In this interview Moe Abeidat, VP - Technology for Aramex, offers valuable insights on managing talent in technology. Ruwise Sheriff, Consultant, Michael Page – Technology, Middle East, asks pertinent questions on organizational culture and talent, and seeks advice for software developers. Here are glimpses from their conversation.

Ruwise Sheriff: What can tech leaders do to improve the culture and environment of their software development team? 

Moe Abeidat: I can't emphasize enough how important culture and environment are to the success of an organization. A tech leader needs to lead by example. Show the team that you are present even if your tech skills are not the most up-to-date. Help the team solve problems, whiteboard it with them, help them overcome a situation. This gives your team the confidence to get behind you. 

Secondly, connect your team to the company’s strategy. Your job as a leader is to contribute to the overall organizational strategy by aligning it with your team strategy. Do not underestimate the power of explaining how a simple development task, an IT operation task, or a data science task can help the company achieve its objectives. It may seem like overwhelming business speak but simplification helps developers understand why they need to do a task. 

Thirdly, tech leaders must establish a simple recognition system for the workers. If your team got a job done overnight, then when you see them the next morning, smile and say thanks team, well done, very proud of you. These are simple words that can go a long way for a leader. 

Lastly, show your team where they are headed in their jobs and how it is contributing to their career. It is invaluable to them to see their goalpost and how to get there. These are simple components to building an engaged culture that will help you achieve your objectives as a leader. 

RS: How can tech leaders get all employees in their team, even those that are lower down in the rung, to connect with company strategy? 

MA: Align with your organization's timeline for annual strategy meetings to start having those similar conversations with your team. Show the team where the ship is traveling. Take inputs from the team for the company strategy, and ask for feedback. Not every one of their suggestions may end up in the strategy but you can mull over the team’s inputs and see how they could evolve for future strategies. When launching initiatives and projects, create the link to the strategy, and keep that conversation alive in day-to-day initiatives. This buy-in and involvement from the team builds loyalty, trust, and transparency. If leaders are not connecting employees’ daily tasks with the company’s strategy, it can create a massive disconnect that, over time, flows into disengagement, failed deliveries, quality issues, etc. 

RS: What can you do, as a leader, to retain and attract top talent? 

MA: Many tools that weren’t available earlier are now at the disposal of a leader. LinkedIn is one such powerful networking tool. Use it to share your team’s and company’s achievements. Give kudos to your team members and use hashtags. Tech leaders can open a window to their organization through LinkedIn or any other social platform. Show prospective candidates the kind of leader you are. By using LinkedIn more actively, you get many more connection requests and can engage with audiences by vetting ideas, starting conversations, and even opening windows to hiring the right fit for your team. 
 
After LinkedIn, the in-person meeting is the second opportunity to get to know a candidate better. Ask some situational questions to the candidate and get them to respond beyond the theoretical answers while trying to understand their practical thinking mindset. Leave a good first impression of your team, office, and organization. The interview level is where we attract the best cultural fit for the organization. We also have to project that culture and engagement during the interview process.   

RS: What is your advice to software development professionals who are looking to excel in their careers? 

MA: The biggest takeaway from computer science, to me, is to see the world and its abstract logic and connect it to its foundation. It’s not just about being proficient in one computer language or another but being able to demonstrate a strong foundation and passion for the logic behind it. You will be writing solutions to problems, and building things that communicate with machines. This has to be done in the most effective way possible. 

Keep broadening your skillsets because as a software development engineer you have to look behind or beyond a task. About every task, ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Why is this important?’ If a priority changes, instead of getting frustrated by the change, know that there is always a reason why companies shift direction. It could be that the customers demand different market dynamics. The better you understand your task, the more you grow and upgrade. 

Adopt a solutions-driven attitude to both communication and problem-solving. This includes attitude to work, towards co-workers, dealing with change, and so on. Are you a solution finder or do you declare that there is a problem? The solution finders are the most successful developers that I have seen and have had the pleasure of working with. They are the one-man show who, when the need arises, can wear an analyst’s hat, a product hat, and a developer hat to come up with a solution. Even if it is not 100% right, it still gives the leader a lot to work with because the attitude is one of solving the problem. The can-do attitude goes a long way. A software developer who can communicate well, is open to challenges, has a great attitude, and is a good coder is pure magic for any leader.

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