RebelDot culture

We are celebrating the RebelDot 3rd anniversary 🎉

Last Saturday we celebrated our 3 years anniversary at @RebelDot.

[….] After months spent watching the number of people on Slack increase week by week, we now had a chance to see just how much we grew during the past year. [Who would have imagined that as a company that has togetherness and care at its core, we will have a period longer than 1 year in which we will not meet in person.]

Fast forward one year, we are looking at last week’s anniversary party pictures.

RebelDot celebrating 3 years

We celebrated ourselves and the amazing things we built together in our 3rd year as rebels. Here’s what has been keeping us busy. 🎉

48 new rebels have joined the team, RebelDot getting closer to 150 people (collaborators included).

Probably the best thing that we have achieved this year is that we continued to grow while strengthening our culture and company values.

Even at distance, our People and Culture helped us grow our team remotely, onboarding no less than 48 new rebels.

In 2018, we started with the bold goal of creating a company that brings great value to its customers and that is valued by employees for its culture. Back then we were 30 rebels with big dreams and an outlook that was less than great. Today, 3 years later, thanks to our great colleagues, after a 500% growth in size, we are looking at an extremely bright future.

The new way of doing work was an open invitation to knowing people beyond their day-to-day roles in RebelDot through their homes, peers, friends, and kids that popped up in the backgrounds of our Teams calls. It conveyed a sense of closeness and intimacy that nurtured the organizational culture beyond any coordinated effort.

rebeldot retrospective 3 years

NFT Marketplaces, Banking, Telemedicine, Energy, GreenTech, or PropTech are just a few of the industries we’ve been tackling this year.

For the 3rd year in a row, I am fortunate enough to have met yet new business founders driven to build promising ventures with the help of technology and create new market opportunities through innovation.

Last year, a lot of companies were not sure if they were going to keep up with their digitalization plans, but it looks like the “uncertain time “ that we navigated amplified the need of startups, SMEs, and large enterprises to find partners that can bring their digital product ideas to life or speed up their digitalization process.

The pandemic was never an obstacle to the emergence of new great ideas.

This year we kick-started over a dozen new projects, doing what we know best, being reliable tech partners to our clients, and building web and mobile apps from scratch.

Despite the growth, we continue to keep an almost equal balance between the size of clients we work with (startup, SME, Large Enterprise), consolidating our expertise in industries like Banking, Telemedicine, Energy, GreenTech, or PropTech.

 

RebelVentures — because we can’t keep our hands off cool startups.

At RebelDot, we build digital products for startups and brands all over the world. Most of the time, we take them from the idea stage and take them through the entire development process, through design, ideation, MVP creation, and a full product launch.

The thrill of joining forces to solve problems with the help of technology it’s probably what has kept us in the business for over 13 years. And sometimes, listening to your own heart does only good.

Hence, we’ve decided to launch RebelVentures with the aim of investing in the startups that catch our eye. So far, we’ve invested in several startups around Europe, and we have one major investment in a Romanian startup (to be announced soon).

From the office to working from home, and then to hybrid.

Moving our headquarters from a corporate building into an actual house grew our sense of community and closeness.

We’ve turned the office into a social area where bonds are tightened, where we meet to take the edge off a challenging project and chat about anything, from holiday plans to weekly wins or struggles, or just exchanging cat pictures”.

The last few days, the office has been at full capacity and if last year I was thinking about remote work is becoming a norm, I now find that people actually prefer mixing the two for both productivity and other holistic reasons. This is why we’re currently looking for our new, larger playground.

RebelDot playground

Found genuine ways to give to the community around us.

Having a not so intentional, but rather impulsive way to give back allowed us to find along the way many causes that could benefit from our fast, call it Agile approach to finding solutions.

We went from formal NGO donations to speaking at student events, supporting monthly hackathons, and integrating little habits like only sourcing locally for each of the present bundles we occasionally offer our people.

RebelDot CSR

We’ve also built a pro bono app for CERT Transilvania, an app meant to support the local rescue teams.

Since we love supporting rebels in their passions and side hustles, this year we decided to help to organize the beach volley tournament Valentin, one of our React Developers, is involved in.

Beach Volley jersey

Visidot, our internal startup has become part of a short few selected in the Wise Guys accelerator.

Visidot, our very own startup, the digital paper log that we’ve built last year continued to reach new heights, having just got out of @WiseGuys’ pre-acceleration program in Estonia.

Backed up by some solid digital campaigns, Visidot started to gain traction on a both national and international level, landing some important clients in industries like tech, as well as real estate.

It is also fortunate timing since many other companies are considering this new hybrid scenario and getting back safely into the office.

We’ve used our voice to drive a digitalization action in Romania.

Posting on LinkedIn also turned out to be an impactful indirect means to give. The post I wrote a while back about the ridiculous level of bureaucracy in Romania and the need for a digital alternative was recently quoted by Romanian Deputy @Sabin Sarmas in his celebratory post, announcing a digitalization bill recently passed in the Government. Again, seems like little things like that, small daily impulses can, in fact, build that “better world”.

I am grateful to be here, now, and to have experienced yet another just-as-challenging year together with such driven and amazing people.

rebeldot digitalization

1538 applicants and 27 interns: our Spring and Summer Internships.

The spring and summer internships we have organized this year were probably one of our greatest joy bringers. Not only they gave us a chance at meeting new people, but it brought a new wave of fresh perspectives to our team.

I want to congratulate all the students who became Rebel Interns as we were extremely selective — only 1.7% of the applicants were accepted

Today, we are actively growing our .Net, as well as React Native and Blockchain development teams, making RebelDot a community that is fueled by learning and innovation.

RebelDot tshirt

The future will be Rebel! 🚀

I wrote this with a heart full of gratitude for the people that make RebelDot a company in which we thrive by being authentic day by day.

If last year you would have asked me where I think RebelDot will be on its 3rd anniversary, my guess would have been a lot different than the reality we are experiencing today.

We have a lot of work do to in the next year, and although I am not able to fully envision where we are all going to be 365 days from now, all I can say is that we are looking at a REBEL future.

via negativa wellbeing

Via negativa – a bold approach to wellbeing.

Via negativa – a relatively new concept that Cristina, one of our QA Engineers and a psychology aficionado will present in this article, aiming to provide you with a practical means of decluttering your daily routine to live a much more fulfilling life.

Who wouldn’t want their life to be better? 😌

Specifically, who wouldn’t want that something that would make their life better? Be it a better romantic relationship, a higher salary, or a fitter body. A quick glance at the plain Google search containing How to make life better yields more than 7 billion results.

Venturing even deeper into peer review research, keywords like improve well-being entered Springer Link Academic Journal, outputs around 6000 results. It seems that so much time and effort invested in researching, blogging, and creating podcasts, might indicate a prevalent problem.

Indeed, according to WHO, mental health and other behavioral problems are the primary drivers of disability worldwide. Apart from socioeconomic variables, genetic influence, and environmental factors, are we taking the wrong path towards this issue?

A more recent approach, commonly known by being associate with famous Black Swan author, Nassim Taleb is the via negativa approach.

Instead of focusing on the positive, why not focus on the negative? Specifically, on cutting out the negative? This approach that centers on what not to do rather than on what to do is called via negativa or the upside-down approach.

Originally born out of a theological approach, via negativa can take many forms. The core of this life philosophy is to focus on what to eliminate from your life in order to make room for whatever positive you want to add.

If I want good, why can’t I simply do good? 🤔

Deciding to decrease negativity or to increase the positive are two completely different approaches.

The first one deals with cleaning the internal or external environment. It’s like you try to cure a pulsating wound by cleaning it daily.

You don’t go to the doctor to apply skin grafts on a pulsating wound, do you?

Why won’t you?

Because by doing so, increasing the positive first approach, you will experience a failure in the end. Skin grafts applied on infected wounds don’t make wounds healthy. On the contrary, they get infected from the wounds. What you lose is not just the time you’d have to wait for the wound to heal. You increase the healing time and you lose some healthy skin grafts.

There are some reasons in favor of us accepting the negativity in our life and focusing on dealing with it, instead of cluttering it with another 21 ways to be happy in the next 2 hours.

Bad is stronger than good.

Humans are more attuned to negativity than being drawn to the positive. In a comprehensive article, Baumeister gathered evidence from multiple research areas. All data pointed to what might seem, at a first glance, a pessimistic worldview – we are so affected by negative factors: declining health, poverty, traumatic relationships. In this case, simply increasing positive behavior will have little to no significant effect on out well-being.

