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How MeetsMore puts trust in its engineers

Russell Cole is an Engineering Manager at MeetsMore. Originally from the UK and with 18 years of previous experience, he explains how the freedom and flexibility that MeetsMore gives its engineers has contributed to its success.

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Russell Cole

Developers are often drawn to tech companies with flat hierarchies, flexible hours, and other sought-after perks. MeetsMore offers all that, but according to Russell, the company’s main draw is something even more valuable: trust in its engineers.

“One thing I really like,” explains Russell, “is that the company lets us manage our own time and what we work on. We can work on things that are non-functional requirements, such as cleaning up technical debt or performance optimization.”

It’s not all on the engineers to keep the systems in tip-top condition, either. “The company is willing to invest a lot in it,” said Russell. “For example, we were having performance issues with one of the systems, so we hired consultants to help us optimize. And in terms of tools, we’re always trying out new things like Copilot, Cursor, ChatGPT and custom LLMs for our codebase.”

This is high praise from Russell, who has considerable experience in a variety of organizations, ranging from startups, including one acquired by Microsoft, to big companies such as SAS and Ticketmaster. Originally from the UK, he’s been developing for 28 years, 18 of them professionally. He previously co-founded and served as CTO for a white-label payments platform, Paymenta, which raised 8 million dollars in seed investment.

In 2020, however, he and his Japanese wife decided to relocate to Japan, where eventually he joined MeetsMore as an Engineering Manager in 2023, where he leads the recruitment of foreign engineers among other responsibilities as a team lead.

Russell explained the features of MeetsMore’s primary products, MeetsMore and ProOne.

MeetsMore solves the problem of finding a professional to do something.

“That can be an air conditioning cleaner, a wedding photographer, there are about 300 different services. And it’s really simple. You just go in, fill out a short questionnaire, and then you are given a bunch of quotes, you select one, and job done. It’s really easy compared to manually having to search through the Internet.

“ProOne allows companies to manage their jobs, and they can generate invoices, view reports, that kind of thing. It makes it really easy for, say, a company [with] electricians or plumbers to manage their whole operation.”

What it boils down to, Russell said, is who the product is designed to serve. “The main difference between the two platforms is that MeetsMore is B2C, whereas ProOne is B2B, so our requirements are mostly driven by the customers.”

We’re actually onboarding our biggest customer just now and building custom stuff for them. It’s Tokyo Gas.

In the process of customizing ProOne for Tokyo Gas, Russell and his team are addressing a highly complex organizational system. “One of the interesting features that we’re working on,” said Russell, “is optimizing how a company can organize its entire inventory.

“Imagine you’re a company with thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of parts if we count screws and washers. How do you keep track of them all and not lose a single item? How do you monitor the number of AC units you have, whether one is being repaired at a warehouse, or which AC unit is at a customer’s place so you know what parts to bring for the repair? We built a system to track equipment, status, and location to solve these issues.”

Tokyo Gas has reportedly been impressed by MeetsMore’s solutions so far—and their development speed. “We deliver quite fast,” said Russell. “In fact, Tokyo Gas is surprised at the rate we’re releasing the features they ask for.”

Russell believes MeetsMore’s success is due to its flat hierarchy, combined with intense cooperation between the various departments. “The business team writes detailed and good requirements,” he said. “But they don’t just say, ‘Oh, go and implement this.’ They take engineers’ feedback, and then adjust the requirements because we might know a better way to do something.”

After that, it’s in the engineers’ hands. “We write technical specifications to help us develop the feature into a fully fleshed out component.”

Normally, once we get to the building part, most of the work is done, because we’ve hammered out the issues and figured out all the edge cases before we even write a line of code.

While the work process is well-defined, MeetsMore also believes in giving its engineers plenty of freedom and flexibility in the workspace.

“There’s no micromanaging or anything like that,” Russell said. “People are very hands off, and as long as you get your work done, then there’s no real issue.”

Russel’s team mixes working from home and the office. He said, “Many of our engineers work from home four days a week and visit the office on Friday for a bit of face time. Often we make Fridays entertaining with nomikais [after-work gatherings] after work and welcome parties. Some engineers are fully-remote within Japan, but they might come down for our bonenkai [year end party] and other events.”

We are hiring more engineers. We’re scaling up, but not in a huge rush.

At this point, around 35 engineers are employed by MeetsMore. But individual teams are kept limited in size. “The reason for that,” explained Russell, “is that once a team gets too big, communication overhead starts to become an issue. So we prefer small teams.”

The small teams, Russell said, also allow for greater flexibility in determining roles. “It gives people the opportunity to develop their skills, whether it would be for more DevOps experience or learning how to manage projects.”

Russell personally supervises a team of around eight. “My role is to give technical advice, mentor engineers, and remove any blockages or impediments from the team. I do one-to-one meetings every two weeks with people just to make sure they’re happy and have no issues.”

Those regular meetings are a critical part of the company culture, as fellow MeetsMore employee Zac Davison described. “All teams do that,” Russell confirmed.

“It’s just a kind of casual chat. Sometimes it’s work-related. Like me, for example, I can raise issues and suggest solutions as they arise. But some people are more shy and don’t really do that so it’s an opportunity for them to bring up anything they want. They’re completely confidential, the only person that sees it is your manager.”

These one-on-ones within Russell’s team are conducted in English “There are some Japanese people in my team,” said Russell. “There are two of them, and then the others are all foreign. And they come from different countries.”

About half the engineers are from Japan, and then the rest are from all over the world, basically. We’ve got people from America, Singapore, China, France, UK, Belgium, Ireland, Poland. So it’s very mixed.

This has posed some challenges in communication, but not insurmountable ones, Russell explained. “The meetings are a combination of English and Japanese, because some engineers don’t speak Japanese and some Japanese engineers don’t speak English. But normally, we have many bilingual people willing to help. So if there’s something important being said, someone will do the translation.”

MeetsMore also holds regular offsite hackathons for its engineers. These events are completely voluntary and accommodation is provided by the company. “We split into different teams for the day,” Russell said, describing the last hackathon, “and then worked on different ideas, prototypes.

“One of them was a real-time translator using OpenAI’s Whisper API. . . . We wrote our own Chrome extension, to automate translation and show it as subtitles at the bottom of the screen.”

Other teams built a tool to automate onboarding questions for ProOne, and Slack bots for summarizing error reports. The day ended with presentations of the tools they created and a pizza party.

When asked who should apply to MeetsMore, Russell had a ready answer. “Someone who’s product-oriented,” he said. “I think that’s the most important skill for the engineers here.” But he emphasized that MeetsMore cares more about the quality of a person’s work than their certifications.

We’ve hired people who are self-taught, with very little experience, but showed great promise and aptitude, which has paid off greatly.

He gave an example: “One of our engineers was an English teacher, and he decided to build a product for his wife’s hair salon to accept bookings and things. And we hired him, and he’s been here for almost two years now.”

That sort of ingenuity is a common trait of MeetsMore engineers, according to Russell. “Even though we are almost 200 employees, we still have the startup mindset. I’d say that’s why I’d recommend it. And also the people working here are really smart.”

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