Building tech teams from zero to one and beyond’ with Giorgos Ampavis, VP of engineering at Tide

In the recent episode of ‘Beyond The Code’, Host Kovid Batra engages in an insightful conversation with Giorgos Ampavis, VP of engineering at Tide, who is also a renowned speaker with a strong presence at top-tier tech conferences including DevOps Enterprise Summit, SaaStr, and WeAreDevelopers. Their core discussion revolves around ‘Building tech teams from zero to one and beyond’.

The podcast starts with a fun fireside chat with Giorgos, where the audience gets to know his unfiltered personality. Following that, he shares the challenges faced in his engineering journey and strategies he used to conquer them. Giorgos sheds light into the framework for assessing new tools and technologies. Further, he imparts valuable wisdom on fostering a positive organizational culture and enhancing the developer experience.

Wrapping up, Giorgos leaves the audience with significant advice, stressing the importance of continuous improvement and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Time stamps

  • (0:07): Giorgos’ background 
  • (1:15): Fireside chat
  • (7:41): Challenges faced by Giorgos in his engineering career
  • (16:14): Giorgos’ views on coding as a tech leader
  • (17:51): Standard process to evaluate new tools & technologies
  • (20:17): Key criterias for choosing Flutter over Native & Kotlin at Tide
  • (22:28): How to ensure great culture at scale?
  • (26:20): Diving deeper into developer experience 
  • (28:30): DORA metrics & why it’s crucial to measure performance
  • (31:25): Parting advice for the audience

Links and mentions

Episode Transcript

Kovid Batra: Hi, everyone. This is Kovid, back with another episode of ‘Beyond the Code’ by Typo. Today with us, we have a special guest who is a passionate, insightful thought leader. He has 18+ years of experience in software engineering and leadership. He’s currently VP Engineering at Tide, and he joined the company as early as, like, the 25th employee in the company. 

He loves to discuss about technology, building and scaling teams. And post-COVID, you can find him at a lot of events talking about his thoughts. He has been to ‘DevOps Enterprise Summit’ in London. Then, he has been to ‘SaaStr’. And then, there was ‘WeAreDevelopers’ in Berlin. And now, you can find him in the upcoming events at CTO Craft on 7th and 8th of November in London, talking about culture at scale. And then, he would be at ‘LeadDev Berlin’, 4th-5th of December, talking about Native to Flutter transition. Welcome to the show. Welcome to the show, Giorgos. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Hi! Hi, Kovid. Nice to see you here. How are you?  

Kovid Batra: I am really well. Thanks for being on the show. We are really grateful. 

Giorgos Ampavis: My pleasure. 

Kovid Batra: Alright, Giorgos. So, we have this format of having a quick fireside chat with our guests, okay? And here, we are going to know a little bit about you, your personal life, and  you have to be, like, honest, okay? All set? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Will do. Will do. Try my best.  

Kovid Batra: Perfect! So, I’m starting off the first question. I’m sure you’re reading a lot, but which is your favorite read, favorite latest read? And, what is your learning from there? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, okay. So, reading is tricky. First of all, I’ll have to say that I have a very short attention span, so I can be very easily distracted. So for me, reading is like it’s a struggle, but I try to push myself and I try to read a lot. 

Kovid Batra: Okay. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Having said that, I have a big pile of books here, which, you know, I haven’t read yet. My latest one, which I actually finished is ‘Never Split the Difference’,  which is talking about negotiation. It’s actually a really nice book. I’ve just finished it last week. Really, really good book. I think it’s probably in everyone’s top 10 or 20  ‘must read’ books. Really good book about negotiation. And I just started. I’m not gonna advertise it. I’m not gonna because they want to advertise it. But, I’ve just started like reading ‘EMPOWERED’ by Marty Cagan, which I’m a big fan of, from the Silicon Valley Product Group. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, he has a series of book. I’m just reading now ‘EMPOWERED’, which is obviously talking about empowering product teams,  product engineering teams.

Kovid Batra: That’s nice!  

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah. And I also like to read novels and the latest one I read, I can look at it here because I just put it down like a few weeks ago, ‘The Good Fairies of New York’, which is actually really nice. A book talking about two fairies traveling to New York, no surprise there. But it’s actually quite funny. 

Kovid Batra: That’s such a diverse taste I must say. Perfect, I think it’s nice. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah, it’s actually quite funny. Yeah, but I have to say I’m also using Blinkist a lot. 