Losses weight more than gains. 💡

According to Kahneman, losses loom larger than gains. In some heavily replied experiments, people made irrational decisions when having to choose between scenarios framed either as losses or as gains. The authors’ conclusions pointed out the so long neglected flaws in human decision making – that of deciding based on the rational actor hypothesis.

People don’t just compare and weight anticipated outcomes and make a data-based informed decision. They actually decide through the lens of losses, a fact that might ruin investigations and marriages, and, generally, one’s future well-being. We are prone to acting out our cognitive biases.

Willpower is expensive and limited.

Research shows that willpower is easily depleted and, generally, not the best candidate for attaining long-term goals. Just an energy-consuming mental task makes us more prone to saying (and justifying the decision) yes to unhealthy temptations.

Yes, this vanishes all the pop psychology suggestions that romanticize the hero who manages to never eat the chocolate cake when everyone else gives in. But if willpower is not our trustworthy friend when it comes to getting rid of negative habits, then we should find other reliable solutions.

Via Negativa in practice

Via negativa solutions in practice. ✅

Behavioral activation exercise with a twist.

Behavioral checklist – select the activities that involve mastery and pleasure at a certain cutoff point. Based on behavioral activation theory, it involves introducing behavior to increase positive mood.

Distancing from clinical context, the exercise can have other purposes: discarding redundant, or low-quality activities. These are not necessarily pleasurable activities or activities that don’t have immediate, measurable outputs. The goal of this exercise can be to improve performance or mood by getting rid of the cluttered elements in your life.

If combined with the upside-down approach, one could easily add a twist to the logic behind the original behavioral activation exercise.

In this case, the steps are:

  1. Make a list containing all your day-to-day activities.

2. Start by extracting the activities that have the lowest level of mastery and/or pleasure.

3. Set a cutoff point (e.g:. discard all activities with mastery less than 7)

4. Set a limit of activities (e.g:. no more than 3)

5. Plan when to perform the activity in a specific manner (day, hour)

6. Plan which activity you’ll replace (e.g.: discard an activity with 5 mastery level and replace it with an activity with 7 mastery level)

Don’t refrain, control the environment. ⏱️

Successful interventions designed to decrease addictive behaviors have some key aspects in common. One of them is stimulus control. Originally introduced by B.F. Skinner, stimulus control captures the relation between behavior and a specific stimulus.

Applied to via negativa framework, stimulus control might take the form of choice architecture. This translates into simply cutting out the temptations or, making them hard to access.

Instead of focusing on bringing more detox smoothies or hard-to-pronounce purifying elixirs to your diet, start first by cutting out the junk in it.

An important key point is to always have a corresponding behavior to replace the unhealthy one. The upside-down technique can be used here to narrow down to a list that contains the most efficient foods that can substitute your unhealthy ones. Variety is not to be decreased with this approach. Rather, you can use the list to have a solid starting point for healthy replacements.

In this case, the steps could be:

  1. Make a list with the foods you want to cut out/remove from your diet

2. Remove them from your house/ Find ways to delay buying them

3. Make a list with the top foods you will use to replace the unhealthy ones

4. Make sure to have those healthy foods accessible

Conclusions. 🚀

The via negativa approach is a bold one.

It’s not comfortable to digest at first. But its function is not to decrease positive outcomes. Rather, the purpose is to filter to the core, which is to learn, to think critically about your choices.

As much as we’d like to feel good about ourselves, not all choices are the same, not all foods are the best, not all opinions have the same level of efficiency with respect to specific things. We are highly susceptible to cognitive biases, especially in a noisy environment full of too many options.

Using via negativa, you learn to filter everything based on a specific objective, in a specific context. It is an empirical approach almost rooted in a scientific mindset. Its purpose is to make room for positive emotions, relationships, decisions.

You can read more about Cristina’s transition from working as a clinical psychologist to becoming an integral part of our development team in the latest Rebel Tech Story.

Cristina QA RebelDot

Rebel Tech Stories: From psychology to building web and mobile apps.

We’re back again with a new interview part of our Rebel Tech Stories series, this time with a dear colleague of ours who got into tech after a remarkable turnaround.

The TechRebel Stories is a platform that we created to bring the people of RebelDot forward and have them inspire you to immerse into the tech world.

In this article, I’ll be talking to Cristina who is one of our QA engineers. With a master’s degree in Psychology and over 2 years of private clinical therapy practice, one day she figured that a therapist job might not actually be for her, and decided to give technology a chance.

Two years later to today, she is an essential member of the RebelDot team. A highly skilled quality assurance engineer with an insatiable thirst for curiosity whose never-ending collection of insights makes our Slack #learning channel feel like a library that you just don’t want to get out of.

At RebelDot we want to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion, which is why we offer our people the opportunity to craft jobs that fit into the broader purpose of the company and of their own professional path.

Get yourself a cup of your favorite drink and enjoy this read. I had a lot of fun interviewing Cristina.

What was your life like before RebelDot?

I have studied psychology in Bucharest and did my master’s here, in Cluj. After graduation, I began applying cognitive behavioral therapy as a private practitioner. During this time, I extended my experience to a private cancer hospital.

What made you think of choosing a different career path?

Ever since I was an undergraduate, I noticed I was drawn to structured and predictable tasks. That’s why I got into research and playing with variables. I enjoyed having the freedom to modify things without the risk of irremediably breaking them..

After my 2-year experience of working as a private therapist, I realized I couldn’t fulfill my curiosity the way I did through research.

I have then decided to volunteer at a research neurosciences lab. Besides that, for a brief period of time, I also worked as a content writer as part of an advertising agency. The topics were not necessarily interesting, or just arguments that I’d agree with, but I am grateful to have had that experience too. Writing surely did teach me a lot in terms of structure, which I enjoy so much.

I was eager to discover things, but a private psychology practice is not the most ethical context to fulfill one’s unquenched curiosity. I was working with people, vulnerable human beings whom you cannot just experiment with, to fulfill your curiosity.

How did you get into tech and quality assurance?

My humble beginnings in QA.. I wasn’t really confident that there’s anything else that I could do besides psychology or social sciences in general, but my friends supported me throughout all this process so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The first chapter of me entering the QA field started with my enrollment in a programming course that lasted 4 months. That was my very first interaction with code, so to speak. That’s also where I got introduced to quality assurance.

Having finished this introductory course, I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the quality assurance domain and decided to enroll in a second course, this time a more specific one, where I learned what you call testing.

It was a 6-month training, consisting of both Manual Testing and Automation Testing. By the end of it, I managed to build an automation project. Still being a beginner, I was content at the thought of me being able to produce a small part of what is called automation testing.

What was it that sparked your interest in quality assurance?

I’d say mainly the guarantee that you cannot make an irremediable mistake. The fact that you cannot harm people, but rather experiment with data to create something that would help them.

I figured that since I like structure, articulating and following a plan, I might as well just try QA. Because I knew that here, I am not just allowed, but actually encouraged to experiment, unlike psychotherapy, where even a small mistake could easily harm people.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that as a QA you don’t have to worry about attention to detail. Not at all, actually.

It’s just that, in comparison to other environments where you’d work with people, here you can allow yourself to make mistakes because by doing so, you somehow create a shortcut for growth.

Also, with regards to the personal growth aspects: I believe that the detail-oriented approach and structure-based mindset I were to develop in this job, might also extend to my day-to-day life.. I’m talking about daily habits, things that go beyond just testing.

What about RebelDot? How did you find about us?

Following this second course, I figured that it would be the right time to start applying for a job in QA, although I was still a bit unsure about my skills, as, you know, like most juniors, I thought that not having any work experience won’t make me a desirable candidate.

Regardless of my lack of confidence, I started searching on Google for opportunities and that’s how I “bumped” into the RebelDot website.

I remember being impressed by the website’s “mood”, as well as the way in which the description of the job opportunity was written. I felt like this is a welcoming and open space, where I could grow despite my lack of experience. Unlike the rest of the job announcements, this one made me feel confident about my skills and character. It seemed like a good fit.

How was your first work experience as a quality assurance tester?

I remember I was pretty nervous, but everyone was super casual and welcoming which almost instantaneously gave me a sense of comfort and belonging.

