Marty Andrews

artful code

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Do you want to work for Thoughtworks?

Thoughtworks is currently going through a big recruitment drive in Australia (and indeed worldwide) at the moment. We're turning away work because we don't have enough staff. One of the things we're trying to do to spread the message is share some experiences through some staff blogs. You might see a few around from various people describing what they do and don't like about working for the company. Here's my contribution.

First of all, there's a few facts that I can reel off without needing to give my spin on it. These are all true for Australian employees, but mileage may vary slightly in other countries.

  • Laptops are supplied. All staff are given a laptop to be able to do there work on. We're consultants after all, so we need to be mobile.
  • Mobile phones are paid for. That consultant thing again. We need to be contactable and mobile.
  • Home broadband internet access is paid for. Most of our staff like to keep up with the latest and greatest things happening in the world of technology. The company benefits greatly from that.
  • Everyone gets a variable pay bonus of at least 5% (subject to profit). This is paid in quarterly instalments. I've been with the company 3 years now, and we've hit the profit targets at least 50% of the time. Its nice to share in those profits.
  • Internal conferences run every 6 months.. This is run over a weekend, and rotated between Queensland, NSW and Victoria. All Australian employees come. Partners and families are invited. Saturday is run exactly like a software conference. Sunday is set aside purely for fun.
  • Annual training budget of $2k+ is provided. Time is provided too. Go to conferences, training courses etc. Budget for books is supplied in addition to this.
  • Referal bonuses of $3k are paid.. Join us and refer someone else. If we hire them, we'll pay you $3k.
  • Additional leave for long term employees. Been working for the company for 3 years? You get 23 days leave rather than 20. Four years? Take 24 days off. Maxes out at 25.

That's not an exhaustive list. Its just a few things that spring to mind.

I joined Thoughtworks for two reasons. Firstly, the people. Thoughtworks has a gruelling interview process, but the result is that our staff are very high quality. We don't hire contractors either. That means you can be confident that anyone representing Thoughtworks as gone through the same tough interview process. Secondly, the agile philosophy. Thoughtworks is probably the worlds largest systems integrator with agile processes at its core. Obviously, Martin Fowler is one of the public advocates in the agile community, but there's hundreds more agile savvy staff working for Thoughtworks.

Since I've joined Thoughtworks, I've been pleasantly surprised by the internal culture. Communication is actively encouraged at, and across, every level in the company. The CEO probably knows 500+ staff on a first name basis. I've had many chats with him ranging from geek techno talks to philosophies about running the company. The same is true for every other manager between he and I, and other staff throughout the organisation.

Its not all rosy though. The most oft complained about feature of working for Thoughtworks is the travel policy. The downside of not hiring contractors (and therefore maintaining the high quality of staff) is that we need to fill projects with internal staff. When you join, you get told "we expect you to be able to travel if we need you". I personally joined the Melbourne office, and in under a month was sent to a project in Sydney. I was there for 15 months. Thoughtworks did do everything they could to make that comfortable, so we found local accomodation and my wife moved up with me for the year. The other major issue is one that is true of most consulting companies. Sometimes the work isn't what you want. The technology might not be what you're interested in. The process might be mandated by the client and not agile at all. Hopefully though, that project won't last forever and you'll move onto something better soon. Still, some people aren't suited to that.

That was a whole lot longer than I though it was going to be. The summary is: Thoughtworks is very cool. We're up front about the downsides of working for us. If you want to work for us too, send me an email or check out our website.