How do you manage a team of top professionals, and how do you make the right decisions to respond to their needs? Well, you don't!
As with most disruptive ideas, this concept is as straightforward as it is hard to implement. Together with the EPAM Bulgaria team, we took the challenge to turn it into a reality.
We started with the idea of boundaries. We took the time to contemplate boundaries in our team: to understand them, to discuss them, even to define some of them... until we were finally able to see beyond them. We called this the "OneTeam!" initiative, and it was the beginning of an inspiring journey pushing us to become a better team every day.
Today, "OneTeam!" is an open community, and everyone from the team can join—either as a long-term member helping to drive the process and to shape the initiative further, or temporarily with a focus on a concrete idea or question. Some of the ideas evolve further in dedicated working groups, while others are quickly resolved or sometimes parked at the level of the core team.
"OneTeam!" has taught us to work together and serves as a great tool to drive meaningful decisions in everyday life of our team. But what turned out to be even more valuable is the process of getting there. While developing the Initiative, we learned to interact more openly and to take advantage of everyone else's experience.
Eventually, we discovered new ways to resolve business problems through our community and unlocked a whole new category of ideas.
Diana Zaneva, Project Manager
Core Team? "OneTeam!"? Say that again? That was my reaction when I first heard about the idea. So many questions and not that many answers, but I still remember that inner voice screaming "say YES!".
Different people with different expectations, all gathered around One Idea, "OneTeam!" The organization of our work evolved naturally only after a couple of meetings of the Core Team and when the idea was spread across the company, many colleagues engaged in the idea and joined the different working groups. Currently, the Core Team provides high level of responsibility and acts like a steering committee giving support and directions when needed. It is the foundation we can build on and together we can rise up to any challenge.
Simeon Kisyov, Senior Agile Coach
Even before COVID-19 the nature of our complex business, when faced with a number of projects running simultaneously, predisposes people to work in silos. For a number of years, EPAM Bulgaria has been introducing a number of initiatives to mitigate the isolation, including regular events, such as "Lunch & Learn," town halls, workshops for sharing good practices, and others. With the pandemic changing the workplace normality over the year, the "OneTeam!" initiative was timely to inspire and create a common communication culture among the different parties and participants in the office. For months, our teammates have been launching different initiatives related to improving the communication culture, from experience sharing to keeping spirits and morale high for everybody—with the majority of EPAMers participating online.
Several months into the Initiative, we are seeing great results: high levels of communication, collaboration and engagement. Communication has improved—our teammates are better informed, and everyone is more open to sharing. Having taken part in some of the activities, I am fascinated by the energy, motivation, and self-organization of our teams. We are determined to keep the flow of information and best practice sharing going. Well done EPAMers, keep up the good work!
Maria Zharova, Marketing Manager
Right from the very start "OneTeam!" has proven itself as a real think tank. In a creative group environment, there exists an opportunity to not only come up with great ideas, but also find a group of like-minded individuals to support you in making it real.
A good example of this is the Drive-in Conf format, which was born in a very informal discussion inside EPAM's office kitchen. From that conversation grew an exciting event format. The event itself combines a full drive-in cinematic experience with talks by world-renowned speakers. Visitors have been able to enjoy high-quality talks from the comfort and safety of their own cars. It was so successful that we had several editions in Sofia, Burgas and Prague.
Teams Collaboration and Communities
Emo Boyanov, Lead Software Engineer
Probably the most challenging aspect of the Initiative was growing engagement. Initially, we weren't sure if some of the things we were planning would be interesting enough to get our team mates engaged, but it was very refreshing to see that people were actually interested and liked what was organized. For the past 6 months, we have managed to organize several informal tech talks where people from different teams shared practical knowledge and experience. After all, we tackle similar complex problems in our day to day work—even if we are working with different technologies, the solutions we develop are very similar. These informal talks also help our less experienced engineers gain valuable technical knowledge as well as provide them with the opportunity to improve their presentation skills. The collaboration among the teams is key. It enables everyone to see the bigger picture. Our Initiative efforts are not limited to informal tech talks and knowledge sharing, we are working on creating new opportunities for information sharing, from creating various newsletters to supporting speakers and launching a new design thinking course. The important thing is to keep the momentum going and turn the new Initiative into a tradition. With small, incremental steps we have managed to build something meaningful which we hope to grow in to the future. Actually, I can't wait to see what we have in store for 2021.
