#Asia A startup full of “bosses” –and we love it


That’s because we believe it’s true

Image Credit: Gratisography.com

Image Credit: Gratisography.com

Everyone who interacts with anyone working at ShopBack will notice a strange phenomenon. We like calling each other “boss”, and we use it rampantly. From external parties such as merchant partners to internal parties such as, well actually, everyone in ShopBack – including interns and founders (the so-called rightful “bosses”).

Why? That’s because we believe it’s true. We’re bosses in our respective roles and responsibilities.

However, it took me quite a while to get used to this “name-calling.” For me, the term “boss” is a negative label, especially when it comes to teamwork. It suggests unnecessary distance and distinction from your team members.

I prefer the term “leader.”

That being said, if everyone calls everyone else “boss” like what we do here, I guess it just becomes another way of saying “bro” or “mate”. Also, I can’t imagine anyone calling each other “leader” – it doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

Also Read: Want to accelerate startup growth? Here’s why situational leadership is important

Hiring horror

ShopBack is growing at super-speed. Maybe it’s not evident on the surface, but it’s a direct hit on the business, product and engineering fronts.

We need experienced engineers to build cool stuff with us for the shoppers. So for the past month, our team has interviewed at least 100 people in search for the next top engineer. That’s an average of 3.33 candidates per day – and we’re still behind our target of hiring at least three experienced software engineers. We will buck up, we will.

As you can imagine, we’ve met all sorts of people from various backgrounds during interviews. And we’ve accumulated some WTF moments from those interviews –which sparked this article.

When we get hit with such moments, here’s how we look like:

Now you’re just waiting for the details, aren’t you? Here it goes.

Us: Can you share more about your current roles and responsibilities?

Candidate: I assign tasks to the developers.

What’s on our mind: Oh wow. That sounds like you didn’t need to do much.  

Us: Care to elaborate further?

Candidate: I get the requirements from clients and convert them to technical tasks. Then, I’ll assign them to my people.

What’s on our mind: Okay, now you own these people like you’re a shepherd and they’re your sheep.

Us: So … how big is the team?

What’s on our mind: Please take the hint, please take the hint. T-E-A-M. 

Candidate: I have five developers.

What’s on our mind: Kthxbye.

Also Read: 5 lessons in leadership from top female executives

Interview 101: “I” versus “We”

Did you see where we’re coming from? Yes, it’s the “I” versus “We” mentality. Why did you say “I have” or “I assign” when you should technically be working with your developers as a team? Shouldn’t it be “we are” or “we do”?

While you’re here alone at an interview for yourself, you shouldn’t already be ditching your team when telling us about what you do now. This mindset scares us, as we’re not looking for bosses who boss around but leaders who lead by example, like this.

Of course, being a lead probably means that you’ve more expertise to make certain decisions, but let’s get real. When you choose to use “I assign tasks” to sum up what you do as a technical lead, you’ve technically picked the wrong highlight for the role.

For us, a technical lead should be someone who’s capable of mentoring the team and helping everyone (including himself/herself) level-up to create better products.

To be the “go-to” person, to be the reference, to be the inspiration and motivation –these are the key ingredients in our engineers that allow them to cook up superb steaks.

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