The Data Jungle - Building Great Teams

The Data Jungle - Building Great Teams

So far, this year has been one of the most exciting I’ve experienced in many years. The year began with three people joining us, 2 Business Analysts and a developer. All three interned with us, during which time they were instantly at home here. All three have made a huge contribution already and the excitement at Zoodata is palpable. Good luck? No. Careful planning. To kick off a great year we thought we would share some secrets on how to create a great team.

I’m an accidental leader of an amazing software development team, being a former music teacher and techno imbecile. Although I jokingly tell people dealing with developers is similar to teaching teenage boys, there is an element of truth in it. Teachers aim to help people make best use of their abilities, but more importantly great teachers create great teams. Our team is the main reason I LOVE my job.

Where do we start?
Having personally experienced the damage one person can do to an otherwise amazing team, I know how long it took to repair. That experience and Ricardo Semler’s Maverick directly influenced the way we build teams.

Unfortunately, I often hear business people complaining about their staff, and it’s clear the main problem is lack of trust.

At Zoodata we hire each other. Candidates invited for an interview always face several Zoodata staff, from a range of roles and each looking for different things. Of utmost importance is someone passionate about {Insert your industry here} IT. Skillsets are important, but of more importance is how someone thinks. Skills can be learnt, attitude and character can’t. To quote Joel Spolsky - We are looking for Smart and Gets Things Done. It won’t take us long to sniff out a rat!

One of the questions asked in a post-interview session is: Will you have to hold this person’s hand for too long? (Subtext: If this person doesn’t work out then it’s your fault!)  Other questions are too politically incorrect to print here! If there is any doubt at all, a candidate is not hired. Consequently, Zoodata is a rarity in the IT industry as everyone (except our three newcomers) has been with us for at least 4 years and many for over 10 .

What then?
I’m sure we’ve all worked under micro managers. Because I am not from an IT background I had to trust my team. They also realised very quickly I did trust them to discuss and make decisions before presenting them, if required, to me for final approval. Healthy debate in our workplace is also actively encouraged. Arguments do happen at Zoodata – but are never personal. We also have complete faith if a mistake is made it will be rectified quickly. 

The development team soon learnt I was indeed a novice, and it was necessary to use plain English, not geek speak! The patience required to deal with me has led to a fantastic culture of mentorship here, particularly with new hires and interns. Our interns have noted they had more positive experiences in their time here than at other placements.

What else?
Another of the delights of having a culturally and age diverse workplace is the wide range of viewpoints, ideas and solutions used to solve problems. Consequently, we have experienced huge business improvements through suggestions made and implemented by our team members.  Any time lost through learning has definitely been repaid through time saved automating various manual business processes.

Yes, it definitely takes discipline and diligence to build a productive, exciting and stable team, but can you afford not to have one?

If you would like to learn more about creating great teams I’m happy to meet you for a no obligation chat: or phone: 9485 0725.