Blaine: Joining me today is Stephane Marcon, Technical Director and Partner at Infosquare: consulting firm systems integrator and application development firm with offices in Belgium, France, and Canada. Welcome, Stephane!
Stephane: Hello thank you!
Blaine: It’s great to have you here. Now, as you can probably hear, we are actually outside theRAI Exhibition Center in Amsterdam where I’m speaking at the IoT Tech Expo. VANTIQ is exhibiting alongside Infosquare about real-time, event-driven applications. So, it’s great to have you with me today, Stephane. I appreciate your help on the podcast as well as in the exhibition.
Stephane: It’s a fantastic exhibition, very interesting.
Blaine: It has been very interesting and very busy. So, Stephane, tell me about your role in managing and hiring people, which is really the main topic we’re going to be discussing in this podcast.
Stephane: My role at Infosquare is Technical Director which means that I’m overseeing the delivery of projects and solutions that we’re building at Infosquare. This involves managing people, direct management of people or indirect of a group of people and also hiring people, of course, to suit our different projects here.
Blaine: And most of these people are technical, they’re developers, or what are the roles of these people?
Stephane: We have different profiles. A big part of them are industry experts, so people who have an IT background, but still understand the functional side of what they are delivering. There are a lot of newcomers from the new generation. So, people that are just out of the University, the education cycle, let’s say.
Both profiles cohabitate at Infosquare with really senior people and very young people that are also able to join in the different projects we are working on.
Blaine: Interesting. And I think from our discussion earlier today, it’s that focus on that next generation of employees, especially in technical roles, that I was very interested to be hear some of your thoughts on.
Why don’t you start us off with some of your thoughts on how you can help attract, motivate, and retain that next generation of developer.
Stephane: First, I would say that that’s not only a challenge for Infosquare. That’s a challenge for the entire industry at the moment and different industries, actually.
Millennials, as we call them, or the new generation of people that are out of the fantastic universities, are a focus for a lot of different industries. Hiring people is becoming more and more challenging. Finding the good people, identifying those, and keeping those is also a very big challenge. What is the best way to identify high potential individuals and also keep them on our interesting projects on the long term?
Blaine: Well, given how challenging it can be to find the perfect employees, how or what do you have to do to attract them in the first place? What have you found as effective in attracting these people to Infosquare of all the choices they have?
Stephane: First, we’re liaising with different universities and schools to be able to detect, as soon as possible, high potential – background work that we are doing constantly. Second, the easiest way to attract people is through interesting projects that deliver real, practical value and correctly define and scope value to the customer. New technologies, also. So, identifying good projects that we are able to address with new, interesting, and the best technologies on the market.
Blaine: So, is it more about the projects or is it about the ability to use the latest and newest technology?
Stephane: Both. Exactly both. So, that is the double challenge that we have: having the good projects and ensuring that that’s a win-win situation for our customers, but also ensuring that those projects are handled or are answered with the best technologies.
If you use the best technologies, the ones that are the most productive, you deliver value to your customers. Consultants, in general, understand that value. The development cycle is shortened so they are able to understand very quickly what the value is that we are delivering to the customer.
Blaine: So, you’re saying they don’t want to be on two-year long projects where they don’t see value until far, far off in the future. They get excited about creating value now.
Stephane: Exactly. They are interested exactly in what our customers are interested in. Those millennials are interested in generating value, understanding the value that they are providing, understanding their position, their role in this value chain or value delivery chain.
They need to understand that very quickly, in terms of weeks, sometimes. We need to help them understand sometimes, but they are smart enough to understand, in that sense, the value of what they are delivering. They need to understand that fast. Be able to provide on their side to handle the projects as if it was their own projects. We are not speaking about products that are customers’ projects only. This is their project and they need to be involved from the very beginning and feel that this is their project and are delivering with the best technologies in a short period of time the best value for their customers.
Blaine: You were telling me earlier that they think of that value they’re delivering literally in terms of weeks. They have to see progress, see that they’re adding value to the customer, to their own careers, almost a week by week or they’re continually reassessing whether they’re adding enough value, whether they belong.
Stephane: Exactly. So, they need to really understand what they’re bringing to their company. In terms of practical questions, they need to understand, “What am I building as an experience right now – in reality, in real time? Where am I going?” This new generation is really about every single day that they come to work, they need to understand what they are doing. They need to understand their role into the value.
Blaine: And why you’re doing it.
Stephane: Exactly. Why? Why am I coming to work every single day at this place or working from home or whatever the delivery model. What am I doing? What is the sense of what I’m doing?
Blaine: You touched on the technology side a few minutes ago. What do you feel on the technology side is interesting to this generation? There are so many possible technologies, so many fields technologists can be working in these days. What do you think? What kind of tools would make them excited to be involved with?
Stephane: First, I would say low code and high productivity tools. Certainly, whatever we touch, whether that’s about application servers, web servers, databases, blockchain, AI, etc., the interesting thing is that it should deliver value quickly.
High productivity is the key word. So, I need to be able to assemble different technologies to deliver on a particular value. Those technologies need to do what they’re doing in an excellent way. They should focus on what they are doing well. They [millennials] expect technologies or any tools of technologies to do exactly and only what they are good at. Trying to assemble or integrate different technologies is interesting for them as long as those technologies are fitted for delivering value.
Blaine: Yeah. What that leads me to think about and the overall concept for this podcast is the real-time enterprise. So, this is not only about the low code, high productivity way of rapidly building these applications, but then it must be also about the kind of applications they are building are now becoming real-time applications. They’re building the next Uber application. These are not applications where you’re putting all the data into a database and deriving value later. It’s about the immediacy of enabling a process or a system to drive value in real time. Is that part of it as well?
