Torkel, originally from Norway, first visited Japan as an exchange student during university. As a destination, Japan stood out as he had already been exposed to it from his long-running interest in judo, and through media like anime. While in Japan, he started a relationship with a Japanese woman, and looking to continue it, he returned on a working holiday visa after graduation.

Searching for full time opportunities, he found WOVN, where he was attracted by the international nature and flat structure of the company. He said, “A lot of the places that I had interviewed for were mostly Japanese. WOVN was a really diverse group of people, which attracted me a lot. It also has a fairly flat structure, so it’s easy to get to know everyone in the company. I got the sense of that when I first interviewed at WOVN at their office as well.”

The company gives the opportunity for taking on more responsibility, if you want that, in terms of organizing and management.

Originally joining as a developer, as WOVN has grown, it has required more structure, and he was asked to take on a product owner role. He said, “After I joined WOVN, I made a lot of effort to do things like improve our documentation and to organize our meeting. I kind of liked the organizing part of that already, as it was something I had taken upon myself a little bit. Because of that, I was asked to step in the role, and I was happy to. I’ve also been offered to move back to a developer role, which I may do some time in the future, but for now, I’m happy in the role I have.”

This opportunity for growth at the company is something he appreciates. He said, “The company gives the opportunity for taking on more responsibility, if you want that, in terms of organizing and management. The other product owner who I work most closely with came from the business side, and changed his role into a PO now as well. Me coming from the developer side compliments him, as we bring different perspectives or skills. Both of us are examples of members of the company who have changed our roles.”

In his product planning role, he most enjoys helping to improve the development process. He said, “What engages me the most is being able to make improvements to our development so that we can deliver value every iteration, so that we can communicate our changes effectively, so that we can show the business side in a better way what we’re working on, and so that the product planning team can communicate more effectively with the developers and answer the questions they have before they start development. I’m fairly new in a role like this, and learning how we can improve our development processes while at the same time being in the middle of it is interesting, and a different feeling than learning about it from a distance or reading about it.”

There is a fine balance between timely answering the requests of the business side, and the need for developers to not constantly be bogged down in these tickets. This whole process is something we are still working on improving.

One effort he worked on was improving how technical support goes from the business side to developers. Originally, a middleman acted as an intermediary between the business side and developers. While this worked in some situations, other times communication could be more efficient if the business side and the developers just talked directly. And so they did via the unofficial process of pinging individual developers on Slack, which was distracting for them.

Instead of this, they replaced the middleman with a kanban board, and told the business side they were no longer allowed to send Slack messages about issues, but to use the board instead. This worked out better for all sides. Developers were no longer being interrupted, and the business side could see the status of things without needing to ping the developers to check on it. When communication was needed, it could be done through the board, which also helped to keep a clear history of things that could be referenced in the future. Torkel said, “There is a fine balance between timely answering the requests of the business side, and the need for developers to not constantly be bogged down in these tickets. This whole process is something we are still working on improving.”

From a technical perspective, Torkel finds testing all the different ways WOVN can be integrated an interesting technical challenge. The simplest solution for translating websites WOVN provides is a drop in JavaScript plugin. Testing this not only means considering all the standard browser compatibility issues, but also compatibility issues with the plethora of different JavaScript frameworks. Doing translation client side isn’t ideal though, as it means losing out on SEO benefits, so they also provide middlewares that can make it simple to translate websites on the backend. As it’s impossible to test every possible environment their service is deployed in, they have built a testing solution that will automatically take snapshots of their customers’ websites before and after a release, allowing them to quickly rollback if they introduce an unexpected error.

One of the main selling points for me is that it is a very diverse environment.

Torkel recommends WOVN because of its diversity and flat structure. He said, “One of the main selling points for me is that it is a very diverse environment. I’m not sure I can name all the countries represented, but Russia, Guatemala, United States, Canada, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, France, Germany, I’m from Norway, it’s absolutely all over the world. People have different educational backgrounds and obviously cultural backgrounds. That’s a big selling point for me.”

He continued, “The other point is it is a fairly flat culture. We’re growing a lot, but we’re still fairly small. We have about 100 full time employees, but it is still easy to talk with people from other departments or your superiors. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere.”

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