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Nearshore development office for a Dutch EdTech company

Studytube is an enterprise-level education and EdTech services company, headquartered in Amsterdam. It offers a B2B solution for managing, sharing and disseminating knowledge within organizations. 

The company operates as an e-learning platform, developing customized educational content to fit the unique needs of each client. The solution combines a learning experience platform (LXP) and learning management system (LMS) in one. This enables businesses to create a personalized learning environment for every employee so that they can easily search, book and follow courses ‒ wherever and whenever they want. 

Studytube story: From a student project to the leading employee development platform

In 2010, StudyTube began as a study platform aimed to help law students prepare for their exams. Despite the project’s narrow focus, both in terms of study content and target audience, it attracted a huge following. Over 17,000 users joined the platform within the first weeks of its launch. That was the start of the company’s success story. More than 70% of Dutch law students at a time were enrolled in the Studytube program.

Over the next couple of years, the platform underwent a major transformation. It has evolved from a B2C solution offering courses for students into an innovative educational product for corporate clients. The new learning management system enabled organizations to develop their own enterprise-specific educational content, assign learning paths to employees, and monitor their progress.

This transition caught the attention of some angel investors, giving way to further expansion of the company. As an early-stage startup, Studytube has been entirely reliant on self-financing which placed certain limitations on product development. External funding offered more growth opportunities. 

Each new round of investments has propelled Studytube to the top rank of the full-service e-learning providers, earning it leadership in the European market. The company currently boasts 250+ customers from various industries and over 500K active users. It is the fastest-growing learning platform in Europe. For four years in a row, it has been featured on Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking. 

Studytube has a strong position on the international scene thanks to its multinational workforce. Since 2013, the company has been hiring developers in Ukraine with Grid Dynamics. Throughout this long-standing partnership, Grid Dynamics not only helped Studytube to source skilled tech talent, but also took care of payroll and taxes, employee onboarding, and maintaining their remote development office.

Studytube Kharkiv: Building a remote development team

Transitioning to a B2B solution not only brought about changes to StudyTube’s business approach but also posed tech challenges to the Studytube team. They had to find a quick and smooth way to move the platform from a website to a single-page application. After analyzing different frameworks that can be used for this purpose, they eventually opted for Angular, which not only provided fundamental structure, but also offered new opportunities for app scaling. 

This decision brought the long-standing need to increase the company’s tech unit to light. To ensure further development of the platform it was vital to set up an Angular team as quickly as possible. That’s when Grid Dynamics entered the scene. 

Stepan Suvorov, Studytube’s CTO, outlined the key factor that prompted the Dutch-Ukrainian partnership: “I decided to build our JavaScript development team in Ukraine with Grid Dynamics because I’d worked there before and knew all the processes from the inside.” 

Studytube’s CTO in the company’s headquarters

Studytube Kharkiv started with just two developers. Then it doubled in size, but the lack of experienced developers brought further expansion to a standstill. At that time Angular was a relatively new addition to the JavaScript family, so it was hard to find professionals with relevant experience.

Trainee school

After conducting a few dozens of interviews, the management team has found that the only logical way forward was to build their own talent pipeline. That’s how the idea of a trainee school first emerged.

An internship is a way to ensure that aspiring professionals gain a solid knowledge base vital for future employment. Moreover, they also learn about the product itself in addition to the tech stack. After three months or so the company can get fully-fledged developers who are well-versed in project peculiarities.

Studytube has benefited a lot from their trainee program. In fact, the company was so happy with the results, they initiated a new call for applicants shortly afterward. The competition for the second school was much bigger, so great detail was paid to the selection and performance evaluation of potential candidates. 

Those who showed the best progress throughout the program were offered to join the company as junior developers. Many of them have long moved to senior-level positions, and are now passing their knowledge to the next generation of software engineers. 

Further team expansion

Studytube Kharkiv may have started as a micro-unit with two employees, but now it’s a coherent development center with 40+ specialists. Currently, there are:

  • 11 Angular developers 
  • 1 JavaScript team lead
  • 11 back-end developers
  • 2 markup developers
  • 10 QA engineers
  • 1 QA lead

The company has recently received a new round of investment, so it will keep on growing and expanding. The organization plans to double the size of its tech units both in Amsterdam and Kharkiv. Studytube is already looking for five new JavaScript developers, five QA automation engineers, five Ruby developers, one solution architect and a DevOps specialist for its nearshore development center in Ukraine. 