Stephane: Yeah, for sure. What I would also add to that is that most of those use cases that are real time are practical uses cases. We are speaking about a practical case that our customers are able to describe in a very precise way; really practical cases that anyone can understand. Most of the cases, you don’t need senior people with a fantastic background to understand. Those are practical questions. Those are practical use cases, practical problems.
As individuals, we are facing sometimes the exact same problems as our customers. So, those people, those millennials, that are now using their smartphones every single day, doing things in real time. They are trying to use digital technologies and use the best of the technologies that they have in their hand to live their lives. They have the exact same problem as our customers. They need to be fast and productive.
Blaine: You said something a second ago I want to dive into a bit more about the experience that these people have coming in. So, is it helpful for them to have lots of experience using different previous generation of tools and solutions, or do you prefer people who have more of a blank slate?
Stephane: Very good question. If I have a senior profile that is able to erase, for a certain time, what he knows and take a step back, understand, and challenge the technologies that are currently emerging, it is perfectly okay. Then this senior profile is very interesting for me. If he’s able to step back, understand, and digest his experience, perfect profile.
Now, it’s about erasing and accepting and being able to put your shoes in the position of someone that discovers technology, accepts his product for the value of what it provides now, quickly, and not going back into schemas that are not relevant anymore. So, it’s about how you accept new technologies.
The seniority part of the profiles that we are hiring is exactly that. How are you able to digest what you’ve done, make it a real experience? How are you able to move to something else quickly? Because our customers need to do that. You don’t do disruptive activities if you keep thinking the same way. If you keep thinking the same way as your competitors, you’re not disrupting.
Blaine: So are you trying to hire mostly folks with experience who somehow you can get the feeling they’re able to forget or let go of the old schemas, the old way of doing things?
Blaine: Or are you looking more for that next generation that never had the old schemas in their mind in the first place?
Stephane: Both. Both are interesting for us. And more and more I would say that the middle class of profiles are actually less interesting, maybe, for us. [It involves] high profiles with seniority able to ingest new technologies and millennials: people that I can offer new technologies, they grab it from the very beginning. In a matter of days, they are able to understand what does what.
You have to propose those new technologies that are relevant ones. For sure, it’s not just about proposing new technologies that people don’t know, etc. It’s about proposing the good ones, selecting the good ones. That’s my job also: selecting good technologies so that we can invest.
Most of the time, it’s not anymore about selecting one single technology. It’s about orchestrating several technologies and selecting for the particular use case, or for a particular part of the value chain, the technology that is fitted for that one. I need to translate a document? I would use the best solution to translate.
Any single domain needs to be addressed with the best tools. And it’s about orchestration. The orchestration side is the most important. The same way customers are orchestrating their delivery chain with getting the most effective partner to deliver on a particular portion of their delivery chain, we have to do the same on the IT side. This is something that millennials understand perfectly because they know that they are catching, at a given moment, the best technology to deliver, the best solution to tackle a particular problem and they move on.
I’ve used that. It delivered a fantastic value. In real time, I got good value, and now I move to something else. We’re all moving to different subjects, so get the best technology, use it in real time at the moment that you’re needing, then move on to another problem.
Blaine: Very interesting. So, to cycle back to the beginning and talking about how we retain and motivate these employees, it sounds like what you’re saying is even the notion of an employee is almost outdated with millennials. It’s more like a partner. Is that accurate or is that overstating it?
Stephane: That’s exactly the definition that I would give it. It is more about a win-win situation. The same way that you’re partnering with a customer to tackle a particular problem, you also have to establish this win-win situation with your own resources, with your employees. They need to understand what they are gaining from you. You need to understand what you’re getting from them, of course. And I think that’s the key, maybe, is the transparency.
So, as long as, on both sides, we are understanding what we are winning, what we are gaining from both sides, we are in a good productive collaboration. Millennials look at the relation they have with companies in a partnering or collaborating way.[From the perspective of the millennial], what do you have to offer to me as an individual? What does the company have to offer to me as an individual? Where am I building experience? Am I doing what I’m liking? Am I discovering new things? Am I targeting subjects that I am learning on, that are new to me? Where am I getting experience?
You have to make me understand the value of what I’m doing now, not in six months, one year, or five years. In five years, I don’t know where I am. I don’t know where you will be as an organization. We are all living in a system or environment where things are changing that fast that you need to grab the value of things in real time at the good moment.Grab it, because you don’t know what is next. Grab it at that moment. Understand your interest in a particular situation – understanding quickly.
Blaine: It sounds like if you don’t engage in that collaborative partnership with your employees, they’re very willing to partner with somebody else on short order.
Stephane: And it’s about accepting that risk. The seniority, for me, over the organization now is about understanding that; understanding that this is the key challenge for hiring people. We have to go to a way of seeing employment differently and enter into this transparency.
This is challenging because this requires us to have the good projects to provide to people right? I mean, that’s a real challenge. So that’s why, on our side, we are focusing also on high-value projects; being able to propose those high-value projects to our employees also, not only to our customers.
Blaine: Very interesting. Well, Stephane, this has been a really insightful interview. It’s great to speak to somebody on the front lines of not only creating the next generation of applications, but hiring that next generation of people to create the applications. So, it’s been really enjoyable.
For those that would like more information on Infosquare, you can check infosquare.eu, and we’ll talk to you next time.
Stephane: Thanks a lot, Blaine!
Blaine: You’re welcome!