Five tips to make feedback your ally at work

Feedback is something people are often afraid of because it tends to only expose weak points that may make you feel intimidated and vulnerable. However, that’s a very old-fashioned point of view. Effective feedback is not only about providing a list of things that are wrong. Constructive and empathetic feedback brings new perspectives and a positive intent to highlight proven skills.  “What Good Feedback Really Looks Like” on the Harvard Business Review says: 

“Feedback — both positive and negative — is essential to helping managers enhance their best qualities and address their worst so they can excel at leading.”

Craig Chappelow and Cindy McCauley

We consider feedback to be a huge source of knowledge and an opportunity to improve. If you are having trouble giving or receiving feedback, here are 5 valuable recommendations we apply at Oktana

1. Consider feedback at every stage. 

Whether you are a senior manager or just beginning your career, requesting feedback should be always part of your planning. Why? Sometimes you are so in love with your projects that you tend to believe everything is going well. So you keep working with that perspective and when you finally realize something is wrong it’s usually too late or too expensive to fix it. You can be sure you are moving in the right direction by asking your teammates, boss, or partner for their perspectives on your progress. We do it all the time and trust us, the results are great. Plus, it creates a sense of ownership for the whole team. 

“Feedback is so important when we execute every single task. It measures the quality of your work. Besides, it helps me identify possible mistakes and improvements that will enhance our project.”

Zayli RodrÍguez, QA Analyst at Oktana Uruguay

2. Distinguish what is worth your attention 

Ok, let’s say you are following our previous recommendation and you are considering feedback as your projects progress. You are excited because your co-workers are giving you cool new inputs. Congratulations. That’s awesome! But what happens when you start noticing that some of the feedback you’re getting contradicts other feedback you’ve received? We know, it’s challenging. Everyone is bringing their own perspective to it and they aren’t always going to agree. You know yourself and your projects. That means you have the job of figuring out which feedback is the most relevant. Just make sure you’re not letting your bias guide which feedback you’re listening to.

3. Be truly positive

We love it when people are positive and enthusiastic, but if you lose your sense of reality it may not be easy to deliver value. When you are required to provide feedback for a project or a teammate, you have a huge chance in your hands to help them perform better. Don’t miss that opportunity by hiding your real thoughts because you’re afraid of a misunderstanding or you’re just trying to be polite. This is what constructive feedback is all about. Find the best way to convey your ideas in a way your partner truly feels that you actually want to improve things. Use your voice, regulate your tone, and use any resource you have so you help others focus on the solution, not the weakness. 

4. Actively listen to every client.

And by the client, we are not exclusively talking about your customers. We are also talking about internal co-workers. When you create a solution, you think about your final users, don’t you? So whatever you are doing, you make sure it makes sense for them. But you also collaborate with other teams within the company. Wouldn’t it be efficient to have a good idea of what they think of your project and your performance? Indeed, it is!  At Oktana, we use Tok, the leading Chatter real-time messaging app, for staying always connected. We use channels to collaborate but when we need to get feedback, we know private conversations are the best place to do it. Activate every approach you have to get the feedback you need. Bruno Venturini, tells us how Tok helps him collaborate: 

“Tok allows us to communicate in an intuitive way with your team or co-workers. Besides, it’s also relevant for sharing ideas between developers and QAs to make our projects improve”

Bruno Venturini, Developer at Oktana Uruguay

5. Encourage others to give feedback

Create the conditions for an environment where feedback becomes one of the engines that drives excellence. Most visionary companies, either multinationals or startups, track feedback consistently. If you are part of one, get onboard and treasure that asset. If you feel your company doesn’t understand the value of constructive feedback, teach by example. Create simple spaces where people feel their opinion is taken into account. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated. Chats or phone calls also work. As soon as your co-workers notice you are performing better, they will want to copy your strategy and it will be easier for you to give/request feedback. 

So, these are our recommendations for any employee to make feedback their ally. We live it every day at Oktana, even more during the new environment this pandemic has brought (we have previously written an article about Communication and Remote Work that you may also want to read). Apply them in your daily routine and you will notice the difference in your performance. Also, If you want to see Salesforce’s approach, we encourage you to read the modules about the Culture of feedback and the importance of One-on-one Meetings. Have a good one! 

Feedback
Feedback

Women Working in Technology

Recently, the New York Times published an interesting article on women in the tech industry and what representation was like in the past. In the early days of computer programming women actually made up a much larger percentage of the workforce, 27% in the 60s and growing to 35% by 1990 but since the 90s that number has taken a drop down to 26%. This is happening while there are more people working in the tech industry than ever before.

In the early days of computer engineering, programming was treated more like a secretarial task whereas designing the hardware for computer systems was seen as far more glamorous. Hardware engineers would design computer systems and tell programmers what to make them do on assignments. As computers became more advanced and ubiquitous, the expected skill level of programmers came to be more specialized. As a result, the number of available positions and salaries grew. Thanks to elevated importance and increased salaries for programmers, women started to be crowded out of the field by men who found programming positions far more desirable than before. The result is a lack of women working in computer engineering and we know it needs to be addressed far more widely.

