In the highly competitive software development industry, an effective onboarding process for new developers can be a game-changer for project success. Marcela Silva understands this well. As the Director of Projects at Digbang, she has crafted a powerful strategy that maximizes productivity and unleashes the full potential of team members, guiding them from day one until they truly become project “owners.”
In this interview, Marcela reveals the secrets behind this transformative approach she has developed over the years, revolutionizing how developers integrate and thrive within the company.
Digbang: What does the developer onboarding process at Digbang involve?
Marcela Silva: At Digbang, one of the key advantages we emphasize is the opportunity for developers to become experts in various industries, whether it’s within the same technology or different technologies altogether. To achieve this, we have standardized processes that facilitate smooth transitions between projects, minimizing the need for developers to adapt to entirely new methodologies. For each project, we establish a highly structured and organized process.
Once assigned to a project, there are measurable steps in place to ensure a clear understanding of the project within a specific timeframe, allowing developers to gradually tackle more complex functionalities.
D: What would be the distinguisher factor of this process?
MS: During onboarding, we assess how well individuals adapt to the project while providing the necessary support and ensuring their well-being. In larger teams, smaller groups of programmers are formed to provide ongoing guidance and assistance, enabling quick identification of any mismatches.
D: What direct benefit does the client obtain from this approach?
MS: The biggest advantage for the client is that they don’t have to undergo a lengthy training process from scratch because we have already taken care of it at Digbang. In a relatively short time, we establish a process where individuals are already adding value to the project, and their progress can be seen rapidly.
D: What are the key indicators of success for this onboarding process?
MS: There are three key indicators that are very important: task completion effort, the level of questions or inquiries raised, and the level of interaction with the team.
D: Employee turnover is a significant challenge faced by the industry. At Digbang, our company takes pride in having a tenure that is twice as long as the market average. In your opinion, how do you believe this onboarding process, team dynamics, and job challenges contribute to employees choosing to stay at the company?
MS: I believe the strong support provided plays a significant role. From a comprehensive onboarding process to the warm and human touch within the company, combined with a strong sense of ownership fostered among team members, employees truly become invested in their projects. All of this, in my opinion, contributes to their decision to stay with the company.
“The major advantage of this is that the client doesn’t have to undergo a time-consuming training process from scratch, as we have already taken care of it at Digbang.”
D: You often mention that teams at Digbang are “dedicated teams” of each project. Could you explain this concept further?
MS: They are teams with a high level of commitment, value addition, strategic thinking with the client for each solution, treating the project as their own, conducting in-depth market research, understanding it, and driving it forward, and proactively proposing innovations to make the company stand out from others… There are indeed many qualities that make a team a “dedicated team”.
D: Any anecdotes to share about this?
MS: Yes! A couple of years ago, we were working on a project for a client who owns the major shopping malls in Buenos Aires. Our task was to relaunch the mobile discount application for all the stores. It was a 4-month project that involved a redesign and the implementation of new features. Since the deployment had to be conducted outside of mall operating hours, we decided to schedule it for a Sunday at 10 pm.
At that time, I served as the project manager and to my surprise, the team members willingly agreed to gather at the office at such a late hour. In fact, one extra person who was not even part of the team wanted to witness the deployment. The interesting part is that we ended up staying until 3 am (laughs). That’s the level of ownership that defines a dedicated team.
D: What motivated them was not seeking validation from a project manager or the client, but rather their own desire for the project to succeed because they had put in their own effort.
MS: Of course. In such scenarios, the team shows self-sufficiency. The manager takes the role of a facilitator, offering support when necessary and removing obstacles to streamline the workflow.
D: What is Digbang’s approach to the evolution and professional growth of developers once they are integrated into a project team?
MS: The main challenges are centered around product growth and technical advancements. This means being able to tackle increasingly complex tasks or working on projects involving new technologies. We have cases where someone started with a specific task on a project and now they are the person responsible for the majority of the complex tasks within that development.
There is a great deal of learning from the senior profiles within the teams, as they become points of reference and assume leadership positions among their peers. Seniority extends beyond technical expertise and involves working closely with the team and the Project Manager.
D: You mentioned a very interesting topic, which is soft skills. What is your opinion on them in technical profiles, and how are they addressed at Digbang?
D: I think they are a must. It’s a component that carries as much weight as the technical component. Having someone who is brilliant in their software development knowledge but unable to communicate with others is a problem for team dynamics. In that sense, our feedback assessments also include an evaluation of soft skills. It’s the part that helps one grow. One can have a lot of technical knowledge, but to become a leader, those skills are essential.
D: Leadership and support are fundamental as guidance…how does the management team support team members?
MS: Apart from the management team in the company, we have two profiles dedicated to accompanying developers whenever a project begins. They have extensive knowledge of the product and customer relationships, and they personally work on developing those soft skills as a team, particularly with each developer when needed. Ultimately, teams with these characteristics are the ones that function best. Another action we take to work on this subject is organizing meetings with mentors to discuss common challenges.
D: Could you share some lessons learned from all these years of leadership in terms of team management and how they have been applied to improve the process?
MS: Standardizing processes has been crucial in our experience. While each project has its unique characteristics, there are actions and responsibilities that are common to all. This dynamic allows us to assign roles smoothly and measure results more easily. Another valuable lesson we learned was the importance of developing leadership, as I mentioned earlier.
D: What’s next at Digbang regarding project management?
MS: Our focus will remain on continuously improving our internal processes and delivering value to our clients, adapting to their evolving needs in the local and regional contexts.