Programming can be a lucrative and rewarding skill to develop, no matter what your goals are. You may be interested in launching a startup tech company, building your own app or tech product and nurturing its long-term development. You may be interested in joining a team that’s already formed, lending your programming skills to their collaborative efforts. Or you may be interested in using your programming skills in a more personal capacity; for example, you may use your programming skills to automate various aspects of your life or build out a pet project.
No matter what, if you’re learning programming for the first time or if you’re not used to the world of programming, there are some significant obstacles you may face.
Jumping Into Projects That Are Already Started
First, you may have difficulty jumping into projects that other people have already started—especially if they’ve had years of work behind them. If you’re starting a project of your own, you’ll get to call all the shots. You’ll have an idea of how to outline the project, how to think of it abstractly, which programming language to use, and how to code the product’s core features.
If you’re jumping into someone else’s work, you’ll face several different layers of challenges. For starters, you’ll have to learn everything there is to know about the project from scratch; you’ll need to learn what the purpose is, what the key features are, and what’s been done already. You’ll also need to see the product through the eyes of another person and get a feel for what they were thinking when they coded it.
Additionally, software products are often developed with dependencies on other apps, APIs, and libraries. Practicing active dependency management is the only way to resolve issues associated with these dependencies, include performance problems, security, and license compliance. However, if you’re not familiar with these dependencies from the outset, you’ll be playing catch-up to learn how to resolve them.
The best way to resolve this obstacle is to be as patient and proactive as possible. Talk to the people who coded this project initially and get a sense for what they were thinking throughout their journey.
Dealing With Compatibility Issues
It can also be extremely difficult to deal with compatibility issues and code a project so it works on many different platforms simultaneously. For example, if you want to launch a mobile app on both Android and iOS, you may need to comply with two very different sets of standards for the app. You may encounter a persistent bug that exists in only one version of your app, which means you’ll have to restructure the code and possibly make different updates in the future.
One potential solution here is to focus exclusively on one platform to start. Depending on your goals, this may limit your potential audience, but it will help you deliver a more polished product to your users—and save you lots of headaches along the way.
Debugging is a natural part of the programming workflow, but it can be a hard one to get used to if you’re a new programmer. There’s no such thing as a product that has no bugs; almost every piece of software launches with bugs, no matter how much proactive testing you did. If you want to improve the product and keep it secure, you’ll need to find and fix those bugs—and both stages of that process can be confusing.
The key to success is being able to replicate the issue. If you can replicate the circumstances that caused the bug to occur, you can get a good idea of the steps necessary to fix that bug. If you’re unable to replicate the issue, it may not be a “real” issue in the first place. You’ll have to work with the person or people who reported it to find out more.
Keeping Up With New Tech Changes
In the programming world, things tend to change quickly. While there are some old programming languages that seem to stick around forever and some time-tested methodologies that have been around for decades, we also need to consider the constant inbound flow of new programming languages, new best practices, and new techniques.
Keeping up with the latest updates, the latest technologies, and the latest trends can all be excruciating for someone who’s still trying to master the fundamentals. However, it’s much easier if you’re an active part of a community. Jump into programming forums—especially those that revolve around open source software or specific languages—and get updates about the latest news. It’s also a good idea to dedicate a little time each week (even if it’s only an hour) to learn new things.
Providing Accurate Expectations
As a programmer, you’ll be frequently tasked with setting proactive expectations about your work. You’ll have to give time estimates, effort estimates, and projected views on the future of each project to your clients, your coworkers, and your employees (eventually). Doing this with minimal experience is borderline impossible. The best way to get better is through experience, but in the meantime, rely on the wisdom of people more experienced than you.
Communicating With the Team
The only way to effectively code a large project together with a team is through communication. You have to actively and clearly communicate with your colleagues to set goals, identify problems, and of course, resolve those problems.
