Orestes Carracedo

Scrum Master, PHP Ninja, cat owner

2 posts tagged as altabox.

31 January 2015

Not that long ago I wrote about the beginning of a new chapter. Well, that was a short chapter. In hindsight, I guess I was trying to motivate myself and push through the merger. In the end, I wasn't able to make it. I don't see myself in the new project and I decided to leave before taking on a vital project that's coming up next.

I'm writing this sitting at the cafe in the OVD Asturias airport. Javier Morales and I have been delegating our tasks to the Software Development team based of Gijón. We're closing up the Software Development Department in Barcelona, everything will be moved up here.

It's been a rough two weeks. We had an awful weather and we barely did anything besides coming and going from the hotel to the office. The other team is absorbing all the knowledge pretty well and we're confident they'll be able to maintain our software for however long the company decides to keep it running.

In my time at Focus On Emotions, my team grew an shrunk as the circumstances provided. Overall, I'm very satisfied with our work here and I'd like to take a moment thank everyone who has been part of the team.

Virginie Faure worked with us at the very beginning of our product development. She wrote part of the core of our CMS and she moved in the blurry line that divides frontend and backend developers. She had a knack for interface and visual design and shaped the look and feel of our products.

Sergi Penya helped us quite a bit as a consultant. Most of our early interactivity projects where outsourced to him.

Valentí Gamez wasn't even 20 years old when he joined Focus On Emotions. He took care of the CMS maintenance role and helped us tremendously when migrating our website to Twig.

Xavier Rubio helped us as an external consultant. He's truly one of the most fearless developers I know. Through the years, Xavi helped us on electronics, backend, fronted and a myriad of other aspects of our software.

Dimas López came in to be the solid third dev on our team. We've been friends for many years but couldn't quite find the right opportunity to work together. In our time working together he absorbed all the knowledge like a sponge. It's been great seen him progress as fast and as far as he has now.

Raúl Jimenez consulted for us for almost two years. His work on our template engine made us one of the best solutions in the marked.

I'd like to give an special mention to Javier Morales. He's been the most important part of the Software Development team for quite a while now. He's evolved into a serious Senior Developer, capable of chewing anything you throw at him. Without him, Focus On Emotions would've never been as successful as it got to be.

Thank you guys sharing your time with me. I'm really grateful I had your help through this years.

Leaving Focus On Emotions

Categories: career
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30 November 2014

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.

"Shibuya from Hikarie" by Héctor García

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".

"Times Square2" by Javier Gutierrez Acedo

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.

Focus on Emotions 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.

AltaboxAfter 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 :)


Categories: work
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