laugh/handbook

Suade Company Handbook

Since starting this journey a few years ago, we have grown organically from a few people with great ideas in a co-working space to a sustainable company with many more people, our own office, customers across the world and a product that just keeps getting better. When we meet new people, one of the first things they ask is:

“What is it like working at Suade?”

Constantly answering this question made us realise how unique a company we are and so we thought we should document it (and to avoid repeating ourselves).

If you’re reading this you are either a new joiner, interested in joining our company or just lost on the internet. The good news is that you should all continue reading. If you are a new joiner, then welcome to the team and we look forward to the new ideas and perspectives you will bring to our customers and products. If you are interested in joining, then check out the hiring section later on. If you are just browsing, then feel free to indulge yourself here.


Background

Before we begin, there are a few things you should know. Suade was founded in 2014 following the experiences of the founders in banking, the chaos that followed the financial crisis of 2008 and the desire to do something about it. Hence the company was formed with the mission statement:

“How do we prevent the next financial crisis?”

And we make a point that pretty much every presentation we give begins with that statement. Every product, every feature, every line of code, every email and every decision made should first answer that question. Usually, the answer is obvious even if it creates other challenges along the way.

At the time, FinTech was heating up and there were only a couple other software companies developing modern technology to help financial institutions instead of trying to compete with them. Since we all dealt with financial regulation in some form, people began labelling us as “RegTechs.” (see the UK Government Blackett Report).

Financial services make up 20% of global GDP (as in 20% of everything, everywhere). There is more money, more data, more complexity, more impact and more at stake in the financial system than in any other industry. Moreover, the financial system holds the keys (data) that backs the decisions to fund the other 80% of the world’s businesses, infrastructure projects, agriculture, renewable energies and savings of billions of people.

We believe that along with good regulation, intelligent software is the missing link to a stable, transparent and efficient financial system that will ultimately benefit end consumers and our planet.


Independence

Another key defining characteristic of Suade is that we do our own thing. We are not backed by venture capitalists and are only accountable to ourselves and our customers. All our funding comes from sales of our product, how crazy is that? This is important to us for 3 reasons:

  1. Sustainability: We are not addicted to OPM (other people’s money), we turn a profit (which gets re-invested into the company) and can measure our growth sustainably against the growth and needs of our market. We don’t have to grow 10000% this year or risk losing our jobs. 272% will do just fine. :)
  2. Happiness: As a team, we define our success by how happy our customers are. This means that we can take “unprofitable” decisions to meet those goals, such as open-sourcing fundamental IP (see FIRE) or giving away upgrades and new features for free. Not being tied to the objectives of a fund manager or an affiliate firm means we can ensure that we can always “do the right thing” and make sure each decision we take is one step closer to preventing the next financial crisis (see our Mission Statement above).
  3. Technology: When you run a sustainable business and align your success with the happiness of the people you work for and with, you can also align your technology to best suit those needs. This freedom allows us to always work with the best new technologies for the job and maintain a tech-stack that is a pleasure to work on and a pleasure to use.

Because customers are the foundation of our business, support is one of our top priorities.


Support

Customer support is everyone’s duty. They pay our bills, cheer us on when we are delivering and are patient when we make mistakes. If you have tested all your edge cases and provided good documentation, then support should not take up a great deal of your time and speaking to customers will drive innovation and give you insight as to how our technology is achieving our mission (see above).

The best support is of course the one that is never needed and we strive towards that. We work very hard to build products that run smoothly and are intuitive to use. Keep in mind the complexity of what we do makes this a challenge in and of itself. Of course, that is good for our users who can spend more time making the world a better place, but it also means we get to spend more time improving and building new features rather than fighting fires and patching old ones. The Joel Test says to fix bugs before new features and that’s a good idea.

If you design and build the product correctly, support will guide your product roadmap instead of taking you away from it.

Speaking of new features, our new ideas are the only way to continue to innovate and challenge the status quo.


Challenges

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius

The challenge board is where everyone puts up challenges for the company to solve. These can be from users, customers or just things you thought would be a good idea and think should be done. Challenges should not be well-defined tasks or to-do lists, they should be open-ended. We believe it is pointless to hire the best and brightest and then tell them what to do.

“I think we should have a way to share user-generated graphs” is a better challenge than “for every user-generated graph, create a table in the database XYZ with these parameters and these indexes…” Challenges can be tackled individually or in teams.

Strapped for time? New to the team/topic? Take on a small challenge or ask for a suggestion.

Want to be the hero? Pull together a team to tackle that beast that has been looming for months.

Challenges are so called because they should really flex your mind. Run tests, benchmarks, run a survey, collect opinions, throw together an MVP. We encourage people to join challenges outside their area of expertise. You should be learning and helping others learn every day. In short, you are free to tackle challenges in the areas that interest you. Even innocuous things like date comparison, data validation or currency conversion can have incredible complexity. All we ask is that you think about things deeply. If there is one thing that we have learned for certain from the financial crisis, it is that the impossible outliers can and do happen more often than we think.