There are many aspects of communication worth improving. For starters, you can aim to be more proactive; you can set expectations and lay out the potential problems early in the process, so there’s no ambiguity or room for misinterpretation. You can also work to use the right platforms for all your messages; there are many communication mediums worth using, but they all have various strengths and weaknesses to accommodate. Additionally, it pays to cater to your audience; not everyone communicates the same way, so how can you draft messages in a way that appeals to your specific listener/reader?
Staying Focused and Productive
New programmers often struggle to remain productive throughout the day. If you’re working on something challenging, you can’t simply churn out an endless stream of code. And if you’re not focused, you may end up making substantially more errors—which then increase your workload when debugging.
Every person is unique in terms of what helps them achieve peak productivity, so you’ll have to experiment and focus on solutions that are uniquely suited to your work style. However, what’s most important is that you have some kind of focus/productivity strategy in place. How can you improve your set of tools, your work environment, and even your own mentality to boost your effectiveness and output?
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
When you’re working on an important client project, or when you’re trying to launch the app that will drive your startup to success, everything else takes a backseat—including your personal life and even your health, if you’re not careful. For new programmers who are passionate about their work, work-life balance can become a massive problem.
If you don’t take care of yourself, your personal responsibilities, and your relationships, even the most talented programmer will suffer the consequences. No matter how busy you get or how focused you become on the project at hand, it’s important to dedicate time to yourself and your personal life; take plenty of breaks, take days off, and make time for things that are important to you.
As you become more experienced as a programmer, these problems are going to fade in importance. Some of them will never go away completely—for example, you’ll always have a bit of difficulty jumping into a project that someone else started—but in time, you’ll develop management and coping strategies that help you push through.
Why (and How) Startups Should Implement Performance Management Early – ReadWrite
A company is only as successful as its people. However, early-stage companies often deprioritize proper talent management and place all their focus on the day-to-day operations of the business. These companies eventually find themselves reaching a point where their talent management processes aren’t keeping up with growth.
Hiring and retaining the right talent for your organization is just as crucial as having a great service or product, especially in the early stages of building a company. In this article, we list some important considerations in implementing employee performance management for startups.
Implementing Employee Performance Management Early
1) Define company values
Firstly, startups should define their company values. Values are the guiding principles and fundamental beliefs of an organization, and there are many benefits in defining company values early on. For example, having a core set of company values makes it easier for a company to hire and retain employees with the right aptitudes. Moreover, values help shape company culture, which will influence employee experience, engagement, and productivity.
In addition to defining values, startups need to ensure that their values are communicated frequently. Only 27 percent of U.S. employees strongly agree that they believe in their organization’s values. Instead of simply listing values on your website, startups need to integrate values into their talent management process. They can do this by:
- clearly and frequently communicating the company’s values
- aligning core values with behaviors expected from employees
- continuously monitoring employees’ actions and behaviors
Integrating values into the performance management process enables the employees to live and practice company values on a day-to-day basis. Companies can also make their values known during the hiring process – write the values in the job description and reiterate these values during the recruiting process.
Candidates and current employees should always be aware of the fundamental beliefs of the company. One tip on values – make them as actionable as possible. If one of your values is “honesty,” define specific behaviors that enforce and demonstrate honesty. (There are many resources (Korn Ferry, Iota Consultants, Ignition Group, etc.) that can help you define or adapt company values.)
“If I could go back and do Zappos all over again, I would actually come up with our values from day one.” – Tony Hsieh
2) Align goals
Effective performance management begins with goal alignment. Understanding company objectives is imperative. Half of the workforce doesn’t know what is expected of them. Managers should understand every company’s mission, clearly communicate the objectives, and make them easily accessible and visible for all team members (e.g., team-wide monthly progress report).
In terms of goal alignment, a common question that startups often face is “should I use OKRs?”
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are often used to cascade goals from the organizational level to the individual level. This can help create goal alignment as it helps employees understand how they contribute to organizational objectives.
