‘The Power of Open Dialogue’ And Other Drivers of Tech Team Culture at Wonders

From transparency to fewer processes, three technologists describe the cultural elements that enable their teams to build impactful solutions for independent restaurateurs.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Feb. 15, 2024
‘The Power of Open Dialogue’ And Other Drivers of Tech Team Culture at Wonders
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While running a restaurant isn’t always as dramatic as Hulu’s TV show The Bear, it’s safe to say that it’s never an easy undertaking. 

In fact, the task is so complex and challenging that Steve and Dennis Lin established a software company dedicated to making restaurant management easier. The duo’s brainchild, Wonders, helps independent restaurateurs embrace success — and speed — with a suite of solutions that support a variety of business needs, including payment processing and digital marketing. 

According to Director of Product Nitin Viswanathan, velocity is embedded into Wonders’ DNA. Not only does the company strive to enable restaurant owners to quickly and efficiently meet the demands of their customers, but his own team aims to move swiftly in the pursuit of progress. 

“We want everyone on our team to be able to have a large impact, and we are always looking to pave the way for everyone to contribute more — and quickly,” he said. 

Just as the restaurant scene runs on speed, so too do Wonders’ technologists. Software Engineer Matteo Mantese explained how he and his peers prefer to tackle assignments quickly, weeding out any unnecessary processes. And in doing so, they help create an environment grounded in teamwork and shared principles. 

“We foster a culture that thrives on shared values and a collective commitment to excellence,” Mantese said. 

Having a cohesive culture is important for Wonders’ tech teams, considering the company is in the process of rebuilding its software from scratch. With so much exciting work ahead of him and his peers, Chief Architect Widagdo Setiawan is eager to welcome new engineers into the fold that are eager to build and to deal with ambiguity. 

“We need people who are excited about building new things to solve business problems,” he said. 

Below, Viswanathan, Mantese and Setiawan describe how their team cultures provide the elements needed to make an impact on independent restaurateurs. 
 

Wonders team members posing for group photo at company gathering
Wonders

 

Leaner Teams Unlock Larger Influence

Viswanathan believes that burnout isn’t caused by working too hard. 

Rather, he feels that people lose steam when their work feels meaningless or weighed down by excessive processes and red tape, which is why Wonders aims to bridge the gap between the work employees put forth and the influence they have on customers. 

“We want people to work hard, and more importantly, we want to create an environment where people feel supported and rewarded for working hard and having a larger impact rather than feel penalized for it,” Viswanathan said. 

For Viswanathan, the key to this culture lies in running lean teams with high talent density, as this enables everyone to have increased scope and sway. 

“This type of team structure also helps us move faster, as there are fewer coordination costs,” he added. 

As those on Viswanathan’s team work and grow at a rapid pace, they have the support they need to face the challenges that come with building a product, such as creating a new way to load menus into their system. He explained that, to maintain speed and swift iteration, the team started with a spreadsheet-based approach and leveraged a pre-existing interface instead of building a new one; a decision that unlocked both greater understanding and long-term benefits. 

“This approach helped us learn a lot about the dos and don’ts of menu setup, what parts of the setup flows were easier or harder for our users and which parts were easier or harder to automate,” Viswanathan said. “We also realized that our temporary approach will stretch much further than we thought it might initially, giving us room to focus on other priorities before we come back to improving it in the future.”

Viswanathan and his peers are unafraid to find new ways to increase their speed, even if that involves embracing temporary solutions. Because ultimately, he noted, learning and quick iteration are top priorities, and intention defines the product development process. 

“What we build is as important as what we choose not to build,” Viswanathan said. 

What we build is as important as what we choose not to build.”

 

Of course, building high-caliber products is only made possible by high-caliber product professionals. As Viswanathan’s team searches for more product managers to join its ranks, he and his peers are eager to onboard those with the right skills — and a desire to seek the unknown. 

“The most important qualities for success are a bias for action, a drive to deliver and make an impact, and curiosity and a willingness to dig as deep as it takes to understand a problem,” he said. 

 

 

‘The Power of Open Dialogue’

Mantese has been on remote teams where the culture feels forced upon you — but not at Wonders. 

“We let our culture develop very naturally and build it around a shared belief that what we’re doing is our best work and that we’re all trying to learn and grow from each other’s thoughts and opinions,” he said. 

Mantese believes that a positive culture is the foundation for a motivated and engaged team, ensuring that everyone feels inspired to bring their best selves to the table. To cultivate this type of environment, it’s essential for team members to work autonomously and candidly with each other while embracing flexibility and adaptability. 

Rather than adhere to traditional rituals or activities to accomplish their work, Mantese explained, his team relies on organic collaboration and, most importantly, a focus on transparent communication. 

“We believe in the power of open dialogue to address challenges, share insights and celebrate successes,” he said. 

We believe in the power of open dialogue to address challenges, share insights and celebrate successes.”

 

According to Mantese, Wonders’ engineers share many important qualities, such as self-awareness and a keen ability to keep pace in a fast-moving environment. United by these traits, he and his peers continuously strive for improvement while maintaining a strong technical backbone.  

“We’re all about cutting-edge tech, and we’re on a constant journey to enhance our systems,” Mantese said. “Tackling tech debt head-on is a priority for us, because we never settle for anything less than a well-structured foundation.”

While an empowering work environment has a direct impact on product outcomes, Mantese believes its influence goes beyond goals and projects. Overall, it’s what keeps him and his peers excited to show up to work every day. 

“The importance of team culture lies in its power to shape our daily experiences and contribute to our overall sense of fulfillment at work,” Mantese said. 

 

Fewer Processes, Irrefutable Impact

When it comes to Wonders’ engineering team culture, Setiawan and his peers prefer to keep things flat. 

Engineers have space to be proactive and independent when solving business problems, free from the burden of hierarchy. And according to Setiawan, this structure has enabled his team to accomplish exciting work so far in relation to rearchitecting the company’s software.  

His team is focused on ensuring the company’s new product will support all of the features expected to launch over the next few years. As this initiative continues, Setiawan noted, the team is also considering new ways to instill speed into the workday.  

“We’re in the process of transitioning from a more traditional, process-heavy culture — one that involves planning, Jira tickets, sprints and more — to a more ad-hoc, much faster pace of development,” he said. 

We’re in the process of transitioning from a more traditional, process-heavy culture — one that involves planning, Jira tickets, sprints and more — to a more ad-hoc, much faster pace of development.”

 

Setiawan believes the success of these endeavors is due in part to a focus on open communication. By conducting the majority of conversations in the public Slack team channel, team members can keep a pulse on what everyone is up to, therefore reducing the threat of communication silos. 

With such a pivotal undertaking in the works, Setiawan and his teammates are focused on one major priority: finding talented engineers who are passionate about working in a product-oriented environment. In his mind, those who join his team won’t simply be creating solutions; they’ll be developing technology with irrefutable impact. 

“Everything that we do has a direct business reason behind it,” Setiawan said. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Wonders.

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