What's in a dev team? A look at the developer traditions of 4 NYC tech companies

July 28, 2016

Developer teams are tightly knit operations. You can think of them kind of like highly-trained, special forces units armed with laptops instead of AR-15s.

Think about it like this. A dev team speaks its own language, and has to work closely together to solve complex technical problems, often under tight, stressful deadlines. Sure, people don't (usually) die if the team screws up, but important things that people rely on start to break. 

These sorts of working conditions lead to the strong individual culture and work-specific traditions you see in other tightly connected teams. To get an idea of some of the traditions at NYC tech teams, we put on our anthropologist's hat and studied some NYC-based dev teams. Here's what we found: 

 

The Greenhouse R&D team likes to get out of the city, and into nature, to energize and recharge. All of their engineers and product team will retreat from the city to a few houses by a lake, deep in the Poconos. They’ll spend the weekend relaxing, having fun and getting to know each other outside of work. They’re also known to try their hands at water sports, board games, hiking, paintball and managing the grill. 

We asked the team to comment on their traditions:

“John you can’t swim!” — Tim Frey, Lead Software Engineer

“Stop shooting me!” — Mike Boufford, VP of Engineering

“Dude I got destroyed wearing that costume.” — John Nguyen, Software Engineer

 

In addition to attending a Friday afternoon developer meeting (beer and snacks are provided), the dev team at Intersection awards a developer that exemplifies scholarship with a ‘Lab Coat of Learn’ award. This award recognizes someone who learns a new skill, gets a new certification or helps someone else learn something. The actual physical award used to be a grungy old lab coat, but has recently been upgraded to an embroidered coat which the recipient can proudly display on their chair. They also give out a ‘Trophy of Win’ to the employee who goes above and beyond, and just kills it. 

"The trophy itself is a ridiculous and beautiful bowling trophy covered in flashing lights and flotsam that people keep on their desks for a month.  The award moves between support, engineering, development, and other technical departments.  When you win it, you have to add something creative to the trophy.” — Chas Mastin, VP of Engineering

 

Pypestream's dev team makes a point of celebrating all their wins, big or small. Every Monday morning they announce all of last week’s wins, to the tune of applause. Later in the week, they continue celebrations with a round of casual, after-work drinks. When they finish a bigger launch, they’ll gather for a toast and sometimes a cake. 

"We like to celebrate small wins as it provides a good recognition for the team and all the hard work they've put into accomplishing various milestones. It builds momentum towards bigger objectives and milestones and keeps everyone on the same page.” — Jatin Patel, EVP of Product and Technology 

 

Members of Influenster’s dev team take a daily espresso break where the goal is to discuss subjects unrelated to work. The team is filled with coffee aficionados, and they use the beverage as a way to connect, be social, and expand their focus beyond just work. All that caffeine seems to be doing the trick too, because Influenster’s CTO, Mike Henderson, recently won NYC’s Best Technology Manager at the 2016 Timmy Awards. 

"These Espresso breaks help us to recharge, both by giving our brains a rest and a jolt from the caffeine." – Mike Henderson, CTO of Influenster. 

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