Laur, who heads our project for the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, recently spoke to Estonia’s top tech news site Geenius about Nortal’s work environment. What follows is based on translated excerpts from that interview.
“We’re capable of completing large, complicated projects and giving our best while not taking ourselves too seriously.” If that were short enough to fit on a T-shirt, it could be the team’s motto. As it is, it’s a brilliant summary of how Laur sees his group.
First the basics: There are more than 35 people on the team, he explains, so it’s divided into mini teams. “Each mini team has its own team leader who’s an expert in their relevant field. Development teams are led by senior developers, and analysts and testers have their own dedicated leads.”
“We have no cowboy coders working in complete solitude. Different roles collaborate closely. For example, developers provide advice during the analysis stage concerning how to design the specification so that it will be easier to couple code with design in a meaningful, logical and extensible way with a natural flow. Developers also ensure development testing is as convenient as possible.”
In terms of team management style, Laur stresses that they operate with an open-door policy. “We’re all among friends, including the senior executives. Even if you are brand new to the team, you can freely enter the business unit manager’s office; they’ll listen to your concerns or questions and you can talk like two old friends.”
“We foster the attitude that your direct manager, or their manager, is not a boss with a capital B, but simply another person specialized in a different field who can give advice from their educated perspective.”
Apart from the easy-going relationships within the group, there’s also strong support for developers to advance their skills and experience. Laur stresses that the team prides itself on carrying the engineering spirit — everyone wants to be the best in their field and recognizes that they have to take responsibility for the functionality and quality of the work they produce. “Even mistakes are merely another stepping stone along our learning path,” he adds. “We have free rein to experiment with different technologies, processes or ways of working, which in turn sparks creativity, empowers people and encourages them to think outside the box. It’s for good reason that our customer, a rather conservative public sector organization, credits us for both bringing novel ideas to the table and successfully implementing them.”
Several improvements stem from the larger framework that supports developers along their career path. “Each developer can join the larger developers’ community, which hosts seminars, internal and external training, and several educational, fun events with other Nortal developers such as in-house hackathons or video training sessions with pizza and beer.”
Laur states that Nortal is the perfect place for developers who sincerely care about the quality of their code, in terms of both functionality and beauty. In the larger perspective, it’s also a place where a developer’s work can make a real difference.
“The thing I admire most at Nortal is that the company not only has great ambitions but also a continually proven ability to implement them, be it the main contribution to the development of our e-state or the larger-scale challenges from the United States to the United Arab Emirates. Our job is not empty visioning but rather the actual achievement of goals.”
“Nortal is not only a development company but a pioneer. I haven’t witnessed any other company in Estonia similarly envisioning, planning and purposefully carrying out the objectives that bring the state closer to the people and make communication run smoothly between the two. We’re constantly thinking of ways we can remain two steps ahead of others in our operations — and about how we can make the whole of society run more efficiently.”
Märt Laur is a Project Manager at Nortal, having joined the company in 2016. He brought with him more than 20 years of technical and management experience in the IT industry. His passion is leading competent, self-sustaining development teams with a strong quality culture and the desire to make a positive impact on society. You can reach him via e-mail.