In 2010 I had been working on public administration projects for two years. For me Tenerife was a great place to live for a while, but not to stay forever, let alone to stay for work. There simply was no tech job market. When I got fed up, I decided to move and leave the island (there's a LOST pun in here somewhere) looking for something better. I teamed up with a coworker, we quit together and moved to Barcelona.
I was amazed by the quality and quantity of job offers there where. I chose to join Focus On Emotions, a promising Digital Signage company. I knew nothing about this sector but it looked fascinating. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Times Square in NY or Shibuya in Tokyo is that look that reminds me of Blade Runner.
CC Photo by Héctor García. Shibuya from Hikarie on Flickr
It's the mesmerizing collection of ad displays covering the buildings. With this expectations in mind it's fair to say I was a little excited about getting to work with that kind of tech. One of the drawbacks of being a backend software developer is that your work doesn't get noticed by the general population. I was eager to work on something I could walk by, point to and say, "Hey, see that cool multimedia 6x4 videowall over there? Yeah, that's running software I wrote".
CC Photo by Javier Gutierrez Acedo Times Square2 on Flickr
When I started working there there was no Software Development department, almost everything was being outsourced. We used Digital Signage software licensed from our competitors. I was tasked with the creation of the Software Development team, it was going to be the challenge I was looking for. In the following years, I devoted my heart and soul to my role. I did everything from candidate screening, to training to architecture design. We managed to recover a few projects that were on the verge of failure. We developed our own Digital Signage player, our own CMS and CDN platform, adding features that none of our competitors had, integrating with third party services and steadily delivering project after project. Our department became the backbone of the company, we were able to secure bigger projects and clients and keep growing technologically.
Almost five years, 85+ repos, 6 team mates and a whole lot of projects later, I feel really proud of our team. We've worked on so many different things it doesn't compare to any other job I've had. We've done electronics integration, developed the first Digital Signage platform based on Android and we're now finishing the Digital Signage integration for ThyssenKrupp. I never thought I would see my software running inside an elevator! Thorough this years we've managed to be up-to-date as much as we could. We got some certifications, we attended a whole lot of conferences, meetups and user group talks, we even got our feet wet and presented some of our projects to our peers. It was a never-ending learning experience that we're committed to keep going.
In June 2014 we were bought by one of our competitors, Altabox. Together we're a bigger company, a bigger team which can tackle bigger problems and keep growing internationally. I feel like the hard work we've put into our software paid off. We now we are bigger, we have more resources, more interesting projects and a longer road ahead of us.
Company culture is one of those things most of the small companies can't offer. Having to companies merge into one is no easy task, so they flew us from Barcelona to Gijón for a two-day corporate retreat. Meeting our new co-workers in an informal setting was a nice experience. You get to know the people you work with in a more personal level. You don't see positions and responsibilities, you see new friends.
After a couple of hours of corporate presentations we had lunch together. We mixed a bit, had some good laughs, there was some impromptu performance by one of the most artistic team members, Dimas, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After lunch, we toured Altabox's facilities. The first thing that hit me when we were going to the Gijón office is that we now took up a whole bus. That's the first time I thought "wow, this is really happening, we're this big now". Altabox is located in an impressive museum at "Laboral Centro de Arte y de Creación Industrial" and getting to the office is pretty much like going through a labyrinth. The upside is that you get a tour of the museum and get to look a newer cool stuff every time the exhibition changes. When we got to the offices we joked about the cable mess and how it felt like we were already home. The office was a nice open concept but what stuck with me was this huge black chalkboard spanning an entire wall. Oh, how badly I wish to have something like that in Barcelona...
No corporate retreat would be done without at least one team building exercise so that's where we were taken next. When we stepped out of the bus into a TV studio I was baffled. Turns out the exercise was to make a movie/TV segment. This was an actual TV set so it was fun to play with the cameras, the boom mic and getting to sit in the interview sofa. We split up in two groups and had a blast acting up roles and recording the whole thing. We had a tour of the sound control and editing rooms where they explained a bit how the modern TV world worked. It was really interesting. The whole exercise was was really fun and I feel that we got along pretty well.
The day ended after having dinner together and partying until late. Our hosts where really nice, took us to a few different spots and we had a lot of fun together. Flying back to Barcelona the next day I was pretty happy about the future of the company.
We're now ~35 people, we manage thousands of displays across tens of countries and we're only getting bigger. This is the start of a new chapter. It's our job to start building up this new company. The Software Development team just doubled its numbers but we still have to overcome the difficulties of remote collaboration. There's a ton of work ahead, a long list of challenging projects and deadlines but now there's more of us, and we're ready :)