OKRs are powerful; however, if a company’s strategies and objectives are frequently adapting (which is often the case in startups), the structured top-down approach of setting OKRs from the organizational level to department- and then to individual levels can be a hassle.
OKRs would need to be adjusted each time overall organizational strategies are changed. Frankly, this is a significant exercise that is not worth the time.
This doesn’t mean a company shouldn’t align goals. One approach is to set up OKRs at the organizational and department levels on a monthly basis and let managers delegate and own their key results and adapt as often as needed.
“Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.” – Jim Collins and Jerry Porra
3) Develop a culture of feedback
Feedback is crucial in the talent management process. There are many benefits to having regular feedback conversations with employees. Firstly, it motivates employees, thus increasing employee engagement & productivity. Secondly, it generates lots of employee performance data which can enable better training and talent decisions. Finally, it enables better work relationships which can have a significant impact on company culture.
While managers may avoid giving feedback due to fear of hurting an employee’s feelings, more than half of employees want corrective feedback over praise and recognition! Most employees want real-time feedback and recognition for jobs well done.
The younger generations (Millennials and Generation Z) want 50 percent more feedback than other generations. Sharing feedback can be challenging at first. Enforcing the right processes and rituals early on will help ingrain feedback into your company culture. It is worth noting that creating and sustaining a culture of feedback is easiest to implement early on.
When it comes to documenting feedback, pen-and-paper approaches can be sufficient for early-stage companies. If an organization has more than 15 people, it will highly benefit from a performance management system that helps store and analyze feedback, objectives, etc., in one place. Ultimately, this will help simplify the performance management process and enable people analytics to help make better talent and training decisions.
“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista
Implementing a performance management process in the workplace early on will better equip startups in developing and motivating their employees and ultimately improve a startup’s success and growth.
Remember that culture and people cannot be replicated – these two factors often differentiate a startup from its competitors. Your culture and people are worth the investment upfront.
Image Credit: ron lach; pexels; thank you!
Gabb Wireless Raises $14M in Series A Funding Led by Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill – ReadWrite
Gabb Wireless Raises $14M in Series A Funding Led by Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill
Gabb Wireless™ set itself apart from the crowd in 2018 when Founder and CEO, Stephen Dalby said, “enough is enough,” and began his journey to provide the only safe phones-for-kids.
LEHI, UTAH – APRIL 20, 2021
Dave Jensen, Managing Partner of Sandlot Partners, announced today that, “Sandlot Partners is investing and partnering with Gabb Wireless not only because of its impressive growth and positioning to lead the $30 billion smartphones-for-kids market — but also because it is providing solutions to address the significant screen time addiction problem in our society.”
Gabb Wireless™ is the first of its kind — a company determined to protect children by providing a safe cellular network for kids and their phones. Gabb created the only safe phones-for-kids serving this underserved demographic. Gabb announced this week that it closed a $14 million round of Series A, led by Sandlot Partners and New Orleans Saints quarterback, Taysom Hill.
“As an investor, Gabb checked all the boxes with its impressive growth, founding team and total addressable market. But it’s so much more than that for me. It’s the emotional side of the investment. I love the idea that we can help build something to help save kids in an area with so much need and demand. My wife Emily and I try to be pretty selective of who we tie our brand to — and when considering the chance to invest and partner with Gabb, it was a no-brainer for us and something that we are extremely excited about,” said Saints quarterback, Taysom Hill.
Stephen Dalby, Gabb Founder & CEO, announced the partnership with Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill. “We’re excited to announce our partnership with Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill, who share our passion for driving impact and providing solutions to the growing screen addiction among adolescents.”
“Sandlot has a strong track record of fueling growth and adding value to their portfolio companies. Taysom’s accomplishments as a BYU and Saints quarterback are well documented, and he’s also very impressive off the field and will be a great brand ambassador for the younger demographic Gabb is targeting.”