Evaluation

A lot of companies would track challenge completions and generate metrics to decide how good an employee you are. Investors would probably like that, too. On the other hand, if you tell a room full of very bright people that you are tracking a metric, you will get metric optimisation, not a great product.

So no, Big Brother is not watching you. However, the people around you will have an idea of what you are up to and so it is recommended that if you are not working on things that will make customers happy, that you work on things that will make your colleagues happy. Improving processes, documentation, writing tests, re-factoring and making useful tools or benchmarks is always appreciated!

As colleagues, it is our duty to keep an eye on each other’s health, well being, happiness and work. Your colleagues are your greatest sounding board, your best critics and your biggest fans. The company only has one bottom line and that belongs to everyone. And everyone is significant regardless of how long they have been with the company or how charismatic they are. This is why hiring is so important.


Hiring and Training

It should come as no surprise that recruitment is also everyone’s duty and should be done by committee. We think if you could end up working closely with someone, you should definitely be on that committee. Committees should involve as many people as possible (within reason) and include top management. This internal diligence process should not burden the applicant and they should not be subject to more than 4 “rounds”. A phone call, a 1-2 hour challenge (technical/case study), a couple interviews and a meeting with the CEO, for example. It might sound cumbersome, but the more time spent hiring the right people means less time firing the wrong ones.

Searching for T’s

A chain is as strong as it’s weakest link and it’s no different for teams. So every hire is a critical hire and should embrace our key tenets to Learn, Lead and Laugh. We like T-shaped people as they have broad interests to learn and think laterally, but also deep knowledge in areas with immediate value to the team.

Learn

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Learn with a passion, embrace new ideas and approach problems in novel ways.

People that like to learn are not just able to absorb information, but also the kind of people that seek to understand the world around them and are eager to learn new skills on their own. Learners usually embody this at work and outside of work as well. But even better than people who like to learn are people that also like to share it. Knowledge is exponentially powerful when shared.

Lead

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” - George Bernard Shaw

Lead by example, educate others and take charge when needed.

Good hires should also be able to teach us things and lead us on to bigger and better things. Things we didn’t even know we didn’t know. Communication is critical for teamwork. Leaders also spot loose ends, take charge of projects, organise teams and draw on different resources to tackle complex or cross-functional challenges.

Laugh

“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” - Karl Marx

Laugh often. Because unhappy, stressed-out people can’t make the world a better place.

People you spend your days with should be honest people that you can trust and that give and take feedback equally. It’s very hard to work with people you can’t “take an elevator with” and have a laugh. Good hires are down-to-earth people with a sense of humour, that forget their ego at home and the kind of people you would enjoy chatting to over lunch, coffee/tea or beers. Life is too precious to pass it with people who are petty, selfish or mean.

Training

Why is training grouped with hiring? Training is simply an extension of our Learn, Lead, Laugh philosophy and what happens naturally when great hires work together. We believe we hire great people, but nobody is just naturally great. That greatness needs to be maintained, nurtured and grown. Being in an environment of T-shaped generalized-specialists means learning from other people’s specialisations while teaching yours to others. This can be in the form of attending meetups, in/formal training sessions, giving presentations, peer-reviews, pair-programming or simply taking the time to browse through someone else’s work to ask them questions or give them feedback. In this way, training allows “T-shaped” people to become “M-shaped” people.


Time

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” - Charles Darwin

Our typical work week is 45 hours and we have 25 days of personal holidays and 8 bank holidays a year. In addition, we also do a couple team trips and off-sites on the company (~5 days a year).

Working Hours

If it is crunch time, that could go up to 50+ hours per week but while it can be exhilarating to pull late nights to change the world, this can also be draining in the long run. So if you’re feeling swamped, raise it with the team so we can re-allocate and adjust our hiring focus. Suade is a company where we value having a healthy work-life balance.

More importantly, understand that everyone’s time is precious, be productive and be reliable. If you promised you would deliver something to a customer or colleague, keep your promises. If you’re working with someone, don’t leave them behind to finish it up on their own. If you are fixing a bug, don’t leave it half finished. That way you don’t risk losing your work and you can start fresh the next day.

Rest, Relaxation & Absence

Speaking of fresh, weekends are for re-charging and unwinding. We don’t expect people to do things over the weekend. Sleep and do whatever else it is you do on weekends (unless some unfinished work is keeping you up at night).

The downside of hiring and working with the best people is that when they are not around their absence can be felt if you are unprepared. So it is your responsibility to minimise our loneliness and despair when you are gone. Ask the team before booking long holidays, prep a back-up colleague, leave an out-of-office message and anticipate potential work/issues. If you prepared us well you shouldn’t hear from us during your RR&R but do keep an eye on the team chat every now and then just in case. If you do know you will be going absolutely radio silent, let your colleagues know how long to wait before selling your stuff on eBay.


What now?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” - Søren Kierkegaard

If this all sounds like your cup of tea, check out our job postings. If you don’t see something that fits your profile but think we could use your skills get in touch on [email protected] and convince us!

If you are already here, then this is your company now. The decisions you take, the work you choose to do and the people you choose to recruit will determine where we go from here. Welcome to the adventure, we’re counting on you!