Kovid Batra: Okay. You listen to audiobooks?

Giorgos Ampavis: Listen, yeah, or read, both, I can do both. But usually, I do like two or three books, like on  every other day, while I run. 

Kovid Batra: Got it. That’s nice. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, that helps me get the summary. And then, if I like the book, like it happened with ‘Never Split the Difference’, I’m going to buy it. And I’m going to read it. 

Kovid Batra: Oh, that’s nice. And that’s a quick, like, really nice advice. Like, quickly have a summary of a book and then probably go back to reading it if you want. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Time is precious, right? Time is precious. You need to optimize. You need to filter out the ones you don’t like. 

Kovid Batra: Right. Right. Perfect. That was a nice advice. Nice books too.  

Alright, next question. I would love to hear, like, what’s your favorite way to unwind?  

Giorgos Ampavis: Okay. So I like, I like cinema. In my previous life, I did study cinema, like a cinematographer. So, I have a passion for cinema and movies, by extension.  So naturally, you can find me, like, watching movies or TV series on I have all the possible subscriptions, like Netflix, Apple TV, like Amazon Prime, all of them. I try to limit it obviously because you know, I don’t want to binge-watch movies, like 3-4 hours a night. Again, time is precious, so we need to optimize that, but that’s my preferred option to unwind, like watching movies or music. Obviously, I  listen to music all day long. And recently, I, you know, and obviously playing with my son is a big thing. How this unwinds…

Kovid Batra: Oh, is it? 

Giorgos Ampavis: …or he winds me up or I unwind down. It depends on how it goes. But recently, I bought a guitar because I like to start playing the guitar together with him, who has been playing for one, one and a half year. So… 

Kovid Batra: That’s really nice. That’s really sweet, man. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah! Electric guitar, by the way. I’m going straight to the…  

Kovid Batra: That’s cool, absolutely great! I think, like, you have such diverse days; you’re reading, you’re playing electric guitar with your son. I’m already inspired. So, what’s your mantra for success in life? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Okay. So, there’s two sides of it. The one mantra for success is looking outwards. And, I’m talking outwards is just like what I let people see, right? And, for the people that, like, they work with me or they live with me,  my mantra is like, I try to be authentic. Whenever with my work relationships, I try to be as authentic as possible. I don’t try to pretend that I’m something that I’m not. I’m very direct, like in a polite way, though, respectful way. And I like…

Kovid Batra: Yeah, that’s very important actually, being polite when you’re there. 

Giorgos Ampavis: I like treating people equally. But again, like, by being respectful is at the top. One of the red lines that I have, especially when I hire people, I keep telling them,   when I interview people is, “I don’t like disrespect, like, you know, I have zero tolerance for disrespect from any direction.” Right? It can be me sometimes that I disrespect somebody else and I need to be put on my place if I do that, because sometimes you do mistakes, right? Things happen. So when you cross a line, you need to be told to actually to step back and, you know, apologize, right? That happens sometimes. But for me, this is very important, respectful and authentic, like being authentic. And, on the inwards, the way I approach my life, like my personal, which sometimes it is outwards as well, but it’s not in my mantra. But in words, is actually ‘continuously improved’. Like, that’s my mantra. When I wake up in the morning, I’m actually thinking what I’m going to improve today. And I actually am a big fan of Kaizen from the Toyota manufacturing philosophy. 

Kovid Batra: So, tiny improvements, yeah? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Small continuous improvements, obviously. Hence, the Blinkist. Hence, why I go running every day. Hence, why I do, like, small exercises every day. All of this is part of my mantra. Like, this is how I live my life, my philosophy. 

Kovid Batra: Well, I think one good thing is, I noticed, you follow what you preach, right? Like, if sometimes… 

Giorgos Ampavis: I try. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah. So, sometimes if you disrespect somebody, you are okay that if somebody comes and tells you that you were wrong here and you have to be put in the right place.

Giorgos Ampavis: Oh, yeah. It’s very hard for people who report to you to actually believe you do that. Yeah. But you know, I try to walk the walk, like, and I prove it to them. Like, you know, I’m very down to earth. I don’t have any..I have ego, you know, like everybody else, but it’s not a hierarchical ego. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, got it. Perfect! It was good knowing you, Giorgos. I think the audience knows you now.  

