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Simon Maple: After 1 Month at ZeroTurnaround

Mmm, rainbow cake in my face!

Wow, has it already been a month already? That’s gone fast!  So far I’ve visited the Prague and Boston offices with the Estonia (Tallinn and Tartu) trip planned for January.  The ZT team have been awesome to work with from engineering to marketing to sales, and it’s been great to see everything working from end to end. It’s one thing in small-medium companies that you’re exposed to a lot, as it’s the nature of the beast.


Corporate vs Startup

It’s been a big change moving from a monolith company like IBM to ZT and there are obviously big differences which a month on I can now expand on. The first difference I want to talk about is the value on my time. It’s crucial for small/medium companies to get value out of their employees, and by value I’m talking about getting a return on what you’re actually being paid to do.  In my case, that’s producing content, organizing outreach plans and connecting with developers at JUGs/conferences etc. A lot of the work that holds me up, from bureaucratic red tape to booking the proper travel plans & hotels is taken away entirely by our colleagues in administration (you rock :o)).

I feel this allows me to focus more on my job and I actually feel more valued as a result.  Traveling on behalf of ZT is very different – If I need to go somewhere, I go there! It’s either important to the business, or it’s not – common sense prevails, which is something I’m thankful for!  I’ve found there are very few barriers to getting an idea through at ZeroTurnaround, so we can be creative, watch how our ideas and suggestions work or fail and learn from them. There’s a ‘nothing is impossible’ mentality that I’m really enjoying being a part of.

There’s always the question of ‘what would I be suited to’ or ‘who would I prefer to work for, a start up or a corporate’?  Which are questions I get asked quite a bit at the Graduate Developer Community, Meet a Mentor sessions in London.

Now I can speak to some extent about what it’s like on both sides of the fence, although a month isn’t really enough to be conclusive by any means.  There is no right or wrong answer here, as it very much depends on what makes you tick.

A corporation is driven by teams that fit the mould, who can work in a particular style well.  I’ve found that working for ZT is all about breaking the mould and doing things differently to stand out as a company.  Personally, I feel this is making use of my creative side more.  I think the startup/small/medium company is faster and way more agile as you might expect but not that much faster paced in terms of the way you work.

While in Boston, I spent an hour or two on the sales floor with Amanda Pelley, a sales Account Supervisor, which was intriguing.  It was a new experience for me and very interesting to see and understand the challenges different parts of the business face.  While I was at IBM, I did have an amount of exposure to the sales team but it was a very different style and approach to sales.  I think what I experienced at ZT was more the mainstream sales floor which was really exciting and buzzing with energy and motivation (and music!).

It has been very valuable to have over 10 years of experience prior to joining ZeroTurnaround as I have been able to deliver and provide content almost instantly, whereas a larger corporate would have less pressure of a return of investment on each employee as they can soak up overhead much easier.

Let’s network between our networks…

Networking is really important whether you’re in a large corporation or in a smaller organisation.  I would actually say that it is equally important, as for a larger corporation it’s important the large arms or pillars of the business are talking to each other and appearing as one body so that they can succeed together, otherwise they’re just working as small companies and the advantage is lost. In a smaller company, communication is key to it’s survival.  I think it’s easier to communicate and network in a smaller company just because you are more familiar with the individuals.

By the end of January, I will hopefully have met everyone in ZeroTurnaround, understanding all parts of the business and what everyone does.  Networking is key to my role as I need to be a resource to those in the company as well as know who I can reach out to when I need to bring people into projects.

And networking outside of the company walls are just as important, particularly in my role and this is something that can be easily lost in a big corporate environment as the ‘institution’ can often feel quite insular.  I don’t think I would have done anything differently in my career, as I always wanted to experience both sides of the industry and am grateful and thankful that I have had the opportunity to do so.

Image and Reputation

From what I’ve seen and heard back from the market, ZeroTurnaround has a great image towards developers.  One reason for this is because of the company style (Kudos to Ryan St James, our graphics designer, who I met in Prague) and the way they go about doing things. E.g. check out the 404 page – http://zeroturnaround.com/nothing, this video – http://vimeo.com/54971345, the support link on the left hand side of this page – http://zeroturnaround.com/software/jrebel/.  It’s just a fun company!

Oh the fact that our JRebel product absolutely ROCKS and has been helping developers deliver code way faster, that helps too…. By the way, there’s a promotion on to win 40 JRebel licences or Bose headphones… you should enter that now! (http://0t.ee/jrebelrocks12) But don’t forget to come back and carry on reading :o)

In my past, while I was working on other awesome products like the Liberty Profile (and now I don’t work for IBM, you can trust me with no bias that it is a great app server!), there was always developer scepticism, whether it was around IBM or WebSphere, which I really hope will now be lessened because of great developer focused products like the Liberty Profile.  My focus at ZeroTurnaround isn’t so much on image changing which allows me to focus on what I consider to be true evangelism/advocacy, which is focusing on the feature rich products and really showing off what they can do rather than worrying about image.

Looking Forward

One area which I’ll be focusing on in my new role at ZeroTurnaround is connecting with Java User Groups (JUGs) around the world.  I’m heavily involved with the London JUG, the London Java Community (LJC) and want to expand this outreach to connect with developers farther afield.  It would be great to speak at events and talk about some key technologies and trends around the Java ecosystem going forward as share some promotional offers around JRebel to help developers spend time on things they want to spend time on, rather than waste it on building and redeploying.

I want to push the free myJRebel offering which will allow Java developers to make full use of JRebel on their own pet projects (non-commercial) as I believe this really is a tool which you can’t afford not to be using.  I’d love to hear from Java User Groups or individuals that want to know more, so feel free to reach out to me (Simon.Maple@zeroturnaround.com), and when I’m travelling nearby I’ll pop in and say hi and chat about what we can do to help.