November 9, 2016

Values vs Best practices

Back in 2011, the early days of Recruiterbox, I used to split my time between marketing, sales demos and customer support. Even back then, most of the inbound traffic was from the US and I used to stay up till 3 am replying to support tickets within 2-3 mins of them coming in. While I slept, Girish used to wake up at 5 am and take over support till I woke up in the morning. Between Girish and me, and sometimes Raghu too, who was our only fullstack developer, we used to cover support tickets 24/7.

We did not know what the best practice here was - maybe it was 4 hours or one business day. But we just wanted it to be instant. Personally, I was uncomfortable with anyone waiting because it would annoy me if I was in their shoes. And Girish always said "we may not have all the features and a big product, but what we have is the power to provide instant gratification." The customer would feel like we are sitting right there in front of them and their requests are not going into a black hole.

Within the realm of tickets, my pet peeves were bugs. Especially, front end ones that might stop the customer from doing their work. Not being an engineer myself, it used to give me almost a panic attack if there was a front end bug on the system. I used to either wake Girish up, who was my roomate at the time and slept in the next room, and ask him if he could fix it right away. Or in the office, I would stand over Raghu while he tried his best to fix things that were coming in. It took me a while to understand that bugs were a normal part of the development process, and they were a cost we had to pay to deploy things quickly. Raghu spent months trying to explain to me that some bugs would always occur and they were just two developers coding 12-14 hours per day. He lost most of his hair trying to keep the product going in those early days, while explaining basics to me. (p.s. will always be thankful to them for the quasi engineering education I received in the first two years).

I am extremely happy that we managed to not only preserve that value in our company, but it is thriving under this new army of super passionate happiness folks. Values make us who we are uniquely, where as best practices are something every company can do or ought to do. What we have to be careful of is we don't use some publicly derived best practices as our best work. An excuse to do the least. Or an excuse to believe that this is the best we can do with what we have.

Other than instant and immense customer empathy, I would love to know what values you guys think our company ought to have? Number one on my list is a sense of urgency. I think we can get much better at that in many of our teams.

Thanks for reading!