What can we do to help? First, we need to be making sure that women are being given a fair shake when they begin their education. One issue discussed in the New York Times is the rise of hobbyist computer programmers and the assumption that those with more experience starting out have greater potential in the long run. Anyone could be a hobbyist but the majority of those in the hobbyist space tended to be male thanks to a variety of complex factors including gendered expectations around technology. While it’s true that prior experience gives you a leg up starting out that doesn’t map directly to potential skills. This bears out when the end results were examined for students completing computer science programs. While the hobbyist types might have had the head start by the end the playing field tends to level out. What this means is that if women are given a fair shot they still have just as much potential to succeed in tech.

Beyond fairness, we need to see a further push towards destigmatizing engineering for women. This starts with greater encouragement for young girls to explore technology, including Computer Science. Great programs such as Girls Who Code and Code.org are already invested in helping girls interested in technology and give them the chance to experience computer programming.

There is always more to be done and that’s where companies like Oktana and our partners can help. One of our closest partners, Salesforce, was named one of the best workplaces for women two years in a row for their commitment to inclusivity and equal pay. They’ve made great strides by pushing to ensure equality at all levels of the company. Additionally, they’ve invested strongly in parental leave, 26 weeks, for both men and women to make sure working doesn’t mean putting your life on hold. Another one of our partners, Okta, has been very proactive about inclusivity. Their Women@Okta resource group has done a wonderful job of engaging and facing the issues women face working in engineering.

What are we doing to address these issues at Oktana? We’ve discussed how here at Oktana we are very open to bringing in young men and women without previous experience or training on how to do the work we do as a company. Thanks to that we can say with confidence that it’s part of our core values to look at all candidates on an even playing field. We believe that we can teach the skills needed to excel at our company and that anyone could be a leader whether a man or a woman. Our commitment is apparent when you examine the makeup of our teams, where women like Andrea Morales, the team lead on some major projects, can thrive as great leaders.

Something else we’ve done in the past is our participation in International Women’s Day. We opened our offices to women currently in school exploring new career paths. This gave them an in-depth look at what it looks like to work at a technology company like Oktana. We presented an overview of all the different career paths available at Oktana such as development, QA, design, and management. The goal for the day wasn’t just to show them what the company was like but also to demystify the tech industry so they understood that they have a place there. We believe that everyone should be recognized for their skills and it’s exemplified by the teams we have in place. We concluded this experience by answering questions about how everyone should get started if they wanted to pursue this path.

Moving forward, we’re further investing our time and energy towards supporting women working in technology. Watch our social channels on International Women’s Day, March 8th, where we’ll be sharing interviews with women in our offices about what it’s like to work in technology. Then, in April we will be opening our doors once again to female students to give them a first-hand look at what it’s like to work at a technology company. Just like in the past we’ll be answering questions and sharing experiences in the hopes of encouraging more women to consider a career in engineering and technology. We believe that no matter what career you want to follow whether it’s in technology or not that it should be a welcoming and open experience and we’re committed to helping make it even more so in the future.


5 Reasons to Use Scala

Java has been on the leading edge of the developing curve for a bevy of reasons. It’s one of the three core technologies that are responsible for the development of world wide web content and it’s reigned supreme in agility, functionality, and simplicity, however, there may be a possible contender that leverages a little more flexibility when it comes to ease of programming. Scala, designed over fifteen years ago by Martin Odersky at the Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland, runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is actively continuing to be developed.

 

What is Scala?

Scala is a source code that is intended to be compiled to Java bytecode so that the resulting executable code runs on a Java virtual machine. Scala provides language interoperability with Java, so that libraries written in both languages may be referenced directly in Scala or Java code.

That being said, let’s dive a little deeper into the Scala world and explore the five reasons why it’s blazing a trail for developers:

 

Safe Parallel Computation

Parallel computing consists of dividing a problem into subproblems, then carrying out the solution of those problems simultaneously (“separate thread”), offering a solution to the initial problem. Java SE offers the reference frame “fork / join framework”, which makes it easier to implement parallel computing in its applications.

 

Agility

This is the particular area where Scala is incontestably better than other languages, such as Java. In Scala, the limitations of OO patterns for implementing code does not apply and this pattern, the developers are also allowed to bring functional paradigms. So you have the best of both worlds when it comes to functional coding paradigms and the OO patterns.

 

Third-party APIs

It’s safe to say every developer needs functionalities for the apps they are creating. Having said that, these days you count with two different options when choosing the functions you want for your app: either you start from scratch or you accept the help of a third party app.  However, Scala comes loaded with built-in functions, so, thanks to this, you now have far better controls with simple code that will surely improve your loading speed.

 

Asynchronous Processing

Scala is built to deliver asynchronous behavior, so, just like other web development frameworks, it offers extreme ease concerning standout natural codes.

 

Lazy Evaluation

This is an evaluation that delays the calculation of an expression until its value becomes necessary. It also avoids repetition of the evaluation in case you may need it on other occasions. This characteristic may decrease the execution time of certain functions exponentially compared to other ways of evaluation.

So as you can see, Scala possesses the capability to surpass the reach of its predecessors and really supply developers with the tools necessary to build out amazing enterprise solutions. Oktana is a huge fan of utilizing Scala to develop user-profiles, implement permission management strategies, and other high order functions.