It’s now been a year since I joined Thoughtworks and for me a year at ThoughtWorks is like two at any other company I’ve ever worked at. I have learned so much since I joined I really feel like I’m a very different person to the one who joined. I’ve met lots of really smart people who are doing really interesting things but all of whom have been generous and unstinting with their knowledge, experience and advice when asked.
This openess is the thing that really sets the culture apart from so many other firms. Knowledge seems to have value only when shared and people are generally so enthusiatic about the things they know they are really eager to help you understand things. In most companies knowledge is power and hoarded carefully, divested for maximum gain with the grace of a man having a tooth extracted.
The other cultural aspect that has been really different is that there is tremendous peer pressure to be excellent. If you are cutting corners or hacking something that’s convenient but flawed or just riding on your opinion then someone is going to call you on it.
When I’m working on client-owned projects I often think about different approaches and then wonder how I would feel if I had to justify the solution I chose to my TW collegues. It’s interesting because it gives you a strength to stand up against weak solutions and weak answers, even if you’re not actually working with anyone from ThoughtWorks.
So it’s been a good year generally and certainly the best I have had working for a company rather than doing my own thing. However ThoughtWorks isn’t perfect because any aggregation of individuals requires compromise and the biggest problem with ThoughtWorks is how you handle that.
One of the obnoxious things you can come across is the idea that you should be grateful to work for ThoughtWorks (particularly held I think amongst those who have only worked at TW or the City and other consultancies). ThoughtWorks has problems and each individual has to balance the benefits of getting to work with so many amazing people against an organisation that can’t really resolve its central dichotomies. Is it the Employee owned company that is delivering excellence or is it the home to the best knowledge workers who are revolutionising IT?
The trouble with not deciding exactly what the company wants to offer its employees as the vision is that every decision ends up infuriating half of your smart, emotionally invested and highly motivated workforce because it doesn’t fit with their interpretation of the ThoughtWorks ideal.
So it has been a great year and an experience I would recommend to anyone. My closing thoughts about ThoughtWorks is that it is a company that hasn’t said “No” to anything I have wanted to do. There isn’t always a lot of support and it is more forgiveness than permission but I feel that ThoughtWorks has helped me be a better person because it has given me the chance to do things that other organisations simply shut down in an arbitrary and off-hand way.
So thanks Roy and everyone else who works and has worked at ThoughtWorks for creating that opportunity for me.