At the end of the day, it's pretty cool to see that people are given the opportunity to propose changes and to share ideas. It's up to all of us to make our work environment a better place. As the saying goes—"Be the change you want to see in the world," or in our case, "Be the change you want to see in your company."
Tanya Dineva, Senior Business Analyst
These days, we are all living in a dynamic and exceptionally rapidly changing environment. Every day, each of us faces different problems, challenges and difficulties both in their personal or professional life. Have you ever wondered how you face and solve them?
The idea to conduct a Design Thinking course was born during the "Hotspot by the Sea" event, organized by the Joy Division of "OneTeam!," where teams can work together remotely from a base at the seaside. Some of us shared the experience of using Design Thinking work processes in practice. We discussed some of the advantages of using human-centered techniques for solving problems in a creative and innovative way and how this may result in an inspired and sometimes surprising outcome. At that time the idea to conduct a Design Thinking training was distant, unreal and a little crazy. By just sharing the "crazy idea" we received a lot of support from the "OneTeam!" Initiative and now the course planning is underway. The exciting part is that this is not going to be the standard type of Design Thinking training course. It will push the boundaries and opportunities and will be practice-oriented. Our hope is that it will be an exciting journey for all of course participants because it is already a journey of excitement for us.
Toni Petrova, Senior Software Engineer
At the point I got involved, "OneTeam!" was still a wild idea, intended to make about 200 people—with different views, tech stacks and interests—feel part of one united team. But as we all know, wild ideas are actually the thing worth pursuing. "OneTeam!" brought forward the value of togetherness, which is very important to me, as I often find motivation from the amazing professionals I work with every day at EPAM.
"Joy Division" focuses on the fun part of working life. It aims to bring people together through their shared passions, hobbies or challenges; all while having fun. The "Joy Division" began with a brainstorming session. We made sure all ideas were welcomed and every one's voice was heard. We then prioritized the output into a list of action items. But there were quite a few challenges—the fact that everything needs to be online, the fact that there is no "one fits all" initiative and also that our colleagues were not yet familiar with the "OneTeam!" concept. This required us to think outside of the box and come up with ways to get people interested and involved in something more than their day-to-day work. To date, we have successfully rolled out a handful of fun events; including a hike to Cherni Vrah, a plank challenge, Hotspot by the Sea (where teams can work together remotely from a base in Burgas), and a CS:GO tournament. Also, we have added a few on-going events, like the EPAM Lexicon, an initiative giving us an insight of who our colleagues are outside of work. Everything is targeted at the people of EPAM, so we always involve new members and gather ideas from the community. This inclusive approach is truly inspiring. It makes me feel confident that ideas brought forth will be successful.
The "Joy Division" is constantly working on new and exciting things, like Arduino workshops, new sport challenges and different online meetups. Our wish for the new year is to be able to gather offline and unlock new possibilities to bring "joy" in to our work environment.
Video Games as a Way to Promote Teamwork
Kris Petrov, Senior Software Engineer
In the recent years, gaming has grown significantly in terms of sophistication, complexity, and popularity. Gamification promotes a number of teamwork qualities, including leadership, effective communication, collaboration, and team bonding. After all, online team gaming and being a member of a development team have the same core idea—working together to achieve a common goal.
As a member of the "OneTeam!" Joy Division, I proposed a tournament for one of the most popular video games today— Counter-Strike. Of course, there were many challenges that had to be considered—how are we going to organize it and how will we create equally-skilled/matched teams?
Eventually all of those "how's" were resolved. We created a number of "skill determination" matches to help evaluate player performance and skill sets and from that assessment we created several equally matched teams. Then the teams competed against one another and the top 4 advanced to the semifinals then through to the finals. We had prizes for all of our participants, and the top teams received a special reward as well.
This tournament created a team comradery that promoted positive feelings. It helped alleviate stress, created an opportunity for team members to meet new colleagues, and opened lines of communication—creating an effective team-building engagement. To date, this has been one of the most popular Joy Division events and will be a template we use as we drive forward to create many more online team-building activities.
"One Team!" has proven itself as a successful initiative in many aspects: as a valuable tool to drive meaningful decisions, to promote open communication, to generate ideas and sometimes simply to have fun. By overcoming boundaries, we have gained a new understanding of how our team works and we are improving ourselves and our processes every day.
If you are interested in joining EPAM Bulgaria's team and becoming a part of "OneTeam!," you can see the available opportunities at EPAM's career web site.