Now, the main section. We would love to know your experiences. You joined Tide at a very early stage, as the 9th engineer in the team, 25th employee in the company, and now the team is almost 500 odd developers, right? So, this experience, I’m sure, has been amazing for you. There would have been, definitely, many challenges. Just share something about those challenges. How did you overcome those? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, Tide is a constant challenge, but it’s a positive challenge. First I’ll start with something else. I like challenges. I like challenging myself. So, when I will talk about challenges, it’s not something that we suffered, right? This is always like a challenge comes with a positive outcome, always.  So, but I’ll tell you about me. So, I joined Tide, yes, very early. In April 2017, I was the ninth engineer, 25th employee, very early employee, part of the original gang, actually. I’m number four now. There’s another, you know, most people left by now. 

Kovid Batra: Oh, okay. 

Giorgos Ampavis: And now we have 1500 people. Out of the 1500, roughly 500, they are engineers or in engineering, in general. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, got it. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Obviously I played a key part in transitioning from that number to what we have now,  because I was very early here. It was a constant challenge because we, you know, in the beginning, we didn’t have the resources that we have now, but we have the appetite. Then we have a small team, which we collaborate really, really well. Then the team started scaling, you know, with the, there was an overhead of communication. So, it was a constant challenge at every level because not only we scaled, we scaled really, really fast. So, if you look at the… I’m working on a presentation now and I was looking at, I created like a graph and actually the graph is exponential with the numbers.  

Kovid Batra: Hockey stick. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, it is a hockey stick. Really close to hockey stick, yes, so that brings a lot of challenge and for a company that went from basically no processes, no tools, you know, going to what we are now, like, you know, you can imagine the pain… 

Kovid Batra: Ya, ya, of course. 

Giorgos Ampavis: …the pain of it. But, it was very rewarding because we learned a lot from the process. 

Kovid Batra: Tell us one of those things which you found really challenging. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, okay, hiring. I’d say probably hiring is the biggest challenge because we scaled really fast. So, hiring and onboarding  all these people.

Kovid Batra: Yeah, of course. 

Giorgos Ampavis: You know, in some cases, it was actually four times in a year, like quadrupled in a year. Bringing all these people, you know, it was very challenging.  And it’s very challenging, why? Because we also wanted to keep our culture, like the culture that we had when I joined Tide, and which was really people-centric  and really about our members. We wanted to keep it and maintain it. And we actually want us to do that even now. Like, you know, maybe obviously it’s slightly different. It’s not, you know, obviously have different skin to it, but actually at the core, it’s the same. And that was probably the biggest challenge that I’ve seen at Tide. Like, how to keep that culture intact.  

Kovid Batra: So, when you go out and you have this pressure of hiring, let’s say a hundred developers in next, let’s say 8 months or 10 months time frame. How do you ensure, how did you make sure that you get the right fit for the company? Just tell us some nitty gritty, like, how other people could learn?  

Giorgos Ampavis: So first of all, let’s start with some base stuff that you need, right? You’ll have some prerequisites. You need to have an understanding between the team that is hiring, that nothing’s going to go perfect. Like, you will hire people who are not good culture fits, and you cannot  avoid that, especially if you’re hiring fast. But what you need to do, is as you hire fast, then you also need to be very lean on actually identifying these people and then flushing them out. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: That’s actually an easy bit because usually, if you have a strong culture in house, like the bad elements of this, the bad apples usually are flushed out. And that’s actually what happened at Tide. Like, we never struggled to actually, you know, let somebody go, or we never had to let somebody go because usually they realize Tide is not a good fit for them, and usually they leave. We’re talking about, like, less than a handful of people… 

Kovid Batra: Yes, got it. 

Giorgos Ampavis: …all these years in my team. Then while hiring is really important; obviously, when the team is small, I could do it myself, right? So, it was easy. Like, you know, if I wanted to hire, like, going from two people, two engineers, which was in the beginning in-house, to five, okay, I could spend the time and actually manage to hire these people. Once we started scaling above, 50 and above a 100 though, that became tricky because we needed to have a hiring team, and that hiring team needed to be at the same time, like, hired as well with a cultural fit.

Kovid Batra: Correct. 

Giorgos Ampavis: There was a time, I think there was a couple of quarters where I was interviewing like 60, 70, 80 percent of my time. Like, literally meeting everyone. 

