There is no better way to understand how a company works than going directly to the place where the magic happens. Google and Siri may help, but after 15 years of walking around industrial plants, oilfields and mines, I knew the perfect place to figure out the Cognizant Softvision DNA was sitting in the middle of a pod. How podification was defined, was yet to be determined.
My first meeting was with Gastón Horvat and his team in Buenos Aires Studio. He is the Scrum Master of a 15-member pod, eight of them based in Argentina and seven in the US. Together, they develop a loyalty platform for an online community dedicated to sharing, rating, and reviewing deals and coupons.
Part of the Argentinean team at the office.
So, what is a pod?
A pod is a group of team members from various disciplines working collaboratively, and following an agile methodology to deliver a product that targets a specific business outcome. Members of the pod operate at the intersection between digital expertise and an intimate knowledge of clients. At this point during the day, it was all monkey business to me. But, after having coffee and singing some rock hits from the 80s with the group, Gastón took a pen, drew a spiral on my notebook and unveiled the first clue: “Everything is about reducing uncertainty.” Ok, but how?, I wondered.
Programmers’ notes: a mystery to be solved!
He immediately blew the lid off by taking an iterative approach that focuses on small increments with constant feedback. This is the basis of agile development, this pod specifically picked Scrum as their methodology and decided to organize their work in two-week sprints. The goal is to rapidly test concepts, bypassing internal roadblocks to identify innovations that the customer actually wants.
High-level goals are set initially and then, real user testing validates the plan. So, instead of building a fully formed product over months, they build a minimum-viable product (MVP) and continually refine it. “Why on earth do these blowing mind ideas hardly get introduced in journalism schools?,” I said out loud. Needless to say, the audience of developers burst out laughing.
At the essence of Agile Methodologies
Soon after, I was ready to meet the core DNA of the pod process. For the next hour and a half I silently witnessed three online meetings that started with the tech connect, a daily opportunity to discuss technical findings, followed by the daily standup. They promised less than 10 minutes and challenged me to time it, revealing a quick 6 minutes and 15 seconds download. That is a rare feat among my colleagues! Finally, the client joined the weekly UI/UX Designs meeting. I had imagined a formal and tense talk, but was pleasantly surprised by the natural and friendly chat that took place.
Meetings, a fundamental part of the process.
Back at our desks I couldn’t avoid asking if the agile methodology crossed the office boundaries. What do you think? Of course! From organizing a child baptism or a family trip to fixing the kitchen tap: for the pod members everything seemed to be carefully planned, tested and improved in Excel spreadsheets or even a mental exercise before starting. This time, I was the one laughing!
And just before leaving, they mentioned some fascinating fact about pods: these unique teams are live organisms who grow, evolve and mature until they are ready to split. Like in biology, they call this process Mitosis. In the coming months, one member from the pod will take what he’s learned so far enabling a new pod to hit the ground running and without affecting the original pod.
I left the day with my head full of new ideas, none of them consistent with the stereotypical grumpiness and antisocial qualities developers sometimes get labeled with. Digital Engineering has this amazing ability of bringing down silos to work better together, like a group of cautious, shy developers and a journalist trying to better understand a foreign (to her) concept. After 15 years walking around all over the place, I am in a new place surrounded by teachers with endless skill sets, and heading in the right direction: the future.
- Working in rapid cycles of ideation, prototyping and testing, you create an innovation habit. And that is how new ideas flourish.
- Think Oceans 11, to pull off the heist they needed a pickpocket, an electronics expert, an acrobat etc. Each Pod is made up of uniquely skilled associates who partake in sprints. This will bring different perspectives together through a cross-functional team.
After office with Gastón and his team in Buenos Aires.
Martin Barutta (Fullstack Developer)
Federico Motta (Fullstack Developer)
Mauro Falduto (QA)
Franco Tegaldi (QA)
Cintia Argain (Architect)
Gastón Fernández (FullstackDeveloper)
Julián Prieto (Devops)
Gastón Horvat (Project Manager)
Mitchell Malpartida (Technical Leader)
Anjanette Houser (Product Manager)
Pooja Sawant (UX/UI Designer)
Austin Dorotheo (Fullstack Developer)
Mutharasu Thirumeni (Fullstack Developer)
Renuka Chandrasekaran (Fullstack Developer)
Prajina Vadakke Purayil (Fullstack Developer)
Prajina, Gastón Fernández, Mauro & Mitchel during a visit to the US.
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