Since this was my first proper job in tech, you can imagine there was a lot of stuff which I wasn’t familiar with, but any question I had, there was always someone who was ready to help me. It didn’t really matter what kind of query I had, from setting up my working station to requesting more technical details about the projects I was working on.

Besides that, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I can ask my manager anything and that he would always be available to answer my questions.

What helped you grow?

A particularly important aspect was that, besides the project that I was working on, I also had long-term learning objectives that I set from my very first week and that I would periodically verify with my lead manager. For example, I remember that alongside the short-term learning objectives, I really wanted to learn SQL.

I knew that, beyond doing my job properly, I wanted to progress, learn more and do more.

That’s why defining a clear learning path together with my lead, and having a blend of both intentional (formal) and also informal learning was an extremely important aspect to me.

Also, there was this common mentality amongst my colleagues that you should first be able to see the big picture in order to do your job better, which is why the developers never looked down on me and, on their own initiative, spent time showing me the behind the scenes so I can do my job better.

What were some of the challenges you had to face in the first months of the new job?

I think that the first challenge was prioritizing what I had to test.

My problem was that I was writing lengthy cases and I didn’t mind spending a long time learning and discovering more and more testing scenarios.

Still, my colleagues helped me work more efficiently.

A second challenge was that I wanted to go beyond just manual testing. I remember I wanted to work with databases, which required some basic knowledge of SQL.

But that was also sorted because it didn’t take long until I was taught simple (SQL) queries by my colleagues.

How is it like to be a tester at RebelDot?

You got the possibility to do both Manual and Automation testing. It starts gradually, from manual and you can pursue only that if that’s what you want. Manual testing is not just using an app endlessly until you find some bugs, but it is about upgrading the entire requirements creation process and modifying them from your perspective and your team’s feedback, of course.

As a tester, you are the voice of the user, which is why you will be regarded as a very valuable asset to your team. Your opinion is, in fact, critical to the decision-making process when building the end-product. Hence, you are encouraged (and paid) to speak your mind.

It is a sense of accomplishment when you know that, no matter how junior you may be, someone will listen and weigh your feedback.

Tools that you might be using: Squash, SQL, JMeter, Postman

What advice would you have for someone looking to get into QA?

It’s normal and acceptable for you to be uncertain on what career path you’ll be in the near future.

Regardless of what you decide, keep in mind that you have the chance to get feedback from various sources and experiences, thus making a richer decision. There is the opportunity to learn a lot within the company.

It is fine if you don’t know stuff, because certainty is often just an illusion, and might actually send you false judgments. You don’t have to be discouraged for not having a mindset and work ethic already defined.

What are some of the things that helped you grow the most?

A thirst for learning – essentially, admit that learning will take time and be willing to learn. Yes, you got a lot of opportunities, but it’s your process, which is why you should be the one having the initiative.

Now, in terms of testing, you should pay attention to details and dig deeply into every situation to find out the problem. Find out a way to pay attention to details – it can be a checklist, a tool, anything you can think of, anything that might work for you. Otherwise, it is hard to be so responsive/focused when so many things around you are competing for your attention.

I think it’s more important to know why you got where you are instead of knowing where you want to be in the future. But, that, of course, is just my personal opinion.

Also, embrace this role as it is something that you already know. Do it because afterwards you will be able to figure out if that’s what you want to do for the long term. Just commit to learning and by having this mindset you will benefit from all the opportunities that the company has to offer.

What about the people that you’re are working with?

People know how to separate work from spare time and they’re willing to help you with pretty much anything. You don’t have to be in their team, because they will be excited to get to know and help you either way.

It might sound cliché, but, to me, RebelDot is a place where I can be my true self.

Shortly after being hired at Rebeldot and getting accustomed with the people here, especially those in my team, I remember thinking “Finally, someone who appreciates my judgmental spirit and the fact that I’m always looking for flaws.”

Generally, I tend to see the negative aspect, but that’s the kind of role where I am actually happy to see the negative aspects. Personally, I promote the via negativa principles: focusing on cutting the negative instead of adding and adding the positive in one’s life. So I assume, the QA domain is quite suitable for my own approach to life.

This role massively satisfies my curiosity.

I hope that you found this interview just as insightful as it was for me to listen to Cristina.

If you are also thinking about starting your career in tech and grow with us, have a look on our careers page and see what positions might fit you.

You might also want to read our previous Rebel Tech Story, where we talked to Vali, one of our Mobile Developers, about his journey at RebelDot, from starting out as an intern to becoming an accomplished React Native Developer

13 lessons RebelDot

13 screwups that turned out to be the most valued 13 lessons of my entrepreneurial journey.

At RebelDot, 2020 ended with an online event hosted by Cluj Startups, where I shared some of the most important lessons I learned in my 13 years of doing business in tech.

I know…13, might sound a little bit suspicious for some. Some won’t even open the article because of it. But this article is not for everyone — it’s for the rebels. (if you’re here, I guess you are one).

Cluj Startups is a community focused on tech/IT startups, programs, and events in Cluj-Napoca (and Transylvania). It aims to inform and support the local startup ecosystem, as well as to promote bright initiatives/opportunities for the startups in Transylvania.

In 2020, they started a series of events under the name of Startup House Meetups, inviting founders and business owners to share their experience in growing tech companies.

And that’s why I got invited.

I felt my discussion there brought value to the audience, so I decided to create an article based on it, covering the most valued 13 lessons of my career until today.

1. Be an opportunist. (No, not that kind.)

If you know me, you have, most probably, heard this story before. In 2008 I was a 4th-year student at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. With both my parents working in the medical field, I was already walking astray from what the normal course of things would have looked like for me.

I had been already been working for two years for Digilent Ro, the subsidiary of an American company in Cluj, Romania. As Romania seemed the suitable place to build tech products, not just because of its competitive advantages of Eastern European prices, but because of the numerous software engineers that were just leaving University, the founders of Imprezzio visited Cluj.

Since the Washington based company decided to open a subsidiary in Cluj, I saw the opportunity and got involved. They soon offered me the Romanian Operations Manager position. My first task was to bring onboard 7 developers in a couple of weeks. I started to hire my university colleagues, running interviews from various restaurants in Cluj. Looking back, it seems like I was the right person at the right time, with the right attitude.

13 years later, some of my university colleagues are still working with me.

I see today’s aspiring entrepreneurs often paralyzed by not being able to identify the right opportunities for them, when, in fact, those opportunities are there — laying in plain sight. Notice the problems around you, and see if there is a way for you to solve them.

Make change your best friend (some of your biggest opportunities will come as a result of change; I once read this:

An entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.

Don’t get this statement wrong. I don’t mean try anything that goes through your mind no matter how stupid it is. Try anything that you believe in and you thought out.

2. Time passing won’t increase your seniority and experience.

True. Although this is more of general career advice than a specific entrepreneurial takeaway, remember that time passing will not increase your seniority, nor your experience.

I have learned that the more you expose yourself to new experiences and tasks inside a company (be it outside your JD), the more you accelerate your personal and professional growth rate.

Today’s companies are actively looking for people that foster an entrepreneurial mindset and understand the wheels that steer a business. Stepping out of your job description for the benefit of the company will help you outnumber years of experience with actual working experience.

The more things you get involved in and more exposed you are, the more prepared you will be for the future.

“I’m not going to do this as it’s not in my job description.” In my opinion, the best line in a job description is “Anything else as needed”, and yes, you should get involved in things that are diverse and which will help you gain more exposure and experience.

3. A company is not a family.

For almost a decade, I preached the sticking similarities I found between families and employees from my company. This analogy is also one that you have most probably stumbled upon during at least one of your interviews.

The first time I started questioning the familial character of a company was the first time I had to let an employee go, based on poor performance.

Years after, I read a Tweet by Adam Grant talking about the concept of family vs community in the company. I must say I agree with him.

A company is not a family.

A company is a community, a place where people feel a sense of belonging and care about one another while working for a common goal. A family-like company is great but can be a blocker when it comes to performance assessing and cost-cutting.

I assume if one of your children does not perform as expected, you are not going to let them go due to low performance, neither value misfit.

I started a chat around this on LinkedIn, and it was interesting to see how people are embracing this.

4. Stop trying. You are not going to please everyone.

As I started my entrepreneurial journey surrounded by colleagues and friends, I always wanted to involve everyone in the decision-making process of our tiny organization. This worked for an eight people company. As soon as we reached 20 people, we couldn’t decide on where to go for our next teambuilding. This is when I realized unanimity decisions are just dreams and that voting is usually not the best mechanism for decision making.

