How We Solve (Virtually) Every Software Engineering Problem

All you need to solve any engineering problem is a great team and some Expo markers. The foundation of every great team is trust. Trust fuels collaboration and ingenuity. A great team is the starting point to every great startup accomplishment (more about the markers later.)

Here at Ivy Softworks we strive to create and maintain a mutually trusting aspect of our culture, where everyone feels free and encouraged to express constructive ideas and opinions without harming others or being harmed when others behave the same way. Here are two foundational elements of trust in our teams.

First, a great team trusts that it can tackle and solve problems. It knows, collectively, that challenges are opportunities for creativity, and demands are opportunities for excellence. It trusts that it has within itself everything it needs to solve, to overcome, and to break through problems that are within its absolute engineering limits. It trusts that it can and will succeed whenever it is possible to succeed – and trusts itself to recognize its limitations.

As a company, we know our limits and how they map to our ambitions – that’s why we have open positions for brilliant engineers to join the team and journey with us, bringing new and deep minds. We also know just how much we can accomplish, and that our limits are fewer and more distant than one might guess.

Second, a great team’s members trust each other. They can disagree, call each other out, and demand clear thinking and explanations from each other. They can show their best sides and their worst sides, including both strengths and weaknesses. They don’t feel guarded or cornered, because they are all in the same position: vulnerabilities and boundaries are respected, while strengths are honored. The great team can argue vociferously, at times, but in good humor and knowing that no one intends to hurt or sabotage anyone else: no damage is done, or if anyone is wounded, that is acknowledged and addressed.

As an example, at a regular engineering meeting I presented a plan for an inter-process communication path that resolved some outstanding questions. The design was thoroughly criticized and its points and counterpoints considered before we dropped it; I didn’t feel wounded because my ideas weren’t adopted by the team, and I looked forward to presenting a new set of ideas on another topic, and perhaps they will be rejected too. Idea rejection isn’t harmful in our engineering team; we celebrate the participation, experimentalism, and the power of collaboration and inclusion.

The last thing you need is an Expo marker (and accompanying whiteboard, sheet of glass, open palm, or what have you). While there are all sorts of high tech collaboration tools, and for widespread teams they may just be required, there’s no substitute for the rapid idea development, sharing, and collaboration that a well-wielded marker or set of markers can produce. When everyone feels free to grab a marker and have at the board, any solution might appear on it – commonplace, straightforward, or completely novel. When a great team holds simple markers, great solutions follow.

We have expressed and solved gnarly problems (that I can’t yet discuss) with our great team and a supply of simply Expo markers. Check out the career page if you’re interested in the freeing, exhilarating feeling of hitting the whiteboard with a great team.