Kovid Batra: But, that’s actually very important also. I feel like bringing the right people in and just having the calls, the right calls with them is very, very critical. So, for any engineering leader, I would say, this could be a top priority. They can’t really ignore it. What do you think? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, it depends on the level. Obviously, you can’t expect the company, at a company of 1500 people, like somebody at the CTO-level or VP-level to actually interview every single one of them. But, what I’m trying to say is like, you build an extension around you, you build a team around you, which I wanted to do, like, you know, from the very early days, I hired my current Head of Mobile and Director of Web, who are now Head of Mobile and Director of Web, but then they were Lead iOS and Lead Web Engineers. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, got it. 

Giorgos Ampavis: And, I hired them and together we actually managed to scale Tide. It was like extending my philosophy, my values like I managed. You know, when we talk about culture fit, I don’t try to hire people who are identical to me, but try to hire people who actually have the same values, core values, at least, right? So these people then, you know, by working together with me, they understand what we need to do. So, we did it together. And then these people, they brought other people, you know, and we expanded and this is how we managed to scale really, really fast. But there was a time where I was actually doing a lot of heavy lifting.

Kovid Batra: Yeah, I think that’s a transition time, the inflection time where you really need to figure out the process and you are doing the work. So yeah, I agree with it.

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah, it’s a breaking point. It’s a breaking point. Like when you, then you actually, everything becomes amazing, but yeah, I think it was from January 2019 until probably I’m going to say Q3 2019, that was a struggle, like it was a lot of hiring. 

Kovid Batra: Got it. Well, that’s on the hiring part. There must have been technical challenges also. I’m sure when you were a small team, you need to really build that MVP, get that product-market fit, and you’re just building, you’re not really caring about the technical there.

But when it comes to scaling after a point, which Tide of course did, did you experience any pains of the past, past mistakes? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. For the first five years, we’re trying to improve the platform, the iOS and Android Native platform, I was accountable for both of them. So, you know, had all these initiatives every quarter trying to improve, refactor. I think we had at some point in 2018, we had an initiative called ‘Architectural Refactoring’. So, we wanted to change the architecture, which we did, we went to modular architecture. So every year, there was a lot of workaround trying to improve and preparing for the next phase of scaling. So, that scaling at the company-level brought a lot of challenges within a team-level, but also the product-level, because, you know, it’s one thing having five engineers working in a code base, not having 50, which we have now working at the same code base, right? So, the challenges are very different. So it was again, a constant challenge trying to improve how we do things, trying to optimize. And then especially on mobile, it was critical because we are mobile first, we took a decision to move to Flutter, because. It was promising and it actually paid back.

So, that was another big challenge when we actually had to transition a whole mobile stack to Flutter, while at the same time, retain the people like the really, really strong iOS and Android developers we had, upskill them. 

Kovid Batra: Upskill them, yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: And then, also hire more Flutter engineers because we wanted to also scale the team. So, it was like, it’s like a train moving and then you are trying to change all the parts in it. But, we managed to do it, like really, really successfully.  

Kovid Batra: During this whole time when the scale-up was happening, how much time do you think you were coding after the initial dates? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Ah, coding? Okay, I have to admit I’m not coding now at Tide. I’m going outside Tide. I’m doing my own things outside Tide. But within Tide, I don’t code anymore. I don’t have the time to actually code. Or, I don’t think people want me to code anymore.  

Kovid Batra: Right, that’s what I just wanted to understand. When you’re really scaling, at that moment, if you’re occupied with hiring, planning the tech strategy, making sure things are falling right, people are getting upskilled, you really don’t get the time to do it, but is it okay to not code at that time and depend on the complete team to make sure things are falling in line? Or, how do you exactly do it? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So I think, you know, it depends on the person, but I’d be very skeptical if I see like somebody at the CTO-level or a company or a VP-level or even a Director-level at the size that we are now, and they’re actually coding. That’s… 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, of course. At this size, I’m sure this is the perception, but, while you were… 

Giorgos Ampavis: Something is not getting done. Something is not getting done, because I know, you know, by experience, I know that there’s a lot of things that you need to do that can keep you occupied, like, for a long time. And I’m actually very busy now so I can see it myself, but…

Kovid Batra: Makes sense.

Giorgos Ampavis: …it may be a case where somebody wants to code, right? It’s again, it’s good if they manage to…

Kovid Batra: Right. Makes sense. 