"Give everyone the opportunity to speak up and be heard. Listen, analyze, then decide. Even if there are people who do not agree with a decision, make sure that they commit to it."

Jeff Bezos

5. You need to start letting go.

Although I started out as a software engineer, at some point I had to look at the things I was doing and let go of the things where I was not bringing that much value.

Starting small as an entrepreneur creates a scene in which you get to know, do, and be involved in everything. Before you know it, you are the best micromanager your company has seen, handling sales, finance, culture, development, recruitment… and interior design 😊.

Accepting work that is good but different than you would have done is hard, but you need to do it if you want your team to grow not having its hands and feet tied to yours. Micromanagement will get you into burnout while communicating a lack of trust in your team.

6. Offer the best service you can, and they will come back looking for more!

RebelDot is a company in which 70% of the business is referral driven. Since the beginning, we strived to offer services that give people at least one reason to refer us.

Our biggest client is the result of a small project we did years ago. I remember being on the edge of refusing the project because it was much smaller than the projects we were working on at that time.

In the first few years, we’ve grown on the services side of the business just through referral, which was happy clients referring us to other clients.

7. Who should I hire? Skill is important, but attitude is irreplaceable.

Being in the business for a long time, I can say I have been through a lot of recruitment scenarios. I hired people with great skill and the right attitude, people with great skill and awful attitudes, as well as people with little skill & the right attitude.

At RebelDot, we look for team players. Patrick Lencioni says the ideal team member is humble, hungry (driven), and smart (people-smart). I agree with him and can tell you that you should avoid skillful politicians, they are going to be a pain for your business. Good luck in identifying them!

Hiring Rebeldot

8. Transparency vs. secrecy in a company.

A few years ago, our development fees were not transparent towards employees.

One of our developers realized his hourly net salary was 1/3 of our hourly rate and asked for his salary to be doubled.

I smiled and invited him for a chat. Breaking down the rate, I explained to him what goes into it, together with rentals, overheads, and other administrative costs.

He immediately understood and changed his mind.

I always think that if I would ever start a new company, I would go for full transparency regarding the salaries of everyone on the team.

Why?

Because when it comes to creating a healthy company culture, transparency is always better than secrecy. If people know the real value they bring to the company and the actual costs of administrating a business, it will encourage them to act responsibly towards the company.

9. Although profit is usually a result and not a purpose, make sure you watch your cashflow.

This one may seem a classic, but it is the one that hit me the most.

Your business could be bringing in massive revenues and fail next month. Does this make sense?

Not for most… but it is especially important to make the difference between cash flow, revenue, and profit.

If money goes out from your business sooner than the revenue coming in, you are in trouble.

This topic seems to be most ignored by young entrepreneurs.

I have taken part in quite a few startup contests by now and, to this day, I am amazed by how optimistic the startups are on the budget side. They never consider their and their friends’ time investment.

Besides these, all-other expenses are grossly underestimated.

It is important to be aware of cash flows and budgets as you might need to get external funding.

PS: Don’t rely on banks. They do not like startups and young businesses.

10 . Find a way to transform disaster into opportunity — resilience is key.

This has happened multiple times since I started my first business.

Probably the most remarkable moment was the end of 2017 early 2018 when, after a series of events, the USA CEO of Imprezzio informed me that the services part of the business is not attractive for them anymore… this meant that I should let go of half of my team.

That wasn’t an option for me, so I decided to buy the part of the company they didn’t want anymore.

That’s how RebelDot was born.

In business, you have to make uncertainty your friend.

Trial and error carry the precious commodity of information. The Antifragile mindset (if you are familiar with the book of Nassim Nicholas Taleb) is a unique one. Whenever possible, try to create a scenario for yourself in which randomness and uncertainty are your friends, not your enemies.

The key is to know/learn how to fail properly. Never take a risk that will take you out of the game completely. Develop the personal resilience to learn from your failures and start again.

With these two in mind, you can only fail temporarily, not permanently.

11. Friendship does not have much value in business, especially during hardships.

After having a friendly discussion with my partners and agreeing on the general terms of the split I was announced that things will be taken over by a team of lawyers and auditors. This led to a long and extremely bureaucratic 6-month process.

Before this I really thought that whatever will come up, we will find a way to agree and proceed… never have I thought lawyers and financial experts will be involved. It was immature on my side to think that way.

We are still friends today.

12. Always look at things from multiple angles. Does everyone share the same perspective you do?

Since 2018, the RebelDot holiday policy has been different than the usual holiday policies you see at typical companies in Romania.

Every employee with a lifetime of over two years in RebelDot benefits from unlimited holiday, a very similar concept to the No Holiday Policy in “Reed Hasting’s No Rules Rules” book.,

So, does unlimited holiday sound like a clever idea?

Yes… until it makes the way you pay overtime obsolete.

KPI’s fall in this category as well. Always when you create a KPI (key performance indicators) there is unwanted behavior that might appear, so make sure that before you set any goals, you look at them from multiple perspectives.

Having the ability to see things from different angles will give you the power to really understand the world around you.

13. Culture matters.

Before the company split in 2018, the company culture started to deteriorate at a rapid pace. We did a couple of wrong hires, had split focus into services and products that we were building, internal conflicts were blooming by day, and things just went downhill from a cultural perspective.

The division happened, and around 100 people parted ways.

I was left with the services division of the company. The team was great, and the future uncertain. We had a few clients inherited from the past company and we were relying on our work to be of such exceptional manner that it would attract new clients through referral.

Shortly after forming the company, we started laying down our values, defining the type of company we wanted to grow into. We had a few internal values contoured, which was a great start for building a new company culture.

RebelDot values

Despite being COVID year 1, in 2020, 27 new employees joined RebelDot and we started 2021 with 3 new hires.

After over 2 years of existence, we are entering 2021 with almost 90 people in our team.

We had an incredible retention rate of 94% in 2020.

This was a long read, so thank you for reaching the end of my article. 

Not long ago I also gave an interview on what being a rebel in tech means for me. You can also read that too if you found my thoughts insightful.  

If you would like to get in touch, go and connect with me on Linkedin. I’d love to meet you see what are the most valuable lessons of your own journey.

If you would like to stay in touch with people at Cluj Startups, keep an eye on their future events.

Stay Rebel!

RebelDot Intern React Native

Rebel Tech Stories: From intern to a React Native Developer at RebelDot.

Valentin is a React Native Developer who started out as an intern in our team two years ago, when RebelDot, as you know it today, was only at the beginning of its journey.

We figured out we might glance at his experience, since he’s been growing at the same pace as the company itself, seeing how this whole rebel culture unraveled.

He is 23 years old and embarked on our team in 2018, right after his second year of university, back when we were only 36 people in total with 3 of them in Oradea.

Why did you choose to apply for an internship at that time?

As part of the course that I was pursuing, we were advised that we should undertake an internship to gain some practical experience. While most of my colleagues were mainly motivated by this somehow compulsory factor, I knew from before that I wanted to start working, even prior to graduate university, as I was just coming back from a Work & Travel experience which I have had in the United States.

Why the RebelDot internship?

I remember that when I first saw the announcement, there wasn’t really any history about RebelDot, as they were just splitting up from the American company. Not knowing too much about them didn’t necessarily come across as being a dodgy opportunity.

Not at all, in fact.

Perhaps the one aspect that made me want to apply for them without any hesitation was the fact that, in that post, there were specified many innovative and new technologies that the successful candidates would have the opportunity to work with.

To this day, we still lure interns with the opportunity to learn and work with some of the latest technologies. Why was this so appealing to you back then?

I would say that those who are a bit low maintenance don’t necessarily find this aspect as the main motivation to apply for an internship, but most of my colleagues at university, as well as myself, students who were genuinely passionate about tech, already had an idea about which technologies were more advanced and sustainable in the long run.

We were not just looking for an internship to simply tick that box in our university curriculum and make our teachers content, but rather looking for opportunities to launch our careers, challenge ourselves to step outside our comfort zone, learn more and do meaningful work for both ourselves and those we were yet to collaborate with.

Do you remember what was your first impression of RebelDot?

Obviously, I was super nervous on my first day.

Still, because when I started the internship, in Oradea, there were only 3 people working in that headquarters, it was super easy to get to know them and become friends.

