Techstack is a complex mechanism that consists of many parts: apart from a dozen product development teams, the company has several organizational and administrative functions. Each function, like a gear, turns in the right direction, and together they form a united mechanism that drives the company toward achieving its goals. Tech & QA, People Management, Communication, Design, Marketing, Business Development, Account Management, Office Management & System Administration — these are all the functions that shape Techstack’s culture, maintain and spread mutual values, and transform the company into the community of like-minded people.
All our function have their goals, distinctive features and strengths, face certain challenges and find special solutions for them. Today let's look at the set of our product development functions — Tech, QA and Design — and tell about their goals and values, how they transformed during the war, and managed to adjust to working in the new, often extreme, conditions.
The tech function aims at the development of the Techstack’s technical and product expertise in order to bring each of our partners’ products to their goals through the most efficient means. The function’s main responsibility is to constantly improve the technical state of our products.
Being centered around product-oriented culture, we are convinced that improving the results of our work is only possible by developing the internal engineering community. So, the tech function pays a lot of attention to the professional development of each member, too.
The function performs its activities in several directions, launching initiatives designed to steadily improve the quality of our work and develop the tech community. Here are just a few of them:
- Technical audit of the product
- Team growth and development
- Engineering community development
- Mastering new technologies
- Mentoring engineers
- Strengthening leadership team
- Providing tech support for the business development team
Before the war, there was a strategy for developing each direction. When the war broke out, the only focus for everybody was to do whatever it takes to assist techstackers and their families with moving to safe places, and to help Ukrainian army and volunteers as much as we can. Full recovery of development teams took about one week, but development of the company’s tech function initiatives became not the main priority.
Read more about how Techstack teams maintained and developed software products during the first weeks of the war in our blog post.
The main challenge and our biggest concern was preventing the influence of the war on our partners’ products: keeping the development standards as high as usually, sticking to the regular delivery time and responding to every product need with a relevant solution. Thanks to our extraordinary specialists, we managed not to break any obligations and deadlines. Moreover, some teams organized releases even earlier than planned.
On the side of professional exchange and community building, a serious challenge became the adjustment of all processes to the fully remote format. 80% of pre-war plans and activities required adaptation to a new reality.
“Each of our accounts got used to working remotely during the pandemic. We can totally function and fulfill our obligations that way. However, it is challenging to recover the atmosphere we had at our office hackathons, tech clubs, meetups, or simple kitchen gatherings. So, we are now building that sense of community in the remote format”. — says Ivan, VP of Engineering at Techstack.
Based on our capacity, we started relaunching the major tech initiatives within 2-3 weeks. Today, the tech function reached a pre-war level of productivity and is already planning new activities.
The QA function is specifically geared at controlling quality of our partners’ products and unites all quality assurance engineers from different accounts into one consolidated and thoughtful community. The QA function covers, on the one hand, the process of assuring the quality of the products at every stage of their life cycle. On the other hand, it takes care of the professional development of QA experts.
To ensure that our services are constantly improving, the QA function regularly updates the technology stack and implements new approaches to testing. For example, their primary technology choice is Selenium combined with Java and/or C#, but recently they also adopted the new Playwright tool. As for the approaches, the team started actively working with shift left testing (early-stage testing), integration testing (on the level of code), and documentation testing. However, not only does adopting new technologies increase the quality of our services. Also, our experts are constantly improving their knowledge and skills.
Therefore, the QA function works with people at each career stage and offers support by:
- building an effective professional and career development pipeline for junior talents' development;
- development of middle-level experts based on the individual roadmap for every person, depending on their professional needs and career goals;
- forming strong leadership teams: increasing their qualifications and integrating them into the team management process.
We support our professionals at any level and help them build their career paths as individuals and as team players. Each QA engineer is also connected with his/her development team, but importantly, there are also horizontal connections between different product teams. The function considers these connections highly valuable since they guarantee experience, knowledge exchange, and constant support.
