Happy or bust

Michael Koziarski

Wellington tech entrepreneur Michael Koziarski shared his formula to happiness and productivity in the workplace at the Webstock conference in Wellington today. ‘Koz’, as he's universally known, drew on successful tactics learned as a member of the Ruby on Rails web framework core team that he credits with making developers happier and (not coincidentally) more productive.

“Ideally companies should only employ a small team in the workplace made up of the top talent in the industry, he says. "If they do not they should form a smaller team within the company.

“Facebook had a 15-person team working on the system. It was deemed the largest engineering team Facebook has ever had for a single product.” The smaller the team, the more likely the individuals will be able to experiment and innovate without having regular status reports, meetings and other distractions, he reckons.

Further, employers who employ only the best in the industry will need to take recruitment seriously as “there is real evidence these companies are hiring the best”. So employers need to be selective and hold multiple interviews with an applicant in order to attract only dedicated and passionate people for the company.

And devolve decision-making, he says. “Companies should trust their own engineers to select the most suitable technology for the project at hand rather than relying on expensive products purchased years ago by the CIO.

“It’s important to iterate: ship something small, something simple and then make it better.”

Julie McLeod, a Webstock attendee and operations manager at local firm Digital Fusion, agreed with the message. “It was really good to see one of our own up there. It was also nice to have the validation of how we do our recruitment process by making sure it is a good fit for the employer and employee.”

Koziarski encourages managers to build a small team of the company’s best talent to create new products. But choose something simple to start with, he says. “Pick what works and slowly but surely you will continue to chew these things out.”

Craig Saunders, another Webstock attendee and CEO of Digital Fusion, says  Koziarski’s advice resonates with his firm. “The spin on how to get a skunk project was down to earth, realistic and just might work.”

Koziarski’s final advice for developers is to find a way to make work fun—and if you can't, quit. “A whole lot of people are looking to hire people.”

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