Some might have probably been discouraged seeing that the company was that small, but I guess that, to me, this was another positive aspect, because in no time the atmosphere became pretty informal and it really felt like being part of a community, working together, getting lunch everyday together and talking about stuff that weren’t necessarily related to work.

What was your learning process like while being an intern at RebelDot?

As I was mentioning, when I started in Oradea, besides us, the interns, there were 3 more rebels already working there and all of them sort of took the responsibility of mentoring us.

Now, in terms of the dynamic and specifically the way we received feedback, I remember that it was, indeed, structured, but also very proactive. This means that, besides the regular feedback rounds, we could always ask our mentors for their opinion, no matter the part of the process we were in.

What I found particularly helpful was the fact that we were rather encouraged to first search for the solutions ourselves.

Each time I was dealing with a difficulty, I would first look it up on the internet or do whatever I could to untangle the situation myself.

Not that the mentors wouldn’t have helped me, but I just knew that if I want to thrive and eventually land an actual job here, they would appreciate me doing that extra effort.

And I was right.

What would a normal day at the office looked like in your internship?

Uhm, well, I was working 6h a day. I’d get to the office, start by going through the resources which I had to learn for that day and carry on with some practical exercises where I would apply the fresh knowledge that I have just acquired after reading the resources.

Next, we would have the usual meeting/s and then we would all take the edge off by grabbing lunch together. Right after lunch, I would continue with the exercises meant to strengthen the knowledge that I’ve gathered throughout the day and from time to time, I’d ask the mentors for some guidance.

The internship lasted for 3 months.

In the first two months, there was mainly learning, applying the concepts through practical exercises and getting used to working with them, pretty much like building muscle memory. In the last month, after becoming fit and confident enough with the stuff I learned by then, I was given the chance to work on a client project, which, as you can imagine, was very exciting!

What were some of the challenges that you had to deal with as an intern?

Being at the start of your career, you kind of know that, despite the passion and the knowledge acquired throughout university, you still have a lot to learn. When you are surrounded by people more skilled than you, this might come across as intimidating at times, especially when you have to ask for their help, not because they make it like that, but because you reinforce this situation involuntarily, in your mind.

The way I overcame this aspect was by willingly commit to forging some bonds with them outside of work. Everyone is nice to you if you allow it and engage with them.

The more time you’ll spend at the company, the less formal you will find everything, but you can shorten this time by simply going over that mild anxiety border.

Talking about outside of work, what were some of the activities you did back then with the other rebels?

There were many evenings that we spent walking around the city, dining together, going to the cinema, or even playing board games. I know for sure that each week we would all plan something to do together outside of work and that was nice to see – the fact that, no matter how new we were to the team, everyone was making efforts to bond us all together.

Did you find it hard to land a permanent position?

I wouldn’t say it was particularly difficult, but I remember that, from the very beginning, when I was given the reading materials, I committed to learning them both in and outside my work hours.

Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t a time I was asked to do extra hours or to compromise my spare time, but because I really wanted the job and mainly because I had a genuine interest in the knowledge I was given access to, I wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

How did you land the actual job?

I remember very well. I had an appointment that day to discuss my progress, as well as the outcome of my internship. However, prior to that, I remember that I was at the office with Sergiu, the other intern, waiting for our mentors to finish their internal discussion about this outcome and, as soon as they invited us in, I could have told from their attitude that the response was going to be a positive one.

What would be your advice to an intern looking to land a full-time job?

Beyond being genuinely interested, it is as simple as showing that you can and that you want to do more. With this kind of mentality, never settling for only the tasks you’re offered, you’d have an advantage amongst the other candidates

If this story made you want to apply for an internship at RebelDot, then, great news – we still got 8 positions available for our Spring Internship.

Good luck!

Job Crafting RebelDot

Do It Yourself Dream Job – Job crafting at RebelDot.

The trouble with this whole pandemic is that it makes all days look pretty much like one another. Would you believe that it’s already November? It sure doesn’t feel like it. More like March the 246th.

Days are certainly blending themselves when you work from the same place, wear the same comfy clothes and do the same tasks over and over again. Now, your work and the life you have outside of it are all mixing up together, becoming a huge routine. Wouldn’t you like to spark it up a bit?

Unless you have some magical pharmaceutical skills or an enchanted wand to make all this pandemic go away, you really can’t do much about the context, so you have to accommodate it. However, there’s still something you can do about your job, optimizing in a way that it never fails to excite you, something about the tasks you encounter and the way you look at them.

You may ask “but how?” and I’m more than happy to provide some useful information for you.

First of all, let me introduce you to the concept of job crafting.

What is Job Crafting?

Job crafting is basically any change that you willingly make from the standard job description of your role, in order for it to better satisfy your needs, whether we are talking about emotional, professional, or well-being needs. These changes may refer to your behaviors, the people you work with, or how you perceive your job.

How do I get started with Job Crafting?

Oftentimes, changes come with little anxieties and moments of indecision. You know that you want to make a change, but you don’t even know where to start. In the scientific world, there is a framework called Job Demands-Resources. Basically, every job has its demands and its resources, and if they are well balanced, they lead to high performance and a general sense of well-being.

To start your job crafting experience, try to make a kind of a Pro vs. Cons list, but with the resources and the demands, you have in your job. After you do this, think about what you’re missing. Maybe you got so good at your job that you can do it with your eyes closed and feel the need to learn a new skill. Possibly, despite the fact that you may see your team colleagues every day, you miss the people you had short conversations with during the time you made your coffee. Do you think your job is boring and it doesn’t have an impact? Ask the colleagues around about your contributions and have a change in perspective.

There are three levels where you can bring changes: task crafting, relationship crafting and cognitive crafting. It may sound vague, but allow me to document these with a few examples from RebelDot.

What is task crafting?

For instance, Petruta gradually started to juggle between an Employer Brand Specialist role and a Product Manager one. When we decided to develop our own product, she took the skills she developed to manage her own start-up, Parentool, and started applying them to our company. That is how Visidot was born and now Petruta is a full-time Product Manager.

You feel like you’re getting used to the Quality Assurance practices and want to add a little spice to your work? Why not try to adopt Scrum Master responsibilities? At least that’s what happened to our colleague Andrei, who felt that he needed a little bit more of a challenge in his professional life and decided to direct his amazing people skills towards project management.

That’s what we call task Crafting and that’s also what Andrei and Petruta did in order to feel more fulfilled at work. After all, it’s also one of our key company values.

Keep in mind, though, that task crafting does not have to be an extreme change. For example, writing articles is definitely not in my job description, however, this small responsibility keeps me engaged and makes me happy.

If performance is what you’re after and you’re trying to make an impact on your responsibilities, setting and then checking the qualitative and quantitative key performance indicators would be a good starting point. Keeping up with the newest developments in technology and procedures is also a good way of staying connected and improving your overall performance.

What is Relationship Crafting?

The pandemic came with its own struggles, mainly in the social area of our lives. I certainly feel like I miss my colleagues a lot and are such a big part of my job. Relationship crafting is all about reshaping the interactions while you do your job. To do this, I participate in our renowned Blind Dates and Coffee O’clock initiatives. It certainly helps me to get in contact with different colleagues and then stay in touch with them.

We have designed and implemented a Buddy Program for our new joiners to help them accommodate better in their first three months in RebelDot. We had a couple of colleagues who decided to sign up for this project and relationship craft their jobs, involving themselves in showing the newbies our way of working and having fun.

Moreover, another type of relationship and task crafting (what a combo!) would be informal mentoring. If you have a colleague you admire and has the skills that you would like to learn, hit them up! Besides the technical mentoring, you’ll also get yourself a friend. Win-win situation! If you’re a person with more domain-specific knowledge, you can also “adopt” one of your colleagues who is just now starting their career path. That would be an awesome opportunity to guide them along.

If you have one “office best friend” that you used to hang out with and did a great job together, but now they are working on a different project, remember that they are only one Slack call away. It certainly brings a bit of joy when you get to talk to them and remember the fun times you had at the office.

Brainstorming sessions are also a small gate to contacting a colleague you do not work with, but you would greatly appreciate their input on the problem. Go out of your way and ask for “outside” help. Sometimes, people who are not directly involved with your project can have a different and innovative perspective on the problems you are facing.

What is Cognitive Crafting?

Technically, one of the tasks Dragos has is to document and then write articles in different areas of expertise. However, he does not see this part of the job as dealing with a mountain of research and then transferring it to a post. He sees it as an opportunity to educate others, to bring light to what we do as a company, and make us shine.