Hire dedicated team

Studytube encourages internal rotation, therefore employees have opportunities to learn from each other and gain new skills. Currently, there are four feature teams and three platform maintenance teams distributed between Amsterdam and Kharkiv. Engineers can easily switch between different departments and business domains, enhancing their expertise in education software development services.

Developers can try their hand in numerous activities, like improving a learning management system, marketplace development, user engagement, or integration of new features into a learning experience platform. The transition between the projects is pretty smooth as the assignments are non-location-dependent. Working in mixed teams facilitates communication and cooperation among employees, streamlining the entire workflow. 

Partnership with Grid Dynamics

The Ukrainian team has been developing the product from the very beginning. Over the past eight years, the remote model has obviously yielded positive results. 

When the company entered into a partnership with Grid Dynamics it was all about finding a few reliable JavaScript developers who can produce high-quality code. But these days our recruitment team not only helps hire new developers for Studytube Kharkiv but also facilitates launching a new trainee school for Ruby developers

Stepan Suvorov pointed out that Grid Dynamics has seasoned HR specialists, who are well-versed in technology and employee relations. This allows them to be on the same page with the client, understanding what their top priorities are. 

Grid Dynamics also helps to create a positive and thriving atmosphere in the Kharkiv office. Every time a new team member is brought in, HR specialists do their utmost to ensure that newcomers feel comfortable and have all they need to work productively.

Managing a distributed team

The total number of staff in Studytube has already exceeded 125+ people. The company employs a diverse workforce representing several nationalities, so the distributed team model has long become a part of its business DNA. This approach worked out so well because it is based on such underlying principles:

Find common ground

The Dutch are quite similar to Ukrainians in terms of work culture, providing an invaluable basis for cooperation between different units. Moreover, since all internal processes within the company are well established, there is a clear vision of how everything should be done. 

Establish effective communication

All Studytube developers use the same tools for collaboration with their colleagues. For instance, the communication primarily occurs through the Google Meet platform. There are also stand-up meetings where everyone can share updates on their work, discuss current tasks, and plan long-term goals side-by-side. 

Provide more freedom

Every two sprints team members have a “creative development week”. This is the time when programmers can explore their own projects, develop a new feature, or devise ways to improve the existing platform. 

Create opportunities for team bonding

Studytube regularly organizes team-building activities for its employees. Developers from the Kharkiv office can travel to Amsterdam to meet their Dutch colleagues in person. Such trips not only promote knowledge sharing but also help establish personal connections. 

Studytube Kharkiv team in Amsterdam

Opening a remote office in Ukraine: Expert opinion

Based on his positive experience with Ukrainian developers, Studytube’s CTO shared a few tips for those who consider moving their IT operations to a nearshore location: 

  • Opt for a unified team, not individual contractors. When you have people working from different locations or even time zones it poses additional challenges and slows down the progress. 
  • Gather your human resources in one place. Remote teams can’t benefit from instant communication, therefore it’s better to have everyone work in the same office space. This way people don’t need to schedule a call to exchange a few words with their peers. Moreover, they can discuss important issues in person, which streamlines the decision-making process.
  • Hire the team lead first. This way you get a professional with solid knowledge of the local market, who can help you develop an efficient strategy for your company’s expansion. Only after you find the right person for this position can you start sourcing the rest of the team.

Why Grid Dynamics?

Grid Dynamics is a technology services provider focused on accelerating digital transformation for wide array of companies, from budding startups to companies Fortune 1000 enterprises. With over 15 years of expertise in open source, cloud-native development, we create custom solutions that drive competitive advantage and revenue growth for our clients.

We offer flexible engagement models that allow our clients to build dedicated teams tailored to their needs, including including team extension, dedicated teams, pod teams, and remote development centers. Our nearshore capabilities allow close collaboration with regional engineering teams in the Americas, Europe, and India, driving increased productivity and high-touch engagement.

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