Giorgos Ampavis: …if they manage to balance it, I don’t see a problem. I did phased out from coding in around  2020, 2019-2020 I stopped because that’s when I had to do all the hiring.  

Kovid Batra: So, talking about this transition to Flutter, this was definitely a big change, but on day-to-day basis, such kind of big or small tech changes, new tools, new frameworks keep coming into picture and you need them. Do you follow a standard framework or a process while evaluating the frameworks, the tools, the new technologies that you want to implement? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yes. So, technology keeps evolving, right? So, there’s things that we can experiment and there are things that obviously are much trickier to experiment, like changing your tech stack every year. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense. So, it needs to be, like, very well-thought. So, and that’s what we did. Like, we didn’t just woke up one day and said, “Let’s move to Flutter!” Obviously, we had a lot of process, thought process behind it,  evaluation process, before we end up to this decision. So, it depends on the scale of  what you’re trying to do. I guess the decision is easier, right? If it’s just a tool that you want to evaluate and you can do a POC, you know, you can see if it meets your demand, like your requirements and then obviously cost is one of them, you know, everybody’s trying to cut down on costs now, everybody’s like trying to do that. So, that’s one thing. You evaluate based on the three, four, five criteria you have, and then you make a decision. I don’t want to overcomplicate it because it’s not complicated. But, reality says that it is complicated because then you have all the politics that come with it, especially when you’re talking about engineers. Because you know, everybody, like an engineer, it’s a classic phrase, like, “We can build it.”  “We can build that tool. Why won’t we build that tool? We can build it.” And I’m actually facing these discussions, like even today with some of our engineers, like when they think we can build tools, which I get, right? Because we are engineers, we can build everything, obviously. But, we don’t want to build, we want to build whatever makes sense for Tide, and then everything else we need to buy.

Kovid Batra: Right. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, the decision to buy comes with research. We’re never going to go full without researching, like without doing due diligence, without actually comparing technologies, like, you know, and tools. Even with Flutter, we do compare technology before we actually chose Flutter. We did look at Kotlin Multiplatform and what’s the other one? And, Native. We decided, like whether we need to stick with Native. So, we compared these three and, you know, made a decision. 

Kovid Batra: Perfect. But, what was the one of the most or one or two important criteria to decide, okay, Flutter is something that fits? Like, one is of course the scale that you want to move ahead, but, apart from that, did you look at some other critical pointers also?  

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah. So, we had three everything was framed around three objectives that we had at the time. One of them was actually ‘lead time’. We wanted to be able to optimize our lead time to market. 

Kovid Batra: Makes sense. 

Giorgos Ampavis: And, that’s between Native, obviously, and Kotlin will be far from Native, like obviously hypothesis, which I’m going to tell you how it turned out.

The hypothesis was that Flutter will out, you know, outperform the other two. And in fact, we have proved now that we can build much, much faster, definitely from Native, because we only need one team, we don’t need two teams. So, it’s definitely faster. But also, from Kotlin Multiplatform, like Flutter, literally you build once and deploy twice. I didn’t believe it before, but actually it is possible. 

The second one was actually, economies at scale didn’t work. So, when we actually wanted to scale that much, like the whole Tide, we needed to hire like probably, I don’t know, another double the mobile engineers we have now, so  it didn’t make sense to me at that point to have this big a team. So, based on the premise that build once, deploy twice, then we said, okay, even if that’s not the case, maybe you can optimize your engineering capacity by, I don’t know, 33%. Actually, we managed to optimize it by, you know, we managed to halve it. We didn’t halve people, obviously we managed the demand, we halved the demand, right? We’re still hiring people. But we managed to request half the people that we need it. 

And the third one is actually having feature parity between two platforms like Android and iOS. Historically, we had features that were only deployed in Android, or vice versa in iOS. Now with Flutter, everything is in power because we built again once, deployed twice. 

So, when we did the original research, we focused on these three, we gathered the data that we needed from the Google team, from other teams, and then we made the decision. 

