Oktopost is a social media management platform that helps B2B companies manage, monitor, and measure all their social media activities in one place. The Oktopost culture is characterized by a friendly, collaborative, and ambitious team. Despite being spread across multiple countries and time zones, everyone shares a common goal – to position Oktopost as a leader in the social media management space.
We talked with Liad Guez, Oktopost Co-Founder and VP Product, and discussed tech talent shortage in Israel, successful team management, and Oktopost experience of remote cooperation with Grid Dynamics. Liad Guez also highlighted the importance of human approach when building a team of enthusiasts and shed light on key factors to consider before setting up an offshore development team.
Q: Could you tell the story of how Oktopost idea was born?
Liad: The idea originated from my Co-Founder and CEO, Daniel Kushner, who at the time was a VP of Marketing for a tech company. I was operating my own web agency and Daniel was my client. Following a few years of collaboration, Daniel approached me with the basic idea of ‘Oktopost’– to enable B2B companies to manage their social media marketing in the same way as other marketing channels. In fact, we spotted a clear gap in the market for such a solution, with most tools missing the ability to measure and quantify the value of social media in terms of lead generation, customer acquisition, and ROI. From there onwards, we started to develop Oktopost with the clear mission of establishing the first ever B2B social media management platform. Our customer-base grew steadily until we decided to scale into a fully-functioning company. At this point, we raised the necessary seed investment, and eventually founded the company in late 2013.
Q: Could you tell us about the Oktopost team and Oktopost values? What values do you share within the company? How big is the team, how is it distributed?
Liad: I believe the team plays a crucial role in the development of our company. Currently, we have 22 employees –14 in Israel, 3 in Ukraine, and 5 in the U.S. Since we didn’t raise millions of dollars, don't have a fancy office, we treat Oktopost as a small family and work hard together to reach new heights.
In our Israeli office we emphasize ‘food’ as the foundation of our culture, hosting regular BBQs and gathering everyone for a meal. This helps us build trusted relationships and value the work we do together.
Q: What is Israeli market for tech talent like? What kind of challenges do Israeli startups face when recruiting developers locally?
Liad: To put it simply, the tech market in Israel is crowded. We have a huge hub for startups, so regardless of position, the competition for tech talent is always high. Another challenge is finding people with the right training and skill set. Generally speaking, qualified Israeli employees tend to come from either esteemed universities and elite army units, so the potential pool of candidates is limited. Another aspect concerning tech talent in Israel is the high demand for native English speakers. While there’s a wave of English-speaking individuals immigrating to Israel, many end up in hi-tech for the sole purpose of being in English-speaking environments, as opposed to genuinely striving to fulfil a sales, marketing, or customer service role.
Q: What is the developer interview process like at Oktopost? Do you interview developers personally? How do you assess candidates?
Liad: Our interview process is very straightforward and can be summarized in six steps:
- Before appointing a personal interview, we initiate a 10-15 minutes call with a candidate to address technical questions. This serves as the first impression about the person and allows us to weed out candidates who lack the prerequisite skills at the initial stage.
- If everything goes well at the first stage, we send the candidate a list of topics that will be discussed at the technical interview.
- We appoint a technical interview which lasts up to two hours. Our VP of Engineering, Alexey Puchkov leads this part. At this stage, we ensure the candidate understands the tech sphere we operate in so they are ready contribute to the development of Oktopost.
- If the candidate’s level is satisfactory, we send them an online technical test, which is limited by time.
- If passed successfully, we appoint a personality interview. Our CEO Daniel Kushner often takes part in this phase. During the personality interview, we address the candidate’s ambitions, goals, and hobbies to get to know the individual on a more personal level.
- Finally, we discuss salary and other terms.
Q: How do you attract new candidates? What do you do to make the job opening more enticing?
Liad: We use social media, employee advocacy, and Facebook groups to humanize the company’s image, and thereby, make the job offer more enticing. Simultaneously, we target our messaging towards highly ambitious and motivated people who look beyond a dull ‘nine-to-five job’. These approaches help us weed out ill-fit candidates while identifying the right talent.
Q: How do you onboard a new hire? What practices do you follow to help the team get to know each other better?
Liad: Every onboarding process starts with an intimate training session that lasts two-three days. During this time, we try to break down the information by company, culture, product, and development in order to ease them into the position.
For new developers, we build a ramp-up strategy where we look at our product roadmap and try to think of features and micro-features that we want to build. This offers newcomers the opportunity to get a taste of a small project without getting lost. The next few projects always touch on different aspects of the application to foster understanding of the entire app. Thereafter, developers start to familiarize themselves with the Oktopost product, company culture, team structure, as well as methodologies and practices we use.
