This week we’re chatting to our CTO Jakob Lahmer, who is one of the founders of craftworks alongside Michael and Simon. Jakob will tell us about what his biggest challenges are and how he conquers them. Furthermore, he’s sharing some ideas on how to build a great team. We hope you’ll enjoy! 🙂
What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?
The people I started the company together with. At the time of founding craftworks we had already been working together for a long time and knew of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We all have a very strong background in Software-Engineering, but our strengths were (and still are) in different areas of the company – so we complement each other really well. The result of this is that we have a very good common understanding of what we want to achieve. Everyone can focus on areas he has strengths in and feels comfortable with.
If someone paid you $1 billion right now, with the condition that you’d never work a day in your life again and never start a company, would you do it?
Good question – although I do enjoy my free time and love spending time with family and friends, I would not take the money. I think I’d be fine with not working for a while, but after some time I’d miss too many things about my current work – the substantiated technical discussions with our team, the possibility to solve complex problems with completely new solutions, learning something new in many different areas on a daily basis, and of course the time with my colleagues – just to name a few 😉
How have you changed since you started?
I’ve definitely become more decisive. At the beginning it was very hard for me to make a decision without knowing all the details and possible consequences. Of course this is still a valid approach, but there are many small things that have to be decided quickly. I’ve learned that it’s okay if some of those decisions turn out to be wrong in retrospect. The most important thing is to learn from those mistakes.
Was there anyone/anything who inspired you in managing the company the way you do and in defining the company’s culture?
No, there’s no specific model I refer to. Simon, Michael and I are reading a lot about how to build a sustainable and healthy company and get ideas and inspiration from many different sources. In addition to getting input from outside, the most important source regarding maintaining a good company-culture is the feedback from our team. As the culture of a company is a living process and develops quickly in very short intervals, the team itself has a very good feeling about what is moving in the right direction and which subjects need more attention.
What is the one most important skill every startup founder should have?
As Michael already mentioned in his interview, focus and the ability to prioritize properly are definitely some of the key-skills. Another very important skill, in my opinion, is to actually get things done! At the end of the day something has to be delivered – a working piece of software, a presentation, a business plan or something else. It’s important to keep this in mind – especially when there are pressing tasks that aren’t your favorites.
What has been the biggest challenge of your entrepreneurial career so far and how did you overcome it?
There have been many challenges so far – some of the bigger ones for me definitely were hiring and team-building. Although it’s very hard to find experienced people in our field, for me hiring is more about the team harmonising rather than finding the perfect technical match. When we held the first interviews and hired our first employees, the estimation of what impact an applicant will have on our team and how the team will react to him / her was a very big challenge for me. I read a lot on this topic and over time we got more experienced and found good strategies for hiring and team-building. But the most important part in overcoming this challenge have been our employees themselves – simply by proving to me every day how awesome they are and what a good decision it was to hire them 😉
Which factors and character traits are important to you for scouting new people (E.G. Education, particular schools, experience, dedication, etc)?
As mentioned before, to me it’s more important that someone fits well into our team rather than having the perfect CV. We have a very good teamspirit at the moment and I know from my own experience how fragile that can be. I think in our field of work the willingness to learn and improve oneself as well as the ability to constantly develop are essential to stay on track. We’re looking for people who are passionate about building something new and tackling challenges.
Which book would you recommend reading and why?
Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister – This book focuses on the humans in software development projects and gives some very good and practical examples of what the key factors and ideal environments for good team performances are.
Deep Learning by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio & Aaron Courville – A very comprehensive book on Deep Learning, providing both the mathematical background as well as a broad overview of the current state of Deep Learning.
3 short questions:
Mac or PC?
Office or remote?
Office, but I do enjoy home office from time to time.
Which music is playing on your player right now?
The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger
Thank you Jakob!
Thank you, Natalie!
We hope these interviews inspired you and gave you some ideas on entrepreneurship and starting your own company. Thanks for reading!
PS: Due to the large amount of new projects we have, we’re currently hiring more team-members. Sounds interesting? Check our career page.