Kovid Batra: That’s really, really insightful. And, uh, like scaling always comes up with different kinds of challenges. And,  apart from handling this tech debt, technology, hiring, then the challenge of building the right culture also comes in, right? When you’re scaling, of course, you did the right hire, you tried to find the right fit, but let’s say after that, there is something that you’re doing to actually nurture the team, reinforce the culture. So, how do you do that at Tide? Or how in general, your practices ensure the great culture at scale? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah. So culture has two sides of it. The visible parts of it, which is basically the office, the people, dress codes, you know, all that stuff, some behaviors, right? And then, there’s all the invisible stuff, which is, you know, all the rules you have, the unwritten rules, things that they’re not necessarily seen and it’s under, it’s hidden, right? So this, your job is actually to surface the good behaviors as well, that people don’t necessarily see. And you can do this with different ways, like you know, feedback is one of them, like providing feedback, celebrating like, the good behaviors, the ones you want to see, listening to the employees, right? Whatever you’re telling you because you don’t know better. You need to listen, so you can improve. This is how this creates a culture like a positive and strong culture and that has psychological safety and then they can, you know, they can be adaptive as well. And more importantly, you need to lead by example, you can’t just, I can’t ask you to behave a certain way if I don’t behave that way, right? And you know, usually when I talk about it, I close this in presentation, I close with that, because this is the most important thing. Like, leaders need to actually be at the top of the culture. They can’t promote a culture that they’re not part of it. 

Kovid Batra: Absolutely. When you talk about the psychological safety and taking care of the team, building the right culture, when all this is in place, I think teams are really motivated, like, innately to work on things, be more creative and deliver better. But at the same time, I always feel that when you scale, you lose that visibility in the team to understand if Teams are really performing or not. Of course, culture is one part, but you really need to understand how efficient they are. And you, of course, have to take care of the overall developer experience also in the team, so that they can move fast. You have to create that environment. So, how do you ensure that they are efficient, they are performing right? How do you exactly do that? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, I’m not going to talk about developer productivity because actually you can’t measure it. McKinsey says they can, but I don’t think you can’t. Like, we established now from Kent Beck and, ‘The Pragmatic Engineer’ that actually we shouldn’t talk about developer productivity. But you know, we do know we do have DORA metrics, like, you know, industry-standard DORA metrics, which they’re great, they cover one part of it because you can still be great at DORA metrics and your team is burned out. You know. So, that’s not enough. So now, we looking into adding a few more things that have to do with developer experience. Obviously we also have the product metrics, like, you know, for our products, the metrics, so all of them combined, they give you like a really good idea about your product engineering teams, how agile they are, how’s the business agility, how happy they are, you know, developer experience, and also are we building the right products, like with the product manager. So I think, that’s all of them together. You can’t look at them in isolation anymore. You need to look at them like holistically, if you want to have a really good health picture. 

Kovid Batra: Right. Of course. So can we just deep dive a little bit into this? Like, let’s start with developer experience.  What exactly would you try to gauge when you are trying to understand the experience of a developer in your company? 

Giorgos Ampavis: So I think the interpretation of what is a good metric on developer experience is different. I think SPACE, there’s a new framework called SPACE, which I think does a really good job. So I have people in the team now looking at this. But ultimately developer experience is self-explanatory, right? It’s about, you know, how happy and productive are your developers? Like, you know, how happy actually mostly, and if they are, that can translate to being productive as well, right?

Kovid Batra: Yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: So, if you have unhappy people, they’re not going to be productive, we know that. So I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I haven’t looked at it myself. Like, I know about SPACE, but I’m looking at the outcome that I want to achieve. And for me, any metrics you have on the developer experience has to be about the actual people themselves. It’s not about the product anymore. It’s not about, definitely about your releases or deployments, it’s actually about the people. Now, what makes an engineer happy? God knows! Like, who knows what makes engineers happy? We’re a bunch of people, we are. 

Kovid Batra: No, of course. But I think, with this approach or this intention of keeping them happy, you will be able to understand that and also maybe work on things that you really want to do for them. So, it totally makes sense.

Giorgos Ampavis: Maybe I’m using happy as an umbrella because happy, you know, it’s like I said, like I tried to imply basically by saying that what engineers need, right? 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: Happy for whatever makes you happy is probably different than what makes me happy. So, I think it’s not just simple as saying like, you know, a simple questionnaire, like, are you happy or not? Like, how happy you are? Like, because we do that as well, right? That I like the pulse… 

Kovid Batra: Right. Yeah, we do that. 