Q: What tools does Oktopost use for team collaboration and communication?
- WhatsApp—for informal communication. We have one WhatsApp group for the entire company and separate groups for the partners. This channel is more informal and team-bonding.
- Slack—for chat purposes, sharing materials, and communicating with our partners. The entire company uses it. It’s especially convenient during onboarding because we can create a unified channel to ensure our partners get real-time responses from our support team.
- Trello—for internal project management among the development team. We use the Kanban methodology, where we can review the projects and tasks.
Q: How much do Oktopost employees contribute to the overall success of the company?
Liad: I’d say that employees define the company and serve as the core pillars for the company’s success. Can’t stress enough how hard-working and dedicated they all are!
Q: What kind of goal did Oktopost want to achieve by hiring developers with Grid Dynamics? How working with Grid Dynamics has helped you move closer to this goal, so far?
Liad: Our main goal was to expand our development team, and for that we turned to Grid Dynamics. Prior to cooperating with Grid Dynamics, we have monitored our local market for new candidates, which took us two months and brought zero results.
In terms of price, one developer salary in Israel equals two-three developer salaries in Ukraine. The only question was: “are we able to do something like this?”, and we came to the conclusion: “it’s something we should try!”
By creating a development hub remotely we get exposed to a much larger pool of quality talent. Nowadays, I can either search the Israel or Ukrainian market as I have functional teams in both. This way, remote cooperation brings flexibility to business owners.
It’s hard to quantify Oktopost’s productivity growth, but I can certainly say that offshore development helped us extend our development pipeline – something that we simply couldn’t have done without recruiting this talent.
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Q: Why did you choose Grid Dynamics over other providers to hire a nearshore development team?
Liad: Initially, we approached a couple of companies, one in Belgrad and one in Kyiv, but decided to go with Grid Dynamics for the following reasons:
- Grid Dynamics proved to be highly professional. The staff was very responsive and knew how to explain the market specifics and recruitment processes. We also liked the transparency of all processes.
- Grid Dynamics managed to understand our needs and source the right tech talent for Oktopost.
- Grid Dynamics offered reasonable pricing that aligned with our budget unlike some of the other big companies in Ukraine.
Q: What has your experience with Grid Dynamics been like?
Liad: It’s been a great experience. We try to visit our Ukrainian team at least once every two months because it’s important for us to have face-to-face contact with the team. When I visited the Grid Dynamics office in Kyiv, I was pleasantly surprised – the team was very adaptive and any time we needed to settle certain issues, they were prompt to solve them.
Q: What do you find the most impressive about Grid Dynamics?
Liad: It’s not a big company but it’s able to maintain professionalism and high standards in the field.
Q: Before you started working with nearshore development, what were your top concerns about outsourcing and did they turn out to be true? Did you try outsourcing before cooperating with Grid Dynamics?
Liad: Before Grid Dynamics, Daniel and I had some experience with outsourcing but we never had a remote development team working on Oktopost –everything was done in-house.
My first concern was ensuring smooth internal communication in light of the geographical and linguistic barriers. More specifically, the ability to articulate the product requirements and exchange ideas efficiently. My second concern was more the technical level. As we know, outsourcing is project-based, and projects usually end after a few months. Here at Oktopost, we have dozens of repositories, millions lines of code, and huge databases, which calls for long-term commitment. The scale and scope of the project appeared to have surprised and scared some developers we encountered, which actually was the essence of my concern.
Q: What have you learned about working with a nearshore development team?
- Always over-communicate your expectations with your remote developers and be available to answer their questions.
- Use every opportunity to visit your remote developers. Talking with them face to face helps to foster better communication, trust, and dedication. Whenever there’s a big change in the software or architecture, being physically present to pass this information to your offshore developers works much better than any phone call.
- You need to have at least one common language to communicate with your offshore team. One of the reasons we chose Ukraine as an outsourcing destination was because we knew that most Ukrainians also speak Russian and three employees in our local team are native Russian speakers.
- You need to have established development practices.
- Developers should feel like they are a part of the team and not “hands for hire”—making sure they are satisfied and working on the projects that develop them professionally is crucial.
- You need to invest more time in code reviews. Review, review, and review once again the actual code. We don’t have the opportunity to sit together in front of the monitor and show exactly what needs to be done or corrected, so we need to compensate for it.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a company leader who is considering working with a remote team?
Liad: Identify the main reasons for operating a remote ream as budget cannot be the only reason. Keep in mind that establishing an offshore team may require more time and effort than initially expected and, in that case, cannot compensate for all the investments.