This is called Cognitive Crafting, and it’s all about changing the perspective on how you view your job.

Or perhaps change might be too much of a radical word to describe a mere adjustment of the angle you look at the work you are doing. Think about this technique as having a binocular whose zoom you can play with, shifting from that one seemingly minor purpose of yours to the big picture that you and your colleagues are painting day by day. It is only then when you will realize the many facets of the impact your actions bring.

On a more metaphorical level, it has to do with our collective willingness to be part of something bigger than ourselves. But how are you going to assess whether you are already part of that if you’re not taking the initiative to see behind the horizon?

Bring more meaning to your job.

Now that we’ve been through all the kinds of job crafting that you can apply, you can understand that this process is a wonderful tool to bring more meaning to your job.

If you feel that you have any skills outside your job description that could shine through in your company, all you have to do is talk to the people who can make these changes happen. I am sure they would be more than willing to accommodate you.

Job crafting is an awesome way to prevent burnout and disengagement, but make sure to take things slowly. Taking on too many responsibilities can bring more stress and can directly impact your well-being.

Lastly, perspective is everything in whichever area of life you look. The same applies to your job. Take a step back and evaluate the impact you make and focus on the positive aspects.

We are all working in dynamic contexts, and, to properly face all the challenges, we have to be dynamic as well. Don’t settle if you’re not happy with the way you are working.

You have the power to make changes and job crafting applies anytime, anywhere, independent of the context we are living in.

Don’t forget that.

Stay rebel!

RebelDot farewell old office

Leaving our HQ behind & embracing the future of work.

We are now moving out of our Headquarters in Cluj-Napoca, the heart of Transylvania.

As I am writing this, we are on our way to begin a new chapter of our journey.

You can imagine we are both nostalgic and excited.

Nostalgic because, as we walk out of this office for the last time, we can only think of all the memories we made here. Excited because we are bound to reinvent ourselves once again, embracing the future of work, as well as the future of RebelDot.

In the past few days, we were all busy with packing boxes and going through all the hassle that comes with moving out (all of which has been done while keeping our social distance).

Shortly, the place that we used to call home for the past 6 years, became loudly empty.

RebelDot moving out

It is said that art is how we decorate space, but this was no museum, and we didn’t have any interior design skills whatsoever. Still, we decorated it with our presence, attaching meaning to every lifeless spot in the office.

From that warm corner in the kitchen, where we would gaze through the window on a rainy day, to the water dispenser that we’d travel to when feeling stuck, or the meeting rooms that had known and witnessed our biggest ideas.

Origin story.

As RebelDot, we have spent 2 years in the office on Buftea Street. It’s the place where some of us met for the first time. The walls of our office witnessed intense interviews and created room for some of our most memorable brainstormings and client meetings.

But the history of this office dates way back.

Some of us have been working here for almost 6 years, long before our current CEO acquired the services division of Imprezzio Global, transforming it into RebelDot.

To them, this has been already a space of transformation.

RebelDot Buftea office memories

Back to the present.

We knew that remote working was the future of work, but we didn’t expect to be plunged into this whole new thing overnight.

Luckily, as an agile organization, we have adapted to the new conditions pretty fast. In just a matter of days, everyone mobilized and each rebel was delivered a home-office set-up which included laptops, screens, smartphones for our mobile developers, the peripherals needed and even office chairs.

In no time, we all started working from the comfort of our own homes, wearing comfy slippers & bottoms and sipping our usual coffee (or champagne) in front of the video camera now.

RebelDot Remote Meetings

Embracing the future of work. 

Embracing this new kind of working environment, at first, we feared that productivity was going to lower and that it will be a drag for us to adjust to the new working environment – our own homes.

We were wrong.

In fact, looking at the reports following the first two months of working remotely, we noticed that our productivity levels went through the roof, which had its own downside.

With the line between our homes and work getting so much thinner, we had to develop strategies that would ensure the well-being of the team and support our people’s work-life integration.

That’s why, in the weeks that followed, our People and Culture department focused on ensuring that everyone was engaged and safe, carrying out various initiatives, from online cooking nights to emotion-management sessions with renowned psychologist doctors.

Once everyone seemed to have got used to the new way of working, we have officially released a statement, to publicly announce that we have adopted a home-first policy for at least two more years.

We decided to switch from working in an office building to periodically see each-other in a house that looks more like a residence than an office.

Before the pandemic, the office was designated to stimulate productivity. Noticing that this wasn’t the case anymore and that we can still perform when being at home, we decided that the new space should be more like a playground, a social area where bonds are tightened, where we meet to take the edge off a challenging project and chat about anything, but not work.

That’s why, when we started to do our research for this new home, we had a few specific requirements in mind, some details that were going to change the aspect of your casual office into a warm and welcoming home. Besides the decorations that we were going to add, we specifically wanted the house to have a chimney, a spacious garden and lots of natural light.

And guess what?

We found the perfect house.

It was obvious that this change was going to take place, eventually, but, to most of us, it was, indeed, a sudden transition, more like a roller coaster ride. Still, it was a transition that we went through together, a ride that we were able to enjoy, taking care of ourselves as well as each other.

Just like we made all those memories at our previous office, we are now looking forward to doing the same, remotely.

Work-Life Integration

How to play hard and work hard; a guide to better work-life integration.

We’ve all heard about the “work hard, play harder” saying, but how can we return to the play part when we’re now surrounded by work. Disconnecting from our devices after the working hours are over has become harder now that we’re all working from home, especially if all our hobbies involve them.

Work-life balance has always been a well-known concept, but now that the line between work and home has become thinner, this entire concept is enjoying its time under the critic’s spotlight. The past few months have redefined the way in which we do both work and play. If 7 months ago I was walking the floors in our downtown office, today I am writing this article from my living room with my dog as my assistant.

Life as we know it changes, and it changes fast, therefore, the proactive thing to do is to erase that line between work and personal life completely and redefine it as work-life integration.

Ready to dive into the topic?

What is work-life integration?

According to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, work life-integration is an approach that aims to create harmony between all areas that define the concept of life: work, home and family, personal relationships, involvement in a community, care for our well-being and health.

How do you make work-life integration happen?

Now that we have got a clear understanding of the concept of work-life integration, let’s get started and see how to make all the puzzle pieces of our life fit together in harmony. The first step would be, of course, to make sure that you finish your work in time so that the gloomy overtime becomes a thing of the past. Your laptop is watching you, lonely, from the desk that you’ve been sat at for probably more than 8 hours. How do you not let work guilt trip you into trading precious me time for the tasks that will most likely be there tomorrow?

Review the tasks at hand and scratch them out

Analyze and investigate the tasks and problems you have at hand. Sure, it’s easy to get carried away and feel overwhelmed when you have a dark cloud hanging above your head, a swarm of bees with different ticket names from Jira or things from your to-do list that you’ve postponed and are starting to haunt you. Shoo those bees away and lay down the things that you have to do on a clean piece of paper. Make sure to write it down the old fashioned way, so you get the brutal satisfaction when you finally scratch the items off your list once you’ve accomplished what you had in mind.

Review Tasks, Create Lists

Ask for help when needed

Now that you’ve got your list and the dark cloud doesn’t seem so dark anymore, it’s time to find the silver lining. What silver lining, you might ask? It might sound a bit cliche, but your colleagues might help you pull through and bring a little rainbow after them. Look at the list you just made and ask yourself “who might help me finish this?”. Don’t be afraid to ask around, you might find someone who sees your tasks as challenges and opportunities to grow and learn something new. It’s a win-win kind of situation.

Ask for help

Set boundaries and expectations

Teamwork does indeed make the dream work, but before that, you have to communicate. One important part of communication is setting expectations and boundaries with others. Talk about your schedule and the time you expect to be done with work, and emphasize the importance of having time for yourself. In case those boundaries are crossed, make sure to kindly remind your colleagues of your preferences, they get a little carried away too. To further enforce this rule, make sure you turn off your Slack notifications when you need the time of yourself, and ignore all incoming mails. More often than not, they’re not that urgent as the loud ping makes you think. If your hobbies include using a computer, make sure you have a separate one for the fun things — if this is not an option, just go ahead and create different users for both work and play.