These tight connections helped the function get through the first weeks of the war without losses in productivity. Vitaliy, the Head of QA, says:
“We worked like any good organism: when one kidney fails, the other kidney starts working harder. Since there were people who managed to evacuate in the first couple of days of the war and those who needed more time, we had to redistribute the workload among people who had already reached safe places. All this happened organically. People outside the zone of military actions worked from 8 am to 10 pm to support those who could not work.”
They also informed all the customers and partners about the conditions of each person, and all of them expressed complete understanding.
Today the whole function is back to work at full capacity. However, there are specific changes that happened because of the war. The first decision was to hold all non-urgent activities to redefine priorities and understand what required immediate attention. For example, in the last days of February, the function paused new enrollments for the Trainee Program. They took their time to adjust the program to a remote format and are getting ready to relaunch it shortly. Additionally, for February and March, they canceled all one-on-one meetings since it was clear that the top priority in those days was to survive rather than to think about professional growth. Today these conversations are back again, as well as inter-team collaboration.
When we asked Vitaliy about their plans for the future, he replied:
“We have only one plan — to liberate Ukraine and get back home as soon as possible while simultaneously fulfilling all our obligations for our products, our work, and each other.”
Techstack’s Design Function brings together experts who work both on developing our partner products and on our corporate brand. Being guided by a human-centered mindset, the design function operates in three directions:
- developing design as a service that we offer to our customers (Graphic Design, UX/UI Design, Product Design);
- working on the visual side of Techstack’s brand and identity;
- supporting the professional growth of our designers and building a community inside the company.
The team not only produces modern, appealing and highly efficient designs but also shares a unique philosophy based on two principles:
- considering users and their needs a top priority & interacting with them while creating a product;
- being convinced that a good design makes the world more accessible and inclusive & helps a product achieve its goals.
Designers at Techstack believe that only based on a deep empathy and quick prototype-feedback iterations, it is possible to create a solution that perfectly suits users' needs. They often cite Don Norman, who once said, “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good design fits our needs so well that the design is invisible.” With this in mind, Techstack’s designers approach their own solutions.
When the war broke out, most of the design team was located in Kharkiv. So, they were in some of the most unsafe conditions. The team lead, Dima, and a UI/UX Designer, Liza, were forced to spend the first days of the war at the Kharkiv metro stations. At the same time, our Graphic Designer, Viktoria, was so busy working that she managed not to notice the war had begun. While another Graphic Designer, Yulia, was leaving the city of Kherson, which soon became occupied.
The team was forced to stop working for the first couple of days of the war, and then, together with a few people from the marketing team, created an initiative — a special social media channel that transmitted only good news. A bit later, Dima, together with one of Techstack’s engineers, Vova, started working on a website concept, which collects the dreams, plans and wishes that people in Ukraine would like to realize after the war.
Today the whole team is located in safe places in Ukraine and abroad. All their activities and processes are back to pre-war times: the team holds weekly inspiration meetings where they share things and news that fascinated them and divide their work into two-week sprints. Like before the war, the team works both on our partners’ products, creating UI/UX & Product Design solutions, and Techstack’s corporate brand, developing a visual style for our website, social media, printed materials and digital campaigns. During the last weeks, our designers have even revitalized their team’s Instagram account, where they share their work and things that inspire them.
The Design function works in close cooperation with the marketing team. From time to time, the two teams e-meet for an after-work video chat and drinks to discuss everyone’s news, make joint plans for the times when they can meet offline, and recall pre-war times when they ate pizza in the common office room in Kharkiv.
To be continued
We are delighted that despite stressful and dangerous times, Tech, QA and Design functions are back to all their pre-war activities, have managed to adjust their operations to a new reality, and even build new plans for the future. In the second part of this publication, we will tell you a story about other Techstack functions — HR, Marketing, Communication, Office Management, Business Development & Account Management — and their operations.
Read the second part of this story in our next blog post.