Kids need to be protected — and Gabb resolved on an action to do just that. Gabb set itself apart from the crowd in 2018 with a steadfast purpose to get safe, effective phones into the hands of parents who want to protect their children from inappropriate content and disturbing practices on social media and games, and other screen-time issues on the internet.
For some time, it’s been known that social media is affecting our youth with cyberbullying and other societal ills. The average child or pre-teen spends about four to seven hours a day of screen time. This disproportionate amount of time in front of a screen has caused depression, anxiety, and even sexual abuse among young adolescents.
Gabb said, “enough is enough,” and began its journey as a mobile virtual network operator, creating the safest technology available for children today. Gabb offers age-appropriate products to give kids the freedom to explore and their parent’s peace of mind. Children can enjoy their first phone experience with the affordable, $100 phone that protects them from internet dangers. Learn more at www.gabbwireless.com.
Gabb has had an unprecedented year of 471% growth and will use the proceeds from the Series A financing to accelerate efforts to provide safe phones for kids and expand its product lines — increasing Gabb’s total addressable market with these safe alternatives for parents of kids ages five to 15.
Sandlot Partners is an independent private investment firm partnering with noteworthy management owners and founders. Sandlot Partners help maximize the growth potential of businesses by providing companies with growth capital, strategic guidance, and partial liquidity. Sandlot leverages its network of founders and operators, identifies growth opportunities, helps structure, and offers additional strong risk-adjusted private investment opportunities. Sandlot investors also include family offices, strategic individuals, and like-minded institutions seeking strong alignment and providing patient capital.
Cooley, LLP, and VLP Law Group provided legal services for this transaction.
How to Build a Startup Team With an Entrepreneurial Mindset – ReadWrite
Much of your startup’s success will depend on the quality and integrity of the team you put together. With talented, committed, hardworking people, even a merely decent idea can turn into something groundbreaking. Conversely, even a great idea can struggle to survive if it doesn’t have a solid team in place to support it.
Obviously, you’ll need to work hard to choose the right people for your team – individuals with a solid experiential background, proof of ample talent, and genuine passion for the business. But beyond that, you’ll need to work actively to equip your team with the right mindsets and philosophies to guide them to productive, innovative work.
While there are conflicting opinions for what type of company culture works “best,” there’s no denying that your company can (and likely will) benefit from building a team with an “entrepreneurial mindset.” But what is this mentality, and how can you construct it from scratch?
What Is an “Entrepreneurial Mindset?”
Let’s start with a description of the “entrepreneurial mindset.” This is an internalized mentality, philosophy, and approach to working within the members of your team that mimics what the most ambitious entrepreneurs tend to feel.
The mindset includes:
- Creativity. Entrepreneurs are creative types. They want to create new ideas, modify existing ones, and come up with inventive new ways to deal with problems. They’re not afraid to think outside the box and try out new concepts – even if they don’t work out. They also like to encourage and promote creative ideas from other people, providing feedback, direction, and motivation to their teammates.
- Autonomy and independence. The entrepreneurial mindset also prioritizes autonomy and independence. Entrepreneurs in a business environment don’t wait for someone else to tell them what to do, and they generally don’t have to run their ideas through a bureaucratic chain of command to take action. Instead, they trust themselves, they operate decisively, and they remain agile. In an entrepreneurial environment, your employees will function autonomously in most cases as well.
- Change and growth. To be an entrepreneur is to accept the importance of change and growth. The only way for your business to reach more people and make more money is to evolve; that means adding new products and services, changing internal processes, and sometimes, pivoting the entire brand.
- Experimentation and adaptation. You probably already know how important it is to remain flexible and adaptable when growing your business. It’s also important for your workforce. With an entrepreneurial mindset, your team of employees will be much more likely to experiment with different approaches and adapt to new scenarios.
- Ambitious problem solving. Successful business owners are primarily ambitious problem solvers; they understand there’s some weakness or challenge in the world and are driven to “fix it.” With this mentality, your employees will be more likely to show enthusiasm when solving problems and rising to meet challenges.
