She was one of the names in the slack channel, a face on the other side of the polycomm meeting, and a voice on the other end of a support call. Over the last 3 months, we had the chance to get to know her IRL (“in real life”), as Katrina, our Product Developer colleague from Taiwan was working out of our Singapore office, on an exchange program from the Taichung office! Grabbing the chance to speak to a fresh new face, we had a chat with her on the life of a Taiwan Titaner, in Singapore.
- Let’s start with, how was your 3 months here in Singapore?
It felt really warm and hospitable! Before I came over, I was expecting the culture here to be rather different (even my manager was afraid I would not be able to adapt!). I had previously heard from others who used to work in the SG office that the working culture is more focused on being practical, and relationships tend to be more professional rather than personal – members would separate ways after a workday and have their own lives outside of work. However, I have been invited to countless lunches and dinners in my 3 months here, and made many friends across the office – from different departments and teams! Other than the professional knowledge I gained, my experience was really valuable here because of the friends I made.
As for work, what I do in Taichung is more focused on frontend development whereas here, I had the chance to learn a lot of domain knowledge, and also work on backend development.
That was a large part of my initial reason for applying for the exchange – I wanted to understand the underlying reason for certain decisions being made and why certain things were being done.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity also because I would be able to work with teams which consisted of many seniors with many years of experience in the company – it is really a different experience, working with a team who have been together for a long time such that they have built up a very strong sense of camaraderie. I definitely learnt way more than I had expected to, as I received very good guidance from the seniors, I am given problems to solve and my seniors would give me suggestions, advice and even an overall explanation at the end, but not hold my hand every step of the way.
- What about some things which stood out or surprised you about the Singapore office?
The very literal, “open workspace” where different teams work together in the same area. It does provide more transparency and opportunities for cross team collaboration, but I do prefer the work areas in Taichung where we had dividers between different teams’ work areas. I think there is less of a distraction, and I would feel more at ease playing music through the speakers in the work area and not worry about disturbing the team taking a nap next to us!
- What about the culture in the Singapore office?
In Taichung, it is also not as often that we would hang around in office, drinking whisky at the bar area after work. Which might suggest that my colleagues in Singapore have a more “relaxed” attitude about work, but that is definitely not true! People here are very dedicated. Back home in the evenings after work, conversations in our team’s internal chats might revolve around the latest movie, or the nice dinner someone had – here, we would be continuing our discussion of an issue with the code from earlier in the day.
My last point is more about the team I worked with rather than the entire office culture. Since we work in Scrum teams and use Kanban to reflect and communicate the working processes across the entire company, I was used to the sight of Kanban boards filled with sticky notes in the work area. Imagine my surprise when I saw the mostly empty board of the team I was working with, in my first week here.
I remember making fun of them for the lack of items they were working on, till I realized everyone in the team has such a deep understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses and level of skills, that there really is no need for them to update and track every detail on the board – they could perfectly estimate each other’s speed working on each item and trust in one another’s ability to finish the task!
- You have had the chance to attend our V-CEPAT culture workshops during your time here, what is your opinion of them?
I attended the transparency and adaptive workshops with my team. I think the workshops are a good idea, especially for newcomers to understand the company values and also to instill the awareness in them.
As developers, value driven and continuous learning are values we are very used to in our daily work. Being adaptive too as we stay on top of requirements which change constantly.
- Do you have any suggestions for the SG office, areas where you feel we can learn from the TW offices?
Naturally, each office has a different structure and way of working. Career-wise, I feel that the SG office offers more opportunities for me to learn and with the multi-national composition of the Titaners here, there is more of a global outlook and wider perspective.
Even though the teams sit together in an open workspace in Singapore, I feel that Titaners in Taichung office are more familiar and bonded with each other across teams.
Something I feel the TW offices can learn from SG on the other hand, is to increase the frequency of technical trainings and sharing sessions. Those we currently have tend to center around more superficial knowledge whereas the senior developers in SG have more experience with the company, product and domain, and are able to share knowledge and even backstories of how certain things came about.
- What would you say to people that are considering to apply for the exchange program?
It is a good experience for learning – offices in each country have areas they are stronger in and the exchange of knowledge is very valuable. Even if it is non-technical aspects such as gaining proper context of a product, it will help you to make more informed decisions and be able to think further ahead when you bring that information back to your team. It is impossible to learn everything in 3 months, so focus on the most important or valuable and learn as much as you can to bring that knowledge back to your team. Also, it is a great opportunity for getting to know your colleagues better so it is easier to communicate when you work on future projects together. Of course, if I had never participated for this exchange I would not have known how warm and friendly my friends in the Singapore office are!