Giorgos Ampavis:…every week and it gives you..It’s beyond that. It’s not just that. So, I don’t want people to take out that, “Oh, if we ask people if they’re happy, that’s DevEx metrics.” No.  There’s a good framework base. They do a lot of work. I’m just simplifying things.

Kovid Batra: No, it totally makes sense. Totally makes sense. So yeah, perfect. I think that answers a lot about how you are leading teams at this time. So I am totally in line with this thought, but, coming to this DORA metrics piece, like those four metrics or maybe a few more metrics which you might want to look into to understand how teams are doing. Do you do that at your organization? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Yeah, so we do. Not personally me, but we have a team looking at DORA metrics. Now, we have one of the Directors of Engineering who’s actually looking at holistically as an initiative, like how to get to the next level. Yeah, we do. 

Kovid Batra: Oh, so it’s kind of critical for like large-scale organizations at this scale. You think it is important or is it like..? 

Giorgos Ampavis: It’s critical if you want to improve, you know. If any company at any size needs or wants to improve, they need to know how they perform, right? As a, at least as a company, forget about developer experience, but at least as a company, they need to understand how they perform. Usually, companies have the KPIs, like the business side of the company has the KPIs, you know, growth, how many users they acquired, ARR, like Annual Recurring Revenue.

But then, you know, for product engineering, going for a tech company, I think it is important to understand how, you know… 

Kovid Batra: These people are doing.

Giorgos Ampavis: How basically are you working like? 

Kovid Batra: Yeah, yeah. So, I think you touched on a very good point here where success of these tech teams cannot really be defined with just the metrics. I think that there is more to it, right? You have to like, probably build some alignment with the business and help them improve. So, how do you do that at Tide? 

Giorgos Ampavis: I mean, think of it this way as an example, right? They’re going to have, like a perfect engineering team, and they’re building all the wrong products that nobody uses. But then, you look at DORA metrics, all four of them, they’re great. Like, you know, great. They deploy like multiple times a day, no bugs, no defects in production, no hot fixes. You know, we respond really fast when we do find one, but we keep building the wrong products nobody uses. So, are we successful as a company? No. I was successful at engineering? I’d say no, because engineering and product doesn’t separate, like they go together, right? 

Kovid Batra: They’re together, yeah. 

Giorgos Ampavis: You can’t. Like, that’s why we call technical debt. We don’t call it technical debt at Tide, we call it product debt,  because it’s one, it’s one product we have. We don’t have a technology, and then a product. Product is one. So, Tide works together as one team, like work together with product, together with our business stakeholders, which, you know, I’m considered one of them as well, like, because we’re part of the business. Again, business is one, right? It’s not separate. We shouldn’t… it’s not us and them. And I think we work together. We have the OKRs, company OKRs, you know, quarterly OKRs. And then these OKRs that translate to initiatives and outcomes we want to achieve. And then, you know, obviously the OKR is not missed, and then we go and deliver them.  

Kovid Batra: Great! Great, Giorgos. I think that was really amazing, really interesting. Uh, thank you so much for sharing so many insights and hands-on experience.  Any parting advice for our audience? 

Giorgos Ampavis: Advice. I’m not really good at advice. I know actually, I’m not bad actually. I’d say, I go back to, especially for new people, right? Like, less experienced people. I don’t want to call them juniors or anything because it’s about experience, right? I’d say don’t, do not be afraid to try, like new technologies. You’ll be surprised of what you can actually see there. Don’t be dogmatic. Like, one thing that I’ve learned early in my life, and actually I paid the price for it, is like, you should not be dogmatic. I actually moved to like, so that’s a funny story, I’m gonna close with this.

I was actually a hardcore Flash and Flex developer, back in 2009. Like, I was doing a lot of Flex, a lot of ActionScript 3, and I hated Apple because obviously it didn’t allow Flash to go into the iPhone, like back then. And then in 2010, January-February 2010, Steve Jobs released this nice email letter, whatever, that killed Flash basically. I decided to drop class and start learning iOS.  So, you know, don’t be dogmatic because, you know, you limit your options. So, always continuously improve and always learn new things. That’s the advice.  

Kovid Batra: Perfect. Perfect. Thanks a lot.  

Giorgos Ampavis: Cool. Yeah, Kovid. 

Kovid Batra: Yeah.  See you. See you. Thank you.

Giorgos Ampavis: Very nice. Really nice chatting with you.

Kovid Batra: Same here. Same here. Thank you.