Team spotlight: Bringing value to a multinational energy company through teamwork

It’s one thing to attract talented employees — but how exactly do you get them to work well together and bring the most value to clients? We sat down with one team, focused on building a custom-support platform for a multinational energy company, to get their take on the topic. Read our interview with Miguel, Aleksandrs, Paulina, and Anete below.

Miguel and Aleksandrs are developers, Paulina is a product designer, and Anete is a Scrum master.

Please share some background on the makeup of your team – size, locations, and roles? 

Anete: One thing that I love about our team is that we don’t think and act through the prism of “us” and “them” while speaking about a client. Our team consists of people from Emergn and the client working closely together, which makes feedback loops much shorter and our work more efficient. Our team is made up of people from all over the world, which requires a level of flexibility, but also provides us with diverse perspectives and makes our working environment even more interesting. 

It’s one thing to attract talented employees — but how exactly do you get them to work as a team? 

Miguel: I think it’s still a work in progress for us and always will be. However, we have the groundwork in place to really excel as a team. We value open communication, sharing feedback with each other, building trust, and much more. 

Anete: To make it work everyone just has to show up, be open-minded, and be willing to adapt and learn from each other.  It’s also important to proactively take responsibility not only for your own area of work but also for the client engagement and the job as a whole. It hasn’t always been easy as there are a number of challenging factors to overcome – such as people rotation. But as Miguel said, we’re on the right path.  

Do you see having a team of people with different backgrounds, cultures, and time zones as a benefit or a constraint?

Paulina: As in any work environment, at the beginning, you’re just a group of strangers put together for a specific purpose. Gradually you start building bonds and getting to know each other better. This happens only if you put some effort into it and take that little step forward and ask the other person more than what their work duties require.  It’s a choice, made by every person involved. For example, we have a nice little tradition of having icebreakers at the beginning of our sessions, which is great as it helps open communication up.

Aleksandrs: The time zone difference is really the only constraint, and we just have to adapt and be flexible about it. Luckily within our team, it’s just a 2-hour difference, but we still feel it. For example, at the morning sessions, those who work in Latvia are already full speed into everything, meanwhile Porto colleagues are still drinking their first-morning coffee and are just starting to swing into the workday.  

Miguel: There are some differences culturally as well. So, we naturally react and look at things slightly differently, which is not a bad thing. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, but we just have to keep that in mind and respect that. While working with stakeholders from Germany, we must make sure to reveal the unknowns as soon as we can, be as detailed and precise as we can – that’s just good practice. As much as it’s different from what we’re used to in Portugal, we must be flexible and adapt. 

What’s the greatest challenge you face at the work- as a team and as individuals?

Paulina: In my role as a product designer, the main challenge is the communication and alignment between the management team and the development team. Requirements might change many times and it’s the feedback loops that help makes sure that I’m passing everything correctly to my development team. 

Aleksandrs: For me, it’s the planning and adjusting on the fly. While developing features, I always commit to it, and it naturally can get quite exhausting when you realize you need to make major changes or even start from scratch. However, this is the best opportunity to strengthen the approach of incremental development – you commit to something, you test the idea and if it works right, you continue enhancing it. If not, then we simply fail fast and soon realize we need to put our energy elsewhere. 

Miguel: We’re building a platform for a huge energy company, so the scope of the work, complexities, and dependencies that impact our work is very broad. There are many stakeholders to align with and different teams and subcontractors to work with to deliver the product. So, it’s all about communication and taking responsibility for the project as a whole. 

Anete: For me as a Scrum master, it’s getting everyone on the same page, to ensure our internal working environment is healthy. Which then makes it much easier to deal with any other challenges that we face individually and as a team.

How does our work-based education Value, Flow, Quality (VFQ) principles and practices help your team succeed? 

Anete: We do our best to organize our processes and work with our client according to VFQ principles and practices. As always, there’s still room to grow, given we’re working with many stakeholders and a number of teams coming from completely different organizations and working environments. So, it takes many small, deliberate steps to change the mindset and ways of working. 

Aleksandrs: One of the VFQ principles that I strongly support is “deliver value early and often.” I’m always pushing in that direction when we kick off the work. You must experiment, test how it works, gather feedback, and then enhance. Then test again and enhance if necessary and so on. Meanwhile, the client can start gaining value already, even when the product is not at its final stage. Also, if we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, we just need to take this one step back and that saves a lot of time and money.  

Paulina: Also, it’s the principle of “discover quality with fast feedback,” that we take very seriously in our work. I always try to connect with individuals about my work and what I need to deliver. The more feedback I get, the better the outcomes of my work will be.

How do you maintain the spirit of joy and fun inside your team? Are there any internal jokes that you might be willing to share with the rest of us?

Aleksandrs: Given the remote work, it’s not always that easy to build bonds and have fun together. The thing that we’re doing is icebreakers in our daily standups, which helps with small talk and allows us to have a bit of fun while getting to know each other a little bit better. For example, we can kick off the meeting with the question “what color is your mood today”, “what did you have for breakfast today?” or “what was the first thing that you saw this morning, that you paid attention to?” and similar questions. Sometimes it brings us to a broader conversation, sometimes not. But it definitely makes our daily routine a bit more fun.