Set boundaries to expectations

Have an ear for advice

Besides the help with the actual tasks, your colleagues might even help you with pieces of advice when it comes to organizing your work. One thing that I’ve learned from Iulia, my colleague from the People & Culture team, was to block chunks of time in my calendar to better structure my work. This helped me a lot with prioritizing my tasks and also led to better time management, knowing that I have an assigned time frame for getting things done.

Take that advice

Self-efficacy and how to raise it

A useful concept that I’ve learned while studying Psychology was self-efficacy. Self-efficacy means that individuals know that they are capable of pulling off different behaviours in order to achieve performance. This concept is not something stable, that remains the same wherever we look in our life, which sometimes maybe a bad thing. Who doesn’t wish to have that kind of confidence in all domains? The good thing though, is that you have the power to increase it.

Self Efficacy

Now you might think that what I’m talking about is totally random, but let me show you how understanding more about this phenomenon helps you achieve work-life integration. When it comes to easy, routine tasks, your self-efficacy is high.

You’ve done this before, you know how it goes and how to trick the system. When it comes to these types of tasks, try to start with the ones that might be time-consuming and a bit more tiring, so that at the end of the day you can relax and do the easier tasks at a faster pace. The tricky part is when you have new and complex tasks that you’ve never had the chance to encounter before. In these types of situations, working the other way around might lead to better performance. Start with the easy tasks and bit by bit you build your self-efficacy.

For more tips on how to raise your self-efficacy, our colleague Iulia recommends the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy.

Build a routine to end the day

To better accentuate the end of your workday, create a little ritual that indicates that indeed, the work is done and the fun & relaxing time can begin. Before the whole pandemic, my ritual was walking home and listening to different podcasts that would totally disconnect me from my work. Nowadays, the thing that I do is I start to organize and clean my desk and if I’m feeling especially tempted, I might even put my laptop into a drawer to completely erase it from my mind. Out of sight, out of mind is always a good idea when it comes to prioritizing the little time you have for yourself.

Moreover, Slack has a little helpful feature that allows you to set a notification schedule so that none can disturb you after a set time or wake you up in the morning with a random message.

Build a routine to end the day

Schedule your day however you want

Remote work is here to stay, so take full advantage of it! Now that there’s no longer a need to commute and wake up early to get in time to work you can use that time however you like. For example, our UX/Product Designer Tom, who is definitely an early bird, starts his day at 7 AM and gets off work sometime in the afternoon so he has plenty of free time to get the worm. Ildi, our Team Lead/Mom of two, starts her day by spending time with her children before logging in to tackle the development challenges of the day.

Schedule your day

Final words

However, sometimes the natural course of the day does not follow a linear cycle: wake up, work, enjoy yourself. That’s why the concept of work-life balance is kind of outdated. If you have a flexible work schedule, embrace it! Work-life integration is all about intertwining your life with your work, especially now that a 9 to 5 program is something you don’t often hear about. Feel free to start your day with one of your hobbies, go out for lunch with a friend, watch an episode of your favourite show in the middle of the day. You know better what suits you and what helps you keep a light mood during the day. Take breaks, enjoy yourself and return to work with fresh forces. Be mindful of your own well-being and stay rebel!

Work-Life Integration TLDR
Rebel Tech Stories Tudor Ciuleanu 1

Rebel Tech Stories: Tudor Ciuleanu – CEO RebelDot.

Who is Tudor Ciuleanu?

Over the years, I’ve come to embody many roles, but the most important of them all are being a father and an entrepreneur.

I have been present in the tech scene for more than 12 years. Until not long ago, I used to introduce myself as a young entrepreneur. However, having started to interact more often with entrepreneurs 10 years younger than me, I thought I’d better get rid of that “young” label.

My passion for technology surfaced at 9 years old, when I was given the first PC. I vividly remember it was winter when my father got back from France with a Macintosh Performa 430. You can imagine that I spent most of the following months at home, studying each component of my new PC.

Despite being raised in a family of doctors, I have graduated with a degree in Computer Science, as part of the Technical University in Cluj-Napoca. I am constantly asked varied questions regarding the professional trajectory that I chose, especially in relation to my parents’ career. I always reply that I was simply fortunate to have a family that supported my rebellious spirit and willingness to choose something different.

I am drawn to everything that’s new, challenging, and that seems impossible. I enjoy being surrounded by people with whom I can transform that impossible into possible.

I don’t like olives, dancing, and sports that involve balls, nor do I have a favorite singer or actor. I am into everything with an engine, I still play with LEGO thanks to my kids, and I will never be able to pick between the seaside and mountains because I like them both.

When it comes to the things I like doing, sailing, snowboarding, skiing, whitewater kayaking, and triathlons are the “sports” that give me the adrenaline rush I am craving for. Lastly, as I’ve been told that I have my way around storytelling, I am trying to enchant both my kids and my friends with frequent stories.

Despite the many facets that remote working has brought to some careers, I am grateful enough to be claiming that working from home for almost 8 months now offered me the chance to be even closer to my kids than before. We already share the same passion for boats, snowboarding and biking, but what is even more fascinating right now is that I started to let them get involved in my work too, which makes the line between work and personal life even thinner.

Not like I have ever believed in anything like work-life balance… In the beginning, it was a bit annoying to have them interrupt my meetings, but now I got used to it and I am not lying when I say that their presence often makes those calls less dull.

What made me start my own business?

Ever since I was a kid, I have developed a clear picture in my mind where I was my own boss, but never had a clear plan for this goal. I only knew I had to identify opportunities and make the most of them to achieve this vision. Few years later, I became fully committed to this vision, starting to invest far more time and resources to make it my new reality. Having a sleeping bag in the office drawer has definitely proven to be a brilliant idea many times.

The reason why I had this specific goal in mind is because I was craving the kind of freedom that entrepreneurship offers you. I am talking about the freedom to decide and build something based on your own values, not on a predefined agenda that you cannot really alter.

What is the current situation of the company and what plans do you have for the future?

It’s been a little over 2 years now, and although this time went by so fast, when I look back, I feel like RebelDot has been here since forever…that’s because of the many great things we have achieved and especially because of the family-like bond that we have cultivated.

From day one, I was transparent with my colleagues. We were all aware that, immediately after the emergence of RebelDot, despite having worked together before, we were now a startup, facing many of those specific problems that a startup has to confront with.

We were already a homogeneous group and had a unifying purpose of growing the team. The idea was to make the business sustainable faster by luring clients as soon as possible. Thankfully, this purpose was reached a year after the company was born. In Romania, I met way too many times the wrongful mentality that a company should be profitable from the very first day… in reality, this is almost impossible because everything starts with an initial period where the foundation is built and that requires considerable investment (in both time and money).

For the future, we aim to continue expanding our web and mobile apps development team to support more companies with our technical expertise. Our purpose is to become tech partners of our clients and even invest in some of the projects we’ll be working on. Our focus will continue being providing consultancy for organizations aiming to develop innovative digital products.

Besides consultancy, having already developed our own digital product, Visidot, we wish to carry on with similar initiatives and create even more digital solutions in-house, ideally supporting the local community.

Currently, we are in the process of growing from 50 to 100 people, a critical stage in the life of a startup, one that has been documented by so many for its difficulty. Having started this entire journey with 20 of us on board, we are now at 75 and continue to expand, all that while working remotely. So far it has been a surprising success, despite the many myths that I personally read in the business books. The most fascinating and perhaps rewarding result of our onboarding efforts was to see that, even in these circumstances, being agile and aligned, we can still maintain the culture that we have worked so much to define. I am glad to see that we are not only surviving, but functioning better than ever.

What challenges did you have in growing the company?

