A trusting and supportive engineering culture at Just Eat

After spending a few months as a Technology Manager at Just Eat, I have to admit I’m impressed with the culture I’ve encountered, especially with regards to the support and trust in the engineering teams. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to write a brief article with first-hand observations about the people and culture at Just Eat that you won’t find in a job spec, unlike company benefits or tech initiatives.
Hopefully, the takeaway of this article (no pun intended), will be why Just Eat has a fantastic engineering culture, making it a great place to work.
Disclaimer: this is not intended to be a sales speech or an attempt to suggest Just Eat is perfect, because it’s not. We have problems and several things we have to get better at, like every other company.

Interview process

I’ll start with the interview process, since, naturally, this was my first contact with Just Eat, and I believe it’s the starting point of the items I’ll cover next.
Given I was interviewing for an engineering position, there were a lot of thorough and varied technical stages, to verify I could do my job from a technical point of view. However, I was happy to quickly find out how much emphasis the interviewers were putting on the cultural, learning and knowledge sharing aspects.
I was interviewed by six different people with very heterogeneous roles and positions at Just Eat: Senior Managers, Developers, other Technology Managers and Human Resources. They were all interested in finding out how they would work with me and if I was a person that could learn from others and vice versa. The mentality of the engineering teams I’ve found at Just Eat is that you’re never too experienced to stop learning, and you’re never too inexperienced to be teaching or helping others.
Had I been a strong technical candidate, but not the right person for the team and Just Eat, I wouldn’t have been offered a position. And that would have been the right decision: it takes just one person to pollute or even destroy not just a team, but an entire department.

Probation period as a backup

Based on my own experience and conversations I’ve had with colleagues that have been working for longer at Just Eat, and as a positive consequence of the thorough and detailed interview process, I’d say the probation period feels more like a ‘backup period’, just in case one of the two parties changes their mind, which can happen, of course. I highlight this point because in many companies the probation period can be a stressful time in which you feel closely observed and tested to see if you fail. Starting off on the right foot is important. Thus, feeling supported and trusted from the very first day in your new role helps you to confidently and smoothly sail through your probation period, to the point you don’t even realise you are in it.

People are friendly

In my eight months here, I haven’t found a single person who isn’t nice, friendly and respectful to me. Yes, Just Eat is a huge public company with tens of engineering teams in various locations, but you can still feel the startup-ish vibe and mentality. I haven’t met everyone, but I can say, once again, that as a consequence of the interviewing process, the large majority of my colleagues are collaborative and laid back.

Approachable people

On a similar note, at Just Eat, you can talk to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your or the other person’s role is, you can get a hold of them and they will be glad to help you or openly listen to your suggestions and ideas. Your voice is not louder because of your role, but because of your ideas and your behaviour. You, from your position, whatever that may be, can set the direction of projects, practices, and more. Using some Agile buzzwords, you can be more of a player than a pawn.

Successes are recognised

With all the things going on in a fast-paced engineering department, in my experience, many times successes are not recognised, or at least not in a way they should. I have to admit that, as a manager, I have fallen in that trap a few times as well.
Since joining Just Eat, I’ve seen how my colleagues clearly understand how important it is to communicate not just when things need improvement, but also when things are going well. I’ve received emails from other teams, including people in high positions, praising the team I work with for stuff we’ve done. Nobody had asked them for feedback, but they were able to identify improvements in the way we work and realised how important it is to inform the team they are aware of their hard work and improvements.

Failures and mistakes don’t involve pointing fingers

We work in teams, therefore we succeed and we fail as teams. When we screw up — and it happens, since we are humans —we all try to learn from the mistakes and take relevant actions to reduce the chances of making the same mistake again. It doesn’t matter what kind of error it was, from a minor problem to accidentally introducing a serious bug taking the platform down, nobody will point fingers at individuals here.
The reason behind this is the following: let’s say a developer accidentally introduced a bug that prevented customers from placing orders. Is it the developer’s responsibility? What about our testers? What about the people who reviewed and approved the pull-requests? What about the Tech Manager or someone from Delivery or Product? We failed as a team, so we own the problem as a team and deal with it as a team.

Empathic people at all levels

I want to work for a company that has my back if I have a delicate situation to deal with in my personal life. Throughout my professional career, I’ve witnessed a few occasions in which employees, unfortunately, had to deal with some difficult personal situations. I’ve also witnessed how some of these people faced an alarming lack of empathy from their managers and employers, which resulted in very negative internal publicity for the company.
However, at Just Eat, when we had a few people with a situation to deal with at home, managers —some of them quite senior —were completely understanding and accommodating to help the person solve their issues. The unanimous opinion was that family and health are the most important things in life. Yes, more than work. Therefore, if you have an emergency, you should be able to focus on that. This makes employees feel safe and protected. Nobody wants to have personal emergencies, but if you have one, you want to be able to fully focus on it to solve it.

Conclusion

Is Just Eat culture perfect? No, of course not, as I pointed out in my disclaimer. But I do feel my colleagues and I are making a big effort to continuously improve the place in which we work.
 

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