The Value of an Entrepreneurial Team
So what’s the real value of an entrepreneurial team?
For starters, you can cut back on direct management and oversight. When all members of your team feel like they have a direct impact on their work environment, and when they’re empowered to do their best, they don’t need as much direction or supervision. Instead of looking over their shoulder, giving them project details, or micromanaging your employees, you can set priorities for them, trust that they’re going to work toward them, and shift your attention to more important matters. This lends itself to a less stressed, more inviting workplace – and allows you to be more productive while tackling the most important projects for your startup.
An entrepreneurial mindset also leads to a diversity of thought. When individuals are encouraged to have their own ideas, thoughts, and opinions, they tend to speak more openly in a collaborative environment. They’re more willing to volunteer ideas, offer constructive criticism, and provide meaningful feedback to each other. Such an environment makes it much easier to identify and get rid of bad ideas (before it’s too late), while simultaneously establishing the groundwork for the presentation of highly ingenious concepts.
Additionally, startups need to keep adapting if they’re going to stay alive. Over time, your target market might change, you might face new competition, and new challenges will threaten your previous approaches. The only way forward is to adapt, incorporating new systems and processes and changing your infrastructure. Ordinarily, teams of employees are reluctant to adapt – after all, most of us don’t particularly like change. However, when the team accepts the importance and value of ongoing adaptability, they’ll be much more likely to be onboard with your latest changes and experiments.
How to Build a Startup Team With an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Now for the big question – how can you build an entire startup team with a baked-in entrepreneurial mindset?
- Create the culture. Everything stems from your company culture. Before you employ any of the following strategies, make sure you have a solid idea for what you want your company culture to be. What are your core values? What is the “ideal” employee mindset? How should this mindset be fostered? What rules exist, if any, to enforce this? Document your company culture guidelines first.
- Choose the right candidates. With a culture document in place, you’ll find it much easier to interview candidates – and find out whether they’re a good fit for this environment. Even if they have a lot of talent and experience, they may not thrive in an entrepreneurial workplace; figure this out early, before you hire someone.
- Lead by example. You’re the leader, so set the tone. People will follow your example. Whatever habits you want your employees to practice, incorporate them into your own daily work.
- Nurture from the top down. You’re not the only leader within your organization, so make sure you select and support strong leaders who can embody and spread your desired entrepreneurial culture from the top down.
- Encourage independent management and decision making. Sometimes, employees will have to run their idea “up the ladder” before taking action. But as much as possible, it’s important to encourage autonomy and independent decision making. Empower your employees to make their own decisions, set their own goals, and devise their own approaches to work.
- Stimulate creativity. Creativity is vital for an entrepreneurial mindset to thrive. Use creative brainstorming sessions, music, art, and other exercises to encourage your team to think in novel ways.
- Get everyone to contribute in meetings. Encourage every member of your team to contribute in your meetings. More contributors will foster an environment of openness and collaborative sharing; it will also help you ferret out the best ideas, which otherwise might be held back by nervous participants.
- Reward good ideas. When a member of your team comes up with a good idea or solves a complex problem, reward them and publicly praise them. It will encourage further idea generation in the future and motivate other team members to volunteer their own ideas.
- Respect bad ideas. It’s not just about good ideas; it’s also important to tolerate and even respect bad ideas. When someone volunteers a questionable idea or makes a poor decision, show your support. Feel free to offer feedback and criticism, but don’t make the person feel bad for trying to do something inventive or helpful. You don’t want to punish people for trying something new.
- Remain adaptive. The most innovative, disruptive businesses are the ones that can adapt. Encourage your team members to remain similarly adaptable, keeping an open mind for new ideas and being willing to change when necessary.
Once your team is full of people thinking and acting like entrepreneurs, your company will be much more flexible, innovative, and productive. And best of all, this entrepreneurial culture tends to be self-sustaining; your employees will naturally spread it to new recruits and continue to foster this creative, efficient environment.