, because I know how it’s like to lose your job, and have to worry about a visa, so being in a company that’s basically guaranteed to be there in ten years is nice. I also really like our tech stack. We are using all the newest technologies. You can choose what you want. Our team is using React, other teams are using Vue. Everybody can choose what they want to work with. Compensation is also very good.”