There were plenty of challenges in the past and just as many emerge on a daily basis. Some of them would be:

  1. Finding a name – After 10 years of having the same name, logo, and visual identity, we suddenly found ourselves in the position of having to change everything… We couldn’t settle on something because none of the alternatives seem to fit our vision. It took 6 months and some draining brainstorming sessions until one of our colleagues has mentioned “RebelDot” and we all felt like something finally represents us.
  2. Building the brand – 2 years ago, RebelDot didn’t mean anything as no one was aware of it. Lately, we made some considerable progress in generating awareness around our name, both locally and internationally. Here, the work will continue for a long time.
  3. Differentiation – Just like I mentioned above, we knew right from the start that it would be a drag to hit the market with something completely new. The challenge was to find an authentic approach to differentiate ourselves on the Eastern European market, an image that our clients would also resonate with.
  4. Perception vs. reality on/around the costs – When we started, we hit a harsh reality of this widely known association of the Eastern Europe and, respectively, the Cluj software development ecosystem with the low-cost attribute. Time went by and today, I strongly believe that this is no longer a competitive advantage for Cluj and its entire development hub. In this respect, at RebelDot we seek to offer premium services to our partners, which is why it is impossible to find ourselves as part of this association between Easter Europe and low-cost software services.
  5. Financial History – Having some history behind, our expenses were similar to those of an established company. Basically, we started out as an independent branch of a larger corporation, having to spend like an already established company, but our resources were significantly lower. Being a new organization, there wasn’t any institution that wanted to risk and fund us. Consequently, we had to rely on our friends and the creative spirit within our team to make it past these tough times.
  6. Non-paying clients – Unfortunately, this topic has been escalating in the industry. Neither of us wants to deal with something like that, which is why we always have to be ready for it.
  7. The discrepancy between the expectations and knowledge of the people applying to our opportunities – Eversince RebelDot came into existence, we managed to lure extraordinary colleagues, but the effort put in the selection and interviewing process is huge, especially when you want to get on board the right people.

What advice do you have for the young Romanian entrepreneurs?

I think it is paramount to have the courage to try and the willingness to make the most of the opportunities that often emerge. Nevertheless, as an aspiring entrepreneur, it is vital to befriend failure and manage to leave your pride aside. You should see failure as a natural part of the process, expect it and, obviously, learn from it.

A startup’s purpose should be strongly tied to the problems it aims to solve for the potential clients. It should be centered around the novelty of the solution it brings to the market and not on the ambition to generate profit in the short term. Focus on doing whatever you are doing the best you can, and the profit will follow.

Throughout the years, I have realized that it is painful and costly to only learn from your own mistakes. It drains time and energy that you could otherwise invest constructively in your business. When you are only starting out, it is important to have alongside people that have already been through what you are going through, at least once. Consult with those who have some experience and aim to learn from their mistakes too.

We tend to forget that the business is done between people, which leads us to underestimate the power of networking. Identify the niche that could help your entrepreneurial progress and start investing in building relationships with people who share the same goal.

One last piece of wisdom:

"An entrepreneur has to do two things: To promise what he's going to do and to do what he promised."

This interview was originally given to Expose at the end of last year and then translated & updated by us.

RebelDot Agile Organisation

Agile Organization – a glimpse into our culture, as seen by a newly joined rebel.

I have recently onboarded RebelDot as a Marketing & Communications Specialist, without having any previous experience of working within an Agile organization.

In fact, prior to starting working here, I thought Agile only applies to software development teams.

It came as a surprise when I found out that here, Agile is the norm — a method universally available to both software development teams and other departments existent in the company. It fascinated me how every agile principle in the manifesto has, somehow, found its applicability outside the development scene, deep into the day to day ways of running a company, of now, 73 people.

In this article, I will refer to some of the Agile Manifesto principles, describing how I perceived them to transcend the software development scene and be reflected in the overall company culture.

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

In my situation, the customer was RebelDot, having to deliver constant marketing material that i’ll describe as content in various formats, for the sake of this argument.

What did I do exactly to ensure customer satisfaction in this scenario?

I have understood that crucial to delivering a valuable solution is to listen to the customer and strive to unravel every insight in the information he shares with you.

Collaborating with other departments such as Sales or People and Culture, I have also observed that questions were constantly addressed and that there was no room for superficiality in the way we listened as well as understood eachother. I was somewhat relieved to see that indeed, communication is key and that we were even encouraged to ask the dumbest questions if that was how we got the information right.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

There’s no point in mentioning the dynamic aspect of the marketing team. It is common sense that marketers have to cultivate a sense of urgency and attention to detail and MOMENTUM, which is why I am no stranger to this principle.

However, perhaps a better example of how everyone has responded to change was adopting a remote/home-first policy after the first week of COVID-19.

You would say that onboarding a company remotely implies missing out the culture, but that was definitely not the case for me. Having numerous initiatives in place, like regular coffee meetings, online games, online cooking nights, or even that Slack channel full of memes made me feel part of an authentic organization, where everyone cares for each other.

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Working iteratively and with incremental releases proven to be a trait that is not only specific to the development teams. Often when writing an article or deciding upon a creative campaign, we test them internally by asking for feedback from various people while keeping track of the momentum.

We are not fans of the neverending feedback loop so we try to find a balance between acknowledging feedback from various parties while delivering to a fixed deadline. As for validation from the actual users, we test concepts by, for example, creating either short posts on social media or conversations to see how the public reacts and decide if those topics are worth being developed into more extensive materials.

As a company, we remain open to change, embracing the volatility for the world we live in.

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

One of the first aspects I noticed in my first two weeks as part of RebelDot was the collective tendency towards transparency and inclusion of other departments in various tasks.

I was personally expecting to have a solid collaboration with the sales department, as marketing and sales have always been intertwined. Still, I was happy to see that I can benefit from the UX people’s skill-set, the People and Culture department’s insights and perspective, and even the software departments’ technical point of view.

As creative as people enjoyed getting to help me fulfil a bunch of marketing tasks, this kind of collaboration is recurrent in every department, no matter the nature of the task.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Having close friends working in software development, I was familiar with the concept of Scrum Master. I even envied them for being under a close mentorship and having someone to report to on a daily basis, someone that paved their way towards progress, someone that set the box but also encouraged them to think outside of it.

Two weeks into my new role, I was now used to having daily stand-ups, discussing my progress, laying down the tasks for the day, as well as the blockers that hindered my work. I immediately felt the impact of this approach because someone was always there to provide me with feedback, and even more than that, I was trusted to get the job done.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Since I haven’t really been at the office due to the current regulations, face-to-face conversations are substituted by plenty of online meetings. I know there’s an entire debate around the topic of making your video available, but seeing the person on the other end of the conversation made me feel that touch of humanity, which I know that many of you are missing having been out of the office for so long.

Perhaps simply having an audio call would convey the information too. Still, there’s just something about seeing the person you talk to, something that strengthens the bond between the team members and makes the culture prevalent.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Our CEO has a saying “Do not mistake activity for achievement”, and there’s not more to it than that. Each department has its own KPI’s and everyone is encouraged to work smart because, at the end of the day, progress it’s measured by the quality of work and not by the amount of effort.

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Besides the daily stand-ups, once a week, we attend a company meeting where everyone is giving high-level updates on their work and asking for support where necessary.

These meetings aim to provide transparency between departments and ensure that everyone is up to the speed of business, delivering in line with the goals and expectations.

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

I have been guided towards keeping things simple ever since I wrote the first piece of content for RebelDot and failed to communicate the essential message.

Having been used to developing academic articles at the university, I have approached the same type of writing, thinking that I would impress both the audience and my team by utilizing industry-specific jargon. I was wrong but grateful to receive feedback early in the process.

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

Mark Twain

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Each team is self-organizing and cross-functional. Their leaders’ most important responsibility does not rely on delegating tasks and overseeing (progress) but cultivating a deep sense of trust between the members. This empowers them to coordinate themselves and ensure that goals are achieved without having to be guided on each part of the journey.

Taking their own decisions, members are provided with constructive feedback along the way so as not to be blocked, but to continue benefiting from working at their own pace and in their own style, while conforming to the specific deadlines and targets set.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Lastly, as everyone’s work-load is divided into sprints, perhaps the one weekly meeting we are all excited to have is the Sprint Review meeting. This allows us to glance at the progress we made, map out the obstacles that hindered our efficiency and establish the next goals, and the strategy to act upon them. Being fully transparent with each other makes it easy to acknowledge early in the process the aspects we could have done better.

This benefits the project that we are working on as well as our professional development, establishing a steep route towards growth. Ultimately, what boosts our ambition even harder is the act of tracking and celebrating our progress. We use various Project Management platforms depending on the department, but each of them implies having clear evidence of the weekly tasks and moving them into the “done” column at the sprint review meeting. This might seem like a simple act, but it bears an immense effect in its simplicity.

Conclusion

In the end, after two months of working as part of an Agile organization I’ve got to realize that this methodology transcends well beyond the software development department, yielding a value in all parts of the business.

I have understood that it is not just about working more efficiently, but about ensuring growth and cultivating an ability to self organize. I started to be excited about receiving feedback and eventually realized that there ain’t such a thing as bad or good feedback.

More than that, understanding and practicing each of the previously listed 12 principles, I started to gradually implement them in my day to day life.